Cocker Spaniel - Breed Facts & Characteristics

Consistently ranking high on lists of most popular dogs, the English Cocker Spaniel is a beloved breed, especially in its home country of England. Closely linked but separate from its cousin across the pond, the American Cocker Spaniel, the English is characterised by a longer head and snout and a slightly larger frame. Their ears only look like they’re hitting the floor. Easy-going and quite docile, the English Cocker Spaniel has long held a starring role in the pantheon of petdom.

Official name: English Cocker Spaniel

Other names: Cocker Spaniel, English Cocker, Cocker, EC

Origins: Spain

Black and white portrait of a sitting black English Cocker Spaniel
Drooling tendencies

Warm weather? Medium
Grooming needs Very high Cold weather? Medium
Shedding level Medium Suited to apartment living? High
Barking tendencies Medium Can stay alone?*
Energy Level* High Family Pet?* High
Compatibility with other pets High

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socialising your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioural needs.

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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Illustration of standing English Cocker Spaniel
39 - 41 cm Height
13 - 14.5 kg Weight
38 - 39 cm Height
13 - 14.5 kg Weight

Baby age Birth to 2 months
Puppy age 2 to 12 months
Adult age 1 to 7 years
Mature age 7 to 10 years
Senior age From 10 years

Trio of English Cocker Spaniels peering over a wall


Get to know the English Cocker Spaniel

All you need to know about the breed

Don’t let the posh coat fool you: The English Cocker Spaniel is as rugged as they are captivating, suited to the great outdoors having been bred as a hunting dog. An ever-faithful companion, they’re always eager for a long walk, or even a hike, no matter the weather. The main attraction, besides the chance to stomp around in nature? You. Whether out and about or cosied up by the fire, the breed is always happy to be around his humans. They are devoted by nature.

Using gentle, positive training methodsfrom a young age will help entrust your English Cocker Spaniel. The breed can have a mind of its own and with hunting as its instinct, they can sometimes be undecided about coming when called. The English Cocker Spaniel bark can be an issue as it can be for any hunting breed but here too, training can help.

The English Cocker Spaniel earned its reputation as an expert retriever of game birds, thus known as a bird dog or a gun dog. The smallest of the Sporting Group, their instinctual drive to find and retrieve could translate to picking up objects on the homefront and carrying to another spot. Try a healthy game of fetch if your dog seems restless. Steadiness is the breed hallmark, and their stable bodies will glide through the field or the garden with the greatest of ease.

Close-up of Black English Cocker Spaniel looking into the distance


2 facts about English Cocker Spaniels

1. Those silky ears are prone to infection

As with many long-eared breeds, keeping the canals free and clear is a must. Clean them at home and have them thoroughly checked by your vet, so your English Cocker Spaniel is well-groomed.

2. Taking its name 

The English Cocker Spaniel derives its name from the woodcock bird, which he is known to be expert at catching.


History of the breed

The English Cocker Spaniel emanated from a sporting past. Developed as a bird dog or gun dog, the breed was used widely throughout England and Europe to retrieve small birds, particularly woodcock from which the breed derives their name. A working dog, English Cocker Spaniels are thought to be the oldest.

The breed can trace its origins back to Spain, the word “Spaniel” actually meaning “Spanish dog.” English Cocker Spaniels gained tremendous popularity throughout Europe over the ages for their acumen as sporting dogs and with birds before the invention of the rifle. Spaniels are classified as either water Spaniels or land Spaniels, specialised in the intricacies of hunting in either environment, with the English being the smallest of the land variety. The dogs went on to flourish in England in the 19th Century when showing was in full swing and breed standards started to be established. For both their temperament and personality, the English Cocker Spaniel soon stood out from the pack of various Spaniels.

The breed then diverged on the breeding track from their American cousin as the 20th Century took hold, with both established as official breeds by the American Kennel Club in 1946. The English distinguishes itself with a longer head and nose and shorter-haired coat.

The breed gained tremendous popularity as well with the 1955 Disney movie Lady and the Tramp, with Lady portrayed as an elegant and warm Cocker Spaniel.

Black and white portrait of sitting English Cocker Spaniel


From head to tail

Physical characteristics of English Cocker Spaniels

1. Ears

Long silky ears

2. Head

Strong yet soft head, very alert expression distinctive for breed

3. Body

Body is dignified, strong and compact without appearing stout

4. Tail

Tail extends slightly lower than back yet level, can at times be docked

5. Coat

Coat can be flat or slightly wavy, short and fine on head, medium length on body

Golden English Cocker Spaniel puppy licking older black Spaniel's ear


Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your English Cocker Spaniel

Reign in the independent streak

Often described as merry, the English Cocker Spaniel’s admirable traits are numerous. Their wilful nature is one of them. Until they get distracted and head off in the opposite direction. Early training will help teach them the desired behaviours including recall.

Sometimes difficult to house-train

As a breed that’s obstinate and used to sport, issues can arise when it comes to training the English Cocker Spaniel. A crate can be a great aid in creating a safe space to promote and reinforce good behaviour.

Underneath that soft exterior lurks the body of a champion athlete

As domesticated as they are, the breed is also a sporting one. Exercise for the English Cocker Spaniel then, is essential. They enjoy hikes in the great outdoors and will never turn their noses up at playtime in the garden.

Five English Cocker Spaniel puppies sat in a line in a garden


Caring for your English Cocker Spaniel

Grooming, training and exercise tips

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English Cocker Spaniels enjoy exercise, including runs and long walks, and should get some in every day. As a hunting breed, they are used to being outdoors. Romps in the garden with the family (the English Cocker Spaniel is kid-friendly!) work as well since the breed enjoys playtime tremendously.

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The English Cocker Spaniel’s coat is their most distinguishing attribute. Glossy and fine, the breed’s short, tight, wavy hair has made it the highlight of dog shows for decades, and garnered it the top prize many times over. Brushing and combing once a week will keep it in top form. Groom your Cocker Spaniel with a professional for the difficult areas around the face and feet, and under the neck, ears, and tail where hair can be longer. Your dog will thank you for it.
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As with many purebred dogs whose traits are intact, training should come early. Highly sensitive dogs, training English Cocker Spaniels with a patient, gentle hand is best. Consistency is key, harshness is not. Their softness extends to the inside as well as the outside.


All about English Cocker Spaniels

The breed is one that’s known to bark, especially if left indoors. This is an active dog that benefits from getting outside. Using their voice is a Cocker Spaniel trait and may merely be their asking to be heard. The very sensitive breed craves the company of their family and will thrive most with owners who are present a lot of the time.

A sweet breed, the English Cocker Spaniel is ever-affectionate and has a real desire to be by its owners’ side. They adore snuggling and are eager to please.


1 - Veterinary Centers of America

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club