Buying a pet

Cocker Spaniel: Breed info & health advice

Date updated: 17 11 2017

Life is just better with a Cocker Spaniel on board. They’re always happy, playful, inquisitive, adventurous and totally devoted to you: what more could you want in a best buddy?

Those big curly ears and fluffy coat make Cocker’s great spooning partners. But looking that good doesn’t happen by itself: regular grooming sessions are needed to prevent a major bad hair day.

This is a pooch who’s eager to please: they’ll fit in fine with the rest of the family - and any other 4-legged friends. But be prepared to be put through your paces, Cocker’s are perky and playful and it takes a lot of walking to wear them out...



Lifespan: 11-12 years

Weight: 11.75kg to 14.5 kgs

Height at shoulder: 15 to 16 inches

Colouring: Pretty much any colouring you can think of

Grooming requirements: high! A coat that thick needs a lot of brushing and clipping.

Average purchase cost: £500 - £800

Bet you didn’t know...

- They’re hunters at heart. Ever wonder why your Cocker can’t resist chasing after a pigeon or squirrel? Cocker Spaniels were originally bred from the 15th Century to flush out game.

- One was an early explorer. On its 66 day trip from England to America, The Mayflower had a Cocker Spaniel on board! The pioneering pooch was brought along for company and protection, and to accompany the pilgrims on hunts around their settlement on Cape Cod.

- Lady was a Cocker. The film ‘Lady and the Tramp’ was made in 1955, making everyone fall in love with the lead character and causing Cocker Spaniels to reached their peak of popularity in the fifties.

- One Cocker racked up £10,000 in vets bills. Ouch! Poor George couldn’t stop nibbling at his feet because of a genetic disorder that left him with no sensation in his toes. One toe had to be surgically removed - and he had to have ongoing specialist treatment. Expensive: but worth every penny!

- Kate Middleton, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Charlize Theron: they’re all Cocker Spaniel lovers.

Great for...

Families, big or small. That said, Cockers can be a bit sensitive and don’t always enjoy rough and tumble - even if it’s meant to be playful. This is why it’s important to keep an eye on small kids around them (and other dogs) to make sure they don’t get snappy.

Separation anxiety can be a real problem if your Cocker is left alone for too long. Signs that your Cocker is feeling lonely include barking and pacing, destructive behaviour (like chewing the curtains and sofa) - and lots of digging in the garden!

How to deal with it? Cocker’s are smart and most will quickly learn that going to work doesn’t mean leaving forever. So ease your buddy into the situation by leaving and returning; increasing the length of time, bit by bit. When you’re gone, make sure he’s got loads of stuff to keep him occupied: frozen chew treats and toys can work wonders.

Behaviour and training...

‘Cocker Rage’ is a real thing: also known as Sudden Onset Aggression Syndrome. It’s a condition where your buddy quickly gets very aggressive, confused and ignores any attempts to calm him down. Thankfully, it’s pretty rare. Good breeders should be experienced in bringing out favourable behavioral traits in a breeding programme - something you should definitely look for and ask about when getting your Cocker.

Cocker pups are usually a breeze to train. They want to learn new things from 8 weeks old - so mix the “serious stuff” (like toilet training) with fun stuff and games. Fetching, hide and seek, sit, stay, lie down: keep it fresh and he’ll love it.

They can sometimes be a bit shy at first, so it’s important to socialise your pup early on and well past his first Birthday to teach him to be a happy, confident dog without behavioral issues.


As far as exercise goes, a Cocker puppy is happy with at least a couple of good play sessions in the garden or park each day.

At six months, their bone structure is developed, which means they’re ready for proper walks. 30 minutes each morning and evening should do it - and if you’re jogging around the park, your Cocker Spaniel will definitely be up for being your training buddy.

Grooming keeps your Cocker looking gorgeous - but bedraggled, matted hair usually means sore skin. So grooming is your chance to get rid of all that caked mud and grass seeds that can work their way into the skin, causing infection.

For most Cockers, a good brushing is needed about every three days. If it’s matted, start at the ends and then work your way to the body - and talking to your buddy while you’re doing it should help keep them happy.

Those big fluffy ears need special attention; they’re so close to the ground when sniffing around that they collect loads of mystery muck. Clean and brush the hair every three days. Look inside each day: a small amount of wax is normal, and the skin should be pink. If the insides are red or weepy, it’s a sign of infection - so time to call the vet.


Common health issues to watch out for...

- Epilepsy can be a problem in Cocker Spaniels: regular fits which left untreated, can get progressively worse. Anticonvulsive therapy can help to keep the problem under control. A normal happy life is possible for an epileptic pooch, but this needs constant monitoring and lots of input from your vet.

- Ear infections are a possibility, even for a very well-cared for and frequently groomed Cocker. Treatment depends on how bad it is. Lab tests might be needed for the vet to see what she’s dealing with. If the ear canal is badly blocked, they might need surgery.

- Dry Eye can happen where a Cocker’s tear glands aren’t working properly - so if your buddys eyes look red and sore - see your vet. In some cases, treatment can involve lifelong monitoring and treatment with immune suppressant eye ointments.

- Joint problems can arise in Cockers, including luxating patella (where the kneecap slips out of place) and hip dysplasia, where the hip fails to develop properly and which can lead to arthritis in the joint. The best form of treatment depends on how much pain your buddy is in - and how far the condition is stopping them from living life to the full. Surgery is often an option.

- Sadly, Cocker Spaniels are one of the breeds most prone to Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia - where the dog’s immune system destroys its red blood cells, leading to anaemia. If your furry friend seems tired all the time, weak and has a fever - get it checked out. While the condition is fatal in around a third to a half of cases, happy endings are possible. Often this includes a blood transfusion, steroid treatment and lots of ongoing nursing care.


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