Personality: Known as the merry Cocker, this breed is happy, playful, clever and loyal. Your Cocker’s tail can sometimes wag incessantly and although it’s inherently a gun dog, it makes the perfect companion. This breed is also very good with children. A sad Cocker is one which is not accepted as part of the family.
Suitability: Active families looking for a dog to involve in their lives. And singles who want a real companion dog. The Cocker Spaniel is happiest when around people and takes great delight in getting out and about regularly. New owners must be prepared to put time into training and also ensure the dogs coat is groomed regularly. A well-fenced backyard is ideal for this breed, although your Cocker will be happiest when indoors with you.
Favourite activities: Bred to be a gun dog, the English Cocker will excel at sports such as obedience, tracking, agility and flyball. But mostly this dog loves to be by its owners side and a good daily run or walk with its favourite person will keep it happy and content.
Backyard requirements: This breed is highly adaptable and can live on large blocks or in apartments, as long as its exercised regularly. A high-energy dog, the English Cocker needs a good daily romp to burn off its energy. It will wait patiently for you to return home from work (its a good idea to provide lots of toys so your pooch can occupy itself), but then will need lots of love and attention once you’re back.
Watchdog qualities: The English Cocker will bark if a stranger approaches the household but will settle down quickly. This breed loves people too much to be an effective watchdog.
Lady really was the consummate lady in Disney’s Lady And The Tramp. And just as the demure Cocker Spaniel lit up the life of the love-stricken Tramp, so is this breed becoming a treasured part of families the world over.
Today, The English Cocker Spaniel is an increasingly in-demand breed, considered a perfect family pet because of its wonderful disposition, its fun-loving nature and convenient size. And as any English Cocker owner will attest, take one look into the mesmerising pool-like eyes of this pooch and it will win you over for life.
I really can’t imagine life without a Cocker Spaniel, says long-time Cocker owner and breeder Betty Richter. Betty, who is secretary of the English Cocker Spaniel Club of New South Wales, got her first Cocker Spaniel an amazing 60 years ago and has not been without one since.
This is a wonderful family dog and its greatest joy is to be with its owner, she says. It is a people dog and a loving companion.
Betty does point out that although it is extremely versatile, the English Cocker Spaniel is essentially a gun-dog and, although slightly bigger than the American Cocker Spaniel, is the smallest of the gun-dog breeds.
Because of its inherent instincts as a gun dog, the Cocker Spaniel is not a lap dog. It’s basically a working dog, bred to work with the gun. However, it can be whatever you want it to be. My two Cockers are my constant companions and I couldn’t imagine my days without them.
This breed encompasses most of the attributes pet owners look for when deciding which dog to buy. It’s small enough not to get in the way, fun-loving, intelligent and adaptable. But breeders emphasise the importance of training to get the most out of your Cocker. Puppy school is highly recommended and owners say that with gentle teaching, even a puppy will soon learn its place in the home and where its allowed.
The English Cocker is adaptable and happy to live anywhere as long as its close to its family, but this breed has lots of energy and will need daily exercise to keep it stimulated. Because of its hunting history, it loves a good outing and will thrive at fetching or field work. Because of its instinctive gun-dog tendencies, the Cocker may be inclined to take off after a scent so unless your pooch is well trained to come when called, keep it on leash until you feel confident enough to let it run free.
After a good walk or run, your Cocker will love nothing more than to spend the evening inside with the family, tending to follow its owner around and offering kisses at any given opportunity. Breeders emphasise the English Cocker is not a yard dog and will be most happy if accepted as one of the family.
Although an easy dog to own, the English Cocker Spaniel will need grooming and is considered a long-haired breed. When shedding, the Cocker’s hair will not drop directly to the floor but gets caught up in the dog’s soft feathering and in its ears. If not brushed out, knots will form. Betty Richter suggests owners begin regular grooming sessions when their Cocker is still a puppy so it gets used to being groomed.
They will soon learn to love it, says Betty, because it means quality time with its owner. And its important they get to enjoy it because grooming has to be done on a regular basis with these dogs. Betty also recommends a professional clip for pet Cocker’s about twice a year.
Although English Cocker Spaniel enthusiasts will shake their heads adamantly when asked if this breed has any flaws, it does have one weakness which even die-hard Cocker lovers have to admit to these pooches love food and will over-indulge whenever possible. Owners stress that the hardest part of keeping your Cocker trim is having the strength not to give in to your pets soulful eyes and pathetic look as it watches you eat dinner. Be strong, they say, because this breed will eat far more than it should if allowed to and this can be bad for your pets health and wellbeing. Give treats, they say, but when appropriate, such as when training.
The Levitan household was changed forever when their English Cocker Spaniel, Goldie, came into their lives as a tiny eight-week-old puppy three years ago. Mum Cherrise admits she is not much of a dog person, but Goldies loyalty has won her over. She follows me all over the house and will lie at my feet when I sit down to do some work, says Cherrise. She is amazingly in touch with our emotions. According to Warren Levitan, Goldie is an amazingly intuitive dog and he says its not accurate to label Cocker Spaniels as unintelligent.
Goldie actually recognises some words and is completely in tune with what goes on in our family and how we are feeling, he says. She follows our orders perfectly and was easy to toilet train. She is a very loving dog and considers herself one of the family in fact I am convinced she thinks she is the fourth child in the household!
Warren emphasises that Goldie is particularly good with their three children. When our youngest was two years old, he used to use Goldie as a foot-stool to reach things she would just lie their and take it all, he says with a laugh.
When deciding what dog to get, Warren knew that he did not want a small dog and was drawn to the medium-sized English Cocker after having lived next door to one as a child. The Cocker Spaniel next door was such a good-natured and friendly dog and I have never forgotten it, says Warren. When it comes to medium-sized dogs, the English Cocker Spaniel is the best.
Swinging like pendulums next to their faces, Cocker ears are wonderful to look at and feel but can cause trouble for your pooch. Because of the length of the ear, air does not circulate as well as it should internally, allowing bacteria to thrive and ear infections to develop. Signs that something is amiss is if your dog shakes its head vigorously or scratches at its ears. You’ll also know something is wrong if the ear turns pink inside or has a bad odour. If this occurs, clean the ear with an ear cleaner and see your vet if the condition persists.
Regularly check your Cocker’s ears, starting this routine while your pooch is a puppy so it gets used to it from the very beginning. Wipe out once a week with a DRY cotton ball and remove any visible wax.
Place water and food in a deep, narrow bowl to prevent ears from falling in. You can also use a snood to hold the ears back while your dog is eating.
Brits vs Yanks
The English Cocker Spaniel differs from the American Cocker Spaniel mostly in physical appearance. The English Cocker has less prominent eyes and a different-shaped head from the American Cocker.
The English Cocker is heavier and slightly bigger than its American cousin and has less hair on its stomach and legs.
Both breeds are found in the same colours and breeders in both countries refer to their respective Cockers as Cocker Spaniels.
Daily: This breed needs regular grooming, some owners choosing to give the coat a quick brush once a day to avoid knots. Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water and shade if left alone. Buy your Cocker a deep narrow feeding bowl to prevent ears from falling into food and water, or use a snood. A trampoline bed, which will keep your pooch off a cold or hot floor, is a good idea. In winter, a blanket over the bed will keep your Cocker warm. Daily exercise is needed.
Weekly: Brush coat with a pin or slicker brush. Check your Cocker’s ears regularly. Wipe the ear out with a dry cotton ball and remove any visible wax. Make sure to keep moisture away from the ears.
Monthly: Check nails. Bath your Cocker once a month or when necessary.
Regular: Gastro-intestinal worming, heartworming and annual vaccinations. Unless you are showing your Cocker, its a good idea to get a professional hair clip about twice a year.
Hereditary diseases: This is a generally healthy breed, although the eye disease PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) can affect the English Cocker. Make sure you buy from a reputable and registered breeder.
New South Wales: (02) 9894 7935
Northern Territory: (08) 8984 3570
Queensland: (07) 3300 1330
South Australia: (08) 8387 4127
Victoria: (03) 9786 2772
Western Australia: (08) 9398 7857