Cocker Spaniels were originally bred as hunting dogs in the United Kingdom, with the term “cocker” deriving from their use to hunt the Eurasian woodcock. When the breed was brought to the United States, it was bred to a different standard, which enabled it to specialize in hunting the American woodcock. Further physical changes were bred into the cocker in the United States during the early part of the 20th century.
Spaniels were first mentioned in the 14th century by Gaston III of Foix-Béarn in his work the Livre de Chasse. The “cocking” or “cocker spaniel” was a type of field or land spaniel in the 19th century. Prior to 1901, Cocker Spaniels were only separated from Field Spaniels and Springer Spaniels by weight. Two dogs are considered to be the foundation sires of both modern breeds, the English variety are descended from Ch. Obo, while the American breed descends from Obo’s son, Ch. Obo II. In the United States, the English Cocker was recognized as separate from the native breed in 1946; in the UK, the American type was recognized as a separate breed in 1970. In addition, a second strain of English Cocker Spaniel, a working strain, is not bred to a standard, but to working ability. Both breeds share similar coat colors and health issues with a few exceptions.
Cocker Spaniels have a sweet disposition and tend to be intelligent, making them a good pet for families in particular. This breed of dog is easy to train, but due to their sensitive nature, do not tend to respond well to harsh training methods. Training using positive reinforcement and encouragement is the best method for the Cocker Spaniel.
Cocker Spaniels can suffer from separation anxiety and best enjoy being in a household environment around people.[
That said, the Cocker Spaniel was bred as a hunting dog and needs regular exercise outdoors. Up to an hour a day is usually enough.[
In a survey conducted by the Kennel Club (UK), the American Cocker Spaniels had a median age of death of 10 years and 4 months, while the English Cocker Spaniel had a median age of 11 years and 2 months. According to the survey, the most common cause of death for both breeds was cancer, while old age was the second-most common cause. The two modern breeds are susceptible to several health problems. Issues common to the two breeds include ear infections and a variety of eye problems. A large number of breeds are susceptible to hip dysplasia. In a survey conducted by Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the American Cocker Spaniel was ranked 115th out of 157 different breeds, with one being the highest percentage dysplastic and 157 being the lowest percentage dysplastic. The English Cocker was ranked 129th.
While their origins are unknown, “spaynels” are mentioned in 14th-century writings. They are commonly assumed to have originated in Spain, and Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York in his 15th-century work The Master of Game introduces them as “Another kind of hound there is that be called hounds for the hawk and spaniels, for their kind cometh from Spain, notwithstanding that there are many in other countries.” The Master of Game was mostly an English translation of an earlier 14th century Old French work by Gaston III of Foix-Béarn entitled Livre de Chasse.
In 1801, Sydenham Edwards wrote in Cynographia Britannica that the “Land Spaniel” is divided into two types: the hawking, springing/springer and the cocking/cocker spaniel. The term “cocker” came from the dog’s use in hunting woodcocks. During the 19th century, a “cocker spaniel” was a type of small Field Spaniel; at the time, this term referred to a number of different spaniel hunting breeds, including the Norfolk Spaniel, Sussex Spaniel, and Clumber Spaniel. While no Sussex Cockers or Clumber Cockers existed, some dogs were known as Welsh Cockers and Devonshire Cockers. The Welsh or Devonshire were considered cockers until 1903, when they were recognized by The Kennel Club as the Welsh Springer Spaniel.