The cocker spaniel is one of those dogs that has an extremely appealing expression. They have a balanced, intelligent, and alert face that could melt anyone’s heart. They posess a somewhat broad skull that tends to be flatter between their ears then the Spinger Spaniel. And a clean, strong muzzle. All Cocker’s have a neat, black nose (subject to some variation for those with lighter coats) that is almost constantly seeking out interesting smells. Their well-developed nostrils are a key trait that makes them such efficient sniffer dogs. To pair with their ‘sniffer dog traits’, their ears also play a key part! For a smaller to medium dog, the Cocker can have impressive ears. They’re fairly long, hanging an inch or two below the jowls and are covered in stunning wavy fur. Be wary that as beautiful as they are, they will need regular grooming to prevent the fur becoming matted and uncomfortable.
They’re a commonly working dogs so they have a sense of uniformity about their build. Their overall appearance is one of sturdiness and agility. A healthy working male can reach 40 cms and weigh around 12kg, a bitch can reach 38 cm and again, 11-12kg is healthy for them on a busy exercise schedule. They have a strong neck that should be long enough that they can sniff the floor with ease. Again, this is a working trait, making them efficient at following a scent trail and picking up pheasants on a shoot for example. The chest should be deep without obstructing their gait. When sat or standing to attention, they should have a proud, elegant look about them. Due to the working nature of these spaniels, their forelegs are straight and strong paired with muscular hindlegs. Their side profile should show a very slight slope from the shoulders to the hindquarters, ending with either a docked or natural tail. Docking is again, a working trait. It prevents injury when the dogs are out in the field or various other environments. It will heavily depend on the breeder you get a spaniel from whether or not the tail will be docked as its typically done within the first week of a puppies life. The last thing to mention is their feet! So, they’re compact and firm with slight webbing between the toes!
Now, Cockers can come in a variety of colours but first we’ll explore the type of coat they have. First off, they actually have hair rather than fur, meaning they will need bi-weekly grooming at home. Their head is where the hair is the softest, its fine and feathered. Some Cocker’s even develop a bit of a mullet as they hair on the very top of their head can grow to an impressive length if you let it! Across their body they have a top and bottom coat. The bottom coat is insulating and thick, its there to protect them from losing body heat in the water. And their top coat is silky and impressive. Around their ears, chest, abdomen, legs and feet, if you let it, the top coat will be feathered and can lighten in colour.
As stated in the ‘breed standard’, there are numerous colours and combinations that can occur with cocker spaniel. The solid colours can be black, red, golden and liver, no white is permitted unless it’s a flash across the chest. Moving on from that, its common to have a cocker with bicoloured coat, the most common being; black and tan, liver and tan, black and white, orange and white, liver and white and lemon and white! They even go so far as to having tricolours too! Black, white and tan or liver, white and tan!
So, let’s recap! A Cocker spaniel is a sturdy, appealing pup with a coat that is the envy of all other breeds! They’ve evolved to be reliable working dogs and have the physical traits to excel in numerous jobs. They’re built for working but they also have an extremely pleasing aesthetic. Their coat can be something you can take pride in, if you‘re willing to give the time to maintain it. If you’re happy to have the ‘unkempt’ look, you will be able to maintain it with a weekly brush and the odd trim so don’t be too daunted.
It is important to remember that educating yourself on why a dog looks the way it does can be a good indication of the type of pet you’ll receive. Sometimes being ‘cute’ isn’t always the best reason to settle on a breed!