Cocker Spaniel: Puppy Training, Health Care, and Breed Information

Whether we’re talking about the English Cocker Spaniel or the American breed variety, this is a sweet, downright legendary family companion. The bond you form with your Cocker Spaniel puppy will reward you forever.

In short, the Cocker Spaniel puppy is a prime example of “the perfect dog.”

The Cocker Spaniel breed is, above all else, trustworthy and loyal. They’re also very attractive and high-spirited, with plenty of intelligence and the ability to adapt to a wide variety of living conditions. Families with children can choose a Cocker Spaniel puppy with no worries.

Jump to: History, Appearance, Temperament, Health Issues, or Cocker Spaniel PuppyTraining.

Breed History – Cocker Spaniel

Since their origin as the Spanish Spaniel, the Cocker Spaniel has had a wide family tree. This versatile and friendly dog was desired for all kinds of roles in the old world, leading to a great variety in breeding priorities that led to an equally great variety in Spanier sizes and tendencies.

The Cocker Spaniel was bred for hunting bird game, chasing them out of their hiding spots for the hunters to catch. They were prime hunters, and that’s why their popularity has had such a “head start” in the modern world.

In the 1940s, the two separate breeds of English Cocker Spaniel and American Cocker Spaniel were registered with the American Kennel Club.

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Appearance – Cocker Spaniel Puppy

The appearance and body language of a Cocker Spaniel puppy is impossible to ignore. They’re instantly friendly, always expressive, and blessed with extreme beauty.

The Cocker Spaniel is also a very fit dog, capable of running like a pro athlete and a high degree of stamina. A healthy Cocker Spaniel is robust, especially in the chest and neck.

The big, furry, floppy ears and the shaggy nature of their coat is another distinctive feature of the Cocker Spaniel breed. This breed does shed its coat, and will need to be brushed as much as twice a week. A breeder will know how much hair to remove when grooming, which should be done about every six weeks. The coat can be shaved down short, just be mindful of climate. There are many different patterns and colors native to the Cocker Spaniel breed.

An adult American Cocker Spaniel will be about 14 to 15 inches tall when measured at the shoulder, and the English Cocker Spaniel is about two inches taller. The English breed is also distinguished by being a bit more robust in the torso and having a longer muzzle, with finer fur.

Social Temperament – Cocker Spaniel Puppy

The temperament is really the driving factor behind the centuries-old popularity of the Cocker Spaniel breed of dogs. They are definitely a breed of charmers, with a friendly loyalty and an outgoing, affectionate, happy temper.

Now, if you’ve heard about “Cocker rage” then you’ll need to know this (really, you need to know this if you’re considering buying a Cocker Spaniel puppy, regardless of what you’ve heard): This breed of dog is extremely popular and always has been. Because of that, there are “puppy mills” which will breed any two Cocker Spaniels regardless of health, and then toss the pups in a box to be ignored, abused, underfed, and neglected in their needs for basic puppy socialization. Please choose your breeder carefully, to avoid paying unscrupulous folks to abuse these dogs.

When you buy a Cocker Spaniel puppy from a good breeder, you’ll get a dog who’s been carefully bred from healthy stock, and they’ll be able to prove it with paperwork. You’ll also benefit from all the traits that make them “top dog.” Here are the things to know:

  • Cocker Spaniel puppies will show signs of being hunting dogs right from day one, with their noses to the ground in intense curiosity. It’s cute, and useful.
  • Cocker Spaniels are sweet, sweet dogs, and excellent with children. They also love other pets.
  • They love exercise and games, and will learn fetch like they were born for it (hunting dogs!)
  • Cocker Spaniels are smart. They will feel “on your level” both in their mind and yours, and this makes the human-Cocker bond that much deeper.
  • With their history of chasing birds, Cocker Spaniel puppies learn to swim easily and love it.
  • If you’re considering buying a Cocker Spaniel puppy from a breeder who has a lot of pups that seem timid or frightened around you, do not buy from that breeder.

Unique Health Problems – Cocker Spaniel

A healthy Cocker Spaniel puppy that was bred correctly, fed correctly, and given proper exercise will be with you for about fifteen years.

Here are the health issues to be aware of when considering a Cocker Spaniel puppy:

  • Those big ears can become infected. Check your Cocker Spaniel’s ears daily and clean them out as needed. You might keep the inner ear hair trimmed to make this easier.
  • A Cocker Spaniel will want to eat and eat and eat until they are obese. Don’t let this happen, because obesity is just as much a killer among dogs as it is among humans. As mentioned above, a quality diet is also important.
  • All dogs are prone to skin conditions, especially if they sleep in a drafty area.
  • Like many breeds, Cocker Spaniels are at risk of cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy. They are also susceptible to glaucoma.
  • Leg joint problems such as Patellar Luxation and Hip Dysplasia are usually hereditary.
  • Heart problems, epilepsy and kidney failure can be either hereditary or lifestyle-induced.
  • Hemolytic anemia, aka not enough red blood cells, has mysterious causes but is known to occur.

Training a Cocker Spaniel Puppy

The first thing to know about training a Cocker Spaniel puppy is that, even moreso than other breeds, they love being trained. They love the bonding, the exercise, the novelty and the brain challenge.

Make sure to keep things fun, use positive reinforcement and lots of love and rewards when they get things right, and when they get things wrong, just walk away. Denial of social interaction is always an effective punishment for misbehavior and the best kind all-around.

Meanwhile, the best positive training method is to be patient and consistent, use repetition, avoid long training sessions that bore or tire them out, and have fun.

Here are a few of the challenges and other notes to be aware of when training a Cocker Spaniel puppy:

  • House training or potty training a Cocker Spaniel puppy is not so hard as you might have heard. Just do it using a proven house training system, keep to the schedule, and be understanding and forgiving.
  • As hunting dogs, Cocker Spaniel puppies will have a little trouble on the leash at first. Do leash training after some other obedience training steps are successful, but do start early. Here’s how I train my dogs to walk on a leash, it will work for your Cocker Spaniel puppy too.
  • Your Cocker Spaniel puppy will learn the essential obedience training commands with ease and enthusiasm. Do the work early and it will prevent problems later.
  • If you’re interested in teaching cool dog tricks or involving your Cocker Spaniel puppy in agility sports, you chose the right breed. They’re also good for all kinds of work.
  • Cocker Spaniels who were not trained or socialized early enough in life might start guarding their food and toys (canine possession aggression). This problem can be reversed – click the link to see how.
  • Another Cocker Spaniel trait that might be a problem for you is digging. I’ve written a series of tips to help you redirect or prevent digging.

For everything else I haven’t covered on this page and the linked lessons about dog training, there’s “Secrets to Dog Training,” a resource I rely on frequently myself.

Return to the puppy training guide homepage, or read about other popular breeds of dog.

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