The spaniel breed is believed to have originated in Spain, tracing its history back to the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, these early ancestors were used as companions for bird hunters, commonly being grouped as land or water spaniels in England and other parts of Europe. By the 19th century, these various types of spaniels became classified as separate breeds. Among them was the Cocker, named after the woodcock that they were commonly seen hunting. Once their ancestors arrived in America, the breed diverged into two distinct varieties: the smaller American Cocker and the taller English Cocker. The American Cocker Spaniel reached their highest popularity in the 1950s due to Disney's Lady and the Tramp and Vice President Richard Nixon's Cocker, named Checkers, which he named his most famous "Checkers Speech" that changed political history forever.
Smaller than the English Springer Spaniel but larger than the English Toy Spaniel, the American Cocker is much smaller than their English counterpart. Although they are the smallest member of the sporting group, these tough spaniels have a sturdy and compact body with muscular hindquarters that attest to their use as durable gundogs. The Cocker is known for their beautiful coats that come in a variety of colors and patterns to please any preference. Their medium-length coat is silky, flat, or slightly wavy with feathering on the ears, chest, stomach, and legs and has a texture that permits easy care. American Cocker Spaniels have a sweet expression that is thanks to their big dark eyes, long feathered ears, and broad muzzle with a black or brown nose depending on the color of the coat. Their docked tail is carried on a line with the top line of the back or slightly higher when in motion.
Characterized as merry, outgoing, and very willing to please, the American Cocker Spaniel is the type of dog that enjoys going on hunting trips but will happily cuddle up to you on the couch at home. This highly trainable spaniel is considered to be a "softer" breed, generally not responding well to tough training. Plenty of patience, affection, and positive reinforcement are the ways to have an obedient, but not submissive Cocker. Their compact and portable size makes them a great addition for owners who love to travel with their companion or that live in apartments. Their sweet and caring personality gained them the position of commonly being seen as dedicated therapy dogs and they tend to get along extremely well with children and other household pets. Remember, the Cocker is a sporting breed so they require plenty of exercise to remain in a healthy condition, enjoying brisk walks or playing fetch. Although they were developed as bird hunting dogs, the American Cocker Spaniel has earned its popularity for being one of the best breeds for families with children.