Breed Profile: Cocker Spaniel

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What you need to know about the beloved cocker spaniel.

Playful, cuddly and often begging for affection, the cocker spaniel is a popular and beloved companion dog breed. Cocker spaniels make great family pets thanks to their big brown eyes, soft fur and gentle demeanors. 

There are two different breeds of cocker spaniel: the American cocker spaniel and the English cocker spaniel. Though similar, they are considered different breeds. In the U.S., “cocker spaniel” refers to the American cocker spaniel; the breed is known as the “American cocker spaniel” everywhere else.

Physical Traits and Appearance of Cocker Spaniels

Cocker spaniels have silky, flowing coats with feathering on the ears, legs and chest. Their long ears droop down onto their cheeks, and their muscular bodies developed from an ancestry as hunting dogs. American cockers are on the smaller side of sporting dogs, standing at only about 12 to 15 inches tall and weighing 20 to 30 pounds. 

English cocker spaniels are slightly bigger, standing 15 to 17 inches tall and weighing 26 to 34 pounds. They also have a medium-length coat and less feathering compared to the longer, flowing coat of the American cocker. 

Cocker spaniels come in a variety of different colors and combinations, including: 

  • Buff (light brown/yellow)
  • Black
  • Silver
  • Red 
  • Brown
  • Multicolor

Temperament and Personality Traits of Cocker Spaniels

Cocker spaniels are well known for their sunny disposition. They’re cheerful pups that will wag their tails and frequently show affection with a cuddle or an excited bark. They make great therapy dogs and do especially well with children and the elderly. 

These dogs are generally eager to please and love to play games and participate in family activities. They enjoy exercise and brisk walks but need to be on a leash or in a fenced-in yard since their natural instinct is to hunt smaller animals. English cocker spaniels are often still bred for hunting and field work — making them even more energetic and eager to chase prey.   

Cocker spaniels can be a little nervous and may even urinate when excited. They can be sensitive pups and typically do not respond well to negative treatment. However, include your cocker spaniel as a trusted member of your family and they will never leave your side. 

Health and Care of Cocker Spaniels

American cocker spaniels are generally healthy and can live to be 14 to 16 years old. They’re prone to specific conditions, however, including: 

  • Ear infections, due to their long, fluffy ears1
  • Eye problems, such as progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts and other eye abnormalities2
  • Hip, knee and joint problems3

The English cocker spaniel may be susceptible to the same conditions3 and has a shorter life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. 

These dogs crave activity. A daily half-hour walk or a run around a fenced-in yard will help keep your cocker spaniel happy and healthy. Cocker spaniels will overeat if left to their own devices; stay mindful of their portions to help ensure your cocker has a long life. Lastly, remember to take your cocker spaniel to the veterinarian for regular checkups

Grooming of Cocker Spaniels

Cocker spaniels have beautiful coats that require daily brushing and regular professional trimming. They should also be given a regular bath with dog shampoo; thorough rinsing is key to prevent skin inflammation or other fur issues. Learning the correct ways to groom at home or visiting a professional grooming service are musts for cocker spaniel owners.   

Do Cocker Spaniels Shed?

Cocker spaniels have double coats that shed a moderate amount year-round and may shed more during the spring and fall. Regular grooming should help with shedding, but cocker spaniels may not be the best breed for family members with pet dander allergies.

Is a Cocker Spaniel Right for You?

Most owners say both breeds of cocker spaniel are a pleasure to have in their home. Sweet, playful and full of joy, cocker spaniels can be perfect for owners who reciprocate their affection — and that could be you. 


1 Kriss, R. (2017, November 6). Cocker Spaniel. Retrieved from

2 PetMD. (2017, January 10). American Cocker Spaniel. Retrieved from

3 PetMD. (2012, June 22). English Cocker Spaniel. Retrieved from

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