English Cocker Spaniel: Breed Profile, Characteristics, & Care Guide

| Updated: August 18, 2023
Brown English Cocker Spaniel standing on a log in a field with his tongue out

Do you dream of having a friendly, playful, cheerful, trainable, and even-tempered dog? A dog that’s loyal, adaptable, and sociable? A dog that has a silky coat, a charming expression, and a merry personality? If you do, you might have found your perfect match: the English cocker spaniel!

The English cocker spaniel is a breed that can do it all: work, play, and love. This breed is part of the Springer family and was originally bred to flush and retrieve gamebirds. Today, the English cocker spaniel is still a popular hunting dog and a great family pet that enjoys agility, obedience, tracking, and rally. The breed is also known for its cheerful and merry personality, which earned it the nickname “merry cocker.”

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the English cocker spaniel. We’ll cover its history, characteristics, care, health, and temperament. We’ll also give you some tips on where to adopt or buy an English cocker spaniel puppy and how to find a reputable breeder or rescue organization. Whether you’re a new or experienced dog owner, you’ll find this article helpful and informative if you’re interested in this wonderful breed.

History of the English Cocker Spaniel

The English cocker spaniel is one of the oldest types of land spaniels. The word “spaniel” comes from the Latin wordHispania,” which means Spain. However, it’s not clear whether the Spaniels originated in Spain or were brought there by the Romans. Some historians believe that the Spaniels were developed in Britain from dogs that came from the continent during the Roman invasion.

The first mention of Spaniels in literature dates back to the 14th century, when Gaston III of Foix-Béarn wrote a treatise on hunting that described different kinds of dogs used for hunting birds. He divided them into two categories: those that set or crouched before the game (the setters), and those that sprang or flushed the game (the springers). The latter category included the ancestors of the modern Spaniels.

The Spaniels were further classified by their size and function. The larger ones were used for hunting larger game, such as pheasants and partridges, while the smaller ones were used for hunting smaller game, such as woodcocks and snipes. The smaller Spaniels were called “cockers” because of their skill in hunting woodcocks. The cockers were also favored by hunters who preferred to shoot their game rather than use falcons or hawks.

The cockers weren’t considered separate until the 19th century when dog shows became popular in Britain. Before that, they were simply classified by their color or region of origin. For example, there were black cockers, red cockers, Sussex cockers, Welsh cockers, etc. In 1879, the first English cocker spaniel was shown at a dog show in London. In 1892, the Kennel Club of England recognized the English cocker spaniel as a distinct breed within the sporting group.

The English cocker spaniel was also exported to other countries, especially North America. However, over time, the American breeders developed a different type of cocker spaniel: smaller, lighter-boned, shorter-muzzled, and more profusely coated than its British counterpart. The American cocker spaniel also had a different temperament: more lively, outgoing, and playful than the more reserved and dignified English cocker spaniel.

In 1946, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the American cocker spaniel as a separate breed from the English cocker spaniel. The same year, the National Breed Club for English Cocker Spaniels was formed in the United States to promote and preserve the original type of cocker spaniel. The club adopted the British breed standard as its own.

Today, the English cocker spaniel is still a popular sporting dog in Britain and other parts of Europe. It is also gaining popularity as a family pet in North America, where it is sometimes called the “North American” or “Canadian” cocker spaniel to distinguish it from its American cousin.

Breed Overview

Dog Breed English Cocker Spaniel
Nicknames Merry Cocker, Cocker, ECS
Coat Medium-length, flat or slightly wavy, silky, feathered
Coat Colors Black, red, golden, liver, black and tan, liver and tan, etc.
Coat Patterns Solid, parti-color, ticked, roan, etc.
Weight 26-34 pounds (male), 26-32 pounds (female)
Height 15-17 inches (male), 14-16 inches (female)
Lifespan 12-14 years
Origin Britain
Breed Ranking 40th most popular breed in the US according to the AKC

Characteristics & Care Tips

The English cocker spaniel is a breed that has it all: beauty, brains, and brawn. This breed is a sturdy, compact, and well-balanced sporting dog that stands between 15 to 17 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 26 to 34 pounds. The English cocker spaniel has a medium-length silky coat that comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns and feathers on its ears, legs, and torso. The breed has a characteristic expression that shows intelligence and alertness and dark, melting eyes that convey an alert and dignified expression.

These dogs certainly have a variety of different looks, but let’s get into some more specifics about this awesome dog breed!


The English cocker spaniel is a compactly built sporting dog with a characteristic expression of intelligence and alertness. Its head is softly contoured with a moderate stop (the point where the muzzle meets the forehead). Its muzzle is broad and deep, with a square jaw and a scissors bite. Its ears are long, low-set, and lobular, hanging close to the head and covered with silky hair. Depending on the coat color, its eyes are medium-sized, oval-shaped, and dark brown or hazel. Its nose is black or liver, again depending on the coat color.

Its neck is moderately long and muscular, blending smoothly into well-laid-back shoulders. Its chest is deep and well-developed but not too wide. Its back is strong and level, with a slight slope to the croup (the area where the back meets the tail). Its tail is customarily docked in countries where it’s permitted and carried horizontally or slightly lower. Its legs are straight and well-boned, with strong and flexible joints. Its feet are round and cat-like, with thick pads and arched toes.

Coat Type and Colors

Its coat is medium-length, flat or slightly wavy, silky in texture, and not curly. It has moderate feathering on the ears, chest, abdomen, legs, and tail. The coat comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns, from solid black to liver roan to orange and white ticked. Some of the most common color patterns are blue roan (black and white hairs intermingled), orange roan (orange and white hairs intermingled), liver roan (liver and white hairs intermingled), black and white ticked (black patches on a white background with black ticking), orange and white ticked (orange patches on a white background with orange ticking), liver and white ticked (liver patches on a white background with liver ticking), etc.


The English cocker spaniel needs regular brushing to prevent mats and tangles in its coat, especially in feathered areas. It also needs occasional trimming of the excess hair on its ears, feet, and tail. Some owners prefer to have their dogs professionally groomed every few months to keep their coats neat and tidy. The breed also needs regular ear cleaning to prevent infections, as well as nail clipping and teeth brushing.


The English cocker spaniel needs daily walks or runs to keep it fit and happy. It also loves playing fetch, swimming, or participating in dog sports such as agility or obedience. The breed is not suited for apartment living, as it needs a fenced yard where it can run and explore. The breed also needs mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. It responds well to positive training methods that use praise and rewards.


The English cocker spaniel has a lifespan of 12 to 14 years. It’s generally a healthy breed, but like all dogs, it can be prone to certain health issues. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): A degenerative eye disease that causes blindness.
  • Hip dysplasia: A genetic condition that affects the hip joints and causes pain and lameness.
  • Familial nephropathy: A hereditary kidney disease that causes renal failure.
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA): A disorder that causes the immune system to destroy the red blood cells.
  • Ear infections: A common problem due to the long ears that trap moisture and dirt.
  • Allergies: A hypersensitivity to certain substances that causes itching, scratching, licking, or chewing.
  • Hypothyroidism: A deficiency of thyroid hormone that affects metabolism and causes weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, etc.

English Cocker Spaniel Temperament

The English cocker spaniel has a cheerful, friendly, affectionate, loyal, and intelligent temperament that loves to please its owner. The breed is very lively and energetic and needs a lot of mental and physical stimulation. The breed has a strong hunting instinct and will chase anything that moves, so it needs a secure fence or leash when outdoors.

  • Tendency to bark, especially when excited or bored, so it needs proper training and management to prevent excessive noise.
  • Sensitive and gentle and responds well to positive reinforcement and praise.
  • Doesn’t do well with harsh or negative treatment, as it can become fearful or aggressive.
  • Needs a lot of human companionship and doesn’t like being left alone for long periods, as it can develop separation anxiety or destructive behavior.

English cocker spaniels are loyal and devoted dogs that usually bond closely with their owner and family members. The breed is not very protective or territorial, so they don’t make good guard dogs. However, they will typically alert their owner to any strangers or unusual noises with their bark. They are also very affectionate and love to cuddle and snuggle with their owner.

But how do you get an English cocker spaniel puppy? And how do you make sure that you get a healthy and happy one? Two main options exist: adopting from a rescue organization or buying from a breeder.

How to Adopt or Buy an English Cocker Spaniel Puppy

Adopting from a rescue organization is a great way to give a second chance to a dog that needs a loving home.

There are many rescue organizations that specialize in English cocker spaniels or Spaniels in general. You can search online for the ones near your area or contact the National Breed Club for English Cocker Spaniels for referrals.

Adopting from a rescue organization has many benefits, such as:

  • You are giving a home to a dog that might otherwise be euthanized or suffer in poor conditions.
  • You are supporting a noble cause that helps many dogs in need.
  • You are getting a dog that has been vetted, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and microchipped.
  • You are getting a dog that has been evaluated for its temperament, personality, and behavior.
  • You are getting a dog that has been socialized and trained by the rescue staff or volunteers.
  • You are getting a dog that comes with support and guidance from the rescue organization.

However, adopting from a rescue organization also has some challenges, such as:

  • You may not know the dog’s exact age, breed, or background.
  • You may have to wait for a long time before finding the right match for you.
  • You may have to travel a long distance to meet the dog.
  • You may have to deal with some health or behavioral issues the dog may have developed due to past experiences.

Buying from a breeder is another option if you want to get an English cocker spaniel puppy. However, you should be very careful and selective when choosing a breeder, as not all breeders are ethical or reputable. Some breeders are only interested in making money and don’t care about the health or welfare of their dogs. They may keep their dogs in poor conditions, breed them excessively or indiscriminately, sell them without proper papers or health guarantees, etc.

To avoid buying from such breeders, you should do your research and ask for recommendations from trusted sources such as the National Breed Club for English Cocker Spaniels, other English cocker spaniel owners, veterinarians, groomers, trainers, or dog clubs. You should also visit the breeder’s premises and meet the parents and littermates of the puppy you’re interested in. You should ask the breeder about their breeding goals, practices, and policies and request to see their dogs’ health certificates and pedigrees. You should also ask the breeder about the temperament, personality, and needs of the puppy you’re interested in and how they socialize and train their puppies.

Buying from a breeder has some advantages, such as:

  • You can choose the puppy’s exact age, breed, and background.
  • You can find a puppy that matches your preferences in terms of color, size, gender, etc.
  • You can see the environment where the puppy was born and raised.
  • You can get a puppy that has been bred for health, temperament, and conformation.
  • You can get a puppy that comes with papers, health guarantees, and contracts.
  • You can get a puppy that comes with support and guidance from the breeder.

However, buying from a breeder also has some drawbacks, such as:

  • You may have to pay a high price for the puppy.
  • Depending on availability and demand, you may have to wait for a long time before getting the puppy.
  • You may have to travel a long distance to get the puppy.
  • You may have to deal with some health or behavioral issues that the puppy may have inherited from its parents or developed due to poor breeding practices.

Whether you adopt or buy an English cocker spaniel puppy, you should make sure that you’re ready and committed to providing it with a loving and responsible home for its entire life. You should also make sure that you have the time, money, space, and energy to meet its physical, mental, and emotional needs. You should also be prepared to deal with any challenges or issues that may arise along the way, such as training, grooming, health, behavior, etc.

The English cocker spaniel is a wonderful breed that can bring a lot of joy and fun to your life. However, it’s not a breed for everyone, and it’s not a breed that you should get on a whim or impulse. It’s a breed that requires a lot of love, care, attention, and dedication. If you think you can provide all that and more to an English cocker spaniel puppy, you’re ready to welcome one into your family.

Final Thoughts

The English cocker spaniel is a merry and lovable sporting dog that has a long and rich history. The breed is a loyal companion that’s equally happy with hard work and family life. The breed is also very adaptable and sociable and gets along well with other dogs, pets, and children. The breed has a medium-length silky coat that comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns, and a characteristic expression that shows intelligence and alertness.

We hope that this article has given you some useful information about the English cocker spaniel. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading!

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Do English Cocker Spaniels shed?

Yes, English Cocker Spaniels shed moderately throughout the year, and more heavily during seasonal changes. They need regular brushing to remove loose hair and prevent mats and tangles in their coat.

Are English Cocker Spaniels hypoallergenic?

No, English Cocker Spaniels are not hypoallergenic. They produce dander, saliva, and urine that can trigger allergic reactions in some people. If you have allergies, you should consult your doctor before getting an English Cocker Spaniel.

Do English Cocker Spaniels like water?

Yes, English Cocker Spaniels like water and are excellent swimmers. They were bred to retrieve game from the water and enjoy swimming for fun and exercise. However, you should always supervise your English Cocker Spaniel when near water and dry their ears thoroughly after swimming to prevent ear infections.

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