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American Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed

Average sizes and life expectancy for this breed:

height 34-38 cm
weight 11-14 kg
lifespan 12-15+ years


The American Cocker Spaniel is a beloved companion dog breed. Their agreeable, happy disposition also makes them a treat to have in the family. The energetic, gentle, and loving American Cocker Spaniel has gained popularity both here in the United Kingdom and around the world over the years. They are recognized as the smallest of all sporting spaniel breeds having been initially bred as gundogs.

American Cocker Spaniels can be distinguished from their English Cocker Spaniel cousins by their much rounder skulls, bigger, fuller eyes, and long coats. Traditionally, American Cocker Spaniels had their tails curtailed to prevent snagging on vegetation when out on hunts. However, this tradition has now been barred except if the procedure is because of medical reasons.

American Cocker Spaniels are happy dogs that love to snuggle on the couch with their favourite person. However, they are also just as happy running around in the garden with the kids. The American Cocker Spaniel is a highly trainable and adaptable addition to any family. 

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Featured Image
Summary Image
  • iconGitBranch Registration: KC, FCI, AKC
  • iconGlobe Country of Origin: United States of America
  • iconArrowOutSimple Size: Medium
  • iconDog Coat: Long
  • iconSwatches Colours: Variety including jet black, liver, black and tan, parti-colour (white base with patches of a different colour)
  • iconBrain Temperament: Loving, loyal, intelligent, adaptable, friendly, playful, gentle

Exercise Needed Daily: 1 hour


Shedding: Medium


Type of home: Apartment


Training: Easy


Hypoallergenic: No


Potentially dangerous: No


Grooming: Everyday


Watchdog Ability: Medium


Barking Level: Medium


Good with Children: Yes


Environment: City & Countryside


Good with Other Animals: Yes



The American Cocker Spaniel is a direct descendent of the English Cocker Spaniel. Its ancestors were initially used as gundogs to hunt the Eurasian woodcock or waders in the United Kingdom. This is where the name cocker came from. The term spaniel is commonly known to come from the word "Espagnol" which means "Spaniard". However, some experts argue there’s no evidence that this dog breed came from Spain.

It’s unclear when the spaniel first appeared on the scene, but they are believed to be an ancient dog breed. Medium-sized spaniels have been depicted in art and literature for centuries, dating back to the Livre de Chasse (Book of the Hunt) written by Gaston De Foix in 1388.

Before 1892, the Cocker Spaniel was not classed as a separate spaniel breed by the UK Kennel Club. During this time, a litter of puppies could contain Cocker and Springer Spaniels, but they were only distinguished by weight. If a dog weighed more than 12kg it was classed as a Springer or Field Spaniel. If it weighed less, it was considered to be a Cocker Spaniel. For decades, individual dogs swapped breed classes in bench shows from one year to the next as they grew larger.

Cocker Spaniels arrived in America in the late 19th century, but it wasn’t until the arrival of a large Cocker called Obo II who was a direct descendent of Obo (owned by James Farrow), that the American Cocker Spaniel began to take shape. This dog was extensively bred to create the modern Cocker Spaniel we know today. In fact, all modern American Cocker Spaniels can trace their lineage back to Obo II whereas most English Cocker Spaniels can trace their ancestry back to Obo.

In 1878, the American Cocker Spaniel was officially documented as a separate breed from the English type by the American Kennel Club. They were distinguished by their more glamorous appearance as they were more often used as show dogs. English Cocker Spaniels remained hunting dogs, so they had a more robust appearance.

In 1881, the American Spaniel Club was prearranged to care for the breed. By 1908, the club had further defined the differences between Springer Spaniels, English Cocker Spaniels, and American Cocker Spaniels

The American Cocker Spaniel became the most favoured dog breed in the US between the 1930s and the 1950s. Especially after the release of the Disney classic film ‘Lady and the Tramp’. In 1970, it was formally recognized by The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom as a distinct dog breed from its English cousin. 

Breed History
Breed Appearance


The American Cocker Spaniel is first distinguished by its head's shape, with the skull being far more domed, its eyes more protruding, and its muzzle much shorter than the English Cocker. With these changes, it became more reminiscent of a toy breed, which highlights the fact that this is no longer a real hunting dog.

These dogs have compact, sturdy bodies with strong legs and muscular hindquarters. Their fringed ears are striking and coated in long, silky, straight or wavy fur.  The long, dense feathering on their legs is most often trimmed into a square skirt when being shown. The American Cocker Spaniel has a deep chest with the lowest point being no higher than the elbows, and a feathered tail that is carried in line or slightly higher than the back. When on the move, the tail swings in a characteristic merry motion. For decades, the Cocker Spaniel’s tail was traditionally docked by one-half or two-thirds of its length. This was to protect the dogs from injury when chasing prey through dense bushes. However, this practice has now been banned. Previously docked Cocker Spaniels are still accepted under the UK breed standard but the remaining tail must still sit slightly above or in line with the topline of the back.

When it comes to their beautiful coats, the American Cocker Spaniel's hair on its head is fine and short. An American Cocker Spaniel's ears, abdomen, legs, and chest are well feathered. Their lovely coat lies flat to the body and is silky and can either be straight or slightly wavy. These beautiful spaniels come in a variety of colours including solid colours like black and liver. Tan markings are also accepted under the breed standard which can range from light cream to dark red. However, they should only make up less than 10% of overall body colour. Tan markings can be located as follows:

  • A spot above each eye
  • On the sides of the muzzle or cheeks
  • Underside of the ears
  • On feet and legs
  • Under the tail
  • On the chest 


American Cocker Spaniels are often called Merry Cockers because of their cheerful disposition. They are playful, intelligent, and gentle which makes them great companions for families with children of all ages. However, they can be very sensitive little dogs and are known to become stressed easily.

This dog breed is a good choice for first-time dog owners because they are docile, people-oriented, and loving. They are particularly good with children and older people. However, you must make sure they receive all the attention, and mental and physical stimulation they need.

American Cocker Spaniels do ok in apartments if they are exercised regularly but they would much prefer a garden to run around in. These dogs are also highly affectionate and love to be around people. So, they should not be left alone for long periods because they can develop separation anxiety.

When well socialized, these dogs get along with pretty much anyone, from family members to strangers. So, they don’t make the best watchdogs. Saying that, they do have a tendency to bark excessively at any unfamiliar movement, but this can be calmed with training. American Cocker Spaniels can be stubborn but their kind, gentle, sweet disposition has seen them remain one of the most popular dog breeds for decades. 

Breed Personality
Breed Trainability


The American Cocker Spaniel ranks highly in tests of intelligence. Most dogs, including American Cocker Spaniels, should be easy to train in a patient, kind manner that considers their sensitivity. American Cocker Spaniels in particular, do not cope well with harsh training methods. It’s worth bearing in mind that some Cocker Spaniels are excessively submissive which can lead to sudden urination when they get over-excited or nervous. But don’t worry, if you treat your dog gently and with plenty of love, this issue will go away.

Socialization is essential for American Cocker Spaniel puppies to help them grow into confident, happy dogs. Introduce your pup to a range of sights, smells, and different people when they are still young. You should also encourage family members and friends to offer treats or fuss to an American Cocker Spaniel every time they meet. 

Coat & Care

Grooming an American Cocker Spaniel can be labour intensive. Daily brushing is recommended to avoid matting. However, every other day is still good enough to keep the coat in good condition. These dogs also require regular trimming and bathing once every 6-8 weeks, preferably by a professional groomer because their long coats can easily become dirty and tangled.

Their drooping ears should be cleaned frequently – at least once a week because they are prone to infection. You can do this by using a moistened cotton ball and a vet-approved ear cleaner. If you notice any redness, swelling, abnormal discharge, or a foul odour coming from the ears, it’s best to seek the advice of your vet.

Their teeth should also be brushed regularly. Daily brushing is best but three times a week is still a good way to prevent excess tartar build-up.

When grooming your dog, it’s a good idea to check their bodies over for any rashes, abnormal lumps, redness, swelling, or other signs that may indicate an underlying health issue. Their eyes should always be clear, bright, and free from discharge. 

Breed Coat & Care
Breed Health


American Cockers are relatively healthy dogs, though they are susceptible to suffering from certain genetic health conditions. Due to their sensitive natures, it’s essential that you only purchase an American Cocker Spaniel from a trustworthy and licensed breeder. Without proper socialisation, these dogs can show signs of aggressiveness. Your breeder will also be able to perform DNA tests on your pup to determine if any underlying genetic health conditions are present.

The health issues most commonly seen in American Cocker Spaniels include the following:

  • Otitis – An inflammation of the ear which can affect the outer, middle, or inner parts of the ears. It’s normally associated with a yeast infection due to moisture that gets trapped in the ears. This can usually be prevented with regular ear cleaning.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease – This occurs when one or more of the cushions between the vertebrae ruptures or slips. This can cause excessive pressure on the spinal cord. Symptoms include a hunched posture, whining, and a reluctance to jump or run.
  • Lymphoma – A cancer of the lymph nodes that is common in elderly American Cocker Spaniels. This needs to be treated surgically to remove the tumours. However, early detection of lymphoma is essential.
  • Melanoma - A cancer of the skin that’s commonly located in the oral cavity. This type of cancer appears as sore lumps that may ulcerate or bleed as they grow.
  • Mitral Valve Disease – This can lead to heart failure, caused by the deterioration of the heart valve. If your dog has a heart murmur, your vet can perform diagnostic tests to determine the severity of the disease. If a case is caught early, it can be treated with life-long medication.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - A degenerative disease that affects the photoreceptor cells in the eyes. This eventually leads to blindness.
  • Lip Fold Dermatitis – This occurs when bacteria build up in the mouth or thick lip folds. Symptoms include redness, a foul odour, continuous rubbing of the face and lips, and indicators of pain when the area is touched.
  • Hip Dysplasia – A deformity of the hip socket that occurs when the hip socket and ball socket grow at different rates. This results in lameness and is more common in overweight puppies. It can eventually lead to arthritis.
  • Familial Nephropathy – A disease of the kidneys that’s commonly inherited in Cocker Spaniels. It causes vital proteins from the blood to be filtered by the kidneys into the urine. Dogs with this disease will usually show symptoms between 6 months and 2 years of age.
  • Skin Allergies – Caused by an oversensitivity to grass, pollen, dust mites, or certain foods. Symptoms include itchiness, redness, and hair loss in infected areas. There are a variety of treatments for skin allergies depending on the trigger, including medication, a tailored diet, and immunotherapy.
  • Phosphofructokinase Deficiency (PFK) – An inherited condition that prevents the metabolism of glucose into energy. This causes chronic anaemia in affected dogs which can lead to lethargy, weakness, and an intolerance to exercise.

American Cocker Spaniels are also known to love their food which can easily lead to weight gain. This is a significant problem in this breed so always ensure you control your dog's food intake. Overweight dogs are much more susceptible to developing joint problems, heart disease, and some types of cancer. 

Children & Other Pets

American Cocker Spaniels can be a great choice for families with small children or toddlers because of their playful and loving nature. Saying that, these dogs can be sensitive to rough handling which can lead to defence aggression. So, you should teach your children how to correctly pet an American Cocker Spaniel to avoid any incidents.

It is highly recommended that a grown-up should always supervise any interaction between an American Cocker Spaniel and a young child. American Cocker Spaniels are very intelligent and are generally careful with toddlers and smaller kids. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

American Cocker Spaniels also generally get along well with other pets, including cats. However, bear in mind that larger dogs can easily injure a small Cocker Spaniel. These dogs are best suited to homes where someone is around for most of the day because they can suffer from separation anxiety. 

Breed with Children & Other Pets

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Size Size : Small

Coat Coat : Long

Registration Registration : KC, FCI, AKC

Exercise Exercise : 1 hour

Training Training : Easy

Grooming Grooming : Twice a Week


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