The American Cocker Spaniel dog breed is a pet that, thanks to its peculiar characteristics, is found in more and more homes every day. It has a character balanced, happy and confident. At Petlifey, we explain everything about the American Cocker Spaniel.
Character of the American Cocker Spaniel
The American Cocker Spaniel is a dog with a balanced temperament and no signs of shyness. It shows a great predisposition towards work and is easy going, cheerful and healthy, both in the male and in the female.
It is a dog with a cheerful character, very playful, intelligent and confident, as it is a curious, restless and very self-confident animal.
It likes to participate in family activities and share games with children. Regardless, the breed has suffered from indiscriminate breeding due to its explosive popularity.
The most significant fact of this has been the proliferation of specimens with fearful and even aggressive behaviour. Although most of the time the second is linked to the first, since aggressive reactions are, in reality, attempts to protect against non-existent fears or dangers.
However, the breed has a large number of breeders, associated in different clubs throughout the world.
Working hard to eradicate these undesirable characteristics of the breed and educate people on the need to carry out studied and responsible breeding programs.
Active and always ready, the American Cocker Spaniel is a dog that can be used for a multitude of activities.
At first it maintained its relationship with hunting for some years, but today its presence in this field is almost testimonial, although that does not mean that it has lost its primary instincts.
However, as it is an animal of affectionate, sweet and very sensitive temperament, the function that this breed performs the most today is that of a companion dog.
If it is healthy and well balanced, it is always cheerful, something that it shows with a constant movement of the tail, an attitude that its owners tend to love.
This dog is a good choice for any type of family. You have no problem with inexperienced owners as long as they are able to keep the situation under control.
And, follow proper education and maintenance guidelines, preferably under the advice or supervision of more experienced people.
Due to its personality, it adapts perfectly to the modern lifestyle, and lives just as well in a house with a garden as in a small apartment in the city center.
But to be a fulfilled and happy animal, as it is very active, cheerful and always eager to do things, it needs a good dose of daily exercise, so, in any case, it needs to go out every day for a walk with its owner.
However, it is not satisfied with these simple daily walks and it is very important to be able to facilitate a daily time of free play, allowing them to jump and run after any object, play with other people and interact with more dogs.
All of this contributes equally to your mental balance and your good physical condition.
It is a very common mistake to think that having a small patio or even a large garden can leave the dog abandoned to its fate. The Cocker Spaniel needs to exercise, but if it is not practiced in a directed way, it will tend to become a lazy animal.
- Energy: High level. You need to go for a walk daily and to be provided with various and directed exercises.
- Temperament: Active, friendly and without signs of shyness, it is an easy-going, curious, playful, confident and very balanced dog.
- Adaptability: High. It adapts to living both in the country and in the city, as long as its daily walks and frequent trips to the open air are assured.
- Sociability: High. Cheerful and affectionate with its family, it is obedient and very sensitive. Therefore, it must undergo a socialization process from puppyhood so that it does not develop timid or fearful attitudes.
- Health: Normal. The ears and eyes are its weak points.
- Longevity: Medium. Live from 9 to 11 years.
- Usefulness: Originally it was a hunting assistant, but today it basically stands out as a companion dog. It is a good therapy dog with the elderly, children, sick or autistic.
- Use: hunting and companion lifting dog.
Characteristics of the American Cocker Spaniel
Regarding the characteristics of the American Cocker Spaniel and its general appearance, its body is strong and compact.
The head is delicately modelled and refined. Altogether, it is a well balanced dog, very resistant and of the ideal size.
Its coat is of moderate length and abundant undercoat, silky, smooth or slightly wavy, and with abundant fringes. The trunk is elongated, slightly longer than the height at the withers.
The animal is shown upright at the shoulders on straight forelimbs. The upper body line descends into strong, muscular and slightly angled hindquarters.
Let’s take a closer look at the American Cocker Spaniel and the breed standard:
American Cocker Spaniel breed standard
- General appearance: It is the smallest of the sport hunting dogs. It has a strong and compact body, with a balanced build and a firm appearance.
- Size: medium.
- Height at the withers: between 37 and 39 cm for males and between 34 and 37 cm for females.
- Weight: between 11 and 13 kg for males and between 10 and 12 kg for females.
- Origin: United States.
- Other names: American Cocker Spaniel / Cocker spaniel american.
- Body: the body is long and the upper line descends slightly towards the hindquarters, which are muscular.
- Head: shows delicately modelled and refined forms.
- Skull: usually rounded and with very well defined brow ridges.
- Muzzle: it is wide and deep. It has lips (lips), which are responsible for giving the muzzle its characteristic profile. In the American Cocker Spaniel, the upper lip completely covers the lower jaw.
- Nose: characterized by having highly developed nostrils, typical of a hunting dog. It is black in black, black and tan, and black and white; but in those with a coat of another color it can be brown, liver or black, preferably dark.
- Eyes: They are usually brown in color, and although the shape of the eyeball is round, the eyes take on a slightly almond-shaped appearance due to the shape of the edge of the eyelids, whose tone is usually in line with the color of the nose.
- Ears: they are lobular in shape, long and thin, and are covered with fringes. They are usually set at the level of the lower part of the eyes.
- Nose-frontal depression (stop): it is pronounced.
- Jaws: shows square jaws of equal length, with strong and not too small teeth. The bite is scissor.
- Neck: it is muscular, without dewlap and long, which allows the animal to touch the ground with its nose easily. It rises from the shoulders energetically, arches a little and its thickness decreases until it meets the head.
- Chest: deep, with well sprung ribs.
- Back: it is strong and descends slightly and harmoniously from the withers to the insertion of the tail.
- Forelimbs: they are straight, parallel, muscular and with strong bones. The oblique shoulders and forming a right angle with the forearms, allow the dog to have a wide and easy step forward. They are well defined and inclined, without being overhanging. The forearms and arms are positioned close to the body. The metacarpals are short and strong, and if they present spurs these can be amputated.
- Hind limbs: they are very muscular, with good bones and powerful appearance. Seen from behind, they are parallel, both in motion and at rest. The hips are wide and the thighs are muscular and well defined. Its knees are strong, with no signs of deflection or moving or at rest, and slightly angled. The hocks are strong and low.
- Feet: large, compact and firm, they are rounded and have fleshy pads. Straight, they do not deviate inwards or outwards.
- Tail: it is traditionally amputated, a practice that is usually still done in those countries whose legislation allows it. Planted in line with the back, the dog carries it at the same level or slightly higher than the back, but not as high as the terriers . In motion, the bearing is cheerful.
- Skin: attached to the body.
- Coat: with abundant protective undercoat, the coat hair is silky and smooth or slightly wavy. On the head the hair is short and fine, on the body it is of medium length and on the ears, the chest, the abdomen and the back parts of the extremities abundant fringes are formed, but without actually hiding the figure of the dog.
- Color: As for the colors of the American Cocker Spaniel , there are several basic colorations. The black solid, including black with tan markings and sometimes a little white on the chest and neck; any solid color other than black, from light cream to the darkest red; or two or more well-defined solid colors, for example black and white , or red and white .
- Movement: shows the typical movement of sport hunting dogs, coordinated, agile and easy. The more balance there is between the front and rear limbs, the better their movement. It propels themselves through its strong hindquarters and, thanks to the proper structure of the back and forelimbs, achieves a long forward reach. You can develop considerable speed, combined with a lot of endurance.
- FCI Classification: FCI No. 167 – GROUP 8 Retriever Hunting Dogs, Lifting Hunting Dogs and Water Dogs.
American Cocker Spaniel puppy
If you are considering the possibility of adopting or buying an American Cocker Spaniel puppy, you should know that when they are little they are adorable. They are full of vitality and are cheerful and very playful.
They can be the ideal choice for families with children, as they are always delighted to participate with them in all the games and activities that they undertake. They also behave very well with the elderly .
From a very young age, allowing them a daily play session or a cross-country run has a very positive influence on the health and character of the American Cocker Spaniel.
Like most hunting dogs, the American Cocker Spaniel loves to play in the water. Its need to run, jump and move freely is very high, so it is advisable to enrol them in a sport or activity that involves exercise outdoors.
Owners of an American Cocker Spaniel should be aware of the importance of proper coat grooming. The dog shows all its splendor when its coat is healthy, shiny, well cared for and with the typical grooming of its breed.
Education of the American Cocker Spaniel
Regarding how to educate an American Cocker Spaniel, you should know that above all it is an obedient dog that assumes its role within the family very well, and, although there may be more stubborn specimens, in general it perfectly accepts the authority of its owner.
Given its natural sensitivity, to avoid the appearance of shyness or nervousness traits, it is essential to carry out an intense work of socialization, a task that must be started from the moment the puppy is born.
Nowadays there are early stimulation techniques that should be put into practice by all breeders, since they help the offspring with just a few days of life to be more receptive and capable of learning through a series of exercises that provoke maturation. cerebral and sensitive fundamental in those first steps in life.
Afterwards, it is necessary for the puppy to be in contact with different noises, people and even animals until it is time to leave the litter and go to its permanent home.
Once home, the puppy should be integrated into daily activities in the most natural way possible.
Keeping the logical hygienic and sanitary precautions, it is necessary to ensure that from the beginning the dog maintains contact with the street, with different situations and with other people and animals.
If possible, the stress level of these situations should be controlled, gradually increasing it until it adapts well to any circumstance in which it is involved.
An early and effective socialization is the first and most important step to build a balanced character and avoid the appearance of future behavior problems that can seriously damage the coexistence.
An excellent family dog, it gets along very well with children as long as they understand their place within the family nucleus and know how they should treat each other.
Thus, when facing a calm and enriching coexistence, as important as the education of the dog is that of the children, since many times the little ones in the house are allowed to play and treat their dogs as if they were objects, or they It allows them to assume the role of their parents even if they do not know how they should react in certain situations, and this is a mistake.
As is letting a child without the necessary knowledge or experience take charge of their pet’s daily routines: grooming, walking, eating, etc.
The dog must be integrated into family life always under the control of a reference figure who exercises the role of leader, who sets the guidelines and dictates the rules, and this role cannot be played by a child, much less the dog themselves.
It is, indeed, an animal with a very good, docile and adaptable natural character, but if it does not receive the proper attention and education it may come to believe that its place in the herd is above that of the others, and then develop a stubborn and disobedient temperament, or show aggressiveness.
Sometimes there can be cases of what is known as small dog syndrome. It originates when the owners of the dog only have one specimen, small and companion, and pour their affection so much into it and in their daily treatment that they lead the animal to develop behavioural signs typical of humans.
With the unpleasant consequence that on many occasions the dog begins to behave like one of them, it considers itself its equal and it demonstrates it by NOT accepting the determined hierarchy that has been established in the home.
In reality, the natural tendency of any dog is to try to be the leader of its pack, but this tendency must be immediately nuanced and corrected by a leader who determines the hierarchical order.
Thus, the dog is integrated into the human family following the dictates set by the leader, as long as the lines are well defined and they act reasonably and consistently.
All members of the family must be hierarchically above the dog and thus the animal must be made to understand from the beginning. Otherwise, behavioural problems will begin to appear soon and to a different extent, sometimes being comical, but sometimes reaching pathetic overtones.
The walks or outings in the company of their owner are very important because they contribute to the work of education and socialization of the animal and, on the other hand, they are also the perfect stimulus for the elderly, because it forces them to go out for a walk every day.
In addition, this breed makes very good friends with the elderly and, despite being affectionate and playful, it does not have excessive physical strength, so it does not pose a danger to its master.
It is also very good at working as a therapy dog; With all types of sick people, autistic children or in homes for the elderly, it displays its entire catalog of charms, it becomes a perfect escape valve for those who are going through delicate situations.
Social dog, the American Cocker Spaniel loves people, their company and being in their presence, and shows it with signs of effusiveness that can even be comical. Thus, it is important to promote their relationship with other people and, especially, with other animals, something that is not the least problem if it is done from the beginning.
Although there are individuals who can be noisy and in general it is a very restless dog, it is not a good guardian and not much should be expected of it in that sense.
On the other hand, being endowed with natural instincts for hunting, especially good eyesight, vivacity, persistence and an extraordinary smell, it is sometimes used, although to a lesser extent than other breeds, as a detector dog for narcotic substances and explosives.
On the other hand, being smaller and lighter than other tracking dogs, a few years ago it was very successful in a program of the United States Army in which dogs of this breed were used for the detection of antipersonnel mines, and they were obtained very good results, as the animals gave excellent proof of their versatility and dedication.
On a more everyday level, it is common to see specimens of the breed competing in dog sports such as agility, flyball , dancing with dogs or obedience, and, of course, in beauty shows, where it stands as one of the most awarded dogs for their spectacularity and beauty.
In addition to these recreational and sporting uses, it is one of the most mediatic dogs in the world, as it has appeared in numerous advertising campaigns and television series, and was, in addition, the breed chosen to create Lady, the female protagonist of the Walt Disney film Lady and the Tramp, released in 1955, at the height of these dogs in their country of origin.
American Cocker Spaniel diet
Regarding how to feed an American Cocker Spaniel, as it is an active medium-sized dog, its daily energy needs are very high.
In addition, review it is usually very gluttonous and voracious, which leads them to eat very quickly and more than it really needs.
So you have to look for a diet whose digestibility and bioavailability are very high so that it provides enough energy with a moderate amount of food. Do not forget that, according to the general size of the dog, its stomach is not very large.
This means that a large part of the diet must be made up of high-quality animal proteins, such as chicken or lamb, and adequate fats for the good health of skin, hair, eyes and other vital organs.
A recommended option is to divide the target intake into two servings so that in this way the dog is always well nourished, without suffering hunger peaks that could influence its performance or cause episodes of voracity.
Nowadays it is very easy to control what a dog eats, because on the market there is a wide variety of dog foods adapted to all stages of its development that perfectly meet the nutritional needs of the animal and that, if administered in the right doses, they help to maintain your good physical condition.
American Cocker Spaniel Health and Diseases
The American Cocker Spaniel is a healthy dog, despite the fact that its life expectancy is somewhat lower than that of other breeds of similar size.
As for hereditary and congenital conditions, compared to the English variant, it does not suffer as much from joint diseases as hip dysplasia, but it is more predisposed to suffer from different types of eye problems.
And obesity, which also has a very high incidence in this breed, is the cause of many secondary pathologies, as well as skin, hair, and joint problems, etc. The root cause of obesity is an unbalanced diet and poor exercise.
Apart from visiting the vet when there is a specific illness, you also have to do some routine checks of its weight and growth, as well as complete the vaccination and deworming programs, closely linked to each other.
They build and strengthen their immune system, especially in the case of individuals who go to hunting parties, who have regular contact with dogs whose status is unknown or who are included in breeding programs.
Another of the routine actions that the veterinarian must do periodically is to control the general condition of the mouth and mucous membranes, as well as the skin and hair of the dog, the most accurate primary indicators of its state of health.
And, of course, you have to pay special attention to one of the weak points of the breed: the eyes, since due to their shape, size and location they can develop different conditions. It is important to carry out frequent washing using a neutral product, in addition to making periodic reviews.
Something similar happens with the ears, since their hanging ears and abundant fur contribute to poor ventilation, which can be the first step for the appearance of infections.
The health of the ears does not help anything the fashion that is given among many owners to put ear muffs on their pets to prevent them from staining with mud or getting caught in the weeds.
Caring for the American Cocker Spaniel
One of the things that should be taken into account by the person who opts for an American Cocker Spaniel is the high maintenance requirement that its dense and abundant coat supposes.
If you cannot dedicate the necessary attention and time to grooming it, the best thing to do is seek the help of a professional groomer, since this breed needs to be perfectly groomed to perfectly meet its image, cheerful, beautiful and sophisticated.
In fact, this glamorous image is the one that gave rise to the breed and the one that has caused its fame to spread throughout the world. In the United States, for example, you can find spectacular specimens, with mantles that even reach the ground.
Owners of an American Cocker Spaniel should be aware of the importance of proper coat grooming. The dog shows all its splendor when its coat is healthy, shiny, well cared for and with the typical grooming of its breed.
Typical arrangement of the breed
This is a breed with very high maintenance requirements, as it is necessary to ensure that the animal shows a good amount of hair, with the ideal length, and try to maintain the typical appearance of the breed, which, in short, is what is so famous it has given them all over the world.
This first part of the routine is the one that needs to be done most frequently.
First, the hair on the lower part of the body, where the mantle and fringes are more abundant, is opened wide with the hand, and the brush with metallic bristles is passed, trying to work from the inside out and always in the natural sense of the growth of the hair.
The coverage area is then brushed with a metal card, with which the ears are also combed, and with the help of the comb the fringes and ears are finished grooming. Finally, the rest of the body, the head and the hindquarters are addressed, where it is recommended to use a horsehair brush.
This brushing should become an almost daily routine to prevent knots from forming, and should be done whenever you return from a walk or when the dog has been running in the park or field.
On the other hand, it is not convenient to brush the animal when it has dry hair, as it can break, so before starting it is recommended to spray a little water or a specific product that helps in this work.
If you wonder how to bathe a Cocker Spaniel, or how often you have to bathe it, say that with the dog well brushed, you should proceed to its bath, for which you should use a shampoo with the appropriate pH for the dog’s hair. The animal is thoroughly soaped first and then thoroughly rinsed so that no trace of soap remains.
Finally, a special conditioner is applied, especially on the fringes, and it is left to act for a few minutes before rinsing it off very well.
Drying is then carried out: firstly, the excess moisture is removed with towels or blotting paper and then, with the help of an air ejector or a powerful dryer, all the hair is dried while brushing with a card and a comb, to avoid the formation of knots.
With the hair clipper and a suitable blade (number 10, for example), the areas where the hair should be shorter are first reviewed, such as the skull, face, muzzle, upper part and inside of the ears, the front and side of the neck and the area of the crown or nape.
During this arrangement it is interesting to protect the dog’s ears with a kind of “scarf” to preserve their fringes.
Then, with the scissors to sculpt the rest of the neck, starting at the top until the insertion of the shoulders and continuing with the previous one, shaping the front angulation.
With the same scissors, possible jumps or excess hair in the dorsal area and in the hindquarters are eliminated, also trimming the hair of the tail until it is clean.
If it is a specimen with a very abundant coat or with a lot of undercoat, the excess fur can be removed with the king coat , especially along the entire back, although this emptying task can also be done using the technique of plucking .
Finally, with the smooth scissors (flat and curved) the hair of the lower part of the body and the fringes are worked, trying to accentuate the angles and giving the appropriate shape to the feet and hands.
Many owners pick up the fringes of the body with rubber bands, making a kind of pigtails, in order to work better. In the same way, the fringes of the ears are trimmed to make them even and as long as possible.