The American Cocker Spaniel is the smallest dog recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of its Sporting Group. These are fairly small dogs that have glamorous, silky coats ranging from coal black to the lightest cream, and every color in between. The American Cocker Spaniel is closely related to the English Cocker Spaniel, but the two breeds diverged during the mid-1900s. Today, they are entirely separate breeds. The American Cocker Spaniel’s head makes the breed immediately recognizable, with a rounded dome-like skull, a well-pronounced stop, an upturned nose and squared-off lips. The American Cocker’s drop ears are long and low set, with fantastic silky fringing. Its eyes are large, round and dark. The nose is black or brown, depending on the base coat color of the particular dog. This breed is known for its long silky fur and profuse feathering.
Size and Weight
Adult male American Cocker Spaniels should be 15 inches at the withers; adult females should be 14 inches measured at the same place. According to the AKC standard for this breed, height may vary one-half inch above or below these ideals. Male Cockers whose height exceeds 15½ inches, and females whose height exceeds 14½ inches, will be disqualified from show competition. Adult Cockers who are smaller than average will be penalized in the show ring, but will not be disqualified. American Cockers typically weigh between 15 and 30 pounds. As in most dog breeds, females tend to weigh slightly less than males.
Coat and Color
American Cocker Spaniels come in a number of colors and several different coat types. They uniformly have double coats, with a medium-length, silky outercoat and a moderate undercoat that provides protection when they are “out on the hunt.” The outercoat can be either flat or slightly wavy. They have profuse feathering on their ears, chest, belly and legs. Excessively heavy coat, or coats that are too curly or cottony in texture, are severely penalized.
This breed comes in a range of colors, which are separated into three main groups: 1) black/black and tan; 2) any solid color other than black (known as ASCOB); and 3) parti-color. The black variety should be jet-black, or jet-black with tan points on the head, feet and tail, without any shading of liver or brown. American Cockers in the ASCOB group can be any solid color (other than black) from light cream to dark red or chocolate, although some lighter coloring is allowed on the feathering under the AKC breed standard. A small white marking on the chest is acceptable in these first two color groups. Parti-colored dogs have coats of two or more solid, well-broken colors, one of which must be white. They can be black and white, brown and white, red and white or roan and white. There are also merle-colored American Cocker Spaniels, although they are not recognized in the show ring by the American Kennel Club. The merle color is considered to be a genetic mutation in this breed that may predispose Cockers of this color to increased health problems.
The American Cocker Spaniel has an abundant coat that requires regular attention. Most owners of companion Cockers eventually elect to take their pets to a professional groomer, so that their lovely locks are kept neat, tidy and tangle-free. The large, soulful eyes of this breed need to be cleaned regularly, as do their long, hairy ears, to prevent debris from accumulating and to ward off infection. Cocker Spaniels can develop nasty hair mats if they are not kept well-brushed, bathed and combed. These mats can be rather tricky to remove, without injuring the dog’s delicate skin. A thorough grooming and trim every few months usually is enough to keep an American Cocker’s coat in tip-top shape.