Breeds 101: The Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Cocker Spaniel (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) /

The Cocker Spaniel is our Breeds 101 focus this week.

The Cocker Spaniel is highly recognizable, and so we’re going to look at it as this week’s focus of our Breeds 101 series of dog breed introductions.

Cocker Spaniels are a small-medium breed, as females stand about 13.5-14.5 inches at the withers (shoulders) and weigh around 20-25 pounds, while males stand around 14.5 to 15..5 inches and weigh in the 25-30 pound range.

They can come in a variety of coat colors, from light blonde to black.

They live a fairly long time, with an estimated lifespan of 10 to 14 years, and are a member of the Sporting Group in dog shows, where they are the smallest breed in the group.

According to the AKC’s Breed Standard, the ideal Cocker Spaniel “has a sturdy, compact body and a cleanly chiseled and refined head, with the overall dog in complete balance and of ideal size.” In terms of personality,, the Breed Standard states that “above all, he must be free and merry,
sound, well balanced throughout and in action show a keen inclination to work.”

Technically, there are two separate breeds: The English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel. According to Jamie Sucher in the 1999 book Cocker Spaniels, all spaniels bred for bird hunting (specifically woodcocks) under 25 pounds were consider Cocker Spaniels until the 1870s, and over the next fifty or so years the separate strains eventually grew so far apart that the English and American versions were considered as separate breeds.

The American Cocker Spaniel is a little shorter and has a slightly more rounded head shape than the English, while the English has a longer snout and is a bit taller and longer.

Both breeds have the distinctive silky feathered ears, and soulful round eyes. As far as health issues go, ear infections can occur, and so can some eye problems like glaucoma.

In pop culture, Lady from Lady and the Tramp is a Cocker Spaniel, and she was played by a real-life Cocker in the possibly-even-better 2019 remake. This makes sense, as the breed was the most popular in the nation from 1936 to 1953, when Lady was in production (the movie itself released in 1955).

Cocker Spaniels also held the top spot from 1983 to 1990, when that spot was usurped by the Labrador Retriever, who has held it ever since. The reasons for this popularity spike aren’t exactly clear, but they fit the sitcom-heavy TV slate of the period (though as far as we know, no sitcom actually had a Cocker Spaniel featured).

Also, the 2006 PBS/Peacock animated TV series Curious George features a troublemaking black Cocker named Charkie as a recurring character.

Dexter, the mascot of the website Fidose of Reality, is a brown-and-gray Cocker Spaniel.

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Though they’re generally friendly dogs, they don’t always do well with kids, which partially explains Lady’s reluctance to the baby’s arrival. This was also the case with Wesley’s step-grandma’s light gold Cocker Spaniel Bogey, who around the age of 15 – he disliked almost everyone.