A bright, sensitive little snuggler, the cocker spaniel traces his American citizenship all the way back to the time of the first pilgrims. He’s happy to curl up on your lap or sleep next to you all night, but he also loves to go hunting for birds. The cocker spaniel has been recognized by the American Kennel Club since 1878.
The Little Guy in the Field
The American Kennel Club designates him as the smallest of the sporting breeds. Though he’s in the same class as much bigger dogs such as Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and Irish setters, the cocker spaniel is just a little guy. When he’s full grown he only weighs between 20 and 30 pounds and stands about 15 inches tall at the shoulder.
The cocker spaniel was bred as a gun dog, and got his name because he specializes in hunting and retrieving woodcocks. The sprightly little spaniel runs ahead of his owner, sniffing and searching for birds. When he finds them, he makes them fly from their hiding place. He waits for his command, then goes out and retrieves the fallen birds, even swimming into ponds and lakes to bring them back.
A Natural Beauty
The cocker spaniel is a natural beauty, but he does get a little help from his groomer. His soft, wavy coat comes in many colors including:
- Black and tan
- Black and white
- Red and white
To keep him pretty, brush his coat every day and give him a bath at least every six weeks. He’ll need to be patient during his visits to the groomer for a haircut and pedicure. It’s important to introduce him to his stylist while he’s still a puppy so he won’t bite or engage in naughty behavior.
Clean your cocker’s ears every week. His drop ears make him prone to painful ear infections.
Snuggle Your Cocker Spaniel
Cocker spaniels love kids. Your pup likes to run and play, but you’ll want to keep him in a fenced area or have him on his leash. Otherwise, he might run off to chase birds or squirrels and get lost. After a play session, snuggle up with your spaniel. While he’s often frisky and energetic, he also loves to snuggle his people.
Don’t hesitate to show your pup the family rules, but be careful not to yell at him; cocker spaniels are sensitive little guys. If he gets out of control, put him in a short time-out in his crate until he can calm down and behave.
A good family rule for your spaniel is to avoid feeding him people food. While it’s tough to deny him when he begs for treats with those big, brown eyes, he’ll get fat if he eats too much junk.
Famous Cocker Spaniels
The cocker spaniel is descended from spaniels in Spain. The first cocker spaniels to come to America may have been aboard the Mayflower in 1620.
Since his early debut, the cocker spaniel has enjoyed some fame and been a pet to many famous people. The female dog in "Lady and the Tramp" is a cocker spaniel.
Three U.S. presidents have owned cocker spaniels: Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon and Harry S. Truman. President Nixon’s pup, Checkers, became famous when he was mentioned by name in a speech. Nixon was in trouble for keeping campaign contributions and gifts during his vice presidential campaign, including one furry little present: a black and white cocker spaniel. Nixon’s little girls, Julie and Tricia, had fallen in love with their new pup, so Nixon told the American people that there was no way he was giving Checkers back because it would break his daughters’ hearts. Checkers stayed with the family and lived until the ripe old age of 13.
Cate Rushton has been a freelance writer since 1999, specializing in wildlife and outdoor activities. Her published works also cover relationships, gardening and travel on various websites. Rushton holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Utah.