English Cocker Spaniel Breed Profile

The English Cocker Spaniel was originally bred as hunting dogs in the United Kingdom. They were primarily used to hunt and flush the woodcock out of its woodland habitat, hence the term ‘cocker’.


English Cocker Spaniels are intelligent and curious, love their family and are very gentle and affectionate.

Some can be on the reserved side, or a little timid if not well socialised early, or from a breeder that is more focused on looks than temperament.  and excessive submissiveness in some lines.

Early independence training is also important because they are so family orientated and affectionate, which means they can become clingy or attentions-seeking and prone to separation anxiety.


The English Cocker Spaniel is a hunting dog, so you must train them and work on their obedience.  They are soft and sensitive souls though so training must be positive and rewards based.

As they are a working dog breed, they have a lot of stamina and energy, so need a lot of exercise – at least an hour a day, and to be kept mentally active.

A solid recall is a must as they love nothing more than sniffing and investigating their environment, so can go deaf to your calls once on a scent or if they decide to chase birds.

They love to learn so do really well in dog sports including tracking, obedience trials, flyball and agility, plus they love the water!

Physical attributes

With their long, floppy ears and soft coat that feathers on their legs and bellies, the Cocker Spaniel has a very regal appearance.

Their tails were traditionally docked to prevent injury as they ran through the heavy bush, a practise that is thankfully now illegal in many countries, including Australia.

Cocker spaniels can have a variety of colors. Some are solid black, red or tan, others are bi-coloured or tri-coloured.

Their coat requires grooming at least a couple of hours each week, with some professional trims from time to time to keep it in good shape.

Lifestyle considerations

Due to their gentle and loving temperament, Cocker Spaniels make good companions for people of all ages, including children.

They are an adaptable and robust breed and generally get along with other pets.

Because they are so people-orientated they can also be prone to separation anxiety, so don’t do well with being left alone and can become destructive as a result.

They can adapt to living just about anywhere, as long as they are given daily walks and play sessions.


The average lifespan of the English Cocker Spaniel is 12 – 14 years and they are considered a fairly healthy breed.

Unfortunately though, their big soulful eyes can be prone to cataracts, cherry eye,  entropion (where the eyelids roll inwards causing the eyelashes to rub on the cornea), progressive retinal atrophy and dry eye. Any signs of reduced vision, cloudiness, redness, squinting or increased discharge should prompt a vet visit.

Their long ears can also be perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacterial infections, so regularly check them for smelly or excessive discharge and take them straight to the vet if you notice head shaking or scratching. Untreated ear infections can lead to deafness and other complications.

They are also know for the ‘cocker mouth’, officially known as Lip Fold Dermatitis, which can cause their mouths to become very smelly.  It’s a good idea to keep the fur around their mouth trim to help keep it clean and never think that a smelly face is normal!

Your vet may prescribe a medicated wipe to help keep nasties like bacteria and yeast at bay and, in severe cases, surgery may be required. Their gorgeous fluffy feet can be similarly prone to infection.

About the Author: Lara Shannon is a NDTF certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training and boarding business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of Eat, Play, Love Your Dog.

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