The American Cocker Spaniel is a direct descendant of the English Cocker Spaniel. Its ancestors were originally used as gundogs to hunt the Eurasian woodcock or waders in the United Kingdom, hence the name cocker. The term spaniel is generally accepted as coming from the word “espagnol” which means “Spaniard” but some experts disagree because there are no evidence that this breed came from Spain. Instead, it is suggested that the word may have come from the Italian spianare or the French espanir which means “to flatten out” or “to get out of a net”.
The Cocker Spaniel was brought to America in 1620 by the Pilgrims from Plymouth where it was bred to specialized in hunting the American woodcock. It was later bred more and more to create a different standard – one which has an abundance of coat and glamour. It was officially recognized as a different breed from the English type by the American Kennel Club in 1878. In 1881, the American Spaniel Club was organized to care for the breed. A year later, Ch. Obo II (owned by James Farrow) was born - the dog considered to be the foundation sire of the modern American Cocker Spaniel. The Cocker Spaniel became the most popular breed in the US during the 1940s and 1950s. It was officially recognized by The Kennel Club of UK in 1970 as a distinct breed from its English cousin.
This breed has a typical gundog temperament – one that loves retrieving. It is also called the “merry Cocker” because of its propensity to wag its tail when it is around people. It is a cheerful, outgoing, gentle, and sweet dog that makes an ideal companion as a family pet and to other dogs in the house provided that it is given a good level of socialisation at an early age.
The American Cocker Spaniel has an average rating when it comes to working or obedience intelligence and trainability. Training should be done in a positive and gentle manner by a consistent handler because this breed is easily stressed by rough and forceful handling. A Cocker Spaniel is difficult to housebreak but it is easy to train to get along with other pets in the house.
The American Cocker Spaniel is an average shedder that needs a lot of brushing, combing and clipping to bring their coat into full bloom. Daily brushing is needed as the coat can quickly collect dirt and small sticks from daily walks. The best way to maintain the coat is to have it trimmed in “pet clip” which leaves only about 5cm of coat length on the legs and belly. This look significantly reduces the tendency of the coat to knot and offers a practical solution for a family pet. It also tends to tear so be ready to wipe under the eyes often. Regular bathing is also required to minimize the distinctive doggy odour in the skin and ears.
A typical lifespan for this breed is between 10 and 11 years although there are some dogs that live up to 14 years when given the proper care and fed the correct diet. A few major health issues include cataracts, glaucoma and patellar luxation. Minor health issues include canine hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), skin allergies, lip fold pyoderma and liver disease. Typical cause of death include cancer, old age, cardiac diseases, immune mediated (haemolytic anaemia) and hepatic-related (chronic liver failure).
Even though the American Cocker Spaniel is a medium-sized breed, it does require daily exercise. A bored, under-exercised dog can develop mischievous attitude such as digging holes and chewing on objects including soft furniture. An ideal exercise is to let the dog run off the leash in a well-fenced environment under the supervision of the owner. It can also be taken on daily long walks or half an hour of slow running beside a bike.
The American Cocker Spaniel is a friendly, sweet-natured and very social breed that is very good with children and adjusts readily to most pets in the household. Early socialisation is the key to having a pet that is well-balanced in all aspects. A well-socialized and properly-trained Cocker Spaniel is friendly and peaceful with strangers and other pets.