The Cocker Spaniel: A popular pet with a jovial disposition

A dog that is very popular as a family pet and a child's playmate, the Cocker Spaniel has a fascinating history. It has its beginnings in Spain, but it was developed in England along with its cousins that include the Clumber, Springer, Sussex, Field and the toy spaniels. They were originally bred as hunting dogs and categorized according to size. It was therefore not uncommon for different types of spaniels to come from the same litter. The smaller ones were the Cockers and toys – Cockers were kept for hunting while the toy spaniels were bred as ladies' companions. Since the Cockers were crouchers, they were mainly used to hunt woodcock.

The Cocker Spaniel is a beautiful dog that is amenable and cheerful, making him a joy to have at home. He is happiest when he is pleasing you, and is as happy to nuzzle on the couch with adults as to rollick in the yard with the children.

The Standard

Cocker Spaniels are small dogs with long, cernuous ears; a merrily wagging squatty tail and a medium-length double coat. They measure about 15 inches at the top of the shoulder blades, and the females are somewhat smaller than the males. Their tails are always wagging, sometimes so enthusiastically that their bottoms jiggle from side to side.

There are two breeds of spaniels: the American and the English Cocker Spaniels, both of which are simply referred to as 'Cocker Spaniels' in the countries they come from.

Temperament

A well-bred Cocker is very friendly, gentle, affectionate, loyal and companionable. Once you've owned one, it is highly unlikely that you will go for another kind of dog. Their nice qualities mean that they are highly sought after as family dogs.

However, they can sometimes be timid and sensitive which is why it is very important to ensure puppies get lots of socialization early enough so that they become confident and happy without any behavioral issues.

Training

Like all other dog breeds, Cocker Spaniels need to be given some obedience training so that they learn manners. Even though they are a sweet breed, they can be a handful if they are not trained. As long as they can be gently taught how to sit, stay and come on command, formal classes are not a must. Most of them love doing tricks and enjoy playing with balls too.

If you have trouble being firm with a Cocker, take a class from a local club or a private trainer so that your dog fulfills his potential as a wonderful family pet and companion.

Health

Well-bred Cocker Spaniels usually don't have many diseases and genetic abnormalities. However, go for a puppy whose parents don't have any traits of progressive retinal atrophy, heart problems and epilepsy. Other problems that can also arise include cataracts, glaucoma, hemophilia, chronic ear and skin infections.

It doesn't mean your pet will get all the above; the health problems are only a possibility, and all breeds have their own specific health issues. It is important that every owner learns about all these concerns so as to appreciate the importance of providing good care, hygiene and a healthy diet to their dogs.