How to Select a Cocker Spaniel

Cocker spaniels have long, wavy coats that require regular brushing to control shedding.
Cocker spaniel image by Stana from

According to the registration statistics kept by the American Kennel Club, cocker spaniels are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. These dogs were originally bred as gun dogs and are still known for their speed and endurance. As pets, cocker spaniels are a friendly and gentle breed. Because they are a sporting breed, however, they require daily exercise to stay fit and to keep their energy under control. If you are considering purchasing a cocker spaniel, be sure you and your family are capable of meeting the needs of this intelligent breed.

Step 1

Examine your family and home life to be sure a cocker spaniel is a good match for you. Cocker spaniels are small and gentle, which makes them excellent family dogs. Despite their small size, however, they are still very active and require daily exercise to stay fit.

Step 2

Decide what sex and coloring you prefer in your new cocker spaniel. Cocker spaniels come in black, tan, red, cream and virtually any combination of these colors. The coats of cocker spaniels are medium-long and may be flat or wavy.

Step 3

Search for a reputable cocker spaniel breeder in your area. Ask your veterinarian or other dog owners for a referral or perform a search through the American Kennel Club website. You may also contact your nearest regional breed club for information.

Step 4

Speak to several cocker spaniel breeders, asking questions to ascertain their knowledge of the breed. Ask the breeder whether he breeds show strain or working strain cocker spaniels, because the appearance and physical attributes of these strains may vary. It is also wise to ask about vaccinations, socialization methods and hereditary conditions like hip dysplasia and glaucoma, to which cocker spaniels are especially prone.

Step 5

Select the breeder that appears to be the most knowledgeable and experienced in breeding cocker spaniels. You may also want to factor in the number of cocker spaniel puppies the breeder has available as well as the sex and coloration of those puppies when making your decision.

Step 6

Visit the cocker spaniel breeder of your choice to examine the facilities. Cocker spaniels are small dogs so they do not require a great deal of space, but the facilities should not be cramped. Breeding facilities should be clean and provide dogs with indoor shelter as well as outdoor space to run and play.

Step 7

Have the breeder show you the parent dogs. The mother cocker spaniel should appear to be healthy and should act friendly. If the mother is aggressive or overly shy, it could be a sign of poor treatment or temperament.

Step 8

Ask to see the cocker spaniel puppies the breeder has available. Stand back for a few minutes and watch the puppies interact. Healthy cocker spaniel puppies should appear plump rather than skinny, their coats should be shiny and they should be lively and active.

Step 9

Spend some time interacting with the puppies to gauge their individual personalities and temperament. Cocker spaniels are a naturally gentle breed, so the puppies should come up to you and be comfortable being petted and picked up.

Step 10

Look for a cocker spaniel puppy that does not shy from human contact. The puppy should settle in when you pick him up and respond calmly to petting. If the puppies appear fearful, they may not have been socialized properly. Puppies that haven't been socialized well may develop behavioral problems.

Step 11

Check the puppies for obvious signs of ill health. Cocker spaniels are prone to some eye discharge, but it should not be excessive and the eyes themselves should be clear. There should be no lumps in the puppy's belly and his ears should be clean and have no offensive odor.

Step 12

Select the puppy that best suits your preferences. Most breeders sell cocker spaniel puppies between 6 and 8 weeks of age, so if your puppy is still too young you may need to put down a deposit to reserve him and return at a later date.


  • Do not be tempted to take home the runt of the litter. These puppies often develop health and/or behavioral problems later in their lives.


  • When considering whether you can provide for the fitness needs of this breed, realize that cocker spaniels are a sporting breed. These dogs need at least an hour of daily exercise, preferably a 30-minute walk twice a day.

  • It is also wise to consider the grooming requirements of this breed. Because cocker spaniels have long, silky coats, they require daily brushing to keep shedding under control and their coats may need to be trimmed every two months.


About the Author

Katherine Barrington has written on a variety of topics, from arts and crafts to pets, health and do-it-yourself projects. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a creative writing concentration from Marietta College.

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