Breed Opinion: Cocker Spaniel

Let me begin by saying I doubt I will ever own a cocker spaniel again.  Ever.

I'm not going into the breed history at all.  Although I will say that if you're interested in learning about the breed history and more general information, you should check out the webpage of the American Spaniel Club.

I will go as far as to say I know more about American cocker spaniels than I do about English cocker spaniels.  And I can say that the American variety is the one that I'll be addressing here... although there are a lot of similarities between the two distinct breeds.

The main reason I will never own an American cocker spaniel again is because I'm not a fan of grooming.  Okay, I HATE grooming.  Sadie grooming is fine:  Cleaning up feet, clipping around the ears, and even brushing to help alleviate with shedding I can do.  Nooooo problem.

I don't think people realize just the amount of grooming that cocker spaniels need.  Part of that is because most cockers look like they haven't been groomed at all.  Anyone who's seen a cocker in a show clip (English or American) would, if they didn't know better, think that that's the way the dog looked naturally.  Or, at least pretty close.

But no.  It takes a lot of work to get a cocker to look as good as they do at dog shows.  But before the three hour grooming and bathing session, often times there's this:

Photo Credit:  Mike Baird from here
I won't get into the particulars, but we used to use four or five different kinds of scissors, four or five different kinds of brushes & combs, and three different sizes of clipper blades to get our cockers ready for the show ring.  Pet clips weren't as bad... but it was still an hour job on average.

The second reason I will probably not own a cocker spaniel ever again is ... you never know what you're going to get.


If you get a dog that's true to the breed's personality, everything is pretty good.  Those dogs love everyone to the point of fault -- they'll jump into the arms of your mugger and beg for cookies.  They're carefree and happy-go-lucky, and constant clowns.  They're willing to make a fool out of themselves just to make you laugh, and they LOVE to be around their people -- sometimes more than they like to be around dogs.

If you get something else, though... it's something else.  I've seen cocker spaniels that were in the lap of someone one moment, and the next they were trying to take that person's face off -- all with seemingly no provocation.  I've seen cocker spaniels that show almost every good sign that they're going to come up and lick you to death and then they try to take a finger off.

I've never seen a breed that, when the personality is bad, they have absolutely NO warning system before a bite.  Even most of the chihuahuas I've met at least will growl at you a good long while before they try to take a hand off.  Cocker spaniels go from quiet look to removing flesh at an alarming rate... if they're on the bad end of the breed personality.

I suppose every breed can be like that.  And I haven't had a cocker spaniel in a while.  Maybe things have changed now.  When we were showing them, they were still just falling out of place for the #1 most popular breed in America, and had been over-bred and had a host of problems.

And the last reason I will probably never own a cocker spaniel again is:  They are stubborn as all hell.

Cocker spaniels are SMART.  They figure things out and if they are motivated enough they can learn anything.

If they want to.

I actually got a Companion Dog title on one of our cocker spaniels when I was growing up.  I stuck it out for three years with that dog for that CD title... and I don't think I could have done it with any other dog.  Because Tattle was smart as hell... and I even think she wanted to do as I asked for the most part...

... unless something was more interesting.

... or I wasn't within sight.

... or I went more than 30 feet away.

... or some really good smell was on the ground.

... or she hadn't gotten a good night's rest that day, and man she needed a nap.

You get the picture.

I have a desire to do agility, competition obedience, or herding.  Some other dog sport or something.  And if I decide to do it with a cocker spaniel, it will take approximately 10 extra years in my opinion.

So there ya go.  My opinion on cocker spaniels in general.  I suppose I haven't really painted a glowing picture of them, but that's why I call these posts breed opinions.  :)

Do you agree with mine?