English Cocker Spaniels

Raise your hand if you knew that in addition to the Cocker Spaniel, there was a separate breed known as the English Cocker Spaniel. So what’s the difference, you may ask? As you can probably guess, the two breeds used to be one, but they diverged so much in appearance that in 1946 the English Cocker was given status as a distinct breed. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring an English Cocker.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The English Cocker possesses the traits common to all spaniels: He's affectionate, cheerful and devoted to his people. Funny and inquisitive, he will always make you laugh, and he can be a good choice for families with children. At maturity, when he will weight 25 to 35 pounds, he's not so big that he could hurt youngsters by stepping on them and not so small that he runs much risk of being hurt by them. He also gets along well with other pets such as cats if he's raised with them. He may be reserved with strangers and his alert nature makes him a good watchdog.

In the field, his job is to flush birds from heavy cover and then retrieve them. Even if you don't hunt, he'll still take every opportunity to flush feathered game and do his best to go after it. Unless you're in a traffic-free area, keep him on leash or you'll lose him to the chase.

Plan to give an English Cocker daily exercise in the form of a long walk or a half-hour run. He's also a super competitor in dog sports such as agility, obedience and rally, and his excellent nose makes him a natural at tracking.

Train the English Cocker with firmness and consistency to overcome his occasional tendency to be an airhead. For best results, use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards.

Brush the English Cocker's medium-length coat two or three times a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles. You may also need to trim it for neatness every couple of months. A bath every six weeks or so doesn't go amiss. In addition, trim the nails as needed, brush the teeth, and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections.

Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the English Cocker needs to live in the house. It's an unhappy English Cocker who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Variations of the English Cocker Spaniel

The English Cocker is taller, has a thinner coat, and does not come in the popular buff color so often seen in the Cocker Spaniel. Instead, he sports a silky, lightly feathered coat in black, liver, red, black and tan, liver and tan, or any of these colors on a white background. (Note: In the U.K., the situation is reversed, naturally: What Americans call the "English" Cocker is the Cocker, and the American dog is the American Cocker.)

The English Cocker has since diverged further in appearance, leading to a split between dogs bred for the field and those bred for the show ring. Field-bred English Cockers have a shorter coat, a deeper chest and stand lower to the ground than conformation English Cockers. But both types have the potential to be fine companion dogs.

Health Issues Common to English Cocker Spaniels

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

English Cockers have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include progressive retinal atrophy, patellar luxation, cataracts, hip dysplasia, juvenile-onset renal failure, hypothyroidism and, in particolors, hearing loss.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy's parents have hip, knee and thyroid clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, OFA BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test results for hearing, and eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Entropion High $300-$1,500
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye) High $200-$1,000

6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy English Cocker Spaniel 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 housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search for a good breeder with the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in English Cockers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. English Cockers can live 12 to 14 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your English Cocker 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.

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 English Cocker Spaniels

Pet insurance for English Cocker Spaniels costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because English Cocker Spaniels are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which English Cocker Spaniels are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your English Cocker Spaniel 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.