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American Cocker Spaniel

American Cocker Spaniel

Distinctly different to the English Cocker Spaniel, the American Cocker is smaller, with a more rounded skull and a profuse and glamorous coat.

  • Dog suitable for non-experienced owners
  • Basic training required
  • Need to be aware of potential health issues
  • Enjoys active walks
  • Enjoys one to two hours of walking a day
  • Small dog
  • Some drool
  • Requires grooming every other day
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Welcomes everyone happily
  • Generally friendly with other dogs
  • Gets along with other pets with training
  • Great family dog
  • Needs a small garden
  • Can live in semi-rural areas
  • Can be left occasionally with training

Key Facts

Lifespan: 12 – 15 years
Weight:  10 – 15kg 
Height:  34 – 39cm
Colours:  Black, liver, red, golden, black with tan points, brown with tan points and parti-colour. Some distinct markings may be present, specified by the breed standard
Size:  Medium
UK Kennel Club Groups: Gundog

Ratings

Family-friendly: 4/5
Exercise needs: 3/5
Easy to train: 5/5
Tolerates being alone: 1/5
Likes other pets: 4/5
Energy level: 4/5
Grooming needs: 3/5
Shedding: 3/5
American Cocker Spaniel with sticking out tongue

Personality

This is a merry and busy little dog. They should be confident and cheerful, although early and thorough socialisation is recommended to avoid fearful or anxious behaviour. One of the smallest of the gundog types, the American Cocker is an intelligent dog who will thrive in a family environment, given sufficient company, exercise and training. 

American Cocker Spaniel sitting on the carpet

History and Origins

Country of Origin: America

The English Cocker is said to have arrived in America with the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower in 1620. However, this is a claim many have tried to apply to their ancestors, canine or otherwise, and in any case, the Mayflower’s journey pre-dates the UK Kennel Club by over 250 years, and thus the spaniel types had not yet been split into clearly defined breeds. 

It is reasonable to suspect that early settlers from Britain would have taken the useful working and hunting breeds they had with them to America, and the records do show that a spaniel type was listed as travelling on the Mayflower. 

As with the English Cocker Spaniel, the American Cocker was developed to flush and retrieve woodcock and other game birds. They are now popular in the showring or as companions, but still retain some of their hunting instinct.

Health and Common Issues

One of the most common problems encountered in the American Cocker Spaniel dog breed is recurrent ear infections, due to their large ear flaps. As with many breeds, they can suffer from kneecaps that may temporarily slip out of place (luxating patellas), various hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important. 

The breed club monitor the health of the breed carefully and should be contacted for the most up-to-date information and details of any DNA or additional testing they recommend. Breed Clubs can be found on the Kennel Club website. 

Exercise Needs

The American Cocker spaniel may be thought of as more of a show dog than a working dog, but still requires two hours exercise a day – and will happily take more. This should include walking, running and swimming, as well as training and games to exercise their mind. The American Cocker will particularly enjoy scent based games and retrieval games.

Space Requirements

As a smaller breed, the American Cocker does not require a huge home, but will need space for grooming and bathing as well as a secure garden for play, toilet trips and training. Better suited to a home without close neighbours as the American Cocker is fond of the sound of their own voice, but otherwise well suited to country or suburban living.

Nutrition and Feeding

Small dogs have a fast metabolism, meaning they burn energy at a high rate, although their small stomachs mean that they must eat little and often. Small-breed foods are specifically designed with appropriate levels of key nutrients and smaller kibble sizes to suit smaller mouths. This also encourages chewing and improves digestion.

Grooming American Cocker Spaniel

The American Cocker Spaniel’s coat is glamorous – and high-maintenance. It is short and fine on the head, medium length on the body, but longer on the ears, chest, tummy and legs (known as feathering). The coat should be silky, flat or slightly wavy. Daily grooming is needed, together with regular trimming. Check ears, eyes, lip folds and feet daily. Early habituation to the grooming process is sensible and this is a breed that may benefit from professional grooming as well as daily maintenance at home, as a full bath and dry will take several hours to complete. 

Training American Cocker Spaniel

Bright, intelligent and busy, the American Cocker is easy and enjoyable to train with the right motivation. Special attention should be given to teaching a good retrieve and building a habit of trading objects happily, as they enjoy carrying objects around. Conflict and confrontation around this can cause resource guarding problems, so avoid forceful methods that may cause fear. 

The American Cocker is excellent as a show dog, but can be taught to compete well in a variety of dog sports and activities and will thrive in an environment where training is fun and engaging.

Best Family Dog Breeds

An excellent dog for the outdoor family who enjoy dog related hobbies. As with all gundogs, the American Cocker is predisposed to want to carry objects and so must be taught to retrieve and swap happily, and children particularly must be taught never to take items from the dog. As with all small and particularly long haired ‘cute’ breeds, it is very easy for young children to mistake the dog for a toy or plaything, so close supervision or waiting until children are more mature is wise. 

While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with and respect each other, and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them. 

did you know?

Did You Know?

  • The Disney animated film “Lady and the Tramp” features a cartoon animated version of an American Cocker Spaniel as Lady. However, it was story artist Joe Grant who came up with the idea for Lady and the Tramp, inspired by the antics of his English Springer Spaniel, Lady!
  • Celebrity owners of American Cocker Spaniels include Charlize Theron, Oprah Winfrey and 37th President of the USA, Richard Nixon.
  • American Cocker Spaniel’s are the smallest gundogs in the world. 
  • This breed is popularly used as a therapy dog due to their kind and happy natures. 
  • A Cocker Spaniel called Tangle was the first ever cancer-detecting dog and apparently his success rate was 80 percent! 

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