Margaret's Pride

english cocker spaniel

About the race

The breed standard ilustrated - taken from:

*''Cocker Spaniel'' ( English ) - by George Caddy

1. Stop 2. Eye 3. Eyebrow 4. Occipital crest (occiput) 5. Nape 6. Neck 7. Withers 8. Shoulders 9. Chest 10. Back 11. Last rib 12. Loin 13. Croup 14. Tail 15. Thigh 16. Leg 17. Hock (tarsus) 18. Rear pastern (metatarsus) 19. Hind foot 20. Stifle joint 21. Tuck up 22. Flank 23. Forefoot 24. Pastern (metacarpus) 25. Carpus 26. Foreleg 27. Point of elbow 28. Upper Forearm 29. Forechest 30. Ear 31. Throat 32. Lipfold 33. Lips 34. Muzzle 35. Nose



The Cocker Spaniel is by far the most popular of the spaniel breeds. The size and biddable temperament of Cockers make them eminently suitable for most homes. The breed is adaptable to many environments and climatic changes in weather from Iceland to India. Cockers are well used as a gundog, being originally bred to work with man to flush, quarter and retrieve small gamebirds or rabbits in the thickest of brush, bramble and woodlands.

The origins of the spaniel go back through the centuries, as there are paintings from the middle ages depicting small spaniels and in writings back to the 12th century. In the middle of the 19th century when dog shows began there appeared a division in size. Those over 25 Ibs were called Field Spaniels and those under, Cocker Spaniels. In about 1890 the Kennel Club officially recognised the different breeds of Spaniels of which nowadays there are eight: America Cocker, Clumber, Cocker, English Springer, Field, Irish Water, Sussex and Welsh Springer Spaniels.

Before choosing a Cocker as a breed for you, it is necessary to make sure you' have the time and patience to train a puppy (this, of course, applies to any breed). It is not recommended nor will most reputable breeders let you have a puppy if it will be left for hours on end or if you work full time, as any puppy becomes very bored and will find all sorts of mischief to occupy its time. Cockers need human companionship and a prospective owner must be prepared to devote a good deal of time to the puppy. Also a most important point is that the whole family should be in agreement regarding owning a dog, particularly "Mum" as much of the initial work of training and feeding falls to her during the daytime.

Possibly two of the most important points when considering owning a Cocker are the need for regular grooming and exercise. Regarding grooming, if the feathering becomes badly matted the only solution is to clip it all off and start again, this does not look attractive but is necessary. If an owner is not prepared to spend some time, 2-3 times a week on combing and grooming then a Cocker isn't the breed for them! Most'reputable Breeders will give help and instruct a prospective buyer on the correct tools to buy and help them find a professional groomer to trim, or indeed instruct them how to trim the pup themselves when it is old enough. This is approx. 6-7 months depending on when the puppy coat starts to come out. At this time the puppy should be very regularly combed to remove the dead coat. Most puppies will take sufficient exercise in the house and garden but as adults they need regular walks and some free exercise in a park or other open space.

Cockers come in a very wide range of colours, probably the most common ones seen are golden, black and blue roan (grey mottled, giving a blue appearance). However, there are many other lesser seen colours from orange/white, orange roan, chocolate roan, black/white, tri-colours, black and tan to the most unusual liver roan and tan. Even blue roans can be seen as almost black down through medium blues to the lightest silvery blue in colour.

As with most breeds, Cockers have their share of hereditary problems, the most significant being Familial Nephropathy (FN) which is a kidney disease affecting young stock and is always fatal. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) causes blindness at a young age but can appear in older dogs and has affected several breeds. Since the Cocker Spaniel Club has printed lists of carrier dogs and bitches of FN and lists of dogs and bitches diagnosed as being afflicted with PRA, they have been withdrawn from breeding programmes and the problems have been greatly reduced. Uncharacteristic temperament also causes a slight problem although sometimes this can be environmental. It is important, therefore, to purchase your puppy from a recognised and reputable Cocker specialist whose stock has been carefully bred to avoid these conditions, where possible, and have their breeding stock regularly tested for PRA. The essential points of the Kennel Club standard for Cockers are of a merry, -sturdy, sporting dog with an ever-wagging tail, hence their description "The Merry Cocker," good bone, big ribs, with a strong, compact body, well-rounded quarters, catlike feet. The head should be balanced with an expression of intelligence, gentleness and full of life. Size approximately 15-5'A" (bitches) -15'/2-16" (dogs); weight 28-32 Ibs. For the full descriptive standard consult the Kennel Club.

If you decide that a Cocker is the breed for you, the next step is to find a reputable breeder. Never be in a hurry to buy the first one you see, contact a few breeders - chat to them, see their dogs and both parents where possible, certainly the mother. Never take a puppy unless you are entirely happy, as a Cocker's life span on average is between 10-14 years and it's a long time to regret an impulsive purchase. Make sure the puppy has been wormed, that both parents hold current eye certificates (PRA) and that there are no known hereditary defects. The puppy should look well and happy, bright eyed and have a glossy coat. A trip to the Vet for a preliminary check up is a good idea, taking the opportunity to consult him over inoculations. There are many good publications featuring Cockers; visit the local library or bookshop, as this leaflet only gives the brief outlines of owning a Cocker Spaniel. Should you decide to own a Cocker, be firm, loving and enjoy the experience BUT remember NEVER,NEVER, let a Cocker get away with something at 8 weeks that you would not want it to do at 8 months.

Finally, when purchasing a Kennel Club registered puppy, you should be given a signed copy of the pedigree, a diet sheet and its K.C. certificate of registration to enable you to transfer the pup into your name at the Kennel Club.



One of the charms of the Cocker Spaniel is its beautiful soft silky coat and feathering and yet at the age of 6 months or so many can look very shaggy, often compared to a baby Afghan. It is at this age that considerable work needs to be carried out to achieve that lovely silky look we all admire. Successful grooming starts when you purchase your puppy even though there is little coat to brush, going through the motions of standing still on the table, being handled, having ears, eyes and teeth inspected all lead to a well behaved dog who is prepared for the longer stripping and grooming sessions that are to come.

Do not allow your puppy's coat to become knotted. Use your brush and comb in the correct manner, always grooming with the lay of the coat and as flat as possible, hold the hair where there are tangles so as not to pull the skin, you will find it can be an enjoyable experience for you both. Leaving the coat to knot and then trying to comb the dog will only hurt, this can cause resentment and problems with trimming in the future.
Basic grooming equipment contains a 'Slicker' brush which is flat with fine V shaped short metal pins, being shaped this way it will not scratch the dogs skin but will aid grooming if the dog is brushed all over before the comb is used and again after to remove stray hairs.

A fine close toothed metal comb with a handle should be used on the body. 10 minutes thorough grooming with this every day especially when the puppy coat is loosening or during a moult will go a long way to promoting the lovely shiny coat we are looking for. A wider toothed larger comb is necessary for grooming the ears, leg and tummy feathers with particular attention being paid under the ears, arm pits and between the back legs.
Bathing is only necessary when the dog is really dirty, the oils in the coat help to keep it sleek and waterproof making grooming easier. Always use a shampoo made especially for dogs and using a conditioner afterwards will give that extra sparkle, don't rub the coat too hard but squeeze and pat with a towel to absorb excess water then comb him all through with the wide toothed comb while still wet. Go with the lay of the coat when using a blow dryer and here the slicker brush is excellent for keeping the coat flat against the body.

Many breeders like to see the puppies again at about 6 months and will give a puppy trim, this is usually trimming the feet, under the tail and around the head, ears and throat(If it is a show dog the head and ears would be 'plucked' that is pulling the dead hair out with the finger and thumb, i.e. taking a small amount at a time pulling it flat against the body, this can only be done when the coat is ready to shed, forcing it will break the hair and can lead to premature greying over a period. This same process is used to strip the dead hair from the whole of the body coat as the puppy grows up, feet are trimmed with straight scissors under the pads, then placed down and cut around, the excess hair on top of the foot can be removed with a pair of serrated or thinning scissors this gives a smoother look) If you are not prepared to hand strip the coat the thinning scissors can be used, this will give a quicker result but will need to be done more frequently.
Thinning scissors are also used to 'lighten' the thick hair on and under the ears, down the chest, the front and back of the legs, under and around the tail. The scissors should be pushed well into the coat always in the same direction as the lay of the hair. Taking a few cuts then using the wide comb to remove the surplus, this can seem a long task but is much better than 'cropping' with straight scissors, when cropped the dogs coat although short at first will grow very close and thick with a rather spiked appearance making it difficult for the comb to penetrate the coat fully.
When combing always check and clean the ears keeping the hair short round the opening, this allows the air to circulate, such attention will save many a vets bill in the future. Nails should be kept short and a regular inspection for fleas and mites which can be easily picked up in the fields is a must, particularly in the summer months.

Many owners though happy to groom their dogs would prefer someone else to trim them, many breeders offer this service and if not can often recommend someone so don't be afraid to ask. Often dog beauty parlours will clip the coat of a Cocker so please check or you may be disappointed if your pet comes home like a shorn lamb. Clipping done properly can look attractive if the feathers are left on and neatly thinned out especially the ears but this needs to be done more often, about every 8 weeks to keep a neat and tidy dog. Should the coat become matted and overgrown the only option is to clip the dog close all over.

It is worth noting that the coat of a Cocker Spaniel alters when it is neutered, it will no longer have a natural coat change but grows considerably thicker, losing its gloss and taking on a more fluffy appearance, this applies to both dogs and bitches, such dogs will need far more grooming to keep their coats in good order.

English Kennel Club

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