Cocker spaniels come in a wide variety of coat colors and markings. While all the colors and markings can help create a Cocker spaniel with a beautiful look, not all the possible combinations are accepted in competition. In this article, we'll take a look at all the colors and markings accepted by the AKC in competition and how you can ensure that you choose a puppy that will be within these guidelines.
Coat colors are separated into three distinct varieties: Black, ASCOB or Any Solid Color Other than Black, and Parti-Color. Black is pretty self explanatory - the black should be jet black without any brown or liver shading. While a little white on the throat or chest is allowed, it shouldn't appear anywhere else on the coat. Tan points are also permissible; we'll talk about tan points a little later in the article.
Any Solid Color Other than Black can range from light cream to dark red, including brown and brown with tan points. The coat should be uniform in color all over the coat, although a slightly lighter shade in the feathering, or the longer coat found on the ears, chest, abdomen and legs, is permissible. Again, a little white on the chest or throat is allowed but not anywhere else.
Parti-Colors are coats that consist of two or more solid colors that are clearly well broken in pattern. One of the colors must be white, so the coat may be black and white, red and white (where "red" can range from light cream to dark red), brown and white, and roans, and tan points are also permissible with any combination. Also, the primary color can not consist of 90% or more of the coat.
Tan points, much like the "red," can be anywhere from light cream to dark red, and can only occur in less than ten percent of the whole coat. Tan points should occur on a spot over each eye, on the sides of the muzzle and on the cheeks, under the ears, on the feet and/or legs, and under the tail. Tan points on the chest are optional and won't be disqualified whether they are there or not.
Two coat colors have been banned from showing in conformation competition in the United States. Sable colored coats can still be shown in Canada but have been barred by the American Spaniel Club. Merle is also banned as many believe that this coat is only the result of crossing Cockers with other breeds. The AKC will not register Cockers with Merle coats and they are not recognized by the American Spaniel Club.
So how can you be sure you're getting a Cocker spaniel puppy that fits within these guidelines? First, it is high recommended to avoid pet stores. Because the Cocker spaniel has traditionally been a very popular breed in high demand, some pet stores have relied on "puppy mills" that breed dogs with little regard to their health, never mind their coat color. It is always best to purchase a Cocker spaniel from a reputable breeder than can provide health certificates. In order to further assure that Cocker puppies will have acceptable coat colors and markings, many breeders recommend breeding like varieties, that is to say, solids with solids and parti-colors with parti-colors. Breeding a solid with a parti-color may result in a Cocker that has tan points or white markings that fall outside the guidelines.