The Cocker is a sturdy, compact, well-balanced dog. It has a characteristic expression showing intelligence and alertness. Its eyes should be dark and its lobular ears should reach the tip of the nose when pulled forward. Today, a significant difference in appearance exists between field-bred and conformation show-bred dogs. The Cocker's tail is customarily docked in North America. In countries where docking is legal, the tail is generally docked at about 4–5 inch (10–13 cm) in field-bred dogs while show dogs generally are docked closer to the body. Docking is now not allowed in the UK.
Height at withers:
They come in solid (or "self"), where white is restricted to only the chest, parti-colour, and roan.
The colours in the breed consist of black, black and tan, black and white, black white and tan, blue roan, blue tick, blue roan and tan, silver, chocolate, chocolate and tan, chocolate and white, chocolate white and tan, chocolate roan, chocolate roan and tan, sable, copper red, red, gold, buff, red roan, red and white, apricot, orange, orange and white, orange roan, lemon, lemon and white, lemon roan.
Scientists have known for some time that there is a link between coat colour and temperament. This link is probably the colour pigment melanin, which is bio chemically similar to chemicals that act as transmitters in the brain. Cocker Spaniel behaviour has been studied in more detail than any other breed.
According to a study made by the University of Cambridge involving over 1,000 Cocker Spaniel households throughout Britain – concluded that solid colour Cockers were more likely to be aggressive in 12 out of 13 situations. Red/golden Cockers were shown to be the most aggressive of all, in situations involving strangers, family members, while being disciplined, and sometimes for no apparent reason.
A red cocker’s temperament can be controlled through early basic training.
Some times cocker spaniels can get "rage syndrome", although; only a small number of Cocker Spaniels are affected.When a Cocker Spaniel is born with this condition; they are usually born with poor eye sight or no sight at all.
In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (30%), old age (17%), cardiac (9%), and "combinations" (7%). In 1998 and 2002 USA/Canada Health Surveys, the leading causes of death were old age (40%) and cancer (22%).
Some uncommon health issues that can also have an effect on English Cocker Spaniels include canine hip dysplasia, patellar lunation, canine dilated cardiomyopathy, and heart murmurs. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip joint. Patellar Lunation, also known as luxating patella, refers to the dislocation of the kneecap. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy involves heart failure.
A field-bred cocker spaniel is first and foremost an upland flushing dog. In performing this task there are some skills the dog must be trained to perform.
Spaniel type dogs have been found in art and literature for almost 500 years. Initially, spaniels in England were divided among land spaniels and water spaniels. The differentiation among the spaniels that led to the breeds that we see today did not begin until the mid 1800’s. During this time, the land spaniels became a bit more specialized and divisions among the types were made based upon weight. According to the 1840 Encyclopedia of Rural Sports, Cockers were 12–20 lb (5.5–9 kg). At this time it was not uncommon for Cockers and Springers to come from the same litter. Even a puppy from a “Toy” sized lineage could grow to be a springer.
There is no indication from these early sources that spaniels were used to retrieve game. Rather they were used to drive the game toward the guns.
During the 1850s and 1860s other dogs types of Cockers were recorded. There were Welsh Cockers and Devonshire Cockers. Additionally, small dogs from Sussex Spaniel litters were called Cockers. In 1874 the first stud books were published by the newly formed kennel club. Any spaniel under 25 lb (11 kg) was placed in the Cocker breeding pool, however the Welsh Cocker was reclassified as a Springer in 1903 due to its larger size and shorter ear. "...in those days only those dogs up to a hard day’s work and sensible specimens were allowed to live, as absolute sporting purposes were about their only enjoyment and dog shows were hardly heard of...".
The sport of conformation showing began in earnest among spaniels after the Spaniel Club was formed in 1885. When showing, the new Springer and Cocker, both were in the same class until The Spaniel Club created breed standards for each of the types. The Kennel Club separated the two types eight years later. Since then, the Springer and Cocker enthusiasts have bred in the separate traits that they desired. Today, the breed differ in more ways than weight alone.
In America, the American Cocker Spaniel type was forming. As a result, the English Cocker lost favour. The two Cocker Spaniels were shown together until 1936, when the English Cocker received status as a separate breed. The American Kennel Club granted a separate breed designation for the English Cocker Spaniel in 1946.
After World War II, Cocker Spaniels bred for pets and for the sport of conformation showing increased enormously in popular appeal, and, for a while, was the most numerous Kennel Club registered breed. This popularity increased the view that all Cockers were useless as working dogs. However, for many dogs this is untrue, as even some show-bred Cockers have retained their working instinct.
Today, this breed is experiencing a resurgence in usage as a working and hunting dog. Dogs from working lines are noticeably distinct in appearance. As is the case with the English Springer Spaniel, the working type has been bred exclusively to perform in the field as a hunting companion. Their coat is shorter and ears less pendulous than the show-bred type. Although registered as the same breed, the two strains have diverged significantly enough that they are rarely crossed. The dogs that have dominated the hunt test, field trial and hunting scene in the United States are field-bred dogs from recently imported British lines.
Working-dog lines often have physical characteristics that would prevent them from winning in the show ring. This is a result of selecting for different traits than those selected by show breeders. The longer coat and ears, selected for the show ring, are an impediment in the field.
Cuban authorities train and use English Cocker Spaniels as sniffer dogs to check for drugs or food products in passengers' baggage at Cuban airports.