The Cocker Spaniel dog breed as pictured in early 16th Century.
History of the American Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed
Modern Cocker Spaniels are descendants of the Spaniel family, a breed group dating back to antiquity. The word spaniel means “Spanish dog.” It’s widely held that the spaniel breed did in fact originate in Spain. By the 1800’s, the spaniel breed was divided into two groups: toys (primarily companions) and hunting dogs. Hunting dogs were then divided into land and water spaniels. The Cocker was named for its excellence at hunting woodcock. Soon American breeders were importing English Cocker Spaniels to the United States. A liver-and-white Spaniel named Captain was registered in the first studbook of the National American Kennel Club (later the AKC). As the dogs grew in popularity, some breeders began to favor a smaller type of Spaniel. This smaller spaniel had a slightly different conformation than the English one. In 1946, the American Kennel Club recognized the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel as two distinct breeds. The smallest member of the AKC’s Sporting Group, the American Cocker Spaniel ranks among the top 15 registered breeds.
Physical Description of the American Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed
American Cocker Spaniels are medium-sized, sturdy dogs. Males stand 15 inches tall, females 14 inches. Both male and female weigh between 24 and 28 pounds. Their heads are rounded with a pronounced stop; their muzzles are broad and deep with square, even jaws. Spaniel eyes are dark and round with slightly almond-shaped rims. Their long, low-set ears, called “drop ears” for their ability to drop foward to better catch scent while hunting, are well feathered. Their chests, bellies and legs are also well feathered. The spaniel’s silky coats are a combination of flat and wavy, with lots of curls desirable on the ears, tail, and legs.
American Cocker Spaniel coats come in many colors. As solids, they are often be fawn, blonde, or black. As parti-color combinations, they can be black with tan points, salt and pepper or black and white merle, or any solid color with tan points. Historically, the most prevalent color was white with red or liver markings.
Grooming can be a challenge unless the dogs are well handled as pups. Most owners have professionals undertake grooming. The ideal is a bath and trim of coats and nail cut every 6 to 8 weeks. Daily brushing at home is a must to keep coats free of mats and tangles. Because they’re prone to ear infections, ears must be wiped out weekly. Although they can suffer from eye problems, they’re a generally healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years.
Is the American Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed Right for You?
Well-bred American Cocker Spaniels have sweet, merry temperaments. They are a pleasure to own! They’re sensitive dogs with “soft” personalities. They require early socialization and training with kind and careful handling. Among the many adjectives used to describe this friendly breed are: gentle and affectionate; cuddly and loving; alert and playful; loyal and trustworthy. They live to please their families! Cocker Spaniels are ideal companions for both children and seniors, and make excellent therapy dogs. Their small size allows them to fit comfortably in an apartment or small house, provided they’re properly exercised. Exercise can be brisk daily walks, long romps in a yard or assorted indoor activities. Still basically hunters at heart, they’re good candidates for agility and obedience competitions, flyball, hunt tests and tracking.
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