American Cocker Spaniel

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Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a American Cocker Spaniel
Average Cost to keep/care for a American Cocker Spaniel

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #102 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The American Cocker Spaniel breed is also commonly known by the names Cocker Spaniel (America), Cocker, Merry Cocker.
12 - 15 years
Pedigree Breed ?
Yes - KC Recognised in the Gundog Group
Males 37 - 39 cm
Females 34 - 37 cm at the withers
Males 11 - 14 kg
Females 11 - 14 kg
Average Price (More Info)
£722 for KC Registered
£1,087 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


American Cocker Spaniels are energetic, affectionate and kind natured, medium sized dogs that over the years have gained popularity both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world. Originally bred as gundogs, American Cockers are a great choice for families with children because of their sweet personalities, but they are also a good choice as companion dogs too.

There is a striking difference between an American Cocker and an English dog even though they share the same ancestry. The most noticeable differences are seen in the shape of their heads and the length of their coats, with the American Cocker boasting a much rounder skull, larger, fuller eyes and longer coat than their English Cocker Spaniel cousins.


American Cockers were bred to be working gundogs way back in the 17th century when Settlers took the first spaniels with them on the Mayflower to the New World. During the late 19th century the American Cocker was among the most popular choice of family dog both in the US and Canada too all thanks to their sweet and kind natures. They were found to be extremely adaptable and just at home in a working or home environment.

The differences between the English Cocker and the American became very noticeable by the 20th century when a separate breed standard was established for them although up until 1946, the two dogs were exhibited in the same classes with English dogs being described as a "variety" of the American Cocker. After this, the two dogs were recognised as distinct breeds in their own right by the American Kennel Club. However, American Cockers were only officially recognised as a breed by The Kennel Club here in the UK in 1970.


Height at the withers: Males 37 - 39 cm, Females 34 - 37 cm

Average weight: Males 11 - 14 kg, Females 11 - 14 kg

American Cockers are slightly lighter than their English cousins, but it is the shape of their heads and eyes that differ the most with an American Cocker boasting a much rounder, refined head and larger eyes. Another difference is their coats, with the American Cocker boasting longer and silkier hair and lots of feathering which is prolific on their legs and on their body. Their coats can either be wavy or flat, but they share the same colouring as their English counterparts.

They are well-proportioned and balanced dogs that boast a compact body and a lot of bone. Their heads as previously mentioned are nicely domed and their eyes are large and full being almond-shaped. The shape of their eyes is accentuated by the curve of a dog's rims. American Cockers boast an intelligent, alert look in their eyes which is at the same time kindly and appealing. Darker coloured dogs boast darker eyes, but black and tan, cream and buff coloured dogs can have either black or dark brown eyes. Red and brown coated dogs have dark hazel eyes.

Their muzzles are broad and deep with square jaws. Their noses are large and well developed with darker coloured dogs having black noses whereas lighter coloured and parti-coloured dogs boast brown or black noses. Their ears are lobular in shape and neatly set on a dog's head almost level with their eyes. They are well covered with soft, wavy hair. An American Cocker boasts a strong jaw line with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.

Necks are long and well-muscled which dogs hold slightly arched. Their shoulders slope and their rib cages are well sprung. Front legs are nice and straight, well-muscled and well-boned. An American Cocker is a compact looking dog with deep chests and strong backs that slope neatly downwards to the tip of a dog's tail. Their hips are set wide apart and their hindquarters are muscular and well-rounded. Back legs are muscular and well-developed giving the American Cocker their powerful look. Feet are neat and compact with tough pads and hair that grows between a dog's toes.

An American Cockers tail is set level with their topline and moderate in length with the correct amount of feathering in relation to the rest of their coats. Tails are thicker at the base and taper to the tip which dogs carry level with their backs or a little higher. When alert, excited or working, these dogs carry their tails merrily adding to the merry appeal.

When it comes to their coat, the hair on an American Cocker Spaniel’s head is fine, short and medium in length. A dog's ears, abdomen, legs and chests are nicely feathered. Their coat lies flat to the body and is silky to the touch and wavy. These lovely little spaniels come in a variety of colours which includes the following:

  • Black
  • Black and Tan
  • Black and White
  • Black and White Particolour
  • Black White and Tan
  • Brown and White
  • Buff
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate and Tan
  • Chocolate and White Particolour
  • Chocolate Tricolour
  • Particolour
  • Red
  • Red and White
  • Red & White Particolour
  • Sable
  • Sable and White
  • Silver Buff
  • Tricolour


American Cockers are often referred to as Merry Cockers and for good reason because they are renowned for their cheerful personalities which is just one of the reasons they are a popular choice as family pets. They are energetic and intelligent characters by nature which means they need to be given lots of exercise and mental stimulation to the truly happy, well-rounded dogs. If left for long periods of time and not given enough to do, American Cockers can develop some unwanted behavioural problems which makes them unruly and harder to handle.

They are easy to train and will learn things quickly, both the good and the bad which means their training and socialising needs to start as early as possible. Puppies also need to be taught that grooming is a pleasant experience because American Cockers are high maintenance in the grooming department.

Intelligence / Trainability

American Cocker Spaniels are intelligent dogs with the added bonus of them always being eager to please. Over the years they have earned themselves a brilliant reputation as working dogs in the field. They also do exceptionally well in the show ring. Because they are so amenable to learning new things, American Cockers are easy to train, but like all breeds their education needs to start early and puppies have to be well-socialised from a young age for them to be outgoing, confident adult dogs.

Children and Other Pets

American Cockers are kind natured dogs that generally make great family pets. They are normally very tolerant towards children, but as with all breeds any interaction between the kids and a dog should be supervised by an adult to make sure everything stays calm and the kids don't get too boisterous or knocked over in the excitement.

American Cockers also tend to be good around other animals and this includes the family cat. However, care has to be taken when an American Cocker is around any smaller pets = commonly found in a home. With this said, introductions to any new pets or animal has to be done carefully to make sure things go smoothly.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

American Cocker Spaniel Health

The average life expectancy of an American Cocker Spaniel is between 12 to 15 when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality, well-balanced diet to suit their ages.

American Cockers are known to be healthy dogs although like many other pure breeds, they are prone to suffer from certain hereditary health conditions which are worth knowing about if you want to share your home with one of these energetic little spaniels. The health issues most commonly seen in the breed include the following:

  • Ear problems
  • Eye problems – DNA tests available
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Heart problems
  • Canine epilepsy

Caring for a American Cocker Spaniel

As with any other breed, American Cocker Spaniels need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and to prevent them from putting on too much weight. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


American Cockers are high maintenance in the grooming department and really do benefit from being professionally groomed more frequently than many other breeds so their coats and skin stay in top condition. They are known to shed quite a bit which like other breeds, tends to be more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn.

These dogs need to be brushed every day to keep on top of things and to prevent their long coats from getting tangled and matted. Their feathers need particular attention as they can grow quite thick. It's also important to keep a close eye on a dog's ears and to make sure they are thoroughly dried off if a dog ever gets wet or after they’ve been bathed. The reason being that air cannot circulate as well as it should because of the shape of their ears and this means moisture gets trapped in the inner ear creating the perfect environment for a yeast infection to take hold. This type of ear infection is known to be notoriously hard to clear up.


American Cockers need to be given regular daily exercise and ideally this needs to be a minimum of an hour a day split into two sessions, namely a walk in the morning and then again in the afternoon. These dogs have a lot of stamina for their size and really benefit from a brisk walk that includes lots of interactive games. American Cockers are definitely not couch potatoes and would not be the best choice for people who lead more sedentary indoor lives. However, they are the perfect choice for families and people who like to spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors with a canine companion in tow.

With this said, if you've decided to get an American Cocker puppy, it's important not to overdo things on the exercise front to begin with. Too much exercise could harm their developing joints and this could cause problems later on in a dog’s life. A good 15 to 20 minutes play time in a secure garden is all an American Cocker puppy would really need, but once they have had their vaccinations, it's important to start socialising them as soon as possible so they get to meet new dogs, people and introduced to as many new situations when they are still young which makes for a more confident mature dog.


If you get an American Cocker Spaniel puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same type of puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upset in the process and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change their diet again.

Older dogs need to be fed a good quality, well-balanced diet making sure it meets all their nutritional needs and it has to suit the different stages of their lives too. They are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed an American Cocker lower quality dog food because it would not contain all the right vitamins, minerals and nutrients dogs need to stay healthy.

Average Cost to keep/care for a American Cocker Spaniel

If you are looking to buy an American Cocker Spaniel, you would need to be prepared to pay anything from £600 to over £800 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old American Cocker Spaniel in northern England would be £26.35 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £61.11 a month (quote as of March 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they’ve been neutered.

When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality dog food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an American Cocker Spaniel and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their annual health check visits, all of which could quickly add up to over a £1000 a year.

As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an American Cocker Spaniel would be between £80 to £120 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree American Cocker Spaniel puppy.

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