The English Cocker Spaniel is known in England and throughout the world (excluding America) as simply the Cocker Spaniel, no distinction. Even after the official separation between English and American Cocker Spaniels in the 1930's, often both types would still be among the same litter; as size was the only distinction between them. Today among the modern English Cocker Spaniel, there are further breed distinctions such as those that are bred as working Spaniels and those that are being bred as show Spaniels.
The first Cocker Spaniel shown in a dog show was in 1859 in Birmingham, England. However, in England, The Cocker Spaniel was still considered a “functional breed” not recognized as a specific breed until 1892 by the Kennel Club of England. In 1936 a group of Cocker Spaniel breeders formed the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America (ECSCA). The ECSCA gained recognition for the English Cocker Spaniel as a specific breed from the AKC. The ECSCA further passed a motion that the English Cocker Spaniel should not be bred with the American Cocker Spaniel, to maintain breed purity and standards. They intended to discourage interbreeding of the two types of Cocker Spaniels to which some controversy among breeders ensued. In 1940 the Canadian Kennel Club recognized the English Cocker, with the American Kennel Club following suit in 1946. The English Cocker Spaniel has had much success in the dog shows, winning best of show on several occasions.
There have been several “famous” English Cocker Spaniels throughout history. Those among them include “Flush, cherished pet of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and protagonist of the classic novella Flush by Virginia Woolf…Flossey, British novelist Anne Bronte’s black and white Cocker Spaniel…More recently, when Elton John and David Furnish celebrated their civil-partnership ceremony, they were informed their black and white English Cocker Spaniel, Arthur, wouldn’t be allowed in the building. The happy couple dubbed the dog “the best man”, and the dog was allowed to join in the festivities.”
Generally, the Cocker Spaniel breed has round sturdy heads within proportion to the rest of their body. The muzzle is broad, with a square, even jaw with expressive eyes that are full and look directly forward. The rim of the eye is oval, giving a slightly almond shaped appearance. Their expressive eyes indicate the intelligence and enthusiasm common among dogs in the Sporting group. The eyebrows are clearly defined and the iris color tends to be variations of dark brown. The most prominent feature of the Cocker Spaniel are its long, low-hanging, lobular ears, that are full and feathered; long enough to reach its nose when pulled forward. The Cocker Spaniel has well developed nostrils, as is consistent with sporting type breeds, and the nose tends to be black or brown based on the Cocker’s coat coloring.
The Cocker Spaniel sports a beautifully flowing coat, which comes in a variety of colors. The coat has thick feathering over the ears, chest, abdomen, and legs. The hair is medium length on the body, but short and fine on the head. The Cocker Spaniel has two coat types, show and field; the difference being that show Cockers have longer coat than the field variety. In the past, tail docking has been performed on the Cocker Spaniel. This is the practice of cropping the tail to prevent it getting caught or injured during his work in the field. Often, anesthesia was not used due to risk of complication, and the procedure could be quite stressful on the Cocker Spaniel. Because of the move towards the Cocker Spaniel being less in the field and more in the home and show circuit, the practice of tail docking has been all but eliminated for most Cockers.
“The English Cocker Spaniel is one of the most distinctive looking members of the Sporting group.” The English Cocker Spaniel is the largest of the Cocker Spaniel breed, but only slightly, with males standing between 15.5 and 17 inches and females between 15 and 15.5. The weight of the English Cocker Spaniel ranges from 28 to 34 lbs. The English Cocker Spaniel is compact, standing with its weight above the shoulders, on straight forelegs. The Cocker’s back slopes towards muscular hindquarters, allowing the breed to drive with its back legs to attain considerable speed, useful in flushing prey from the undergrowth.
The English Cocker Spaniel has a double coat, the top layer being soft and silky, with an undercoat of soft dense fur. The coat is one of the English Cocker Spaniel’s most appealing characteristics, and may come in solid black, red, buff; parti-color(black and white, or red and white) also known as “ticked” or “roan” patterned; or black and tan. Show divisions of color include ASCOB, which means any solid color other than black, and can include silvery white, to deep liver or chocolate. Black and tan coats consist of tan points over each eye, inside the ears, on muzzle and cheeks, inside of the legs, and under the tail. The English Cocker Spaniel is tall, with a narrow head and chest, and long muzzle.
Nicknamed “The Merry Cocker”, the Cocker Spaniel, as a breed, is known for its sweet disposition. They are lively, affectionate, and playful. They are often seen as “busy little dogs” with their nose to the ground, bottom in the air, following scents and routing around in the undergrowth. While English Cockers enjoy the reputation of being loyal and compassionate companions, their original hunting instincts are never far from the surface.
These underlying instincts, along with their desire to please their master, make the English Cocker Spaniel highly trainable. As with all high energy dogs, The English Cocker Spaniel is alert and active, requiring a fair amount of exercise and attention. Cocker Spaniels do not, however, make good guard dogs. Their loving and gentle nature makes the English Cocker Spaniel more likely to lick a burglar than attack him. This loving quality makes the Cocker Spaniel an ideal pet for a family that includes children or the elderly.
On the down side, the Cocker Spaniel is known to be a sensitive breed, and can be a bit nervous. Harsh training methods are not advised as this could create a fearful nature in the dog. Because of their nervous nature, training and proper socialization as puppies is of critical importance. Puppies that are not properly socialized can become frightened, confused, and nervous of their surroundings. Socialization of the Cocker Spaniel as a puppy, helps them grow into relaxed and confident adult Cockers.
Cocker Spaniels, due to their nervous temperament, have a tendency for submissive urination, often caused by over excitement. Because of this fact, the Cocker Spaniel can be difficult to house break if not given the proper amount of exercise and leadership. Daily walks are a must for the Cocker Spaniel to suppress their subconscious need to hunt and retrieve. The Cocker Spaniel will often chase birds or other small animals while on his walks, therefore, it is important to always keep a Cocker Spaniel on a leash or in a fenced area.
As with most dogs, Cocker Spaniels enjoy being part of a “pack”. The Cocker Spaniel loves being around his family and demands a fair amount of attention. Because of their nervous nature and social needs, Cocker Spaniels are miserable when left alone for long periods of time, and can quickly develop separation anxiety, to which belongs behaviors such as barking, howling, and other destructive habits.
All of these temperament characteristics and traits are common among both the English and the American Cocker Spaniels, with the English Cocker Spaniel being more consistent to these standards based on breeding. The above description is the ideal ,and often displayed temperament of the English Cocker Spaniel. “Interestingly enough, the English Cocker Spaniel is said to retain much more of its hunting nature than the American version.” “This dog also requires a bit more exercise than its American counterpart”.
Being a purebred, the English Cocker Spaniel has a fair share of inherited health issues. On average the breed lives an average of 11 to 12 years; about a year or two longer than their American Cocker Spaniel cousins. In a survey conducted by the United Kingdom Kennel Club, the most common cause of death for both the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel was listed as cancer, with the second most common cause of death being old age.
Other problems that have been reported in the breed include:
The most common health issues tend to be eye problems, ear infections, and hip dysplasia. While the two biggest health concerns for the English Cocker Spaniel seem to be Patella luxation and Progressive Retinal Athropy (PRA). Although, there is a long list of possible concerns for a Cocker Spaniel’s health, generally, Cocker Spaniels are a healthy breed, and respond well to medical treatments.