Complete Guide To The English Cocker Spaniel: Health, Grooming, Personality and More

The English Cocker Spaniel is the sportier version of the American Cocker. One of many fine British-bred sporting dogs, they’re faithful family companions and bird hunters in the finest tradition.

English Cocker Spaniels are also less common than the American versions, but I’ve been lucky enough to have a client who is a breeder. That’s allowed me to get to know the English Cocker fairly well over the past decade as a veterinarian.

How Big Do English Cocker Spaniels Get?

Male16″ – 17″ at the shoulder28-34 lbs
Female15″ – 16″ at the shoulder26-32 lbs

What Do English Cocker Spaniels Look Like?

The English Cocker is muscular yet graceful with a gently sloping back and lean lines, they move almost effortlessly. Long silky ears frame a strong jaw and dark, dreamy eyes for a soft but alert expression mere mortals are powerless to say no to.

Coat colors come in a remarkable range of shades, including:

• Black
• Red
• Golden
• Liver
• Black and Tan
• Black and White
• Orange and White
• Blue Roan and many more

English Cockers resemble their American cousins — their origins are similar. The most significant difference between the two are the English Cocker’s flat skull and shorter, thicker coat.

What Is The Personality of An English Cocker Spaniel?

An English Cocker needs only two things — family and fun. Adaptable, they’ll enjoy both city and country living if they get enough exercise, but their hunting instincts are razor-sharp. They like the outdoorsy life.

Cheerful and loyal, English Cockers bond instantly with children, but they can be sensitive — teach kids to be mindful. Upbeat, affectionate and easy to train, they respond best to gentle guidance and positive reinforcement that acknowledges their eagerness to please.

How Much Exercise Do English Cocker Spaniels Need?

English Cockers need vigorous exercise to burn off their physical and mental energy. Adventure-ready, long walks and play dates at the dog park are favorite activities — plan on an hour per day. They thrive in a social atmosphere and enjoy making new friends.

Backyard games that utilize their hunting instincts are always engaging — you can’t go wrong with Fetch. Bird hunters, they’re born for field work but they also excel at non-hunting sports, winning hundred of obedience and agility titles.

How Much Grooming Do English Cocker Spaniels Need?

English Cockers have thick, double coats to protect them from the elements — a short wooly layer close to the skin topped with long silky locks. They shed moderately year-round and more seasonally but without blowouts like other double-coated breeds. Well-feathered, fringes aren’t as long as the American Cocker’s, but they still need regular care.
With the right equipment, most owners can handle grooming at home. A brushing every few days and a thorough combing once weekly keeps them looking their best.

Prone to tangles, full coats benefit from trimming in problem areas around the feet, ears and hindquarters. Many owners opt for an all-over “puppy cut” that keeps hair at a more manageable length while preserving the character of the coat.

Depending on their lifestyle, most dogs need a bath every four to six weeks — feathers close to the ground and thick hair on their paws collect dirt and moisture. Professional grooming includes an ear cleaning and nail trim — musts for the English Cocker — so it’s a bargain every 6-8 weeks. Whether you choose to groom your dog at home or see a professional, consistency is the key.

What Kind of Dog Food Is Good For A English Cocker Spaniel?

English Cocker Spaniels require no special dietary considerations other than they tend to lean towards obesity as they get older (at least the dogs in my practice have). Because they’re already a small frame size, adding extra calories is easy by giving them high-calorie snacks and small bites of people food.

Before we start with the food lists, just know that grain-free dog foods are a myth. There’s zero science showing that they are helpful. In fact, there’s increasing evidence that it’s causing issues in certain breeds of dogs. Food allergies are the only reason to even consider a grain-free diet but only choose one with the help of your veterinarian.

Basic dog foods that I recommend include:

How Long Does A English Cocker Spaniel Live?

12-14 years based on information from the AKC

What Health Problems Can English Cocker Spaniel Have?

As a general opinion, the English Cocker Spaniel has been a healthier breed than its American cousin. Much of this is likely due to being less popular resulting in a tighter control over breeding standards.

That doesn’t mean that the breed isn’t prone to certain issues which can include:

  • Dental Disease
  • Chronic kidney disease (see below)

While dental disease can happen in any dog, I find the Spaniels to be more affected than many other breeds. It’s not a fault; it’s more of a warning to owners to stay on top of it.

English Cockers can have a genetic-based kidney issue that emerges as they get older. I wouldn’t say that the breed at all is “likely” to develop kidney disease as they get older. However, the presence of a genetic predisposition due to faulty DNA coupled with the chance that any breed has of developing kidney disease as they get older.

One thing I really like about the national breed club (see below) is the way they responsibly seek out and gather information regarding English Cockers. A 2017 health survey contains a great deal of information that anyone can read through.

The bottom line? The English Cocker is a really health breed compared to most purebreds.

Where Can I Find Out More About The English Cocker Spaniel?

English Cocker Spaniel Club of America

AKC Breed Profile

Where Can I Find An English Cocker Spaniel?

Before you start contacting breeders in your search for a puppy, be sure to stop and read this page from the English Cocker Spaniel Club. It helps you to be educated on what to look for in a good breeder and even awards special distinction for those breeders that they feel are the best. Then go to the breeder list.

Looking for a Rescue?? The ECSCA has a Health and Rescue Organization that will help you locate your new Rescue English Cocker.

Interesting Facts About English Cocker Spaniels

English Cocker Spaniels are among the most popular dogs in Europe. They rank 47th in the US — not far behind the American Cocker in 30th place. Here are a few intriguing facts about this enduring breed.

• The Cocking Spaniel

The English Cocker was developed from Spanish stock, hence, the name “spaniel.” But until the 19th century, it was just one of dozens of unclassified dogs bred to hunt on land and in water.

As they became more specialized, they were categorized based on their size and quarry. The English Cocker we know today was among the first “cocking” spaniels, named for their favorite quarry, the woodcock.

• The Divide

English and American Cocker Spaniels were once a single breed. But American fanciers wanted companion animals while the British preferred field-ready dogs, so the lines diverged over time due to selective breeding.

In 1935, the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America was formed to promote the breed, differentiating it from the emerging American Cocker, known simply as the Cocker Spaniel. A decade later, their efforts paid off when the AKC recognized English Cockers as distinct dog,

• Beauty and Brains

English Cockers lag behind American Cockers in popularity but not in intelligence. Ranked 18th among trainers for their intelligence, they obey initial commands 85 percent of the time. American Cockers rank 20th.

• Call Him Your Highness

Perhaps the best-known and most influential English Cocker Spaniel of modern times was Lupo, a black male belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Bred by Michael and Carole Middleton, the Duchess’s parents, he was credited with raising breed awareness until his passing in November 2020.