Everything you need to know about: English Cocker Spaniels

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Louisa Lane
24th Oct 2022
7 mins read
The image shows a golden Cocker Spaniel lying down, looking up hopefully. They're on a plain blue background.
A great gundog that’s now a popular pet. It’s hard to resist the cute Cocker Spaniel!

Key Stats

38-44 cm
11-15 kg
11-13 years
Medium, curly
1-2 hours daily
Friendly, energetic, playful

Breed history

Spaniels, including English Cocker Spaniels, have centuries of history. But although they’ve existed for over 500 years, they were no specific breeds until the 1800s.
The Cocker Spaniel was bred as a working gundog. Originally, they were the same as the English Springer Spaniels. But when a Springer weighed less than 9kg, they were used to hunt woodcock and became known as “Cockers”.
This happened with other spaniels too, like the Sussex Spaniel. When a dog was smaller than average, they were known as Cockers.
Eventually, Cockers became their own breed and divided into two lines, one for showing and one for working. And although they are still widely used as working dogs as gundogs and detection dogs, the English Cocker Spaniel has become one of the most popular pet dogs in the UK.
This is Nala the Cocker Spaniel. She's insured with Napo pet insurance and is super cute!

Meet Nala the Cocker Spaniel

This gorgeous girl is Nala the Cocker Spaniel! She's insured with Napo and gets up to all sorts of adventures which you can follow on instagram @nalaandalfiesadventures. Thank you Rachael for the photo! 💙


Cocker Spaniels are compact dogs, about as tall as they are long. Like most spaniels, they have long ears covered in thick curly fur. Their coat is medium length and can be sleek or curly, and has longer “feathers” on their legs and chest. They’re also well-known for their round, dark eyes which give them an adorable puppy-eye appearance.

Cocker Spaniel colours

English Cocker Spaniels have a wide variety of colours and patterns, more than most breeds of dog. The Cocker Spaniel colours recognised by
the breed standard
  • Black
  • Black and white
  • Black, white, and tan
  • Black and tan
  • Red
  • Red and white
  • Red roan
  • Golden
  • Lemon
  • Lemon and white
  • Lemon roan
  • Blue roan
  • Blue roan and tan
  • Liver
  • Liver and white
  • Liver and tan
  • Liver, white, and tan
  • Liver roan
  • Liver roan and tan
  • Sable
  • Sable roan

Cocker Spaniel temperament 

The typical Cocker Spaniel temperament is active, bright, and loving. As
the breed standard
says, they have a “merry nature with an ever-wagging tail”, and they are a very happy go lucky pup.
As well as being cheerful and good-natured, English Cocker Spaniels are very affectionate. They dote on their human family members, and can be prone to separation anxiety without training. They’re also well known for their energy, and they are a typical bouncy and playful Spaniel. 
Being so active, and a working breed, you need to be prepared to give your Cocker plenty of exercise and stimulation to prevent boredom. Luckily, these dogs love human company and are as cuddly as they are cute, so it’s hardly a chore to spend time with them!
The photo shows a very cute black and white Cocker Spaniel, with a mess of curls, sitting in the grass

How much exercise does a Cocker Spaniel need?

Cocker Spaniels were originally bred as a working gundog, so they were born to be out in the field fetching things for hours. Ideally, you should dedicate at least 1 hour a day to walking your Cocker. (Although they certainly won't complain if you can manage more!)
Your dog doesn’t just need physical exercise though. English Cocker Spaniels are clever canines and need mental stimulation too. You can play some
indoor games
with your pup or carry out regular training to exercise their brains. It’ll build your bond too! 

How to groom a Cocker Spaniel

English Cocker Spaniels have a thick double coat, that’s waterproof as long as you don’t clip it. Despite their medium-length fur and curls, they’re pretty easy to care for when it comes to grooming.
You’ll need to brush your Cocker Spaniel at least once a week, preferably twice. Pay particular attention to their feathers and ears, as grass seeds and dirt can get stuck in the long fur.
Cockers only need a bath when they are visibly dirty, or smelly. Although most of the time, just giving them a rub down with a towel after a walk is enough to get any mud off them.
Ideally, you should brush your Cocker Spaniel’s teeth a few times a week too to prevent dental disease. You can find out about how to keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy
The photo shows a golden Cocker Spaniel sleeping on some wooden stairs, their leg dangling off the edge. Spaniels seem to sleep in weird positions!

Common Cocker Spaniel health problems

Allergies & skin problems

One of the most common Cocker Spaniel health problems is atopy, or allergies. This can cause itchy skin, but it’s also a common cause of ear infections.


Cocker Spaniels are one of the
breeds most prone to obesity
. Their thick curly fur and long feathers can make it hard to check their shape visually and spot extra pudge, so be sure to feel their body. They’re also food-motivated, and will overeat if you let them. Finally, Cockers are a working breed and need a lot of exercise, without which, they’ll start to gain weight.


As well as obesity, Cockers are at
higher risk of pancreatitis
compared to other dogs. This is a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed, and needs hospitalisation to treat. One of the causes of the condition is eating high-fat foods.

Ear infections

A Cocker Spaniel's characteristic curly ears makes them prone to ear infections. Their long ears with furry insides prevent air flow into the ear, leading to bacteria growth and infection. Give your pup’s ears a regular sniff test, and get your vet to check them if they’re stinky. You can also clean their ears to prevent infection, as advised by a vet.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common Cocker Spaniel health problem. It’s where the ball and socket of the hip joint doesn’t fit together properly.
A good breeder
should screen their dogs for the condition before breeding so puppies are less likely to inherit the condition.

Hereditary eye conditions

Cocker Spaniels are more at risk of a condition called progressive retinal atrophy. It’s an inherited condition of the eye which is not painful, but it can cause blindness. Because it’s inherited, it’s important to screen dogs for this condition before breeding them.

Facts about Cocker Spaniels

  • Cocker Spaniels have won “best in show” at
    more than any other breed.
  • The first dog used to detect cancer was a Cocker called
  • Sperry’s boat shoes were invented after Paul Sperry noticed his Cocker didn’t slip on ice thanks to the grooves in their paws.

Frequently asked questions

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