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OF THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIELS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.
IS AN ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL THE RIGHT DOG FOR YOU?
This paragraph is from the Breed Standard, which is a guideline that describes the ideal characteristics, temperament, and appearance of a breed.
“The English Cocker Spaniel is an active, merry, sporting dog, standing well up at the withers and compactly built. He is alive with energy; his gait is powerful and frictionless, capable both of covering ground effortlessly and penetrating dense cover to flush and retrieve game. His enthusiasm in the field and the incessant action of his tail while at work indicate how much he enjoys the hunting for which he was bred. His head is especially characteristic. He is, above, all, a dog of balance, both standing and moving, without exaggeration in any part, the whole worth more than the sum of its parts.”
The breed excels as a loving family pet and their athleticism and extraordinary ability to identify and use scent makes them more than capable of participating in any type of competitive event, always with the hallmark merry temperament and ever wagging tail. The ECS was originally developed in England to hunt woodcock and hare in the rugged and unforgiving terrain, so they need to be able to penetrate thick cover. They have adapted equally well hunting in the wide-open plains of the Midwest. Known as a big dog in a small package, the concentrated power, compact size, merry and versatile temperament, make this a grand sporting dog which is perfect for many dog sports or as a companion.
A red conformation-bred English Cocker female.
This blue roan and tan, conformation-bred English Cocker Spaniel is flying through an agility course.
This orange & white English Cocker Spaniel helped his owner win Best Junior at Westminster KC.
Most English Cocker Spaniels are merry, intelligent, friendly, gentle, and affectionate in nature, while being full of life and exuberance. They make outstanding, devoted family companions. They benefit from patient, consistent training from the start (as is the case for any dog). Being of medium size, they are very adaptable to many environments and are easy to travel with.
Good temperaments depend on good breeding practices (careful selection of breeding stock, correct rearing & socialization of puppies etc.) so always buy an ECS puppy from an experienced specialist breeder and never from a multi-breed commercial establishment (kennels where a variety of popular breeds are always on sale) or puppy farm.
ECS will bark when someone comes to the door. Once visitors come inside however, they are usually treated as friends
To learn more about the health and Longevity of English Cocker Spaniels, click here.
To learn about The Field-Bred strain compared to the Conformation-Bred English Cocker Spaniels, click here.
For information about choosing, buying, and raising your puppy, click here.
A black and tan conformation-bred female.
A solid liver field-bred English Cocker
HEALTH & LONGEVITY
In general, ECS are healthy with good appetites. As with all dogs they need to be properly fed and exercised. Any abnormality in behavior or appearance should be investigated immediately. If you are worried, contact your breeder for advice and / or take him to a veterinarian.
Below are the guidelines for health testing recommended by the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America Health & Rescue Organization. For more information, visit their website: https://www.ecscahealthandrescue.org/
“The following is a guide for genetically identifiable breed related health concerns. These screening tools ensure effectiveness in maintaining a healthy breed pool. All English Cockers should be checked for breeding soundness before they are bred. Those acquiring a puppy should ask the breeder/owner for printed copies of all health clearances on both parents either on paper and/or referred to the OFA database.
A red field-bred English Cocker
A family photo of orange roans, featuring a senior and a puppy, both conformation-bred English Cockers
- Familial Nephropathy (FN) – DNA test done one time at any age
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – DNA test done one time at any age
- Adult Onset Neuropathy (AON) – DNA test done one time at any age
- Hip Dysplasia – Xray done at two years of age or later, or a preliminary Xray if under 2 years
- OFA Patellar Luxation – Examination at 1 year or older for OFA certification
- Autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism – OFA Thyroid panel
- ACVO eye exam – OFA Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER), exam good for one year
- BAER testing— identifies congenital heredity deafness (required for parti-colored dogs only) from age 35 days and older
Field Bred English Cockers should additionally be tested for:
- Acral Mutilation Syndrome (AMS) – DNA test done one time at any age
- Exercise Induc ed Collapse (EIC) – DNA test done one time at any age”
ECS could be expected to live for about 12-15 years, with the average being 14.. Causes of death, as for most other dogs, would most likely be vehicle collision, cancer, or failure of one of the major organs (heart, liver, or kidneys).
CONFORMATION ATTRIBUTES AND FIELD ATTRIBUTES
This section is to help you understand the attributes of English Cocker Spaniels bred for conformation in comparison to those bred primarily for field work.
In several sporting breeds, including ECS, there are breeders who focus on conformation and others who focus on field ability, to excel in their purpose, resulting in strains. Either make wonderful pets, depending on your situation, and come in a variety of coat colors and patterns. Health and temperament should always be held to the highest standard possible for all English Cocker Spaniels. The basic hunting instinct is still very much intact in this breed, whether conformation-bred, or field-bred.
As one is searching for a breeder, the term “field-bred” will appear. A field-bred English Cocker comes from a breeder whose primary goal is the development of hunting instinct and ability. Because the field- bred English Cocker is bred for one primary purpose, hunting, the natural abilities are likely to be extremely high. Physically, field-bred English Cocker Spaniels can look quite different to the conformation-bred ECS. Breeders who focus on conformation are trying to breed dogs which closely resemble the ECS Breed Standard, as accepted by the American Kennel Club and laid down by the founders of our breed. Breeders who focus on field attributes consider working ability to be their top priority and the look of the dog should support their athleticism.
An English Cocker bred primarily for field work tends to vary in size more than the dogs bred for conformation, and the coat is generally less profuse. Many field-bred dogs require less grooming, but still need combing out their ears and feathering along with a regular routine of bathing and toenail trimming. A dog bred to conform to the standard will tend to carry more coat and benefit from monthly trips to the groomer. The tail is traditionally docked longer on field-bred; the conformation-bred tail would be docked shorter in comparison. The purpose of docking is to prevent the tail from splitting due to its busy action in the field and woods and provide a clear indicator when the dog has made game. The muzzle of the field-bred dog tends to be shorter, and the ear set a bit higher than conformation-bred dogs. Field-bred English Cockers tend to have muscle tone that is more developed and evident.
Conformation-bred dogs are the type seen in the show rings (such as at Westminster). Their appealing looks and compact size have made them popular as family pets for many years. If you see a photo of an ECS on a calendar or in a book, it will be a conformation-bred dog, more often than not.
Typical temperament of the breed, whether field-bred or conformation-bred, is described in the Standard: “The English Cocker is merry and affectionate, of equable disposition, neither sluggish nor hyperactive, a willing worker and a faithful and engaging companion”.
When well bred, English Cockers are very natural retrievers, should demonstrate a tender mouth, and are excellent at marking downed game. Generally speaking, English Cockers love the water and are powerful swimmers and make excellent moderate weather, duck dogs.
For fully trained dogs with expert handlers, Field Trials are held. Some ECS are specifically bred for this competition and are highly competitive. They tend to be more energetic and livelier than most ECS bred as pets and for showing. To witness the performance of these well-trained dogs in field trials is truly a breath-taking experience. For more information about Field Bred English Cockers, visit https://www.fieldcockers.com/
Finally, this breed is extremely biddable, that is, willing to be trained. A “hyper” dog is not pleasant to live with or compete with. An English Cocker should want to learn and work for its handler. The dog should also be able to come inside after the days hunt or training session, relax with the family and be a great companion.
Anyone looking for an ECS puppy should ask questions of the breeders and discuss the health clearances the ECSCA recommends for the sire and dam in the Health Section,so they can make the right choice for their home and lifestyle.
BUYING, SELECTING AND RAISING YOUR ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL
We do not recommend buying from a “puppy farmer” or places such as plantations that use dogs from unproven backgrounds. We encourage you to take a careful approach to find a reputable breeder — you would be very wise to do so. A reputable breeder will have spent years selecting breeding stock based on good health, excellent temperaments, as well as physical attributes and natural instincts. As with all things on the internet, beware of scams. It is in your best interest to go to where the puppy is and see for yourself the puppy and the conditions in which it has been raised. Reputable breeders will want to personally meet you and should be more than happy to show you their dogs.
AKC Conformation Champions in the puppy’s pedigree demonstrates a breeder’s attention to quality breeding stock and the breed standard. Likewise, Field Trial and Hunt Test titles of the parents and grandparents demonstrate the proven hunting ability that should be passed on to the puppies.
Again, it is very important that both parents and all breeding stock for generations behind them have been genetically health tested and had all recommended health screenings. These results showing that the dogs are free from inherited defects should be shared freely with prospective puppy buyers.
Please refer to the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America’s Health Clearance Guidelines: https://www.ecscahealthandrescue.org/index.php/health-clearances/
We suggest you visit our Breeder Referral, Rescue and Regional Clubs section: https://englishcocker.org/breeders-2023/
The breeders listed in this section are members of the ECSCA and a good place to start on your search. You may have to wait a bit and / or drive a little, because they are a muich-loved breed.
CHOOSING A PUPPY
The puppies should look well fed and healthy. They should be confident, happy and wagging their tails. Their coats should be sleek and shiny. They should be in clean conditions. The puppies’ mother should be available for you to meet. She should be friendly and in good condition. If the sire of the litter is owned by the breeder, ask to see him too. Ask if the puppies have been wormed or have had any primary vaccinations. Ask to see a copy of the pedigree. Check that the parents of the litter have been screened for hereditary conditions—there is more detail in the health section. Breeders will often decide which puppy will go to which home because they are most intimate with their personalities and which puppy will best fit in each individual environment. If you are left to choose, ask yourself, which of the available puppies appeals to you most? Which of the puppies has chosen you? Is it the same puppy? If it is then most likely you have found just the right puppy for you!
RAISING YOUR ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL
Opinions vary amongst the Veterinary profession. Consult your own Vet AND Breeder and be guided by him/her. Most puppies need to be vaccinated at about 8, 10 and/or 12 weeks of age and most Vets recommend boosters from time to time throughout the dog’s life. Remember that most boarding kennels require all visiting dogs to have an up-to-date vaccination certificate.
FOOD and NUTRITION
There are many different types of dog food to choose from. It is really all a matter of personal preference or consult the breeder of your puppy. On average, an adult ECS will need two cups of dry food, moistened, per day. Make sure that he always has access to drinking water. They generally have great appetites and have been known to help themselves to food on the counter if it is left out.
Puppies need to have small meals three times a day, but it will equal (in total) the same amount as an adult ECS would eat in a day. Changes to the diet should be made gradually over a period of about a week. A good guide to correct weight is that you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs but not see them. If you can see them, he is too thin. If you cannot feel the ribs, then he is too fat.
Puppies need only to play in the yard at first. Once their inoculations are complete, they can have a little gentle exercise and meet the outside world. Once they are about 6 months old and their bone structure is more or less developed, they can increase their exercise. They should not be allowed to become exhausted but build up their workout routine little by little.
Most adult ECS will be very happy having a brisk walk for about 30 mins morning and evening. Collars are recommended over harnesses. Harnesses teach dogs to pull, and veterinarians are reporting treating harness injuries. An adult will also have to go out into the yard about every four hours during the day, ideally a fenced in yard. Dogs bred from working lines (field-bred ECS) may require more exercise than stated above so make sure you have the time to offer this if you are considering owning a Field-bred ECS.
They generally love to swim! Many dogs enjoy retrieving, playing with a ball or Frisbee. This is a good way of burning off energy and it is a fun activity. ECS will enjoy walking with their owners over considerable distances. You should find out about local laws if you live in a town. Not all public parks welcome dogs and some have designated areas where dogs can be exercised. Dog parks are not recommended because there are so many occurrences of owners bringing in dogs who are ill or aggressive, putting your dog at risk. Leash rules should be followed for your community. Responsible owners will always clean up any fouling made by their dogs, especially in public places.
A blue roan Show Champion with a Master Hunter Title.
They are easily trained. House training should begin as soon as you get your puppy home. He will quickly learn if you diligently keep a close eye on him the first couple weeks and develop a routine. He will need to go out frequently when young, certainly when he wakes up, after meals or playing. After teething, he will be able to “hold it” for longer periods. It’s a good idea to crate him initially overnight or if you go shopping, etc.
Basic obedience training: All dogs should learn some basic manners. To make him into a pleasure to own, teach him to walk by your side on the lead, to sit and stay, to come when called. You can join a local Training Club for help and guidance.
They love being a “couch potato,” but also are perfect for many dog sports as they are smart with a desire to please. You can compete in various competitions. They are adept in the Show Ring for Conformation, Hunt Tests, Field Trials, Agility, Obedience, Rally, Scent Work, Tracking, Canine Good Citizen, Trick Dog, Dock Diving, Barn Hunt.
Gundog Training: The basic hunting instinct is still very much intact in this breed, conformation-bred or field-bred, and hunting is their favorite activity. ECS have a natural ability to work on smaller game (rabbit, woodcock, duck, partridge, pheasant), and their ability will be enhanced with the help or guidance of an experienced trainer.
GROOMING, BATHING, TRIMMING
Try to take a few minutes and give your ECS a quick brush and comb daily or every other day. This is a good way of keeping him tidy and for you to check him over for thorns etc. Weekly, give him a thorough comb through and brushing and check his teeth, eyes and ears. This is best done on a grooming table, or a towel on top of a washer/dryer might work. Dogs enjoy being groomed by their owners and it helps them to bond with you. Be careful to keep a firm hold of puppies in case they try to jump off the table. Always praise your dog during grooming –make it a pleasure for him and for you too!
You can bathe your dog as often as you feel necessary. Make certain that he is thoroughly rinsed and dried afterwards. Towel dry him first when he comes out of the tub, and then use a warm hair dryer. Make certain that his ears, chest, arm pits, crotch and back are thoroughly dry and free of mats.
How often your ECS should be trimmed varies according to how much hair he grows. Some dogs (particularly field-bred ECS) have a fairly sparse coat and fine feathering, others have thicker, longer hair and will need to be trimmed more often. To keep him looking smart, on average, an adult ECS will require trimming every 4 weeks. Or you can trim him quite short, and he will still look attractive and go longer between trims.
For detailed information, to trim yourself or to provide your groomer, please see the parent club website, https://englishcocker.org/about-breed/ and select “Grooming Chart”. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xygK9Eq0FzbHeY3zHDlLFvOQoUDMuxd5/view
Spaniels’ ears hang downwards. This helps to protect the inner ear from water entering inside. In warm weather, make sure that the hair on the inside of the ear is kept trimmed short. This will allow air to circulate and help to keep the ear healthy. During the summer, when your dog has been out for a run, always check that his ears have not got any seeds lodged in his ears or feet. These can work their way up inside the ear or foot by friction and can cause great pain. Some dogs, especially young dogs, may produce wax while the ear canal is developing. This can be kept clean by using ear cleaning drops obtained from pet supply shops or Vets. It is a good idea to check his ears, eyes, teeth, and feet each time you groom him. This way you will quickly spot any problems and will be able to deal with it straight away. Consult a Vet if you are worried.
To save your dog from getting lost, microchipping is recommended.
Most breeders will have microchipped your puppy for you. Please check with your breeder to find out if this has been done.
Should I breed a litter from my pet male or female?
Firstly, why do you want to breed a litter? Owners of male dogs often think that their dog would like to sire a litter. Ask yourself what can he give to the breed to preserve it? Established breeders keep stud dogs which have been specially selected with a view to preserving the breed. They are usually screened (at considerable cost) under health schemes for hereditary conditions and are used at limited stud. Unless your dog has some outstanding quality that he can give to the breed, it is unlikely that any serious breeder would be interested in using his services in their breeding plans. To allow him to sire a litter just because he may enjoy the experience is not a good enough reason. There are thousands of dogs living as pets and if all sired a litter there would be a population explosion! Act responsibly!
Having a litter from your pet bitch can be a most interesting and rewarding experience but ask yourself why you want to have a litter? It takes a great deal of time, effort and expense and should only be undertaken by those who have enough time, energy and finances as well as proper facilities. It may take several weeks and perhaps months to find enough good homes for your puppies. All breeders have a responsibility to ensure that any puppies produced by them are properly reared, healthy and that they will have a good chance of being well looked after by their new owners.
Another point to consider is that you should ensure that your female is free from hereditary conditions before breeding her. This is another cost factor which should be considered when planning a litter. Although most ECS females will whelp perfectly naturally, there can never be any guarantee that difficulties will not arise. The cost of a possible caesarean section, fluid therapy and antibiotic treatment following surgery must be available, in the event that it may be needed in an emergency.
As the breeder of the litter, you could well be asked for advice from the puppies’ new owners and if things do not work out well, you may be asked to take one or more of the puppies back at some time. Unless you can undertake these responsibilities, it is better to abandon any plans to breed from your pet female.