The Breed History
Sharing common roots with other spaniels such as English Springers, Irish Water Spaniel, Sussex Spaniel, Field Spaniel and American Cockers, the English Cocker split from the other spaniels when a decision was made to divide land and water spaniels and subsequently, land spaniels into larger (Springer) and smaller (Cocker). In 1892 the Kennel Club of England began registering this breed as the Cocker Spaniel. In the US, the English Cocker Spaniel Club was formed in 1935, and in 1941, lineage studies provided a base to select only non-American cockers for future type development. In the AKC, they formalized standards in 1947, and the CKC registered them starting in 1940.
Breeding for Function
The breed was developed to be a gundog, and is still used for hunting, as well as in showing and companionship. The name Cocker derives from this breed's historical focus on hunting woodcock.
Height at Withers: female 15-16" (38-40.5 cm), male 16-17" (40.5-43 cm).
Weight: females 26-32 lb (12-14.5 kg), males 28-34 lb (13-15.5 kg).
Coat: They are well feathered and hair is medium length, with solids (liver, red, black), tan markings, and parti-colors accepted. Field lines have shorter coats. Only a small amount of white marking is acceptable on the chest of solid color dogs.
Longevity: 12-15 years.
Points of Conformation: Of solid stature and good bone, these medium sized hunting dogs are smooth movers, and have a stocky tough appearance, but are never coarse. Alert oval eyes should not show the nictitans and are dark brown or dark hazel. They possess a moderate stop with a slight groove and their nose is colored black or brown. Ears are long, reaching to the nose and leathers are thick. The neck is arching and a moderate length, with a gentle topline sloping downwards to the tail base over a short strong back. They are deep-chested and have a moderate tuck of the abdomen. Limbs are straight and feet are round and compact, with highly arched toes. The tail is carried parallel to the back, and active and is often docked.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
This dog is reported to be: a high energy pet with staying power suited for hunting, and has moderate grooming needs. They are average shedders. They need to be socialized early and training should begin early also. They do well in town or country with regular exercise. They are good alarm barkers. They get along very well with calm children. There is some variability in temperament between different lines of dogs.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Ear care should be emphasized.
Echocardiography: Seventeen clinically normal adult English Cocker Spaniels from a kennel population with a history of cardiomyopathy were assessed, using M-mode echocardiography, to establish reference values for this breed of dog. Calculation of fractional shortening values identified a group of 5 dogs with reduced fractional shortening (mean +/- SD, 20.97 +/- 3.66%), which indicates that a depression in contractility may be present in some apparently healthy dogs of this kennel population.
Weight (kg): 12.2 В± 2.2
LVPWD (mm): 7.9 В± 1.1
LVD (mm): 33.8 В± 3.3
LVS (mm): 22.2 В± 2.8
FS (%): 34.3 В± 4.5
IVSd (mm): 8.2 В± 1.3
N 12 with normal FS
LVPWD, LV posterior wall dimension at end-diastole; LVD, LV chamber dimension at end-diastole; LVS, LV chamber dimension at end-systole; FS, percent fractional shortening; IVSd, interventricular septal thickness at end-diastole; N, number of animals.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Autosomal recessive progressive rod cone degeneration (prcd) form. Age of onset between 3-8 years of age, eventually causing blindness. Dorn reports a 45.0x odds ratio versus other breeds. Optigen testing reports 11% affected, and 45% carriers in English Cocker Spaniels. CERF does not recommend breeding any English Cocker Spaniel with PRA.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 5.6% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 5.2% affected.
Hereditary Nephropathy/Nephritis (HN): Autosomal recessive disorder causing proteinuria and juvenile-onset chronic renal failure in affected dogs due to abnormal kidney basement membrane protein and structure. A genetic test is available, showing 0.3% affected and 14.6% carrier for the defective gene.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Dorn reports a 3.99x odds ratio versus other breeds. A heritability of 0.62 was found in a German study. Identified in 15.10% of English Cocker Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 11.7% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Deafness: Congenital deafness can be unilateral or bilateral. Diagnose by BAER testing. Strain reports 5.9% testing unilaterally deaf, and 1.1% bilaterally deaf based on BAER testing, the majority being parti-colored English Cocker Spaniels. Reported at a frequency of 2.86% in the 2002 ECS Health Survey Report.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex (intermediate or punctate) and capsular cataracts predominate in the breed. Dorn reports a 1.89x odds ratio versus other breeds. Identified in 14.96% of single-colored and 5.51% of multicolored English Cocker Spaniels in a German study, with a heritability of 0.06 to 0.15. Reported in 8.23% of English Cocker Spaniels presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Identified in 4.48% of English Cocker Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 3.31% in the 2002 ECS Health Survey Report. CERF does not recommend breeding any English Cocker Spaniel with a cataract.
Allergic Dermatitis (Atopy): Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 4.16% in the 2002 ECS Health Survey Report.
Aggression/Shyness: One study showed that owners of aggressive English Cocker Spaniels tended to be more tense, emotionally less stable, shy and undisciplined than owners of low aggression dogs. Aggression toward other dogs was reported at a frequency of 2.80%, and shyness 3.53% in the 2002 ECS Health Survey Report.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Iris to cornea PPMs in this breed cause corneal opacities. A heritability of 0.1 to 0.46 was found in a German study. Identified in 2.80% of English Cocker Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Inherited Epilepsy: Grand-mal seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a frequency of 1.92% in the 2002 ECS Health Survey Report. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Glaucoma: Ocular condition causing increased pressure within the eyeball, and secondary blindness due to damage to the retina. Can also predispose to lens luxation. Dorn reports a 1.33x odds ratio versus other breeds. Diagnosed in 1.35% of English Cocker Spaniels presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. A female predominance is seen in English Cocker Spaniels. Screen with gonioscopy and tonometry. Unknown mode of inheritance. CERF does not recommend breeding any English Cocker Spaniel with glaucoma.
Retinal Dysplasia: Retinal folds, geographic, and generalized retinal dysplasia with detachment are recognized in the breed. Reported in 1.07% of English Cocker Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, Dry Eye): Ocular condition causing lack of tear production and secondary conjunctivitis, corneal ulcerations, and vision problems. A later age of onset and female preponderance occurs in English Cocker Spaniels. Treat with topical ocular lubricants and anti-inflammatory medication.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Clinical signs include sudden death, dyspnea and other signs of congestive heart failure due to cardiac enlargement and pulmonary edema. Affected dogs develop a progressive left ventricular dilatation. Mean fractional shortening in affected dogs is 25.4 +/- 5.7%. Reported at a frequency of 0.4% in the 2002 ECS Health Survey Report.
Chronic Hepatitis: Chronic hepatitis without copper storage disease is reported at an increased prevalence in English Cocker Spaniels.
Metabolic Vitamin E Deficiency/Retinal Pigment Epithelial Dystrophy (Central Progressive Retinal Atropy): Syndrome identified in English Cocker Spaniels with clinical signs of neurological dysfunction which can include ataxia, proprioceptive deficits, abnormal spinal reflexes, muscle weakness, retinal pigment epithelial dystrophy, neuroaxonal dystrophy, and intestinal lipofuscinosis. Though to be due to an abnormality in Vitamin E metabolism. Unknown mode of inheritance. CERF does not recommend breeding any affected English Cocker Spaniels.
Multiple Ocular Abnormalities: Congenital disorder identified in English Cocker Spaniels in Denmark, characterized by cataracts and microphthalmia. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Brachygnathism, Ceroid Lipofuscinosis, Entropion, Factor II Deficiency, Factor VIII Deficiency, Factor IX Deficiency, Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, Prognathism, Retained Primary Teeth, Struvite Urolithiasis, and von Willebrand's Disease are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Ectopic Ureter and Ureterocele: A 7-month-old, female English cocker spaniel was examined because of a complaint of urinary incontinence. Excretory urography revealed a small right kidney and right-sided hydroureter, ectopic ureter, and ureterocele.
Congenital Vestibular Disease: Reported in a litter of English cocker spaniel puppies, marked by loss of balance and ataxia initially. Subsequent compensation left only one individual with "permanent" head tilt.
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests for HN and prcd-PRA are available from Optigen. (Both tests are recommended for breeding dogs.) Direct tests for black, liver and red colors, and black and brown nose are available from HealthGene and VetGen. Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required tests include hip radiographs, genetic test for prcd-PRA, patella evaluation, and two of the following: thyroid profile including autoantibodies, genetic test for FN, BAER hearing test, or CERF eye examination.
Recommend cardiac evaluation by a cardiologist and elbow radiographs.
- Breed name synonyms: Cocker, Woodcock spaniel, Cocker Spaniel
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 70 (1,247 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: English Cocker Spaniel Club of America: www.ecsca.org
English Cocker Spaniel Club of Canada: www.ecscc.ca
The Cocker Spaniel Club (UK): www.thecockerspanielclub.co.uk
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