Everything You Need to Know About the Amazing American Cocker Spaniel

Last Updated on April 22, 2023

The American Cocker Spaniel, also known as the Cocker Spaniel or Cocker, is an adorable breed that will fit right in with any home.

This intelligent pup is eager to please and loves to play with their family. They may be sensitive and shy at first but will quickly warm up.

American Cocker Spaniel
A portrait of an American Cocker Spaniel standing

Let’s take a look at this amazing dog breed.

Origin: where did the American Cocker Spaniel come from?

Bred initially in the 1800s, the American Cocker Spaniel came to be a bird hunter.

These hunting dogs originated from the English Cocker Spaniel and were brought over to North America, hence the “American” part of their name.

The word “Cocker” came from this dog breed’s hunting abilities of the woodcock. The word “Spaniel” is believed to have come from Spain, where it’s thought the breed was created.

While the American Cocker Spaniel was developed with the English Cocker Spaniel’s help, this pup is believed to have been created by various Spaniel breeds.

Such as the English Springer Spaniel, Field Spaniels, and English Toy Spaniels.

This popular breed is known from various pop cultures, most notably the dog Lady from the Disney animated film Lady and the Tramp.

Additionally, Harry S. Truman had a Cocker Spaniel named Feller, Bill Clinton had one named Zeke, and Rutherford B. Hayes had a pooch named Dot.

When the American Cocker Spaniel came over to the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 1884.

Appearance: What does an American Cocker Spaniel look like?

A chocolate brown American Cocker Spaniel with tongue out
A comfortable American Cocker Spaniel in a park bench

This Cocker Spaniel is the smallest member of the sporting group. With a sturdy, compact body, this gun dog stands tall and is well-balanced.

According to its breed standard, this dog breed has a round skull with round eyes that stare straight ahead with an intelligent expression on their face.

Their ears, a well-known feature of the Cocker Spaniel, are lobular, long, and well-feathered.

These sporting dogs have a long neck, so their nose can reach the ground with a barrel chest.

Their topline slopes slightly with a strong back that goes into their docked tail. The tail carries along the back and is never upright.

The shoulders are laid back, forming a 90-degree angle with the upper arms. Its forelegs are parallel to one another and straight with compact feet large and round.

The hindquarters are muscular and parallel to each other with strong hocks and wide hips.

Size: how big does an American Cocker Spaniel get?

Being the smallest sporting dog, the American Cocker Spaniel won’t grow too big, with only a few slight differences between the males and females.

Male Cocker Spaniels will grow as tall as 14.5 to 15.5 inches (37 to 39 cm) and may weigh up to 25 to 30 pounds (11 to 14 kg).

Female Cocker Spaniels will grow to be about 13.5 to 14.5 inches (34 to 37 cm) tall and weigh about 20 to 25 pounds (9 to 11 kg).

No matter the gender, these gun dogs will be fully grown by two years of age.

The Cocker Spaniel will make a good apartment dog, given their size. However, they’ll prefer a house with a fenced-in yard so that they can freely run around.

Coat: what coat colors and type does an American Cocker Spaniel have?

This Cocker Spaniel has a beautiful coat that’s medium in length on the body but short and fine on the head. It’s thick and silky that can be flat or slightly wavy.

This type of coat comes in various colors, such as solid colors that are black, light cream to red, to brown. Or it can be parti-color, which is two or more colors, one of which is white.

It may also be any solid color other than black (ASCOB), black with tan points, merle, any solid color with tan points, and parti-color.

The list for coat colors goes on:

  1. Black
  2. Black and Tan
  3. Black and White
  4. Black, White, and Tan
  5. Brown
  6. Brown roan
  7. Brown roan and Tan
  8. Brown and Tan
  9. Brown and White
  10. Brown, White, and Tan
  11. Buff
  12. Buff and White
  13. Red
  14. Red and White
  15. Silver
  16. Blue roan
  17. Blue and White
  18. White
  19. Tan
  20. Gray
  21. Fawn

There are only a few coat markings the American Cocker Spaniel can have, such as merle markings, roan, ticked, or white markings.

Temperament: are American Cocker Spaniels good family pets?

a close-up of a Cocker Spaniel with white and yellow flowers
Source: @raycoxwell / IG 

The American Cocker Spaniel will make a good family pet for any household. They’re gentle, smart, and loyal companions.

This doggo is overall friendly toward everyone. That includes elders, kids, other dogs, cats, and other pets.

They’re not aggressive in the slightest. All you’ll need to keep an eye on is your pup meeting strangers.

While they’ll be friendly, this is a sensitive dog breed. They may become shy or timid meeting someone new.

As for other pets, if you have smaller animals such as a bird or hamster in your house, they might feel the need to hunt from their sporting dog days.

This is easily nipped in the bud with early training and socialization.

This Cocker Spaniel does not like to be home alone for too long. After a while, they’ll get separation anxiety.

This dog breed is also a frequent barker and can be loud.

The American Cocker Spaniel is an intelligent breed. They’re easy to train as long as you start early and give them enough socialization with other animals and humans.

They may be hard to potty train, however. Your pooch could have a nervous bladder if not socialized well enough when meeting new people.

When it comes to training your American Cocker Spaniel, they’re eager to please.

Since they’re sensitive, training needs to be a positive experience with treats and praise. They’ll learn fast if it’s a pleasant time with you.

Care: how to take care of your American Cocker Spaniel

While the American Cocker Spaniel has a great temperament, they can be tough to care for given their coat and size.

While they can’t be outdoors all day long (and don’t want to be out there alone for too long), they can tolerate any kind of weather. They handle colder weather better than extreme heat.

Exercise: how to keep your American Cocker Spaniel in shape

a tired Cocker Spaniel standing on a rail road.
Source: @welbowbo / IG

This dog breed has average energy levels.

They love to play and will enjoy a romp around in a fenced-in yard or going to a dog park. They’ll get socialized – which will help their shyness – and get to play with some canine friends.

Your doggo will need about 60 minutes per day of exercise. This can include a daily walk up to 30 minutes, running around in the yard, or playing various games with you.

The American Cocker Spaniel grew popular in dog shows and, with their gun dog background, they’re capable of so much activity.

They’ll enjoy playing fetch, but they can also have fun with other activities such as agility, obedience, or tracking.

Grooming: do American Cocker Spaniel dogs shed?

Even though their hair is medium in length, it’s thick. This dog breed is not hypoallergenic as they can shed quite a bit.

Keeping their coat clean and healthy is an intense process.

The coat is prone to get tangled or have mats, so it’s important to have a daily brushing session with your pooch.

A metal comb is a must if you want to keep your pup’s fur at bay properly. You may also get a de-matting comb if you miss a brushing session or your pooch’s coat gets too unruly.

You can also use a slicker brush for some extra brushing if needed, but the metal comb is what will truly get the job done.

To help keep your pup’s coat and skin clean and healthy, you should bathe them every six to eight weeks with a dog-friendly shampoo.

Be sure to trim their nails at least once a month, so they don’t grow too long. Also, check and clean their ears regularly as floppy ears are prone to infection.

Alternatively, you can also take your dog to a professional groomer every six to eight weeks. The price will be worth it to have it done right.

Feeding: Food consumption for your American Cocker Spaniel

a patient Cocker Spaniel sitting while waiting for food
Source: @mikithecocker / IG

When your American Cocker Spaniel puppy is about eight to 12 weeks old, be sure to give them about three to four meals per day.

As an adult at six months and older, you can give your doggo about 1½ to 2½ cups of high-quality dog food per day split into two meals.

As always, be sure to talk to your vet so you can decide on a meal plan and dietary needs for your pooch together. Every dog is different in terms of exercise, weight, and metabolism.

Do not feed your American Cocker Spaniel any human food, as that will encourage begging and possibly make them overweight. There is also plenty of people’s food that is toxic to dogs, such as grapes or chocolate.

What health problems do American Cocker Spaniels have?

a Cocker Spaniel sadly laying with dog cone
Source: @sophie_cocker_spaniel_la / IG

Unfortunately, the American Cocker Spaniel can have many health issues. If you get your doggo from a puppy mill or anywhere else that’s not a reputable breeder, they may be prone to more health concerns.

Let’s talk about some of the most common health issues to keep an eye on.

Patellar Luxation is the dislocation of the kneecap. This often happens in the hind leg when the knee joint slides in and out of place.

This can be crippling to your doggo but can be checked with a Patellar evaluation at the vet.

Hepatic Disease occurs when the liver functions poorly. This disease’s symptoms may include wandering, poor coordination, excessive drooling, dementia, seizures, and more.

Immune-mediated may be Immune-mediated Thrombocytopenia (ITP), in which the body’s immune systems attack its platelets.

It could also be Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA), in which the body’s immune system attacks the red blood cells.

Cancer is common with American Cocker Spaniels and is the number-one leading cause of death for this breed, followed by Hepatic Disease and Immune-mediated.

Glaucoma, where pressure builds inside the eyeball, and Cataracts, a cloudy film that appears over the eye, are common eye problems in American Cocker Spaniels.

Other eye problems may be Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), Ectropion, Entropion, Cherry Eye, and eye abnormalities.

Your American Cocker Spaniel is also prone to canine hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, or ear inflammations, or Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA).

They can also get various allergies such as food, contact, or inhalant allergies.

This dog breed can also get a few heart conditions such as Cardiomyopathy or Dilated Cardiomyopathy, Sick Sinus Syndrome, or Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).

Phosphofructokinase Deficiency can occur, an inherited disorder causing a breakdown of the red blood cells. To check this, DNA testing for the parents can be done.

Other health problems could be :

  • Canine Epilepsy
  • Idiopathic Epilepsy
  • Rage Syndrome
  • Seborrhea or Primary Seborrhea (a skin disease)
  • Otitis Externa (inflammation of the ear canal).
  • Urinary stones or Urolithiasis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Gastric Torsion (Bloat)
  • Lip Fold Pyoderma (an additional skinfold)
  • Prolapse of Nictitans Gland.

Luckily, you can do some health screenings at the vet, such as a Patella Evaluation, Hip Evaluation, an Annual Ophthalmologist Evaluation, and a Thyroid Test.

You can keep their ears clean at home to avoid infection if you check the ears regularly and thoroughly groom your pooch.

Despite these health problems, the American Cocker Spaniel has a good life expectancy. Their lifespan is about 10-14 years.

How much do American Cocker Spaniels cost?

a Cocker Spaniel wearing a blue floral dress
Source: @sophie_cocker_spaniel_la / IG

Despite how popular this dog breed is, the American Cocker Spaniel isn’t all that much expensive to own.

Grooming may be pricey, but everything else should be manageable for a first-time or experienced dog owner.

This breed’s average litter size is about five puppies, but mother American Cocker Spaniel may have anywhere between one and seven puppies in a single litter.

An American Cocker Spaniel puppy will cost an average of $800 but could be anywhere between $500 and $1,500, depending on where you buy your pup.

The first year with your pup may cost you about $2,500. This includes food, grooming supplies, vet and medical bills, toys, and accessories such as a leash, harness, collar, crate, bed, and more.

Each year after that, you can expect to spend about $1,300.

Since this is a popular dog breed, it might be challenging to find this purebred in a pet store, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask around locally.

American Cocker Spaniel breeders

When choosing a reputable breeder, you’ll want to be sure of a few things.

For one, the breeder should have a vast knowledge of the American Cocker Spaniel breed as a whole. They should know the litter’s family history and medical background of the parents.

Due to the health issues this breed can get, it’s important to ensure the parents are healthy.

Looking for a reputable breeder isn’t as hard as it sounds, though. A good place to start may be the AKC Marketplace.

The American Spaniel Club also has an extensive list of breeders by state.

American Cocker Spaniel rescues

Many dogs already don’t have homes. So, instead of looking in a pet store or for a breeder, be sure to check out your local animal shelter first.

The National Breed Club has a list of rescues by state, which would be a great place to start.

American Cocker Spaniel vs. English Cocker Spaniel

a tall English Cocker Spaniel standing
A purebred fluffy English Cocker Spaniel

Believe it or not, the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel are separate breeds from one another, even though they have quite a few similarities.

Before they were recognized as different breeds, the Cocker Spaniels were simply known as land Spaniels or water Spaniels.

These dog breeds are part of the sporting group, recognized by the AKC, and have similar ancestry roots.

Most people confuse the two pups mainly because of their coloring. Often, solid color on this breed is believed to be an American Cocker Spaniel, which isn’t always the case.

American Cocker Spaniels are longer and not as tall, compared to the English Cocker Spaniel, who is taller and not as long, giving them a square shape to their body.

They also have the same coat texture, but the English Cocker Spaniel’s coat isn’t as long as the American Cocker Spaniel’s coat.

Curious about American Cocker Spaniel mixes?

This doggo can be mixed with a few other dog breeds. They’re all fun and a delight to bring home to your family.

a happy Cockapoo sitting on wooden floor
Source: @bailey.cockapoo.dog / IG

There’s the Cockapoo, a Cocker Spaniel and Poodle mix, a Golden Cocker Retriever, a Cocker Spaniel and Golden Retriever mix.

Other mixed breeds are:

  • Spanador, a Cocker Spaniel and Labrador Retriever mix
  • Cockeranian, a Cocker Spaniel and Pomeranian mix
  • Chi-Spaniel or Cockerhua, a Cocker Spaniel and Chihuahua mix.

Is the American Cocker Spaniel the right dog for you?

an American Cocker Spaniel wearing a striped dog harness
Source: @popolo_0918 / IG

Isn’t the American Cocker Spaniel an adorable, loving pup?

If you’re able to give this doggo adequate exercise, train and socialize them early, and not leave them home alone too often, this pup may be the right choice for you.

Whether you have kids or not, this dog breed will fit right in.

Will you bring home an American Cocker Spaniel today? Let us know in the comments below!

Further reading: similar breeds to the American Cocker Spaniel

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