History of the American Cocker Spaniel Breed
The American cocker spaniel came from the English cocker spaniel when the English brought their version to America in the late 1800s. Because American hunters wanted a slightly smaller dog, the American version was developed to hunt quail and other small game birds. The name “cocker” comes from the word “woodcock,” a type of game bird that this dog was particularly good at capturing. It is not clear how the smaller version was developed, but some give credit to a dog called Obo 2nd, which was born around 1880. This was considered to be the first true American cocker. But others point to evidence that suggests that crosses of the English cocker with smaller toy spaniels resulted in the creation of the American cocker. It wasn’t until 1935 that the AKC separated the English and American cocker spaniels into two different breeds. Popularity for the American cocker spaniel grew after this separation, and the breed continues to be one of the most popular dogs in the United States today. The breed is now divided into three color groups: black, parti-color, and ASCOB (any solid color other than black). It was only in recent times that the American cocker spaniel gained popularity in England, and it was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1968.
Size and Appearance of the American Cocker Spaniel Breed
A compact and sturdy breed, the American cocker spaniel has straight, muscular front legs with strong bones. The hindquarters feature wide hips and muscular thighs. The large yet compact feet are round and firm with thick pads. The head of this breed is balanced with the rest of the dog and features almond-shaped eyes with an intelligent yet soft and appealing e xpression. The long ears are made of fine leather and are well feathered. The eyebrows of the American cocker are clearly defined, and the broad, deep muzzle features square, even jaws. The n ose has well-developed nostrils, and the te eth of this breed are strong, meeting in a scissors bite. The neck is rather long, allowing the dog easy reach to the ground, and the neck flows smoothly into the shoulders. The American cocker has a strong back, and the tail is generally docked. The tail is carried with “merry” action when the dog is in motion. The gait of this breed is described as smooth, effortless, and ground-covering. The coat of the American cocker spaniel is silky, and it is usually either flat or slightly wavy. The hair on the head is short and fine, while the body features a medium-length coat. The coat comes in a number of colors, including: solid black, other solid colors from light cream to dark red, parti-colors (two or more solid colors) including black and white, red and white, brown and white, or roans.
American Cocker Spaniel Temperament
Playful and sweet, the American cocker spaniel is known as the "merry" cocker. It is a breed that is happy to please its family. It is very good with children and friendly to other pets. Socialization at an early age is suggested to help prevent timidity. While they can sometimes be a bit difficult to housebreak and some tend to bark a lot, this breed is the perfect addition to an active family. The American cocker loves to be with people. It is a sensitive breed, so gentle training is important. Because of the popularity of this dog, puppy mills have created poorly-bred animals that can be problematic for the family, so be aware when looking for a puppy. These poorly bred dogs can have serious behavioral problems, so be sure to adopt from a reputable breeder.
American Cocker Spaniel Recommended Maintenance
The coat care of the cocker spaniel can be time consuming. If the dog is not going to be shown, the coat can be clipped short for easy care. In cases where the coat is not clipped, the dog must be brushed or combed three times a week in order to maintain a nice coat. Professional clipping and scissoring every two to three months is also suggested. If the coat is left long, debris can become tangled. Bathe as necessary. Be sure to pay special attention to the cleanliness of the ears and eyes. This breed is considered to be an average shedder. While it loves to romp and play, the American cocker can meet its exercise needs with a long daily walk on leash. Be sure to provide enough exercise for this lively dog, because it may have a tendency to become overweight. Apartment dwelling is fine for this breed as long as it gets enough exercise. It is quite active indoors, and a small yard is suggested.
American Cocker Spaniel Health
Life span: 12 – 15 years
Major concerns: cataracts, glaucoma, patellar luxation
Minor concerns: CHD, ectropion, entropion, PRA, allergies, seborrhea, lip fold pyoderma, otitis externa, liver disease, urolithiasis, prolapse of nictitans gland, CHF, phosphofructokinase deficiency, cardiomyopathy
Occasionally seen: gastric torsion, elbow dysplasia
Suggested tests: eye, knee, DNA for phosphofructokinase deficiency, (hip)