Historians believe that cocker spaniels originated long ago in Spain. Their name “spaniel” sounds very close to “Spain”, so that inference has been made about their origins. The breed was popular so many years ago for its proficiency in bird hunting. They were especially good at hunting “woodcocks”, a breed of game bird. This skill eventually contributed to the rest of their name, and the “Cocker spaniel” was born.
Sometime around 1883 the cocker spaniel began to compete in dog shows in England. It wasn’t until almost a decade later that the breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club. The American Kennel Club accepted the breed nearly a decade earlier. And now, the breed is recognized and well regarded all around the world.
Since the cocker spaniel arrived in America in the late 1880’s breeding has altered their appearance a bit. The biggest differences are in the size and color of these American cocker spaniels. Compared to their English spaniel cousins.
Types of Spaniel Breeds
There are at least 25 different breeds of cocker spaniels in the world. There are two that are more common than the rest - the American and the English cocker spaniels.
The timeline of these two breeds goes a little something like this. The English cocker spaniel came around first but was not always known by this name. At first, this amazing bird hunting dog was known as the cocking spaniel because of its amazing talents in hunting the woodcock game bird.
Once the cocking spaniel was classified as its own breed by the English Kennel Club in the late 19th century, the breed then took on the name of “English Cocker Spaniel”. The American Cocker Spaniel breed came about when American dog breeders wanted to create a breed that had less of a hunting nature, and more of a family-oriented personality. The American Cocker Spaniel was also bred to be smaller than the English Cocker Spaniel.
The American cocker spaniel has a personality that was made for bonding with their humans and living a cozy life at home with them. This breed of cocker spaniel will become attached to their human quickly and want to spend nearly every waking moment with them from there on out.
The English cocker spaniel can be just as loving and attached to their family but have maintained their natural hunting instinct. They are more energetic and have a tendency to want to be on the hunt. More so than their American cocker spaniel cousins do after many years of breeding.
Both the American and English cocker spaniel are breeds who are eager to please their owner. Meaning, training is generally a breeze with these dogs. They are also both very sensitive breeds and will respond best with a positive reinforcement method of training. Versus punishing them harshly for incorrect behaviors.
As a breed, the cocker spaniel has a surprising number of health issues that can come up. The cocker spaniel lifespan can be variable because of this unfortunate fact. Some of the more troublesome diseases that this breed has been known to develop include congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy, liver disease, IMHA (immune mediated hemolytic anemia), and phosphofructokinase deficiency (A genetic disorder that triggers the breakdown of red blood cells).
If your intention is to adopt a cocker spaniel from a breeder, it’s extra important that you check on the health records of both of the parent dogs before adopting due to their laundry list of potential health problems.
Other potential but less serious conditions that cocker spaniels have been known to face include luxated patella, elbow dysplasia, and allergies. All of which are manageable. Keeping in contact with your cocker spaniels’ vet and treatment plan for any of these issues will help to support your spaniel in living a long and healthy life with you. A healthy, well taken care of cocker spaniel will live 12 to 14 years on average. Although, there are other, less complicated conditions that a cocker spaniel may face in their lifespan.
The cocker spaniel has a long, fine fur coat that requires regular upkeep. Otherwise, your cocker spaniel may be faced with mats of fur to deal with. You can use a brush that helps to give their coat some shine, but combing the fur is the key to upkeep. Combing helps to get rid of tangles and get rid of loose fur.
Cocker spaniels are an iconic breed of dog. From being the companion of noblemen so many centuries ago, to being the star of movies like Lady and the Tramp. This breed of dog has an unfortunate track record of developing a number of different diseases and medical conditions. None of which should stop you from adopting a cocker spaniel and supporting it in living a long and healthy life with you and your family.