last updated 5/3/10
Spaniels were developed in the 1800's as a companion dog to a hunter using a gun. At this time, a spaniel was a general term for any gundog. These dogs had several functions. First they used a keen sense of smell to find prey hidden in dense brush. They would indicate to the hunter where the prey was, and the hunter would prepare his gun. He would then signal the dog to flush they prey, meaning scare it out of hiding and into the open. After the hunter shot the prey, the dog would then retrieve it, bringing it back to the hunter. Eventually, the spaniels were diversified. As the wealthy became interested in hunting as a social sport, dogs were bred for specific kinds of prey. Cocker Spaniels were developed for hunting smaller prey, in denser brush. As a small spaniel, they could make their way into folliage that the larger spaniels couldn't penetrate. They were named "Cockers" because they were the dog of choice for hunting a small bird called a "Woodcock." The Woodcock was considered a delicacy in certain circles.
The English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel were officially seperated into seperate breed in the 1940's. In America the Cocker Spaniels had become very popular as lap dogs. As a result, dogs were bred for appearance, and style. What would become the American Cocker Spaniel was bred down into a smaller size, so they would fit better in a person's lap. Their noses were shortened, and the shape of their skull changed, in order to give them a cuter appearance, and they were bred to have very long thick hair that fell all the way to the floor. In contrast, the English Cocker Spaniel kept the traits that made them good hunting dogs. Their noses are long because they are able to carry more scent recepters. They are taller and longer, which gives them an advantage during long periods of running. They are designed to have a smooth trot that can carry them long distances with less effort. They have long hair on their stomachs and legs, but in contrast to the American, they hair is designed to protect rather than for appearance and so is shorter and coarser.
English Cocker Spaniels come in lots of colors. Mixtures of black and white, tan and white, brown and white, and black and tan are all common. They are medium sized dogs, smaller than an English Springer Spaniel but larger than an American Cocker Spaniel. They have two layer coats consisting of a soft, downy undercoat, and a sleeker, courser overcoat. In build they are similar to Springer Spaniels or Setters.
Orange Roan English Cocker Spaniel
Ch. Ashbrook Aristocrat "Adam"
Blue Roan English Cocker Spaniel
Ch. Sweet Apple Sir Prize
Black and white or light blue roan English Cocker Spaniel
Ch. Brasswinds Remember When
The best way to describe an English Cocker Spaniel is as a happy dog. In fact, the breed standard requires the English Cocker Spaniel to have a "merry" disposition. They are medium energy dogs. They are happy to do lots of running and playing, and are big enough that rough play is easy for them. But they are also satisfied to spend the entire day in your lap. They are independent enough that they play well by themselves and don't require constant attention. Some people consider Cocker's to be rather unintelligent dogs. This is myth. While not as intelligent as Poodle's and Shepherds, this is mostly due to their personalities. They don't seek constant approval from their owners. This means that before any obedience training you must first teach your dog to pay attention to you. Once you have their attention, their eyes on your eyes, they will do anything for you. In fact many English Cockers are successful in obedience and agility. English Cockers are slow to mature. Many don't develop any kind of maturity until 2-3 years of age. This can make potty training and obedience training as a puppy difficult. Training must be constantly reinforced. But English Cocker Spaniels respond well to consistency and rituals. I would recommend this course of training for all English Cocker puppies. English Cocker Spaniels are also very mouthy. They have very sensitive mouths, developed for retrieving delicate game. This means that they love to explore things with their mouths. Be warned that they will love to shred and chew on everything, even the things off limits. A wide variety of chewable toys with different textures and shapes will make them happy.