Before anyone ever realized the marketing potential of so-called "designer dogs" with cutesy-pie names, one such crossbreed had long established a hold on America’s heart. The Cockapoo is the result of mating a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle or of the offspring of two Cocker/Poodle mixes bred with each other. Cockapoos are bright-eyed, scruffy-coated puppies with incredible appeal which grow into dogs retaining that puppy-dog charm. Cockapoos which are carefully bred and lovingly raised are happy, affectionate dogs that love their human families, children, other dogs and even cats.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

At his best, he should be friendly, people-oriented and easy to train. He's a companion dog on both sides of his pedigree, so he should live indoors with his human family and never be kept in the backyard or garage all day. He's also a hunting and working dog on both sides of his pedigree, so he needs a certain amount of activity to keep him from being bored.

At his worst, he's going to be a mess of the combined genetic problems of his ancestors, without the benefit of the kind of health and temperament testing done by good breeders.

Cockapoos are typically friendly with other dogs and with cats, and they like children. The smallest dogs need to be protected from overly-rough play.

The Cockapoo's grooming needs will vary depending on his coat, but all Cockapoos need regular, even daily, brushing. Those with the curlier Poodle coat require professional grooming every 4-6 weeks. Some owners learn to use the clippers and do the job themselves, but most rely on the pros. Either way, it's essential to take proper care of the coat, because without regular grooming it will quickly become a matted mess that can cause painful skin infections at the roots of the hair.

The Cockapoo's ears need to be kept clean and dry -- of particular importance if your dog goes swimming. Trapped moisture in the ear canal can lead to bacterial and fungal infections, and repeated infections can cause so much damage to the ear canal that the dog will lose his hearing.

Variations of the Cockapoo

Crossbred puppies like the Cockapoo -- even within the same litter -- can look very different from each other, and can look the same or different from their parents. The Cockapoo's size, color, coat type, temperament, activity level and health risks will vary depending on what traits an individual puppy has inherited from his parents.

Generally, they're under 20 pounds and are somewhere from fluffy to scruffy in a variety of colors and markings -- although they can also, like the Poodle, be curly. If that description seemed a little vague, it's because the Cockapoo is just that diverse.

Health Issues Common to Cockapoos

Cockapoos are susceptible to the health problems of both the Cocker Spaniel and the Poodle, although possibly at a lower rate than purebred dogs. These include many different eye disorders including cataracts and glaucoma, as well as painful defects of the hips and knees. Disc disease can make movement painful for the Cockapoo, which is by nature an active dog that loves to run and play. Heart disease, liver disease, epilepsy -- the Cockapoo is at risk for all of them through his purebred relatives.

Make sure to have your Cockapoo's eyes examined once a year by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist, and seek veterinary care immediately at any signs of cloudiness, redness, itching or irritation of the eyes, or if the dog is squinting or pawing at them.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Cataracts Low $1,500-$5,000
Luxating Patellas Low $1,500-$3,000
IVDD Low $2,500-$7,000

8 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Cockapoo Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Seek a breeder who is less interested in capitalizing on the fad of designer dogs with cute names and is more interested in crossbreeding for the sake of reducing the incidence of certain hereditary problems. Almost no ethical Cocker Spaniel or Poodle breeders will allow their dogs to be used in breeding Cocker/Poodle mixes, and it can be quite difficult for Cockapoo breeders to continue to find Poodles and Cockers to use to produce new generations of Cockapoos. Before you buy a Cockapoo, take a look at the Code of Ethics of the Poodle Club of America and that of the American Spaniel Club and see if the breeder or seller can live up to its standards.

Make sure the breeder has a solid knowledge of the genetic diseases prevalent in both the Cocker Spaniel and the Poodle, as well as in her lines, and tests her breeding stock for genetic health problems. Your puppy's breeder should be able to provide you with documentation from either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) that your puppy's parents are free of hip dysplasia. She should also have test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) that her dogs are clear of genetic eye disorders known to occur in the Cocker Spaniel and the Poodle. Ideally, the breeder should have OFA clearances on her dogs' hearts, thyroid glands, and knees as well.

Since temperament is a particular concern in the Cocker Spaniel, make sure you spend time with the breeder's dogs, and if possible, with your puppy's mother or father. Very often the father won't be on the premises -- good breeders look for the best possible male for their females, not just the best one they happen to own -- so don't view that as any kind of red flag. But if the breeder won't let you meet the mother of the puppies, and won't let you meet any of her dogs, consider that the worst of all signs and look elsewhere.

Don't accept excuses and lies like, "I know my dogs are healthy because the vet checked them," or "I don't have those problems in my lines," or "those problems only affect purebred dogs." Those are the standard lines of a bad and irresponsible breeder.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, and Cockapoos aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out.

Puppy or adult, take your Cockapoo to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, particularly thyroid, skin, ear and other problems common to the Cocker Spaniel and Poodle.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Cockapoos

Even if you find a good, responsible breeder, your Cockapoo is still at risk of accidents and various illnesses. There is no guarantee that the puppy will be free of the hereditary conditions common in the breeds of its parents, so it is always a good idea to insure your pet.

While Cockapoos are not purebred dogs, these hybrids or crossbreeds are more likely than mixed breeds to make claims for some hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat. Therefore, their insurance will cost slightly more than for mixed breeds, but not as much as for purebreds.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Cockapoos are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Cockapoo is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.