Dog Breed of the Month - Cocker Spaniel
Cocker Spaniels are small gun dogs with a long, thick coat that needs regular grooming and clipping. They are usually between 14 – 16 inches tall. Their life span is usually between 12 – 15 years. Despite their sweet appearance these dogs were bred to hunt and so need an active lifestyle. They generally have a good temperament but usually need a decent amount of training as they can be quite head strong and skittish if left to their own devices.
Cocker Spaniels are predisposed to ear problems, due to their long, thick ears which are easy traps for parasites, foreign bodies and yeast and bacterial infections. These are usually treated with a course of antibiotics and ear drops although in some cases surgery is needed. Keeping the ears clipped short and frequently cleaned can keep any nasty infections at bay. They are also prone to PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) which can lead to blindness. Again, if you are going to a responsible breeder for your Cocker Spaniel then make sure the parents have been tested for PRA.
Be aware that there are three types of Cocker Spaniel in the UK. There is the American Cocker Spaniel which has a smaller head and body to the English Cocker. There is also a Show-bred Cocker Spaniel (these are the most common type), and the Working Cockers. Do not get a working Cocker Spaniel unless you have a very active lifestyle. They want to be on the go all the time and therefore do not make easy pets. The show-bred Cocker is more relaxed and an hours walk a day should be enough to keep it happy.
Cocker Spaniel’s also like to retrieve toys and go swimming when they can. They are also pretty easy to train as they are very motivated by food. But again, due to their thick coat and love of the outdoors, remember that as pretty as they look in the pictures on top of chocolate boxes, they were originally bred to work, so they want to get down and dirty with their doggy friends! Frequent trips to the groomers to clip their coat is necessary and because of their ear issues, it’s good to get into a daily routine of brushing their coats, checking and cleaning their ears.
They make excellent guard dogs as they are very vocal if they hear an unfamiliar noise or knock at the door. If you prefer a quieter breed they may not be for you!