The American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel are often confused, but there are some distinct differences. The American Cocker is smaller, with more streamlined looks. Its head is rounder, its snout is a bit shorter, and it has a smaller bone structure.
American Cockers have large, soft, round eyes; a narrow stance; and an elegant gait. Their coat is long (the English Cocker’s coat is shorter) and most commonly buff, though they can be seen in particolor, black, and any other solid color.
Despite the rather foofy version of the American Cocker Spaniel often seen in the show ring, this dog is extremely hardy and loves to romp in the woods as much as it takes pride in being in a show. They need a moderate amount of exercise and, ideally, a place to run and do field work.
Grooming an American Cocker Spaniel is time-consuming, with a bath and trim needed about every two weeks. Be prepared to find fur everywhere — these dogs are big shedders. American Cockers are very people-oriented, so make sure you have lots of time to spend loving them.
Though American Cocker Spaniels are generally easy-going dogs, they tend toward crankiness and snappiness as they get older. This may be because of health issues or bad breeding (they have been bred for looks, not for temperament) and should not be a reason to surrender a pet — it can often be rectified with vet visits and renewed obedience training.
The American Cocker Spaniel is known to have a few health problems. These include hip dysplasia, cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, and liver disease. As they get older, they tend to have cataracts and glaucoma, sometimes causing blindness. Adjust to your American Cocker’s loss of vision by limiting the space the dog moves in, keeping furniture and objects in the same place, and always approaching slowly so your pet has time to identify its human.
The term “cocker” comes from the breed’s original purpose, which was to hunt woodcock. Spaniels are a very old breed that was developed in Spain; the English Cocker Spaniel was brought to America with our forefathers.
The American Cocker Spaniel was first registered with the AKC in the early 19th century. By the 1940s, the English Cocker Spaniel was recognized as a separate breed by the AKC.
The American Cocker and the English Cocker were both were bred to flush game and retrieve it with a “soft mouth,” returning the prey without harming it. Today they are more likely to be seen in the show ring.