Cocker Spaniel

AKC Sporting Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The popular Cocker Spaniel, sometimes called the American Cocker Spaniel, was originally developed from English Cocker Spaniels brought to the United States in the 1800s. The American Cocker is smaller than the English Cocker and has a different conformation. In 1935, the Cocker Spaniels and English Cocker Spaniels were separated into distinct breeds by the AKC. The name “Cocker” comes from the woodcock, a game bird these spaniels flushed particularly well. Today, the Cocker Spaniel serves primarily as a companion and glamorous show dog. For many years it was the most popular breed in America.


The Cocker Spaniel is a beautiful spaniel with very long, hanging ears, a rounded head, and a profuse, silky, feathered coat, which should not be too long. The body is compact with a topline that slopes slightly to the rear. The expression is soft and appealing. The head is chiseled with an abrupt stop and rounded skull. The muzzle is broad with a square jaw. The upper lip hangs down, covering the lower jaw completely. The teeth should meet in a scissors bite. The nose is always black on black dogs, but may be brown on other dogs. The eyes are round and set on so they look straight forward. The eye rims are slightly oval. The body is compact, with a short back. The topline should slope gently downwards from front to back. The tail is docked to two-fifths its original length, and carried in line or slightly above the backline. The front legs are straight, with good bone. Dewclaws on front and rear legs should be removed.

The breed is divided into three color varieties: black (solid black or black and tan); ASCOB (any solid color other than black, including cream, red, brown, or brown and tan); and particolor (any accepted color on a white background, and roan).

Key Facts

  • Height:  14-1/2 to 15-1/2 in. (male); 13-1/2 to 14-1/2 in. (female)
  • Size:  Small
  • Weight:  27 lbs. (male); 25 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  Very popular
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, and agility


Beware—Cocker Spaniels are a very popular breed, and many inferior animals are sold. Don’t buy a Cocker from a puppy mill! These dogs can have very poor health and temperaments. Buy only from a reputable source. Can be difficult to housebreak. Prone to cataracts, slipped stifle, PRA, hip dysplasia, hemophilia, heart disease, and stomach and ear problems. The eyes need regular cleaning. Some like to bark. Field types differ from show types. Field lines generally have shorter coats, better suited to work in brush. They also have better hunting instincts. Both types make good pets. The coat needs regular grooming and quarterly scissoring and clipping.


Merry and endearing. A happy tail-wagger. Gentle and trusting. Average intelligence. Lively and playful. A wonderful companion for children. Respects authority without much challenge. Sensitive. Socialize well when young to avoid timidity. Devoted. Needs people.


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Loves everyone
  • Trainability:  Easy to train
  • Independence:  Not particularly dependent or independent
  • Dominance:  Low
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Friendly with other dogs
  • Noise:  Likes to bark
  • Indoors:  Fairly inactive indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Extensive grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  Skilled trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Feathered coat
  • Shedding:  Average shedder
  • Docking:  The tail is customarily docked.
  • Exercise:  Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A good jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  A small yard is sufficient
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Cocker Spaniel Breed Standard

Cocker Spaniel Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel Gifts