Cocker Spaniel

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Introduction


Originally bred as a working gundog, the Cocker Spaniel has consistently been one of the UK's most popular family pets. Over the years the breed has also made its mark in many other countries of the world. They are happy, active small dogs that adapt well to most lifestyles. Cockers are extremely intelligent and boast kind, loyal natures never happier than when exploring a back garden, park or countryside with their noses glued to the ground.



The Cocker Spaniel is just at home in a home environment as they are out in the field and will happily retrieve objects around the house, garden or when out on a walk much as they would if they were working. They love to please which in short, means they are highly trainable. The dogs we see today were recognised as a breed in their own right when the Kennel Club was first established in 1873.



It's worth noting there are two definite types of Cocker Spaniel, one being used in the field as a working dog and therefore quite a bit lighter, and the other being a show dog which are quite a bit heavier and sturdier looking. Cockers need to know who is the boss and occasionally need to be reminded of this. They are much happier dogs if they know their place in the pack and who to look up to when they need any sort of guidance and direction.


History


Spaniels have been around for a long time and can be seen depicted in art and written about in literature dating back over 500 years.  Originally, there were two "types" being land and water spaniels. It was only in the 19th century that enthusiasts began to separate them with "land" spaniels becoming a more specialised breed, although there is no evidence of them being used to retrieve game at that point in time, but rather to drive it towards the hunter.



By the mid eighteen hundreds, other spaniel breeds appeared on the scene, but it was not until the Kennel Club was establised here in the UK in 1874 that any dog under a certain weight (11 kg) was deemed to be a Cocker. In 1885, a breed standard was set with enthusiasts introducing more desired traits in the breed. Over time, the Cocker Spaniel became a consistent winner not only at dog shows like Crufts which the breed has won more times than any other, but with families and owners alike due to their gorgeous looks and ultra- kind natures. 


Appearance


Height at the withers: Males 39 - 41 cm, Females 38 - 38 cm



Average Weight: Males 13 - 14.5 kg, Females 13 - 14.5 kg



One thing about Cocker Spaniels that is so endearing to many is their happy and kind personalities, always ready to wag their tail and ultra eager to please. They are sturdy, compact looking little dogs that are never happier than when they are being kept busy. There is a distinct difference in the appearance of a working Cocker Spaniel and a Show Cocker with working dogs being lighter, they have finer coats and far less feathering than show dogs.



Cocker Spaniels have charmingly square muzzles with well developed skulls which are nicely proportioned, giving them their unique and endearing looks. Their eyes are typically dark or brown in colour and nicely rounded, not protruded at all. Dogs with liver or liver roan coats as well as liver and white dogs have hazel coloured eyes that blend in well with their colouring which is totally acceptable as a breed standard. Cockers are considered to have an intelligent look in their eyes, gentle yet always very alert.



Ears are long and lobular, always lying close to a dog's head. A Cocker's jaw is strong with a perfect bite, a physical trait these dogs needed when carrying and retrieving game. Cockers, as previously mentioned are well-proported, compact little dogs with strong legs and nicely formed toplines that slope gently from the wither to the tail.



Chests are well developed being neither too narrow or too wide. Their hindquarters are nicely rounded and muscular. They have very cat-like feet being well padded. Cockers always carry their tails level to their bodies. One of their endearing traits is the eagerness with which they are willing to wag their tails not only when happy, but when they are tracting down a scent too.



Show Cockers boast lovely flat and silky coats with lots of feathering on legs and trim. One of the most attractive physical traits the Cocker Spaniel boasts, is their amazing variety of acceptable colours with the most common being as follows:




  • Black

  • Liver (chocolate)

  • Red

  • Golden



However, there are many variations of these solid colours with sables, black/liver and tan with extraordinary patterns and markings known as "mask and trim" seen on a dog's coat. The only rule is that if a dog boasts a solid colour, there should be no white on their body, but with this said, a little white might be permitted if found on a dog's chest. Other accepted colours include the following:




  • Particolours

  • Bicolours: Black and white, orange and white, liver and white, lemon and white - ticking is allowed

  • Tricolours: Black, white and tan. Liver, white and tan

  • Roans: Blue roan, orange roan, lemon roan, blue roan and tan, liver roan and tan


Temperament


Cocker Spaniels are renowned for their gentle and loving natures. They are full of life and are always ready and eager to please, their wagging tails are usually all the proof a person needs to see how "merry" these dogs can be. They are consistently one of the most popular family pets for this reason. The one thing you need to bear in mind, is that a Cocker will form a stronger bond with the person who feeds them. They are incredibly loyal characters that show a determination and resilience when needed.



However, Cocker Spaniels need to know who is alpha dog or they may start displaying a more dominant side of their character. They are quite sensitive to loud noises which can stress them out as can any heavy handling which could result in a nervous and timid dog. Cockers benefit from positive reinforcement training and need to be handled firmly yet very gently when they are being put through their paces. They also need to be given lots of mental stimulation to be truly happy and healthy dogs.



As a rule, Cockers make good family pets when given the correct training, exercise and leadership and can form close relationships with family members. In a working capacity, there are few dogs which can cover all types of ground and terrain, including working in thorny and thick bush and hedgerows, with the same grace and poise of a Cocker Spaniel. And everyone knows that Spaniels love of water. This is something to bear in mind when walking anywhere near water, especially in freezing weather when thin ice may be a problem. Another thing worth noting is that many Show Cocker Spaniels have retained their natural instinct to "work" which is another reason these dogs are so interesting and fun to have around.


Children and Other Pets


Cocker Spaniels are known to be very tolerant and patient with children of all ages, although any playtime or interaction should always be well supervised, especially when toddlers are around. If well socialised when puppies, Cocker Spaniels tend to be very good around other family pets and this includes cats and small animals commonly found in the home.



As with any other breed, it's always a good idea to make sure any introductions to new animals and dogs goes smoothly which means you have to be there and to make sure nothing happens that could make the introductions stressful.


Health


The average life expectancy of a Cocker Spaniel is between 11 to 12 years and even longer when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages and any health issues a dog may be suffering from.



However, the breed is known to suffer from and develop certain hereditary and congenital health issues as well as some acquired ones which are worth knowing about if you are hoping to share your home with a Cocker Spaniel.



According to a survey carried out by the Kennel Club here in the UK, cancer is one of the leading causes for the death of around 30% of Cockers. Other commonly seen disorders include the following:




  • Skin allergies

  • Cataracts

  • Benign tumours

  • Deafness

  • Bite problems



Other health issues that can affect Cocker Spaniels, only to a lesser extent include the following:





Another issue that is associated with Show Cockers is a condition known as Rage Syndrome although, luckily this is relatively rare. Dogs for no apparent reason, will suddenly attack another dog quite savagely without giving any warning they are about to do so. When it does happen, a Cocker (or other breed) will typically have a glazed look about their eyes and they appear to be totally unaware of where they are and their surroundings. It would appear that Cocker Spaniels with solid coloured coats are more prone to suffering from Rage Syndrome, although it has to be said it is very rare.


Caring for a Cocker Spaniel


As of 2007, docking tails was banned here in the UK, although there are exceptions allowed, but only under the strict guidelines defined by the law. You should never consider purchasing a Cocker Spaniel puppy with a docked tail because there are very heavy fines for having this done to a dog where permission has not been officially granted.



As with any other breed, Cocker Spaniels need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and in particular their skin is kept in tip-top condition. They also benefit from being professionally groomed at least 3 times a year. Being high energy dogs, Cockers need to be given regular daily exercise so they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed a good quality diet throughout their lives to ensure all their nutritional needs are met.


Grooming


Cocker Spaniels are high maintenance in the grooming department mainly because of the length of their coats. The require frequent daily grooming to keep knots and tangles at bay. They also benefit from being taken to a professional grooming parlour every 2 to 3 months so they can be clipped out or hand stripped which makes keeping their coats in good order that much easier.



Because Cockers are naturally drawn to water, they do have a tendency to get muddy especially during the wetter months. As such, regular bathing could be necessary although you have to be careful not to overdo it. Cockers are prone to allergies and too much bathing will end up altering the balance of natural oils found in their skin and coats, making an allergy worse or it could trigger one.


Exercise


Cockers need to be given regular daily exercise that includes lots of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy and well balanced dogs. They are quite high energy dogs and they like nothing more than being out and about exploring the great outdoors with their noses to the ground following a scent.



Cocker puppies don't need to be given lots of exercise to begin with because they are still growing and developing which means they just need to have a play in the garden for the first few weeks. It's important however, for them to be well socialised which means they need to be introduced to new situations, people and other animals as soon as possible. A puppy’s bones and joints have generally developed sufficiently when they are around 6 months old which is when they can go for longer walks without the risk of them damaging their joints. With this said, walks should never be so long that a young Cocker is tired out. It's best to increase the time they are out a little at a time.



Older, more mature Cocker Spaniels enjoy a good 30 minute brisk and interesting walk twice a day and they like nothing better than to spend as much time in a garden as possible. Working Cockers need a lot more in the way of exercise and mental stimulation to be truly happy, but both show dogs and working dogs enjoy playing interactive games with their owners as often as possible. One thing to bear in mind, is that it is never a good idea to let Cocker Spaniels off their leads when they are around livestock.


Feeding


Like all dogs, Cocker Spaniels need to be fed a good quality, nutritious diet to suit their ages and the amount of daily exercise they are given. Over-feeding a Cocker would result in them putting on weight and this can lead to all sorts of health issues. It can affect their joints, bones and heart which is especially true if a dog is still growing and developing. Carrying too much weight puts a lot of extra strain on their hips and backs too. It can also lead to a dog developing some sort of heart disease.



Puppies need to be fed good quality puppy food and you should always read the labels that well-known pet food manufacturers attach to their product to see how much a puppy should be fed on a daily basis. It's best to feed a puppy the same diet they were fed by the breeder and to gradually change this over a few weeks to avoid any sort of digestive issues.



The same goes for adult, more mature Cocker Spaniels, they need to be fed as per the pet food manufacturers guidelines whether you opt to feed a dog a wet or a dry diet. You also have to make sure a dog has access to plenty of fresh, clean water. If you share your home with a Working Cocker, they would need to be fed a higher protein diet because of the extra energy they expend on a daily basis.


Average Cost to keep/care for a Cocker Spaniel


You would need to pay out anything from £430 to well over £1000 for a pedigree, Kennel Club registered Cocker Spaniel puppy. The cost of insuring a 3 year old Cocker Spaniel in the north of England would be just under £20 a month for basic cover to over £38 a month for a lifetime policy (quote as of March 2016). It's worth noting that lots of things are factored in when a company calculates a dog's insurance premium and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age.



Cockers need to be fed a good quality, nutritious diet and one that suits their ages. You should expect to pay around £30 to £50 per month on food. You would also need to pay for all the vet fees involved in owning a dog which generally stands at around £1000 per year. This includes neutering or spaying, the cost of vaccinations and annual health checks.



As a rough guide, the average cost of keeping a caring for a Cocker Spaniel would set you back around £80 to £90 a month depending on the type of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the price of buying a pure bred Cocker Spaniel puppy.


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