Dog Breed Info Center(R) DBIC

American Cocker Spaniel

Information and Pictures

Lucy the American Cocker Spaniel walking on a concrete street

Lucy the American Cocker Spaniel at 2 years old

Other Names

Cocker Spaniel


uh-MAIR-ih-kuhn KAH-kur-SPAN-yuhl


The Cocker Spaniel is a medium sized, sturdy dog. The head is rounded with a pronounced stop. The muzzle is broad and deep with square, even jaws. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. The eyeballs are dark, very round with slight almond shaped eye rims. Merle Cocker Spaniels can have blue eyes. The long, low-set ears are well feathered. The topline slopes slightly from the front of the dog to the back and the legs are straight. The tail is docked. Note: docking tails is illegal in most parts of Europe. The dewclaws may be removed. The silky coat is flat or slightly wavy. The hairs are medium length on the body but short and fine on the head. There is feathering on the ears, chest, abdomen and legs. The coat comes in any solid color, black with tan points, merle, solid color with tan points and parti-color. Examples of parti color combinations are white with buff or red, white with black, or white with black and tan points. Field lines have shorter coats than show lines.


Bold and keen to work, the American Cocker Spaniel is equally suited to life as a gundog or as a household pet. Cheerful, gentle and sweet, this breed is of average intelligence and is respectful of its master's authority. Amusing, trustworthy and charming with an ever-wagging tail, it is active, playful and devoted, but should be socialized well when it is young to avoid a tendency for shyness. Cockers that understand their place is under humans are good with children. They love everyone and need firm, loving leadership and daily exercise to be happy. They can be difficult to housebreak. They are mostly easy to train and get along well with other animals. Do not allow this dog to develop Small Dog Syndrome, human induced behaviors where the dog believes he is pack leader to all humans. This can cause a varying degree of behavior issues and is where a lot of owners go wrong. The goal with all dogs is to achieve pack leader status. It is natural instinct for a dog to have an order in its pack. When we humans live with dogs, we become their pack. The entire pack cooperates under a single leader; lines are clearly defined, and rules are set. You and all other humans MUST be higher up in the order than the dog. Owners who allow their dogs to believe they are higher up in the order and/or who do not provide daily mental and physical exercise will experience a whole different temperament than the one described above. The dog may develop shy-sharpness, which is a combination of fear and dominance that can cause viciousness. Submissive urinating is usually caused by overexcitement, a lack of daily mental and physical exercise, where they are wound up and their minds are not given the chance to calm down on a daily basis. Also aggressive guarding of objects, people and places, obsessive barking, hyperactivity and roaming, among other negative behaviors. There are two types, field lines and show lines. Field lines are bred for working and have better hunting instincts and shorter coats, which is more practical for working in the woods. Both types make good pets when the owners meet their needs as canine animals.

Height, Weight

Height: Males 15 ½ inches (38 cm) Females 14 ½ inches (36.8 cm)

Weight: 15 - 30 pounds (7 - 14 kg)

Health Problems

Some major concerns in American Cocker Spaniels are cataracts, glaucoma and patellar luxation. Some minor concerns are hip dysplasia, ectropion, entropion, PRA, allergies, cherry eye, seborrhea, lip fold pyoderma, otitis externa, liver disease, urolithiasis, prolapse of nictitans gland, CHF, phosphofructokinase deficiency and cardiomyopathy. Occasionally seen are gastric torsion and elbow dysplasia. Also IMHA (Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia). According to a few owners:

"Our Cocker never had a sick day in her life until she suddenly became lethargic and urinated blood. Six days later and $3000 in vet bills, she died. I know you can't list every illness due to space limitations, but the internal medicine specialist that treated our dog said that IMHA is relatively common in Cockers, and almost always fatal. It's a fast-acting, silent killer."

Reported by Cocker Spaniel owner—"My American Cocker Spaniel dog died on 9/26/2011 of IMHA. She was given immunizations on 9/20 and showed first signs of a problem on 9/22. She was 6 1/2 years old in good health. Please pass on that owners of American Cockers need to be acutely aware of this disease and the possibility of their dogs contracting it. They should always have a blood test before immunization and at any sign of a problem afterwards should immediately seek treatment from a vet. We knew nothing of the disease and were never advised by the vet of the possibility in this breed. We have since learned it is common and needs to be looked for in this breed and age dog. Vets need to make sure owners are aware of it and the possible relationship with vaccinations. I just want to help get the word out."

"My dog also died of this disease (IMHA). He was 7 1/2 years old. He showed no signs of being ill until two days before he died. The disease works rapidly. At the first sign of becoming ill the pet needs to be brought to the vet and will probably need a blood transfusion. Our vet decided to wait and see in the morning, by then it was too late. This disease does not always stem from vaccines; my dog was not due for shots for another two months.”

Living Conditions

Cockers will do okay in an apartment if they are adequately exercised. They are fairly active indoors. A small yard is sufficient. Not suited to live outside alone in a kennel.


American Cockers have plenty of stamina and need regular exercise. They should be taken on daily, long walks. When walking, avoid brushy thickets that can tangle the coat. Be sure to have the dog heeling beside or behind the person holding the lead, as in a dog's mind the leader leads the way, and that leader needs to be the human, not the dog.

Life Expectancy

About 12-15 years.

Litter Size

1 - 7 puppies, average of 5


Wipe under the eyes often as they tend to tear. Some owners prefer to leave the coat long, brushing daily and shampooing frequently with quarterly scissoring and clipping. Others prefer to clip the coat to medium length to be more functional. Either way, the dog will need regular trimming. When brushing, be careful not to pull out the silky hair. This breed is an average shedder.


The Cocker Spaniel dates back as far as the 14th century. The breed originated from the English Cocker Spaniels which were brought to the United States. The Spaniels were bred down in size and given the name American Cocker Spaniels, officially called simply the "Cocker Spaniel" by the AKC. The American Cocker Spaniel is more popular than the original English Cocker Spaniel, which are slightly different in appearance, with longer muzzles and larger bodies. The Cocker Spaniel is a hunting-gun dog able to work in difficult terrain in both wet and dry land. Excellent at flushing and retrieving game with a gentle mouth. They listen to commands well. The name "Cocker" comes from the woodcock, a game bird the dogs were known for flushing. Some of the American Cocker Spaniel’s talents are hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, agility and competitive obedience. The American Cocker Spaniel was first recognized by the AKC in 1873.


Gun Dog, AKC Sporting


ACA = American Canine Association Inc.

ACR = American Canine Registry

AKC = American Kennel Club

ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club

APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.

CCR = Canadian Canine Registry

CKC = Canadian Kennel Club

CKC = Continental Kennel Club

DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.

FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale

KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain

NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.

NKC = National Kennel Club

NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club

UKC = United Kennel Club

CiCi the American Cocker Spaniel sitting on a dog bed with fancy grooming

CiCi the American Cocker Spaniel at 13 years old

A medium sized tan, white and blonde dog with long wavy thick drop ears that hang down to the sides, dark eyes, blonde hair on its head with tan fur on its body and white legs and chest, a black nose and a pink tongue looking happy sitting on a tan floral print rug.

Suzy the Cocker Spaniel at 7 years old

Kiara the black with white American Cocker Spaniel sitting on a carpet in front of a dresser

Kiara, a black Cocker Spaniel

Riley the American Cocker Spaniel laying on a tiled floor in front of a rope toy

Riley the tri-color AKC registered American Cocker Spaniel puppy at 11 weeks old

Brady the American Cocker Spaniel posing on a lace curtain

Brady at 2 years old; he was adopted from a Cocker Spaniel Rescue in Florida.

Two American Cocker Spaniels sitting on table next to a potted plant

Cocker Spaniels—photo courtesy of Michael Allen

American Cocker Spaniel Puppies sleeping in a bundle American Cocker Spaniel Puppies sleeping Litter of six American Cocker Spaniel Puppies sleeping together

Litter of two-week-old Cocker Spaniel puppies

American Cocker Spaniel in a field looking behind it

"This is my American Cocker Spaniel named Reiley. He is one year old. He is very happy and always in a good mood. One of his little quirks is that he climbs everywhere. Couches, chairs, ledges, and even cars; you name it, he's climbed it. He loves to play fetch in our backyard. He also likes to hunt with me. He is very intelligent and figures out many ways to entertain himself (good, and bad) and me. One of his bad habits is that he likes to run after rabbits and birds when he's off-leash. Part of it is the hunting instinct and another part is his mental immaturity. He still has a lot of maturing to do. If you notice, he has a longer nose than the average Cocker Spaniel. He was bred more for field and hunting work rather than being a show-quality dog, but he is still a very handsome dog that has an awesome personality."

Rare colored American Cocker Spaniel standing in a kitchen looking straight ahead

"This is my rare sable parti merle colored American Cocker Spaniel female Sapphire's Lovespell MRL AKA Jodie. She is a sweet rambunctious and affectionate girl. She has started in agility and is incredibly fast and talented! I wouldn't trade her for any other dog. She is as loyal as they come; I trust her completely with my kids, she minds well, and charms everyone she meets with her happy-go-lucky demeanor and beautiful coloring. She has one blue eye, and one brown, carries the unusual sable gene, the exotic merle gene, the parti color gene, and has lots of beautiful "ticking" all over. She is quite an unusual package and I'm lucky to have found her!"

Rare colored American Cocker Spaniel laying in a dog bed

Sable parti merle colored American Cocker Spaniel female Sapphire's Lovespell MRL AKA Jodie at 1 year old

Close Up - Jodie the American Cocker Spaniel puppy with a blue eye

Sable parti merle colored American Cocker Spaniel female Sapphire's Lovespell MRL AKA Jodie as a 12-week-old puppy

Jodie the American Cocker Spaniel laying on the ground

Sable parti merle colored American Cocker Spaniel female Sapphire's Lovespell MRL AKA Jodie as a 12-week-old puppy

Tan American Cocker Spaniel dog with its tongue out and Mouh open looking into the distance

An adult American Cocker Spaniel dog with its coat groomed short.

A thick, wavy-coated medium-sized dog with long furry drop ears and long with hair sticking up on its head standing in dirt facing forward with its bottom teeth showing.

An adult American Cocker Spaniel dog with its thick coat growing out.