What to know if you're buying an… English Cocker Spaniel

There are many aspects that potential dog owners need to consider before acquiring a dog or puppy and each breed has their own unique personalities and health care needs.

Petplan takes a look at the origins, temperament and common health problems of the English Cocker Spaniel...


English Cocker Spaniel

Original use of breed:

These dogs were originally used to hunt woodcock (hence the name - ‘cocker’) and other types of game birds in England

They were recognised as a separate breed from Field and Springer Spaniels in 1873.


Cocker Spaniels in good health generally live between 12 and 15 years.

Cocker Spaniel temperament:

Cocker Spaniels are generally incredibly loving, social dogs and can make a loyal addition to your family. They are good with children and other animals and are eager to please, so respond well to training.

Bear in mind that because Cocker Spaniels were bred to be gun and hunting dogs, they are excitable and like to chase small animals and bark a lot – early training should help manage some of these tendencies.

Cocker Spaniels are generally quite sensitive, both physically and emotionally. When you’re training them, you should encourage and guide them rather than discipline them.

How much exercise a cocker Spaniel needs:

A vast majority of adult Cocker Spaniels would be more than happy with a brisk half hour walk in the morning and the evening.


Cocker Spaniels are known to be fairly greedy, so it’s important to not over-feed them.

This Petplan video about how to body score your pet can help you to check they are the correct weight.

Potential Cocker Spaniel health problems

All breeds of dog can have health problems – cancer and heart disease affect them just as they do humans. However, there are issues that are particular to certain breeds. Cocker Spaniels can be prone to the following conditions:

Slipped discs:

Like several other breeds, Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to slipped discs. This occurs when the discs between the vertebrae become damaged and brittle with age or general wear and tear. This makes the discs prone to rupturing, slipping and pressing against the spinal cord itself. Treatment varies but may include medication, rest and possibly even surgery.

Ear disease:

Many dogs are susceptible to various common ear diseases, but as Cocker Spaniels ears are droopy and they hang low over the entrance to the ear canal – air can’t circulate properly and this makes them more susceptible to ear disease, particularly ear infections and haematoma (a blood-filled swelling that occurs in the ear flap).

Cocker Spaniels may also be prone to allergies, which can result in irritation to the ear canal (Otitis). This causes intense itching, leading the dog to shake its head, flap its ear and scratch them using its back paws. If the otitis is due to an allergy, treatment is usually required lifelong.


Cocker Spaniels can be prone to inflammation of the pancreas. It occurs when the digestive enzymes within the pancreas start attacking it and there are mild and severe forms of the condition. Treatment for the mild form revolves around supportive care and avoiding highly fatty foods in the longer term. The severe form can require more intensive treatment, such as IV drips and various medicines, to restore good health.

Do you have a Cocker Spaniel? What are your experiences of this great little dog?