Bird Dog at Heart
For 25 consecutive years, from 1936 through 1961, the American cocker spaniel was the country's most popular breed.
Although it had resurgence in the early 80's, the breed's popularity now ranks in the bottom 25, perhaps due in part to the introduction of other new breeds in recent years.
Considering that there are hundreds of dog breeds worldwide, this by no means reflects a poor standing for the cocker spaniel, whose owners would likely defend their loyalty and love for the breed.
Although the exact origins of the cocker spaniel remain unknown, historical writings dating back to the 14th century mention "spaynels" and many believe the breed is from Spain.
The term "cocker" is derived from the dog's background hunting Eurasian woodcocks. By the 19th century, small field spaniels were being described as "cocker spaniels," although this term was used to refer to a variety of spaniel hunting breeds at the time, including the Norfolk spaniel and the Sussex spaniel.
It wasn't until 1892 when the English cocker spaniel was recognized as an individual breed. So, how did the cocker spaniel split into two types of breeds, the English cocker spaniel and the American cocker spaniel? Simply put: geography.
In the mid 1870s, "Ch. Obo," considered to be the "father" of the modern English cocker spaniel line, mated with another English cocker spaniel that was then shipped off to America. Obo's son, "Obo II" was born in America, hence forth creating the American cocker spaniel lineage.
Both versions of the cocker spaniel were bred to excel as hunting dogs, utilizing their prized sense of smell to flush and retrieve birds in the field for their human companions.
Cocker spaniels are known for their sweet and affectionate temperament. They do not respond well to stern direction or punishment, as they can become easily threatened and resort to fear anxiety in such situations.
Early socialization and obedience training are recommended to bring out the best in this dog's personality.
The cocker spaniel enjoys spending time in the company of its family, gets along well with children and is eager to participate in family activities both indoors and outdoors.
While the English cocker spaniel and American cocker spaniel are very similar, the main difference is the American cocker spaniel's smaller size. The English cocker spaniel is taller, with a narrower head and chest.
Both cocker spaniels can be born in one of many colors including black, liver, red and golden, and a combination of colors such as black and tan, liver and tan, or a tricolor blend. Using selective breeding, a cocker spaniel can be born with a rare, solid white coat.
English cocker spaniels usually weigh between 28 to 32 pounds, while the American cocker spaniel averages 24 to 30 pounds. The English cocker spaniel typically stands one inch taller than the American cocker spaniel.
- Autoimmune hemolytic anemia: this is a disorder where the dog’s immune system destroys its own red blood cells. Cockers appear to have a genetic predisposition to this and several other autoimmune type disorders.
- Canine glaucoma is an increase in the pressure of the fluid in the eye which, if left untreated, can cause visual impairment and eventual loss of sight. The condition can be inherited (primary glaucoma) or a secondary condition to a variety of other eye issues including tumors or lens luxation.
- Cataracts are an opacity of the lens of the eye and may cause blindness if not treated surgically. Both American and English cocker spaniels are affected by juvenile cataracts which can occur at up to four years of age. Symptoms can include discoloring of the pupil, and treatment may include surgery to remove the cataract.
- Dilated cardiomyopathy: occurs when the heart muscle becomes dysfunctional over time and can result in complete heart failure. Skin problems: most commonly identified as allergies which cause itchy, red and irritated skin and can also result in sores and skin infections. This usually requires lifetime medical management to keep the dog comfortable.
- Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. The symptoms vary in severity but the dog usually foams at the mouth and appears to be chewing on something. Progressive symptoms lead to violent muscle contractions, loss of bladder or bowel control and fainting.
- Hip dysplasia is a hereditary malformation of the hip joint that is more commonly associated with large breed dogs. It can cause discomfort and lameness and result in arthritis. X-rays of the hips when dogs are young (under 2 years) can help identify if this problem is present will allow owners to identify a proper exercise, diet and treatment regimen if their dog is affected.
- Otitis externa (ear infections) refers to an inflammation of the ear canal, and can be caused by a foreign body in the ear canal, parasites, yeast or a bacterial infection. Cocker spaniels have long, pendulous ears that are more predisposed to ear problems than some other breeds. Cleaning your cocker spaniel's ears beginning at a young age will help train your dog to tolerate routine cleanings and help prevent infection.
- Patellar luxation is caused by anatomical defects of the bones that make up the knee joint. It is manifested by the kneecap (patella) slipping in and out of its normal location in the knee. Mildly affected dogs may carry the leg for 2 or 3 steps while walking. Severely affected dogs may become severely lame and refuse to use their rear legs. Surgical correction of this condition is very rewarding.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an adult-onset condition which typically occurs between ages 4 and 10. The condition has been diagnosed in both American and English cocker spaniels, who are susceptible to a specific type of hereditary PRA called Progressive rod-cone degeneration (PRCD). Symptoms include night blindness leading to total blindness between the ages of three and five.