The American Cocker Spaniel, typically known in North America as the Cocker Spaniel, is one of the most popular pet types within the sporting dog group. This smaller sized spaniel with its dark, soulful eyes and beautiful coat has been a long time favorite in shows as well as in the field. Unlike many of the hunting types of dogs both the field lines, those trained and bred to hunt, as well as the show lines make outstanding companion pets. Both are typically very non-dog aggressive, however this does vary depending on the early socialization and ongoing training and socialization provided to the dog by the owner.
The American Cocker Spaniel has a much larger variation in size than many other breeds. This is because the early breeding programs, like with most working types of dog, focused in on actual field hunting performance and much less on physical conformity between the dogs. As such the modern American Cocker Spaniel typically weighs between about 15 and 30 pounds, however some males are slightly heavier. The average height at the shoulder is more uniform, with males at about fifteen and a half inches and females about one inch smaller.
The head of the American Cocker Spaniel is easily recognizable with the very long, pendant ears, rounded skull and the dark, well set eyes. They also have a very abrupt stop, giving the square shaped, solid and well developed muzzle a definite transition from the head. The lips are slightly loose with the upper lip hanging down over the lower jaw. The neck is moderately long and muscular, gradually blending into a moderately deep and wide chest. The body is longer than it is tall and there is a gentle downward slope to the back, also known as the topline. The tail is typically docked to just about two fifths of its length for show, although in many areas natural tails are shown as docking is prohibited. Field lines are often left with natural tails as the dog's adherence to a strict breed standard is not essential in these types of events.
Many people don't realize that the American Cocker Spaniel comes in a wide variety of colors and with several different types of markings. Most individuals are very familiar with the sandy to tan, cream or buff colored American Cocker Spaniel that is the most common. However, there are several other options as well. American Cocker Spaniels can also be black and tan, similar to a Rottweiler, or they can also be a merle color. Merle is a mixture of colors that results in a roan looking coat with darker random patches or spots. Blue merle American Cocker Spaniels can also have blue eyes, which presents a very unusual and striking looking color combination. Other color possibilities include solid blacks, browns or parti-colors. Parti-colors are most commonly the solid colors, including reds, blacks and browns, all with white markings.
While the American Cocker Spaniel may be a wonderful all round dog, they do require the same training as any other breed. Unlike many of the hunting dogs they can adjust to apartment life however routine walks, play time and lots of exercise essential to keep them from becoming destructive. Some members of the breed are also prone to weight gain if they aren't provided a lot of routine exercise. They are good watchdogs and will bark when strangers approach but they are not guard dogs by nature and really are too friendly to be considered a guard dog.
Some American Cocker Spaniel dogs have a tendency to be rather timid and shy. Early socialization is important to prevent this from becoming an issue as the dog matures. With proper socialization these smaller sized dogs are typically a great addition to any family and they absolutely love to be with children as long as they are familiar with kids. American Cocker Spaniels not raised with children may find younger kids a bit intimidating, however they are a great breed for older kids. Most American Cocker Spaniel will get along very well with house cats and other smaller pets, but like any hunting dog they will have some natural prey drive that needs to be considered.
Training American Cocker Spaniel is typically fairly easy, although as a whole the breed can be difficult to housetrain. Crate training is a great way to manage this issue and can help with scheduling to prevent accidents in the house. The American Cocker Spaniel is a breed that thrives on positive attention and is best trained using only positive training methods. Punishments or harsh treatment can cause the dog to become more timid and shy, so try to focus on training that uses a lot of reinforcement. They do best with several shorter training periods throughout the day and several repetitions of each command to achieve mastery. These repetitions can't be done all together as the dog will easily become bored of doing the same command over and over.
The American Cocker Spaniel may be easily distracted and training in a quiet area until the dog has mastered the command is an important consideration. A puppy obedience class can also help you and the dog learn to focus in on the commands and work together as a team. This breed is often difficult to work with off-leash as they do become very focused on what they are doing and may not come back easily on command without special training.
Playful and energetic the American Cocker Spaniel is also a dog that loves to cuddle and be close to their owners and family. They are not a good kennel or outdoor dog as they require human companionship to be truly content. In addition the longer, silky coat needs routine brushing and care to stay in top shape and keeping them indoors can help with routine coat care. The American Cocker Spaniel can be clipped to help keep grooming to a minimum.
The American Cocker Spaniel, for all its attention as a show and companion dog, is still a natural hunter. They are typically great at retrieving, tracking and flushing game, something that they may do very naturally.