Spaniels were originally bred as hunting dogs and their role was to stay close to the hunter and flush game out. Once the game, usually a bird, takes flight and is downed by the hunter, the spaniel, on command, was to run and fetch the bird. This information is of great assistance in describing the characteristics of these dogs, in particular the American Cocker Spaniel.
In order to stay close to the hunter, spaniels must possess self-control and be eager to please. They are very willing to obey, easy to get along with and are very involved with whoever is interacting with them. They also take very well to training.
Aggression was not useful at all for this breed. A good spaniel is very friendly and loves everyone. They are not one-man dogs. They were bred to assist anyone who wanted a hunting companion.
The American Cocker Spaniel has been an extremely popular breed for many years. This has had the very unfortunate side effect of overbreeding and poor breeding. A correct American Cocker Spaniel is a sweet, happy dog that makes a wonderful companion and loves everyone. However, more often than not, poor breeding has produced Cockers with undesirable practices that run from chronic submissive wetting to downright terrible aggression.
The health of these Cockers has also been compromised due to overbreeding. Skin and eye problems and chronic ear infections are commonplace. Never, ever buy an American Cocker Spaniel from a pet store. Carefully research breeders and hopefully find a reputable one that produces nice Cockers.
American Cocker Spaniels can be parti (meaning white plus another color), but most commonly are black or buff. They are generally 14-15 inches tall and weigh less than 28 pounds. They shed moderately and definitely require professional grooming approximately every eight weeks. Brushing and ear cleaning at home is a must with this breed.
Training is essential with these dogs. If you are lucky and get a good one, training will be a lot of fun. If your Cocker proves to be difficult, training will help although may still not solve all of your problems.
Young Cockers have lots of energy and need daily exercise, especially romps in the woods or a nice park. As Cockers get older, their energy levels are quite manageable so they require less intense exercise.
Good, well-bred and well-socialized Cockers are great with children, other pets and almost never bite. However, with an unstable Cocker, just the opposite is to be expected. As previously stated, poorly bred Cockers are certain to be aggressive and unpredictable.
American Cocker Spaniels can suffer from a wide variety of health problems including but not limited to, hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, subluxating patellas, disk disease, glaucoma and Factor X disease. It's a good idea to acquire your Cocker from a breeder who offers a contract that includes health contingencies.
If you are interested in an American Cocker Spaniel, take the time to try to ensure that you select a correct one. Visit the breeder, spend some time with the Cockers, talk to vets, read books and so on. In other words, be prepared because of the predominance of poorly bred specimens. A well-bred Cocker will be an absolute joy to own.