Cocker Spaniels are one of the most affectionate dog breeds, making them great companions for people at any stage of life. Gentle enough to be around small children, suitable to have with other pets, and highly trainable, these dogs make wonderful and rewarding pets.
No matter what kind of life you lead, whether in the city or country, the compact Cocker Spaniel can accompany you on your adventures. These beautiful dogs come in a wide range of colors, with heart-melting soft eyes and long silky coats that are hard to resist petting. They're packed with personality and offer many of the best things about owning a dog.
Read on for our 32 top reasons to love Cocker Spaniels, and some fun facts too!
32 things to love about cocker spaniels
1. Silky ears
Cocker Spaniels have lovely, long attractive ears that require a bit of maintenance. If you've ever had the privilege of stroking a cocker spaniel's ears, you'll know that there are few things in the world quite as soft and silky. Unfortunately, those ears can be prone to infection, so make sure you take good care of them and check up on any excessive scratching.
2. Variety of coat colors
Whether you'd like a lemon-colored dog, black and tan, or blue roan, there is a huge variety of colors in the Cocker Spaniel genome. They can come with 'ticks' which are flecky spots that appear in lighter parts of the dog's coat and make them look as though they've been flicked with a paintbrush. They really do come in every color of the rainbow, often with different varieties appearing in a single litter, so you'll be spoiled for choice.
3. Sense of smell
Cockers have a great sense of smell and are often used as sniffer dogs in airports or by police and the military. This sense of smell is part of what makes them good working dogs, as they can track down prey with their keen noses and help hunters locate animals they may not be able to see yet.
Another great thing about the Cocker Spaniel is their size. They're the smallest breed of sporting dog, standing at just 13 inches at their smallest, and 16 for a large dog. Females tend to weigh between 20 and 25 lbs, and males come in a little heavier, at a top weight of 30 lbs.
Excluding accident or illness, cockers live a long time and can accompany you through life for up to 15 years. 10-14 years is the standard life expectancy, but with any breed, it varies depending on the dog's lifestyle, health, and genetics.
6. Good with strangers
Cockers are friendly, happy dogs and often happy to approach and interact with strange people. While they will bond closely with their family, most Cockers are perfectly happy to accept a butt scratch or head rub from someone they've not met before.
One of the great joys of owning a Cocker Spaniel is how playful they are. Whether it's with their people, other dogs, toys, or even sticks they find on a walk, Cockers can turn pretty much anything into a game. They are pretty high energy, so prepare to be active in order to keep your pooch properly entertained.
8. Cheerful "merry" dogs
The American Kennel Club describes the Cocker Spaniel as "merry and frolicsome" - which we think is right on the money. A constantly wagging tail, a big smile, and cheerful personality make Cocker Spaniels special dogs who will be able to make you smile even on the dullest of days.
While they may look a bit dopey, Cockers are extremely smart and feature in the smartest dog breeds around. They have high adaptive intelligence, meaning they are easily trained for a variety of tasks and quick to pick up new information.
10. Wagging tails
If your Cocker Spaniel's tail isn't wagging it's probably because they are asleep (and even then they may wag in a dream). If you've always dreamed of a happy little companion with a tail that never quite photographs as much more than a blur, a Cocker Spaniel may be the dog for you.
11. Spaniel are... Spanish?
While the breed has been developed mostly in the UK and America, spaniels are said to have originated in Spain, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The word "Spaniel" may have come from the Old French word espaigneul, which meant Spanish dog.
12. Good with other dogs
While some breeds are best as only dogs, Cocker Spaniels are sociable and friendly, making them suitable dogs to have as part of a pair or trio (or more, we won't judge). While it is often down to the individual dogs, the easygoing temperament of the Cocker Spaniel makes them good with their canine friends and strange dogs alike.
We have to talk about Cocker Spaniel eyelashes. While not every dog will have the amazing, Disney Princess-style sweeping lashes that you sometimes see, Cockers tend to have long luscious lashes that add to their soft, sweet looks.
Due to their high levels of intelligence, Cocker Spaniels are wonderfully trainable. If you find the right motivation (food, toys, or praise) your Spaniel is likely to astonish you with how quickly they pick up new commands and remember complex routines.
15. Double coat
Cocker Spaniels have something called a double coat. While this means they do shed year-round (get yourself a good vacuum cleaner), their overall shedding levels are moderate. They will need regular grooming and it's best to brush them every day to prevent their long silky coats from getting matted or tangled.
If you're a fan of hiking, the Cocker Spaniel might surprise you with how easily they can keep up with you. Despite their small size, Cockers are high-energy dogs who can keep their pace up for miles due to their origins as sporting dogs. Traditionally, a working Cocker would spend all day out with their master tracking and retrieving game, so they tend to have pretty big reserves of energy.
Is there anything the Cocker Spaniel can't do? Originally bred as a sporting dog, the Cocker Spaniel is a great all-rounder, able to retrieve game from water, land, and thick brush. While you might not be a fan of hunting, these skills can be honed in your Spaniel with a simple ball or frisbee.
18. Cancer detection
Now this one truly does make the Cocker Spaniel special. The first cancer-detecting dog was a Cocker named Tangle (what a great name!) A 2004 study had dogs sniffing samples to see if they could identify which samples contained cancer. Tangle started out with a 56% success rate for identifying cancer, which increased to 80% as he gained experience.
19. Crufts success
The English Cocker Spaniel is the most successful breed ever at the dog show Crufts, with Cockers winning the title "Best in Show" seven times since the prize's beginning in 1928. Best in Show is awarded to the dog that best adheres to their breed standards, as opposed to comparing them to other competing dogs.
No matter their environment, Cockers somehow seem to thrive, which is why so many are employed by the police force and airport security staff. Once your Cocker has figured out what he is supposed to do, he will easily complete tasks that are asked of him even if they have a high level of complexity.
21. They aren't slobbery
While some people enjoy a dribbly dog, we tend to find the permanent strings of drool hanging from some breeds' mouths a bit of a turn-off. Thankfully, Cockers aren't big on drool and won't leave puddles about the house (although their favorite chew toy might get a bit damp).
22. Medium shedding
While their double coats are fairly high maintenance, you'll find that Cockers don't shed nearly as much as other breeds. If you keep on top of their grooming and brush them often, you'll find that you can catch most of their loose hair before it falls and collects in a corner somewhere.
23. Smallest sporting dog
Sporting dog breeds include the Golden Retriever and German Pointer, so you may expect all sporting dogs to be of a similar large size, but not so! The Cocker Spaniel may be small, but they are great sporting dogs and strong swimmers, and their compact size makes it possible for them to squeeze into smaller spaces than other breeds.
24. Eager to please
Some dogs can be stubborn, grumpy, and even seem rude, but not the Cocker Spaniel. These clever little pooches are really keen to please their owners, especially if there's something in it for them (like a dog biscuit). Praise goes a long way with Cockers, so make sure to let your fluffy pal know when they're doing a good job.
25. They came to America on the Mayflower
Well, maybe. There were two dogs aboard the Mayflower, a colonial ship that transported some of the first English families to settle in America, and one of them was some sort of Spaniel. Seeing as the Mayflower landed in 1620, it's possible that the Spaniel on board may have been an ancestor of the modern Cocker Spaniel, although nobody can say for certain.
26. They're bird dogs
The name "Cocker" comes from the bird that Cocker Spaniels were bred to hunt and retrieve, the Woodcock. These chunky wading birds live across the world, with many in Europe and America, and dwell mainly in heathland or woodland, coming out mostly at night.
27. Two breeds of Cocker Spaniel
There are two breeds of Cocker Spaniel with slightly different classifications. The English Cocker Spaniel has a wide, flat head and tends to be a bit bigger and heavier than the American Cocker. The American Cocker tends to have smaller ears and a slightly shorter live expectancy than the English Cocker (10-14 years vs 12-15 years).
28. Show vs working Cockers
There are also two lines of English Cocker Spaniel, bred with two different jobs in mind. The working Cocker is a dog that is still prized for its ability to retrieve, and track, and for its stamina. The show line Cocker Spaniel, in contrast, is smaller and bred more for appearance and strict adherence to the breed's showing standards.
29. Favored by Royalty
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have had several Cocker Spaniels. Their current Cocker is a black dog called Orla, whose predecessor passed away in 2020. He was called Lupo and was another black cocker born in 2011.
Something most dog owner wants is affection, and the Cocker has this in abundance. These are some of the most affectionate dog breeds and they want nothing more than to cuddle up on a sofa in their down time and can be prone to separation anxiety because they love their humans so much. If you are considering getting a Cocker, it's well worth reading up on how to reduce separation anxiety in dogs.
31. A Disney Princess
Well, kind of. Lady, from Disney's 1955 animation, Lady and the Tramp, was a Cocker Spaniel. If you watch the movie with this in mind, you'll notice Lady's long ears, bouncy, silky coat, and domed head that marks her out as a Cocker.
32. Good with kids
Cockers are great with kids. Their affectionate, loving nature makes them great companions for children as well as adults and their playfulness means they will be able to keep younger members of the family entertained for hours.
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Lou is an experienced writer and keen dog lover who works at PetRadar's sister site, LiveScience. When Lou isn't covering health and fitness, she's busy spending time with her family dogs or growing all kinds of veggies and flowers on her allotment.