American Cocker Spaniel

The American Cocker Spaniel is a medium size breed of dog. It's one of the Spaniel type breeds, similar to the English Cocker Spaniel, and was originally bred as a gun dog. In the United States, the breed is usually referred to as the Cocker Spaniel, while in Canada and elsewhere in the world, it's called the American Cocker Spaniel.

The word cocker is commonly held to stem from their use to hunt woodcock in England. Although the Cocker Spaniel type originated in the United Kingdom, by the 1940s the American breed was recognized as distinct from the English breed.


The American Cocker Spaniel is a medium sized dog of normal proportions, with medium long silky fur on the body and ears, hanging down on the legs and belly (feathering). The head has a upturned nose and the ears hang down (drop ears). The tail is often docked, though is only required for show, and is recommended for American Cocker Spaniels who hunt. Coat colors are described extensively in the Standard. The English Cocker Spaniel has a more rectangular head, a shorter coat, and is larger.

Height and weight

American Cocker Spaniels are on average between 13.5 to 15.5 inches (34 to 39 cm) high at the withers. The breed standard states that size over 15.5 inches (39 cm) inches for males and 14.5 inches (37 cm) for females is a disqualification at a breed show, in order to discourage the breeding of oversize dogs. Both males and females weigh approximately 11 to 15 kilograms (24 to 33 lb) when fully grown.

Head and coat

The head of an American Cocker Spaniel makes the breed immediately recognizable, with the rounded dome of the skull, well-pronounced stop, and square lip. The drop ears are long, low set, with long silky fur, and the eyes are dark, large, and rounded.

The American Cocker Spaniel is usually kept as a companion dog, since "very few are used for hunting any more." As pets and showdogs, the breed's coat and the colors of the coat have taken on great importance, as they are very beautiful if well groomed and cared for. The coat should never be curly or have a cottony texture, but should be silky and flat, short on the head and medium length on the body, with an undercoat. Colors are divided in to categories: Black, including Solid black Black with tan points ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other than Black), defined as any color with or without tan points, and only a very small amount of white Buff (Most common color, looks like a very light tan usually.) Brown (Chocolate) Silver (Silver refers to an almost white color. Genetically, silver is a dilute black. The genes are there for black coat color, but not fully expressed) Parti-color and other colors Tricolor, including black and white with tan points black and white brown and white brown and white with tan points (brown tri) red and white. Roan (individual colored hairs mingled in with white hairs), with or without tan points blue roan or black orange roan or red liver or chocolate roan, shades of brown Sable (no longer recognized by the American Spaniel Club, meaning that breeding dogs of this color is discouraged by the American Spaniel Club.) merle (not recognized by the American Spaniel Club, meaning that breeding dogs of this color is discouraged by the American Spaniel Club.)(see below for more information.) Blue Merle (Also known as a black merle) Blue Merle Parti Blue/Black, Chocolate/Brown Merle Parti with tan points Chocolate/Brown Merle Parti Buff/Red Merle Brown Merle (Also known as chocolate merle) The merle gene is actually a gene that dilutes color, and affects the dogs' coat, eyes, or both. A merle dog (M) bred to a dog of any other color (X) will result in roughly one-half of the litter being merles. A merle bred to another merle, however, may possibly produce white, possibly deaf and blind puppies (this being referred to as the "lethal white" gene). A merle puppy is commonly born looking as if paint, or even bleach, has been splattered on its body. A merle's coat pattern will not change as it ages. Merles may have blue eyes, or partially blue eyes ~ this does not affect their eyesight. A merle cocker spaniel can be registered with AKC but not shown in conformation classes. AKC does not have "merle" as an option for coat color in Cockers, which leads to many people incorrectly registering their merles as "roans" ~ another thing altogether. Merle is sometimes referred to as a "deadly gene", in that it may cause various ailments when breeding two merles together.

The location and size of tan points for black and ASCOB dogs is described in detail in the Standard.

Litter size and tail docking

The average litter size for the American Cocker Spaniel is five to seven pups with newborn pups weighing in at between seven and nine ounces. Removal of any dewclaws, when present, and tail docking is usually done before the pup is five days old. Tail docking is controversial, although it is usually done on cocker spaniels to obtain what is considered a better �cocker� look and may be done painlessly when done by a vet who uses a local anesthetic. Tail docking is done on dogs used in hunting to prevent the tail from being injured and entangled by brush and thorns during hunting.


The American Cocker Spaniel breed standard defines the ideal dog of the breed as having an outgoing, friendly temperament. They tend to be soft dogs who do not do well with rough or harsh training. The breed ranks 20th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, a rating that indicates good "Working or Obedience Intelligence", or trainability.


Spaniels were hunting dogs brought from Spain to England, where the type was developed into a gun dog for hunting small game, especially birds, and the name Cocker was described in 1904 as having been derived from its use in hunting woodcocks. According to written historical records, the first Spaniel was brought to North America aboard the "Mayflower" which sailed from Plymouth, England and landed in New England in 1620. This dog was most likely very useful in hunting small game. The Cocker Spaniel was recognized as a breed in England in 1892, separating it from Springer Spaniels; until that time, Cockers and Springers would be born into the same litter, and were only separated out into the distinct types when fully grown. Another dog used in the development of the early Cockers was the English Setter, resulting in the roan coats still seen in the breed. Brought to North America in the late 19th century, the development of Cockers in England and Cockers in North America began to diverge into two different breeds, although breeding between the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel was permitted until 1946, when the stud book was closed. The first Cocker Spaniel registered in the United States' American Kennel Club was "Captain", in 1878, and the American Spaniel Club was formed in 1881, although both the English and American varieties were very similar at that time. The Westminster Dog Show was won in 1921 by a parti-color Cocker (black and white), Ch. Midkiff Seductive.

Over time, the Cocker Spaniels in the United States became smaller than the English dogs, and, in dog shows, separate categories (called 'classes') were created in 1935 for the English variety and the American variety of Cocker Spaniel. In 1938, the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America decided to discourage breeding between the varieties, and defined the English Cocker Spaniel as those whose pedigrees included dogs that were or were eligible to have been registered with The Kennel Club (UK) before 1930. Much research of pedigrees was done by Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge and others, and in June, 1946, the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel were recognized by the American Kennel Club as separate breeds.

Although primarily companions and pets, the hunting instincts of American Cocker Spaniels can be tested in Spaniel Hunting Tests offered by the American Kennel Club. The American Spaniel Club also offers a Working Certificate for American Cocker Spaniels.

American Cocker Spaniel Pictures

American Cocker Spaniel - Classifieds