This Month’s Breed The English Cocker Spaniel

Wagging Tales

HISTORY: The English Cocker origins can be traced back to 14th century Spain. Prior to the 1600’s all types of spaniels were categorised as one. Larger ones being used to spring game and the smaller ones to flush out woodcock. In 1892, the Kennel Club of Great Britain differentiated the two breeds giving them their appropriate names the Springer and the Cocker. In the 1930’s, the Cocker was the most popular breed of dog in Britain and it remained so for nearly 20 years. In America they were using the same breeding stock to develop a slightly different Cocker. In 1940, the Kennel Club then split these Spaniels into American and English. Today the English Cocker is still a popular choice for many. The Show Cocker conforms to the kennel club breed standard but Working Cockers are equally known as the English Cocker although slightly different in looks and temperament. Working Cockers are slightly taller with wider and flatter heads, higher set ears and with higher energy than the Show Cocker.

HEIGHT: Dogs: 39 – 41cm; bitches: 38 – 39cm

WEIGHT: Around 13 – 14.5kg

LIFESPAN: 12 – 14 years

CLASS: Gundog

HEALTH: Cocker Spaniels are prone to; Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), Glaucoma and Familial Nephropathy (FN).

PRA is an inherited untreatable eye condition that results in blindness; glaucoma is increased pressure within the eye — it’s extremely painful and if not treated promptly will result in blindness; FN is a kidney disease that results in renal failure. 

COAT: Requires daily brushing to prevent matts and needs stripping about 3 times a year. Ears also need cleaning regularly to prevent infection.Working Cockers have finer coats with less feathering and shorter ears but both Show and Working require the same amount of grooming. They do moult a moderate amount but daily brushing helps. Colours; Solid black, red, orange, and brown, as well as combinations of black with white, brown with white, red and white, blue roan, orange roan, black roan, particoloured, and tricoloured.

TEMPERAMENT & EXERCISE: Kind natured and happy, loves interaction with family. Intelligent and alert would bark at intruders but generally not a yappy dog. Excels at training but can be stubborn and needs firm and fair training. Working cockers can make good pets but have a strong working instinct and incredible stamina,many are used as service and assistance dogs.The show cocker still needs an active lifestyle around 60 minutes exercise per day including the freedom of being off the lead. 

Viewpoint of dogs owner Denise

I am very fortunate to share my life with three cocker spaniels, two are working cockers, the other one is a show or fancy cocker.  All are medium sized with a soft luxurious coat.

We were initially introduced to the breed by a friend who is a gamekeeper and told us about their easy going demeanour, average size and of course they are so pretty.  We researched the breed on the Kennel Club website and bought our first one, Max from a registered breeder. He was really easy to train, obviously patience and kindness is foremost and they soon learn that clever behaviour is rewarded by a treat. This doesn’t have to be food it can be by giving them a favourite toy as a reward.  Max is now 14 a good age as life expectancy is 12-14 years, he still likes to snuffle about in hedge bottoms looking to flush out a bird and as yet is showing no signs of slowing down! 

We were soon smitten by this breed and decided to get another cocker spaniel, we adopted a beautiful ‘show’ cocker from a rescue centre, Rosie. We think she is around 10 years old now, we have had her for 8 years.  It took Rosie around three months to settle into the family, she was very reclusive and timid, obviously as a result of her past life, which we will never know. She is like my shadow, wherever I go she is always on my heels, she still likes her own space, which she has found at the back of the settee! She absolutely adores her food and is the one most prone to weight gain, her coat grows curlier than the worker’s coat and she is a shorter, sturdier framed dog. She also feels the cold more than the others and owns a lovely sheepskin jacket.

Belle is the youngest at 6, we have had her from a puppy, and she is a little madam and really rules the other two. She is not aggressive to them but they just seem to accept that Belle has to be first in line for everything be it teeth cleaning or having the lead on!  Belle’s light blonde colour is fairly uncommon and attracts lots of attention which she loves, she is very adventurous with a very keen nose.  This breed of dog are very often used by the armed forces for their great nose and obedience. Even though they are gun dogs, my three do not retrieve game, though they are often seen walking in the garden carrying one of my slippers or a rolled up pair of socks!

To keep them looking their best I give each of them a daily brush, it’s amazing how much hair they shed each day.  A bath every two weeks or so keeps them clean and smelling nice.  They go to a professional groomer every three months for a good cut and their nails clipping.  Long ears can be prone to infections and itchiness so it is important to keep their ears clean, I use a little drop of medicinal olive oil and a soft cloth to wipe the ears.

They will accept as much exercise as I offer them, they are equally as happy on a short lead walk to a full day romping in the countryside. They are lucky though to have a very large garden to wander around in.

Cockers are a faithful and friendly breed, all cocker spaniel owners will sing their praises, they are a happy little breed with a loving, loyal nature and are truly a friend for life.

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