The Cocker spaniel is the most popular pedigree spaniel breed in the UK, and also the fifth most popular dog breed in the country overall.
Medium in size, handsome in appearance and kind in temperament, Cockers originally became popular and widespread in the UK due to their working ability and biddability when it comes to training and following commands, and later made a successful transition to life as pets thanks to their widespread appeal and versatility.
Cocker spaniels have a lot to recommend them to a wide variety of different types of homes and owners, but they aren’t a good fit for everyone, and plenty of research is required before you decide that this is the breed for you, and you’re ready to begin your search for the perfect dog.
If you’re just beginning to explore the Cocker spaniel breed and you’re looking for some pointers on the breed’s core traits and what is good and bad about them to get you started, this article will help.
Read on to find out ten things you need to know about the Cocker spaniel before you go out and buy one.
First of all, the Cocker spaniel is one of the more intelligent dog breeds, which has a lot of advantages but some downsides too. Their intelligence makes them versatile and suitable for a wide range of different applications including working roles and life as pets, and helps to ensure that they’re clever enough to learn quite a wide range of commands.
The breed is hard working and strives to please, and so with the right handler, Cockers can learn and achieve a lot. However, training that is dull, boring or frustrating for the dog won’t work, and will result in the dog picking up bad habits, which can make them harder to train than some less-smart breeds if you’re not already experienced with dogs.
The Cocker spaniel is also one of the more lively dog breeds, and they thrive in homes and working roles where they can spend the greater part of their day outdoors with people and maybe other dogs, running around, exercising and having fun – or doing a job.
This means that if you intend to keep a Cocker spaniel within a suburban home as a pet, you first need to ensure that you can meet their sometimes-challenging need for exercise.
A cocker kept as a pet will need at least two long, lively and interesting walks each day, with plenty of chances of socialisation and off the lead play.
Cocker spaniels are classed within the Kennel Club’s gun dog group, reflecting the breed’s core traits and excellent working abilities. Even in pet Cockers that have never been trained for gun sport, these traits manifest in a number of different ways.
Most Cockers are equally at home on land or in water, love playing fetch, and are happiest when carrying something around in their mouths, and they are often quite excitable and fizzy when something catches their attention too!
Cocker spaniels are fun loving dogs that love to play, meet others and find things to do, and they are usually full of beans and always looking for opportunities to have fun. This can be quite invigorating and often entertaining too, but an overexcited Cocker spaniel can be a challenge to keep in check, and they do tend to be fairly vocal and prone to making a reasonable amount of noise when playing and having fun or even within the home, which isn’t a good fit for everyone.
Cockers are really sociable, and actively seek out the company of both people and other dogs. However, dogs of the breed don’t tolerate their own company well, and often become anxious and unhappy if left on their own.
Any dog should be able to be trained and conditioned to stay alone for a couple of hours at a time without issue, but much beyond this, and you will find that your dog may struggle. If you won’t be able to provide company for your dog for the greater part of each day, this might not be a good choice of breed.
The Cocker’s friendly, personable and outgoing nature as well as their love of play and company means that they usually get on extremely well with children, and will even seek them out because they know that kids love to play too.
Every dog is of course an individual and not every dog of the breed will love kids – but if you need to pick a dog to share a home with children, this is certainly one worth considering.
Cocker spaniels have moderately long coats with lots of feathering on the legs, and their coats are very dense in places. Because this is such a keen working breed, Cockers are also completely unbothered about getting into a mess, and often get very mucky and end up with lots of seeds and burs in their coats after walks!
This makes daily brushing and grooming essential to keep the dog’s coat in good condition, and to prevent it from tangling and matting up.
Cockers are smart, lively and fun loving, which are all good traits for harnessing into applications like canine sports. If you’re thinking of trying out agility or heelwork and want to pick a good dog breed with plenty of potential in these areas, a Cocker might be the right choice.
Cockers tend to be hardy and robust, but there are also a number of breed-specific health challenges too, which can affect the health, wellness and longevity of individual dogs of the breed.
Make sure to learn in depth about the most common Cocker hereditary health issues before you make a decision, and find out about the breed’s recommended health tests and talk to breeders about what tests they have performed before you buy a dog.
The average advertised price for pedigree Cocker spaniels is £788 each, and for non-pedigrees, £594. These prices are around the middle of the road for dog breeds of an equivalent size, but many dogs of the breed change hands for a lot more, particularly dogs from distinguished working lines and those with a show-winning pedigree.
If you find a Cocker Spaniel for sale that costs well above or well below the breed averages, find out why this is before making a purchase, and don’t assume that a cheaper dog is actually a bargain!