Are Cocker Spaniels the right dog for you?

“We’re getting a dog” The four most exciting words to hear!!! But before you scream it from the rooftops and stop every stranger you meet to let them know you’ll soon have a fluffy friend that will love you forever, get onto Ecosia - my new favourite ethical search engine that plants trees! - and Ecosia are cocker spaniels the right dog for you or as I like to think of it, what kind of dog will be most happy to have you. To help you make this very important decision, we’ve teamed up with some breed experts and pet lovers to give you the low down on different breeds.

There are a lot of different types of Spaniels - Wikipedia lists 23 non-extinct types of spaniels, 7 of which originate from the UK; Cavalier King Charles, Clumber, English Cocker, English Springer, Field, King Charles and Sussex Spaniels. This week the lovely Megan, also known as Wilma and Woody’s mum, has offered to kick off our breed series offering an insight into Cocker spaniels. If you’ve not heard of the cotswold spaniels check out their blog and Instagram feed. 

But first some Cocker Spaniel Breed Basics:

cocker spaniel

Cocker Spaniels are gun dogs and incredibly popular in the UK. Last year Cocker Spaniels were named the 6th most popular dogs, with Cockapoos (a cross between a cocker spaniel and poodle) the 7thmost popular British dog.

Average lifespan:

12 to 15 years with English cockers.A healthy and fit dog could live longer, especially if exercise is maintained throughout their life and they don’t overdo it when they’re younger meaning joint problems slowing them down later in life.


Varies Kennel Club do not recognise solid colour Cockers that have white anywhere other than on their chest


Cocker Spaniels are typically medium sized dogs but in Cockers you can have all sorts, of course typically males are bigger than females. "Woody is abnormally tall and the size of a Springer Spaniel, but I also know Cockers that are absolutely tiny the size of Cavaliers. Of course, Show Cockers can also be split into another category. In the U.K. the most common of the two are English Show Cockers, but you can also get American Show Cockers which have smaller and slightly more squashed heads; they’re also even fluffier!"

Origins of Cocker Spaniels:

Originally many years ago, Springer Spaniels and Cockers were the same breed. As they evolved, they were split. In a litter all the taller dogs would be called Springer spaniels, and the shorter dogs Cocker spaniels, until they developed into the two breeds we know today. As well as this they are now also easily distinguished by colour and fur type, e.g. you would never get a black springer spaniel, it would be black and white. The word cocker comes from their use at hunting woodcock birds.

How often should a Cocker Spaniel be groomed?

Every 4-6 weeks as well as daily brushing  

How much do Cocker Spaniels cost?

Cocker Spaniels can cost anywhere between £350 to £2000 for a healthy pooch from a safe home. 

Don't forget to check out rehoming charities for Cocker Spaniels in need of a loving home!

How much exercise does a Cocker Spaniel need?

Cocker spaniels are high energy dogs and thrive outdoors. At least an hour of exercise a day is recommended. It's important to remember to feed them a little more if they're especially active.

Cocker Spaniel Exercise

Do Cocker Spaniels shed?

Like most dogs, cockers will moult but spaniels are a breed that drop their dead coat so you will find it on your floors and as double coated breeds their dead undercoat will need to be stripped out.

Any health watch outs?

Skin allergies are common. Some cockers get hip dysplasia – this can be prevented with diet (make sure as puppies they have a food with joint support, and check the levels of glucosamine and chondroitin) and appropriate exercise as they blossom from pups to adulthood.

Fun Fact!

7-time winner of Best in Show at Crufts making English Cocker Spaniels the most successful breed to win this award. Noteworthy, if that’s on your bucket list!

Breed Basics over, do you know your show cocker from your working cocker? Megan, Woody and Wilma are here to fill us in. 

What do you love about Cocker Spaniels?

Spaniels, they are the perfect package of beauty, companionship and energy...with batteries that never run out.

Although there are so many different varieties of Spaniels, Working Cocker Spaniels are my absolute favourite. Their brain is always on, meaning they need a job to do; but if that’s not going down the working route of being a Gundog there’s still so much to do with a pet just like Woody. Agility, Flyball & Obedience, all things that make them use their brains and it is great fun for both human and hound to take part in.

Tell us a bit about Woody & Wilma

Woody is a 7-year-old Working Cocker Spaniel and Wilma a 2-year-old Cockapoo, both which I have had since 8 weeks old. I have also fostered Working Cockers and Springers over the years from various spaniel rescues. Woody is absolutely tennis ball and water mad, a common trait in most spaniels!

As Wilma is a Cockapoo and she is only 50% Spaniel (Don’t tell her as she believes she's true spaniel deep down), she is actually a Show Cocker Spaniel compared to Woody as a Working Cocker. Most people assume they’re the same breed, but there’s actually a huge difference between the Show and Working type in temperament and energy levels. One of the differences is show Cockers are usually more laid back and love human affection, whereas Working Cockers have such drive and could happily be out all day, and in my experience despite them being the perfect family pet, Working cockers prefer to stretch out by themselves rather than snuggle up on your lap. Although each dog’s personality is completely different, so depending on how they’re brought up they won’t necessarily fit a certain label or trait.

What are the differences between Working Cocker Spaniels and Show Cocker Spaniels?

Show Cocker

  • A lot more fluff. Fluffier feathers on legs, skirt (their tummy) and tail. As well as thicker ears which droop down a bit more. A lot of grooming, just simply using a metal comb to keep them knot free, high maintenance.
  • Low Drive. A good off lead walk (for at least an hour) and they’ll happily sleep for the rest of the day. Generally chilled back and happy to cuddle on the sofa. These dogs make the perfect family pet. 
  • Shorter bodies with a rounded head

Working Cocker

  • Less fluff as they’re bred to be gun dogs, so typically you have less fur all over because then there’s less to clean or pick seeds out of. Easy to maintain and doesn't need much brushing.
  • High Drive. Very alert and ready to go. Doesn't matter what but they need a job to do and use their brains.
  • Working cockers have a wider, flatter head and longer bodies. 

Woody was from gun dog stock & was bred on a lovely country farm. They had a lovely bunch of Cockers, Springers and Flat coats that lived outside in kennels but were also allowed in the house. Wilma was from a larger breeder but brought up ready to be a pet dog. She absolutely loved children and humans but hated being left alone; whereas Woody was happy to be crated as he was brought up well to be left alone. When buying a puppy, you should always meet the parents, and the breeders should be happy for you to ask lots of questions and visit beforehand. I visited Woody’s litter every week for 1 month. Wilma was a bit further away up in Cheshire, so I visited once before I then went up again to collect her.

They are both very intelligent and with positive reinforcements like toys or treats they are very easy to train. You’ll find them in a variety of working rolls as well. Working Cockers are often used as sniffer dogs for the police or army. And you’ll find both Working and Show Cockers in medical assistance roles such as diabetes alert dogs, or hearing dogs; all absolutely amazing dogs changing people’s lives. 

They are both absolutely gorgeous breeds and I hope I always have at least one spaniel in my life.

Further reading, you might be interested in

  1. Puppy Socialisation Checklist
  2. Lhasa Apso Breed Guide
  3. Afghan Hound Breed Guide
  4. Dog age in human years
  5. Reducing your dogs' paw print 

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