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American Cocker Spaniel  Information


Description of the American Cocker Spaniel

American Cocker Spaniels are energetic, affectionate and kind natured, medium sized dogs that over the years have gained popularity both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world. They are the smallest of all sporting spaniel breeds having been originally bred as gundogs, American Cockers are a great choice for families with children because of their sweet personalities, but they are also a good choice as companion dogs too.

There is a striking difference between an American Cocker and an English Cocker Spaniel even though they share the same ancestry. The most noticeable differences are seen in the shape of their heads and the length of their coats, with the American Cocker boasting a much rounder skull, larger, fuller eyes and longer coat than their English Cocker Spaniel cousins. Traditionally, American Cocker Spaniels had their tails docked, but this practice has now been banned unless the procedure is carried out for medical reasons.

Temperament of the American Cocker Spaniel

American Cockers are often referred to as Merry Cockers and for good reason because they are renowned for their cheerful personalities which is just one of the reasons they are a popular choice as family pets. They are energetic and intelligent characters by nature which means they need to be given lots of exercise and mental stimulation to the truly happy, well-rounded dogs. If left for long periods of time and not given enough to do, American Cockers can develop some unwanted behavioural problems which makes them unruly and harder to handle. It can also lead to a dog barking incessantly for no reason too.

They are very gentle and quite sensitive by nature which are just two of the reasons they are known to be so good around children. American Cockers are also very respectful and quickly understand who to look to for direction providing they are given the right guidance from an early age.

In the right hands and environment, they are generally easy to train and will learn things quickly, but this means they can learn both the good and the bad just as fast. As such, their training and socialising must start as early as possible and their education should be consistent throughout a dog's life so they understand what an owner expects of them. Puppies also need to be taught that grooming is a pleasant experience because American Cockers are high maintenance in the grooming department.

Grooming & Shedding of American Cocker Spaniel

American Cockers are high maintenance in the grooming department and really do benefit from being professionally groomed more frequently than many other breeds so their coats and skin stay in top condition. They are known to shed quite a bit which like other breeds, tends to be more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn.

These dogs need to be brushed every day to keep on top of things and to prevent their long coats from getting tangled and matted. Their feathers need attention as they can grow quite thick. It's also important to keep a close eye on a dog's ears and to make sure they are thoroughly dried off if a dog ever gets wet or after they’ve been bathed. The reason being that air cannot circulate as well as it should because of the shape of their ears and this means moisture gets trapped in the inner ear creating the perfect environment for a yeast infection to take hold. This type of ear infection is known to be notoriously hard to clear up.

It is also worth noting that American Cocker Spaniels are prone to eye infections and as such it is essential that their eyes be cleaned regularly to prevent any sort of flare up.

History of the American Cocker Spaniel breed

American Cockers were bred to be working gundogs way back in the 17th century when settlers took the first English Cocker Spaniels with them to the New World on the Mayflower in 1620. During the late 19th century the American Cocker was among the most popular choice of family dog both in the US and Canada too all thanks to their sweet and kind natures. They were found to be extremely adaptable and just at home in a working or home environment.

Although American Cocker Spaniels have been around in America for centuries, the breed was only officially recognised by the American Kennel Club in the late 1800's and an official breed club was set up in 1881. It is thought that a dog called Obo II is the father of all modern breed lines and it is worth noting that during these early days, there was not a lot of difference between an American and an English Cocker Spaniel.

The differences between the English Cocker and the American became noticeable by the 20th century, a time when American breeders through selective and careful breeding noticed various natural changes in the appearance of their spaniels. As such, a separate breed standard was established for American Cockers although up until 1946, the two dogs were exhibited in the same classes with English dogs being described as a "variety" of the American Cocker. After this, the two dogs were recognised as distinct breeds by the American Kennel Club.

During the 1940s and 1950s, the American Cocker Spaniel was the most popular breed in their native America and the breed was officially recognised as a breed by The Kennel Club here in the UK in 1970. For the ensuing years, the American Cocker Spaniel consistently remained at the top of the list in popularity in the States and were to become a popular breed in the showring both in the UK and the USA as well as elsewhere in the world.

It is also worth noting that for a while, the American Cocker Spaniel was categorised as being a "rare" breed in the UK, but their popularity as show dogs, family pets and companions saw breed numbers rise and today they are still among some of the more popular breeds in the UK.

Health Issues of an American Cocker Spaniel

The average life expectancy of an American Cocker Spaniel is between 12 to 15 when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality, well-balanced diet to suit their ages.

American Cockers are known to be healthy dogs although like many other pure breeds, they are prone to suffer from certain hereditary health conditions which are worth knowing about if you want to share your home with one of these energetic little spaniels. The health issues most commonly seen in the breed include the following:

Hereditary cataract (HC) - BVA/KC test available

Retinal dysplasia - BVA/KC test available

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) - test available through BVA/KC and Optigen (USA)

Goniodysgenesis (G)/Glaucoma - test available through the Animal Health Trust (AHT) UK

Hip dysplasia - stud dogs should be hip scored

Elbow dysplasia - stud dogs should be tested

Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (RD)


Corneal lipidosis

Dry eye

Ear problems

Heart problems including cardiomyopathy

Canine epilepsy


Entropion/cherry eye



Phosphofructokinase deficiency

Liver disease


Congestive heart failure



Males 37 - 39 cm

Females 34 - 37 cm


Males 11 - 14 kg

Females 11 - 14 kg


10-15 years







Young Children


Need exercise space


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