American Cocker Spaniel
The American Cocker Spaniel is the smallest breed of the sporting group. They are sturdy with a compact body, known for their silky coats. The American cocker is smaller and has a longer coat than it’s English cousin.
They have a double medium length coat with the outer coat silky and slightly wavy, while its undercoat is warm and woolly. Coat colours include black, any other solid colour apart from black, and parti-colour.
Weight: 25 – 28lbs
Average life span: 12 years
American cocker spaniels are bold and keen to work as a gundog but are also suited to become a most loyal household pet. They are cheerful, endearing, sensitive and playful making them excellent pets for families with children. American cockers are also well suited with families other dogs and other animals. They crave human attention and just love to be loved. This could be a downfall if you are thinking about owning this breed and will be at work all day, as American Cockers do not like being left alone for more than a few hours. They tend to express their unhappiness through destructive chewing and barking. If you work all day, this is not the breed for you.
American Cockers are fairly easy to train, provided the training is consistent and early. They can however be difficult to housebreak. However they are mostly easy to train and get along well with other animals. This is a very popular breed. Beware of poorly bred puppy-mill Cockers as they may have bizarre temperamental changes and behavioural problems.
American Cockers need careful daily grooming to keep their coats in good condition and tangle free. They will also need to be regularly trimmed. Their ears require careful attention as airflow is restricted and ear infections often occur.
They enjoy exercise and need regular daily walks. They enjoy swimming and retrieving, with their favourite game being fetch!
American Cocker Spaniel Health Issues
Hip dysplasia malformation of the hip joint resulting in a poor fit between the head of the femur bone and the hip socket. This condition can be alleviated by surgery, at some cost to dog and owner. Because dysplastic dogs often produce dysplastic puppies, buyers should ask if both the sire and the dam of the puppy in which they are interested have been rated clear of hip dysplasia. Do not take yes for an answer without seeing a certificate, and ask for a copy to take to your veterinarian.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): is a family of diseases all involving the gradual deterioration of the retina. It is diagnosed by a retinoscopic exam or by means of an electroretinogram (ERG). Early in the disease, affected dogs become night-blind and lack the ability to see in dim light; later on daytime vision also fails. As their vision deteriorates, affected dogs adapt to their handicap very well, as long as their environment remains constant. Certain breeds are affected early in life, whereas in other breeds, PRA develops much later in onset.
Hypothyroidism, an endocrine disease that results in the abnormally low production of thyroid hormones. The symptoms of hypothyroidism include lethargy, mental depression, weight gain and a tendency to seek out warm places. Hypothyroidism can also affect the coat and skin, causing hair loss and excessive dandruff.
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA): Cocker Spaniels have a predisposition for AIHA. In AIHA, the dog’s own immune system attacks its blood cells. Symptoms include pale complexion, fatigue, and sometimes jaundice. A swollen abdomen is also indicative due to an enlarged liver. Treatment includes the use of steroids.
Primary Seborrhea: is commonly seen in the Cocker Spaniel and is caused by overproduction of skin cells including sebaceous (oil) cells. The skin, commonly on the trunk, back and ears, appears greasy and scaly with a foul odour. Itching varies among those affected.
Tangles – Cockers love to run in long grass and fields and frequently pick up a variety of seed and bits of plant debris that can cause the coat to tangle and mat. Therefore they must be brushed frequently. Otherwise these tangles can pull the skin and cause sores that make the dog uncomfortable and may contribute to major skin problems if left untended.
Ear Infections – Long Cocker ears lend themselves well to infections, for the long ears prevent air circulation that would dry the ear and prevent moisture-loving bacteria from gaining a foothold. Cocker puppies must be taught from an early age to have their ears handled, for they will need to be groomed to remove seeds and other debris, tied back to encourage air circulation, and cleaned if infection does develop.
American Cocker Spaniel History
Despite the name, the American Cocker Spaniel is in fact originally a breed of Spanish blood. The Spanish Spaniel is considered to be the oldest of the recognized spaniels, and were bred as a hunting and retrieving breed of dog. Developed by crossing setters and spaniels, it was during the seventeen century they were divided into the water and land spaniels. From Spain the dogs were transported, traded, given away as gifts, or simply travelled with their masters to England.
In 1892 the Cocker Spaniel was recognized as a breed in England. In the late 1870’s the breed was brought to the United States and was used to hunt small birds, such as pheasant, grouse, and woodcock. The English and American Cocker Spaniel had identical histories up until around the 1930’s.
In the USA in the 1930’s the English Cocker Spaniel under went significant changes to achieve a different type of dog. The American cocker is 1 to 2 inches shorter, with a smaller head and muzzle, and a longer, silkier, more dense coat of hair. In 1936 the American Kennel Club registered the American Cocker Spaniel as a separate breed.