Playful, intelligent, adorable: the American Cocker Spaniel is the epitome of a family dog. Before adopting a new family member, however, potential owners should investigate the breed's specific characteristics in order to find the perfect faithful friend.
American Cocker Spaniel History
Originally bred in Europe to hunt woodcock, the "cocker" is now a popular family pet. There are two distinct types of cocker spaniel - English and American. While both varieties originated from the same background, they are recognized as different breeds. The primary differences are physical: the American cocker has a shorter snout, longer neck, more luxurious coat, and is a slightly taller animal with a shorter back.
Every dog breed has distinct characteristics used to judge its perfection in dog shows. While most families are not concerned with the finer points of dog showmanship, knowing specific traits precludes adopting a mixed-breed or inferior animal that unscrupulous sellers attempt to pass off as pure-bred.
American cockers come in three basic colors: solid black, any-solid-color-other-than-black (ASCOB), and multicolored or patchy. The cocker's medium length coat is slightly wavy, requiring daily brushing and occasional professional grooming. A properly proportioned cocker has a balanced appearance, with a rounded skull; arched neck; compact, sloping body; large, round feet; and a docked tail. A healthy adult cocker weighs 18-28 pounds, depending on the dog's height and gender.
Cockers are lively, friendly dogs that develop a fierce loyalty to their owners. They are merry companions, and should be exercised frequently. Their keen intelligence invites games and tricks, and cockers will eagerly play fetching or chasing games and can excel in agility and tracking competitions. Cockers are excellent swimmers, and families should be cautious around unfamiliar bodies of water because cockers are quick to notice floating objects and may plunge in to retrieve them without encouragement.
American Cocker Spaniels are generally healthy, but they are prone to several disorders.
- Closed Tear Ducts: If your pet is tearing a lot, the ducts may need to be opened by a veterinarian.
- Conjunctivitis: Pink tissue lining the inner surface of the eyelids may become inflamed, particularly if the dog enjoys digging.
- Disk Herniations: Because of the dog's athleticism, the back must be very flexible and could be susceptible to herniated disks.
- Ear Problems: Cockers may experience a variety of problems with their long, pendulous ears. Proper cleaning and trimming helps minimize these problems.
The best way to keep your American Cocker Spaniel healthy is through regular veterinarian visits, vaccinations, and home tooth and ear care. If the dog starts to behave abnormally or exhibits symptoms of discomfort or pain, consult your veterinarian.
Choosing Your American Cocker Spaniel
Because of the cocker's popularity, unscrupulous breeders indiscriminately breed them with little regard for inherent health or temperament problems. In order to choose the best pet, always examine the puppies interacting with one another, their parents, and the people in their lives. It is important that cocker spaniel puppies be socialized from a young age: they enjoy companionship and camaraderie and will be happiest around familiar people. Of course, always examine puppies for obvious health problems and ask about their health history before selecting a new family member.
Bringing Your Cocker Spaniel Home
American Cocker Spaniels are curious, active dogs, and before bringing them home you should make certain it is safe for them by removing possible choking hazards and blocking unsafe areas. Be sure you have the proper pet accessories, including:
- Collar: the fit should be secure but not tight with the license firmly attached.
- Food and water dishes: clean and solid, but not too high or the puppy will not reach them comfortably.
- Crate: medium or large-sized crates provide a secure, safe place for sleep, help with housebreaking, and are essential for travel.
- Grooming supplies: brushes, clippers, shampoo, toothpaste, and a dog toothbrush are necessary to keep your cocker looking its best.
- Toys: cockers' curiosity and energy demand plenty of playtime, and rope bones, chew toys, and appropriately-sized balls are perfect toys. Beware of small toys that could be swallowed.
American Cocker Spaniels are among the most popular dog breeds for family pets in the United States today. Intelligent, loyal, playful, and energetic, cockers are excellent pets for children and will grow with them into faithful friends making many happy memories. For the first few days of your new cocker's homecoming, be sure to provide plenty of attention and affection. This bonding insures a happy, loyal pet for many years.