American Cocker Spaniel-Breed and Health Information you must know

The Cocker spaniel we know has two different variants- the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel. Our today’s article is all about the American Cocker Spaniel, the smallest member of the sporting group. It has more streamlined looks than the English one and earned its reputation as a breed in the 19th century. 

Theories conclude that this dog arrived in America with the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower, back in 1620. With time, settlers decided to bring in more of this breed to exploit the country’s wilderness. They even started using them to avail quail and woodcock. 

How to distinguish American Cocker Spaniel?

All was well until the late 1940s when it became very difficult to identify the two. People thus separated them in 1945 and gave them different breed standards. Nowadays, the American Cocker Spaniel is among America’s most popular breeds.

Residents of the USA know them to be just ‘Cocker Spaniel’. However, in order to differentiate them from the English Cocker Spaniel, people outside the USA call them the ‘American Cocker Spaniel’.

HeightThe height of a male Cocker Spaniel dog breed is 14.5-15.5 inches.The height of a female Cocker Spaniel dog breed is 13.5-14.5 inches.
WeightThe weight of a male Cocker Spaniel dog breed is 25-30 pounds. The weight of a female Cocker Spaniel dog breed is 20-25 pounds.
Coat TypeThe American Cocker Spaniel has long silky and wavy coats. Their dense furs are medium-long in length and are double-coated. 
SheddingThe American Cocker Spaniel sheds moderately to little. However, they shed heavily twice a year, during autumn and spring. 
Coat ColourThe American Cocker Spaniel dog breed has 9 standard colours. These are:BrindleSableBuff & WhiteBlueSilverBlack, Black White & Tan, Black & WhiteBrown, Brown White & Tan, Brown & WhiteRed
Coat PatternThey come in two different patterns namely:Ticking pattern: This coat pattern consists of white flecks in the fur of the breed.Open marked pattern: Here, the breed is completely free of ticking patterns and is white in colour. 
Eye colourThe Cocker Spaniel has dark-brown coloured eyes that are slightly almond-shaped. 
Life ExpectancyThe average lifespan of a Cocker Spaniel is 10-14 years.
PriceUSA: $800-$2000United Kingdom: £1,400-£ 3,500India: ₹20,000-₹25,000
Bite Force200-400 PSI
SpeedThese dogs run at a speed of 24 miles per hour. 

General Characteristics of the American Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed

Their name ‘cocker’ serves the breed’s original purpose of hunting woodcock. Although they were active members of the field, people these days mostly present them in dog shows and as companion dogs. This gun dog can also be used equally for both fetch and point games.

However, a significant difference between the ACS and the ECS is that the Americans have shorter backs, doomed heads and are smaller while the English ones are much more taller and have narrowed chests and heads.  

Identifying an American Cocker Spaniel
  1. Build up: These dogs have sturdy bodies and are cleanly chiselled. It is mostly straight with a top line that slopes towards the moderately bent muscular quarters. Such a body structure helps the breed with considerable speed combined with great endurance.  The distance between the breast bone and the back of the thigh is more compared to the distance between the highest point of the withers and the ground.
  2. Head: The American Cocker Spaniel has a well-proportioned head. Their skull is round but not exaggerated much. But again, there is not much flatness either. The eyebrows are well-pronounced and have a defined top. 
  3. Face: The breed has an alert, yet soft and appealing expression. The bone underneath the eyes is well chiselled and does not have any prominence in the cheeks. Their lips are sufficient to cover their lower jaw. The colour of the nose can be both brown and black depending on the coat colour. Also, the nostrils are well-developed. 
  4. Muzzle: They have a broad and deep muzzle along with square jaws.  The length between the top of the head and the tip of the nose is half the length between the top and the base of the skull. 
  5. Eyes: The breed has slight almond-shaped eyes. Its eyeballs look straight and are full and round. The colours vary from dark to darker shaded of brown.
  6. Ears: Their ears are lobular and are fully feathered. The position of their ears is situated on the same line as the lower part of the eye.
  7. Tail: They have a docked tail that is set high and is carried with the top line of the back. The reason for having docked tails was to prevent them from getting stuck in the brush while grooming.
  8. Forequarters: The front legs of the breed are straight and form an angle of 90 degrees approximately. Their shoulders also have a clean cut. The forequarters are strong-boned, muscular and parallel to each other.  
  9. Hindquarters: The hips of the hindquarters are round and muscular. When looked at from behind, they also appear parallel to each other. Their posture is erect and strong while standing. 
  10. Markings: Mostly these markings differ for different coat colours. For example, dogs with solid coat colours have a small amount of white on their chest. 

Temperament and Personality of the American Cocker Spaniel breed

American Cocker Spaniel temperament and personality
  • Known as ‘Merry Cocker’, these dogs have a friendly temperament and are happy to comply. As an easy-going breed, they work with consistency and patience.
  • As intelligent breeds, they can be trained very easily.  However, owners must realise that harsh training is not the key to a merry dog. Applying harshness while training them can make them rough and ill-mannered.  As owners, you must be very patient while training your ACS.
  • These dogs adapt easily to different surroundings, irrespective of town or country. They are also known for having a wonderful personality along with a mischievous mind of their own. 
  • They require companionship. Staying alone for long periods can cause anxiety in them. Besides this, they also have a protective instinct. ‘If he sensed I was in danger he protected me’ confessed the owner.
  • Unfortunately, they are not good with small children. As a hunter breed owner, it is better not to pet a hamster or a guinea pig while you own an American Cocker Spaniel. ‘However, they would never bite someone, even when provoked’. But with early socialisation at a young age they can be good with children, dogs and other pets.

Health issues of the American Cocker Spaniel breed

The American Cocker Spaniel is accustomed mostly to heart problems. Some unlucky dogs under this breed are also affected with hereditary issues. The most common problems of this breed are:

1. Heart problem:

Problems related to the heart like Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a life-threatening issue for the breed. In this case, the heart starts to enlarge, making the skin thin and weak. As a result, the organ is unable to pump blood into the other body parts. 


  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Coughing
  • Weakness
  • Fainting 

2. Luxating patella:

This involves the dislocation of the kneecap. In the worst-case scenario, dogs may have to be taken for surgery. If not taken care of, this may lead to hindrance in their running around or jumping in future.


  • Changes in walking
  • Leg stiffness
  • Hopping around

3. Hip dysplasia:

In this disease, a malformed ball and socket appear in the hip joint. Once the dog reaches nearly five months, it has to face a painful inflammation in the joint. Sometimes, the damage can also become permanent. 


  • Lack of activity
  • Lameness in the hind leg
  • Difficulty in walking or jumping
  • Loss of thigh muscle mass

Besides these, the canine also has chances of undergoing hereditary problems. These include:

4. Eye problems:

The PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) is a hereditary disease caused in the breed that can result in blindness. Other eye diseases like glaucoma and cataracts can also cause permanent damage to the breed. 


  • A cloudy appearance on the eyes
  • Showing signs of anxiety or hesitation
  • Bumping into objects
  • Red and puffy eyes

5. Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD):

Usually, the ACSs have the heredity of being affected by this disease. It is a bleeding disorder caused by a lack of von Willebrand factor (vWF) which is essential in the blood clotting process. 


  • Traces of blood in the stool
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bruising if the skin
  • Excessive bleeding after a surgery

Grooming an American Cocker Spaniel

  • For dogs with long coats, the ACS requires a proper amount of bathing, trimming and grooming. Brush them twice a week to keep their coat tangle-free. However, if they stay outside for longer hours, more grooming is required.
  • Use a toenail trimmer to clip off its nails when they grow big. You can start slowly by trimming most of their nails in one sitting.
  • ACS are prone to ear problems. Thus, their ears must also be kept clean. Trim all the excess hair in the ear canals. You can even use tweezers to remove the leftover loose hair. Use a cotton ball, dipped in the ear-cleaning solution to wipe the ears.
  • The eyes of the breed should also be free of discharge. Clean the eye corners with a damp cloth to prevent tear stains.
  • About 85% of the breed population is affected by dental problems. As owners, you can prevent this by brushing their teeth once a week. This will prevent the tartar build-up and avoid other gum-related diseases.

Training and Exercising the American Cocker Spaniel breed

  • American Cocker Spaniels are gentle trainers. However, owners must deal with them in a strict but gentle admonition. ‘Cockers are very sensitive dogs so they need a home that is stable and relaxed.
  • You can start by making the training process fun for your dog. This way, it will enjoy the day’s workout and also develop a strong bond with you. The dog will even learn the training faster and better.
  • These dogs should also be given proper obedience training for they are dominant. Set up a small crate for housetraining. Some may consider crate training to be a cruel process, but actually, this is the first step to a well-mannered dog.
  • As hunting dogs, they require regular exercise. It is a wrong intuition for owners to think that saving the energy of the dog is good for children at home. Rather, working out will help the breed release all the pent up energy.
  • Some owners may not have sufficient space for their dog’s training. In such cases, you may take them out on walks so that they can sniff and roam around freely.
  • ACS are keen swimmers and love to spend their time in water. This is a good form of exercise for their joints and bones and building muscles.
  • Cocker spaniel ranks 20th in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, that proves good working or Obedience Intelligence. You can also involve them in various mental games as well.

Feeding an American Cocker Spaniel

  • Just like humans, dogs are also unable to receive all the nutrients from one pet food. Thus, they require a variety of food for their proper diet. ‘Owners must give them food, two times a day.
  • Look for foods that are rich in proteins. This provides amino acids to the dog and helps to keep its bones and muscles strong.
  • Whole vegetables and unprocessed whole grains are also good for the health of the breed. Veggies like carrots, potatoes and peas give roughage and boost many bodily functions.
  • A certain amount of fat is also necessary for the breed. For such energetic breeds, this acts as a source of heat and energy.
  • Few food materials are not good for the dog. Therefore, they should be avoided at all costs. Such things include Unknown Fat Sources, Protein By-Products, Crude Protein, Powdered Cellulose, Artificial flavours and colours and Artificial Sweeteners & Sugar.

Living with a Cocker Spaniel

Living with an American Cocker Spaniel
  • The American Cocker Spaniel is a highly adaptive dog provided it gets a big space to play. This makes it a perfect residence for families. However, compared to other dog breeds, the ACS might require more attention. 
  • Also, they are not ideal pets for small children. But, they might enjoy staying with young children. They make great family pets and best with family members with active owners. 
  • Before bringing them home, make sure you have attended to all the needs of the breed-the bowl, the crate, a sleeping space. For long walks, you will need to buy a leash that is not too hard on them.
  • They must also be taken to the vet at regular intervals for vaccinations and check-ups. Make sure you have microchipped your dog and have also provided it with a collar. 


The unique appearance of the American Cocker Spaniel has led it to win several dog shows. At the Westminster Dog Show, the breed won the award for ‘Best-in-Breed’ on four occasions after its first award in 1907.  

American Cocker Spaniel in Lady and the Tramp animated movie

Besides this, the breed is also popular among reputed actors like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They are even portrayed in one of Disney’s animated films in 1955, known as ‘Lady and the Tramp’. 


Q. Can an American Cocker Spaniel swim?

The American Cocker spaniel dog breed are great swimmers once they get acquainted with water. It is better not to force them to do something because these dogs prefer doing things their own way.

Q. Do the American Cocker spaniel bark a lot?

These dogs are very vocal and develop a habit of barking especially at strangers. Sometimes this behaviour is difficult to eradicate because of its self-rewarding nature.

Q. Does the breed like to cuddle?

The American cocker spaniel enjoys the company of people and likes to lie down on the lap of its human owner.

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