Dog Health & More
The Cocker Spaniel is primarily a beloved companion dog breed, though he remains a capable bird dog at heart. Beautiful to look at (and labor-intensive to groom), the Cocker's amenable, cheerful disposition also makes him a treat to have in the family. Never more pleased than when he's pleasing you, he's as happy to snuggle on the couch with his favorite adults as to romp in the yard with the kids.
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The smallest member of the American Kennel Club Sporting Group, the Cocker Spaniel is the darling of many U.S. pet owners. Remember the female lead in Lady and the Tramp? It's no accident that the movie's model of an affectionate and pampered pet was a Cocker Spaniel. From the late 1930s to the 1950s, the Cocker was the number-one breed registered with the AKC. Then his popularity declined for almost 30 years, but he shot to the top of the charts again during the mid-1980s, and only in 1992 was his number-one status taken over by Labrador and Golden Retrievers. Today, the Cocker remains within the top 15 registered breeds.
And no wonder — a well-bred Cocker Spaniel is a pleasure to own. He is known for a merry, sound temperament. His flowing coat is extremely handsome, he's loving and gentle, and he wants nothing more than to make his family happy.
Compared to other dogs in the Sporting Group, the Cocker is small (20 to 30 pounds), fitting comfortably into an apartment, condo, or a small home. He is primarily a companion but is easily trained for the conformation show ring, obedience and agility competitions, and field work. He is also an excellent therapy dog.
The Cocker Spaniel resembles the English Cocker Spaniel, one of his peers in Sporting Group, and formerly the two breeds were considered one. However, a number of Spaniel fanciers noticed the different strains of Cocker and sought to preserve separate breeds and discourage the interbreeding of the English and American varieties. The American Kennel Club recognized the two breeds as separate in 1946.
The typical Cocker Spaniel is gentle, a loving and trustworthy family companion who is good with children, other pets, and the elderly. Unfortunately, his extreme popularity leaves him open to the bane of all favorite breeds: unscrupulous people who breed with no regard for temperament, health, or conformation.
As a result, some Cocker Spaniels have serious health and temperament problems. If you are considering a Cocker Spaniel, you must be extremely careful from whom you buy or adopt a puppy. Buy only from a reputable breeder. Never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Reputable breeders breed with temperament in mind and perform various health tests to ensure that their breeding dogs don't pass on a predisposition to genetic diseases.