General Information
About Cocker Spaniels

What you need to know if you think you want a
Cocker Spaniel but you haven't had one before

Click here to go to our main Cocker Spaniel page

The good news is that there are many great things about Cocker Spaniels:

buff colored Cocker Spaniel with full coatCockers are one of the most beautiful breeds of dogs.  Their long coats can be absolutely spectacular looking.  All breeds of puppies are cute, but Cockers remain cute all of their lives.  A well-groomed Cocker will definitely turn heads.

Cockers love people and are very devoted pets.  It's a very people-oriented breed.  Almost all Cockers love to be with people, and are usually happiest if they are right by the side of their owner.

A merry Cocker SpanielIt's a very happy breed.  You'll often hear Cockers referred to as "merry".  They just seem to be enjoying themselves most of the time.  All you have to do is watch that tail wag, and you can tell when a Cocker is happy...  which is most of the time.  Most Cockers are playful and fun to be around.  They'll often make you laugh.  Imagine a dolphin, with fur and legs.  A playful, happy, merry tail-wagger...  that's the Cocker Spaniel.

Cockers are physically smaller than many of today's most popular breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds.  This means you spend less on food, clean up less poop, can keep the dog in smaller areas, have an easier time physically controlling and transporting the dog, and that the dog will require less exercise.

It's not that difficult to find a Cocker available near you.  There are breeders in most of the 50 United States, as well as around the world.  Adult Cockers in rescue shelters are widely available, too, and technology has made it easy to find them.  As long as you keep an open mind about what coat colors you will accept, you shouldn't have too much problem finding a Cocker available within driving distance.  But if you get yourself locked in to thinking that you only want one of the more unusual Cocker coat colors, you'll have a hard time finding one!

The bad news is:

The hair grows like crazy!  If you don't give monthly haircuts to your Cocker, or pay someone else to do it, you no longer have a beautiful dog...  you have a furry mess.  The picture on the right is a Cocker that was totally neglected by his owner.  He ended up with a Cocker rescue group.  You only have to forget to groom your Cocker for about six months before he ends up looking like this.

There are plenty of short-haired dog breeds out there.  If you're not up to the challenge of keeping your dog's coat trimmed and looking good at all times, get one of those breeds instead of a Cocker!  If you're allergic to dog hair...  this is not the breed for you!

If you can't afford to pay a professional to give your Cocker a hair cut once a month, you'll need to fork over some money to buy your own electric hair clippers.  While you can find budget-priced electric dog hair clippers at WalMart, you're far better off getting professional-quality equipment.  It does a better job, and lasts a lot longer.  The budget-priced stuff comes with a blade that can not be replaced.  Unfortunately, the blade is the first thing to wear out!  Take a look towards the bottom of my Cocker grooming page, and see what equipment I recommend for doing your own grooming.  Factor these costs in to your decision to get a Cocker.

Besides monthly hair cuts, it takes a lot of brushing to keep a Cocker's coat from getting tangled and matted.  There are days when all Cocker owners find themselves thinking that owning a Beagle would be a heck of a lot easier!

A neglected Cocker turned over to a rescue group
A neglected Cocker Spaniel that was turned over to a rescue organization.

Because they are so people-oriented, Cockers don't handle being alone very well.  If you're like most people and you have to go to work or school all day, you'll have a lot of behavior problems if you just leave your Cocker alone all day.  They may bark, chew everything in sight, dig in your garden, or pee & poop destructively.  When you finally get home, a crazed monster is waiting for you.  If you've heard that Cockers have a reputation for being hyper or a little crazy, it's because of all the people that have thought they could just leave a Cocker alone until they got home.  Get a cat instead, and wait until you retire before you get that Cocker!  Stay-at-home moms, people who work from home, retired people, and people who can take their dogs to work...  these people will have great experiences with Cockers.  People who leave the dog alone all day will not have a good Cocker experience, and will NEVER get another Cocker again!  If you're away from home all day and still insist on owning a Cocker...  your best bet is to allow the dog to stay with a neighbor, friend, or relative when you're gone.

Rescued Cocker after getting his matted coat shaved off
This is the same Cocker pictured above, after getting his matted coat shaved off.

There are several health issues that "go with the breed".  You might get lucky and get a Cocker with absolutely perfect health, but if you're going to get in to Cockers you need to be aware of the chance that your Cocker might deal with one or more of these common Cocker health issues:

Jim Zim with two chocolate parti puppiesQuite frankly, the Cocker Spaniel is not for everyone.  From 1936 through 1952, and again from 1983 through 1990, it was the #1 breed in the USA according to AKC registration statistics.  But a lot of people had bad experiences with Cockers, and it's no longer even close to being in the top 10 anymore.

By taking some basic precautions when choosing a breeder, you can increase your chances of getting a healthy and well socialized Cocker.  You have to be prepared to do the extra work required to maintain the long coat and to prevent ear infections.  You also have to make the dog a part of your family, and allow him to be with people for most of the day.

If you're willing to do all of those things, you'll quite likely have a great time with Cocker Spaniels.  But if get a Cocker thinking that all you have to do is provide food & water, you probably won't have a very good experience with this breed.

Cocker Spaniel Coat Colors

Cockers come in a wide variety of coat colors.  It's lots of fun to see all of the varieties and to admire your favorites!  I don't have pictures of every possible Cocker variety, but I've got quite a few:


buff Cocker photo courtesy of Sheila Vessar
This is the classic look everyone thinks of when they think of a Cocker Spaniel.
It's one of the most common and easiest-to-find colors.
Photo courtesy of Sheila Vessar



photo courtesy of Tauny Lafleche
A much lighter shade than the normal buff.
It's almost white, but not quite.
Photo courtesy of Tauny Lafleche



photo courtesy of Erika Kehoe
Comparison of a Silver to a Buff
These two pups clearly show the difference between a silver and a buff Cocker
Photo courtesy of
Erika Kehoe



solid red American Cocker Spaniel
Similar to buff, but darker and deeper in color



Photo courtesy of Michelle Rifkin-Mamaladlo
The second most common Cocker color, behind buff.
A small amount of white on the neck or chest is OK, per the breed standard.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Rifkin-Mamaladlo



Photo courtesy of Dana Boyd
Black & Tan
Simply a solid black Cocker with tan points.
Photo courtesy of Dana Boyd



Two chocolate Cocker Spaniels
Probably my favorite Cocker coat color, yet I've never owned one!
A small amount of white on the neck or chest is OK, per the breed standard.
"Charlie" & "Casey" owned & loved by Lisa & Tom Kirby, bred by Vicki Wallace



Chocolate and tan Cocker photo courtesy of Sheila Vessar
Chocolate & Tan
Simply a chocolate Cocker with tan points.
The breed standard says that the tan points shouldn't cover more than 10% of the dog's body.
Photo courtesy of Sheila Vessar



parti color American Cocker Spaniel
Black & White Parti Color
The most common variety of the partis



tri color American Cocker Spaniel
Black & White Tri Color
Simply a black & white parti with tan points



Cocker Spaniel photo
Red & White Parti
One of the most beautiful Cocker varieties, in my opinion.
If the shade of red is very faint, some breeders call it buff & white.



Cocker Spaniel picture
Chocolate & White Parti
Another totally gorgeous variety of the Cocker Spaniel



One of the most beautiful Cocker Spaniel coat colors
Chocolate & White Tri Color
Simply a chocolate & white parti with tan points
Photo courtesy of Leanna Mobbs



sable Cocker Spaniel
A very interesting (and controversial) coat color.
I could probably make a whole page of photos of sables that all have different markings.
Black fur mixed in with other non-white colors is one tip-off that you might be looking at a sable.
Photo courtesy of Tina



chocolate sable parti
Chocolate Sable Parti Color
Similar to a chocolate & white parti, but with black coloring mixed in with the brown.



red sable parti
Red Sable Parti
Similar to a red & white parti, but with much deeper coloring thanks to the sable gene.
Every red sable parti I've seen has been absolutely gorgeous.
Photo courtesy of Jacquie Christy



Owned by Michaela Garloff of Bodega Cockers
Blue Roan Parti
This picture doesn't show it well, but in certain light
the coat will look like it has a blue tint to it.
Roans are very unusual and hard to come by.



Owned by Leanna Mobbs of Kayla's Cockers
Blue Roan Tri
Same as the dog in the previous picture,
but with the addition of tan points.
Photo courtesy of Leanna Mobbs



blue merle Cocker Spaniel
Blue Merle
This is simply a solid black Cocker with the merle gene.
This picture does a good job of showing how in certain light
the coat can look like it has a blue tint to it.

Merles are usually registered as roans, and look very similar.
See my merle page to learn about important differences between merles and roans,
and to find out why it's absolutely vital to know what you are doing
before ever breeding a Cocker with the merle coat.



Blue merle parti
You can see how the merle gene has diluted large areas of
the black fur to gray and how it looks to have a blue tint.
Photo courtesy of Lu LeJeune of Suwannee Cockers



blue merle parti Cocker with tan points
Blue merle parti with tan points
Same as the dog in the previous picture,
but with the addition of tan points.
Photo courtesy of Lu LeJeune of Suwannee Cockers



chocolate merle parti
Chocolate Merle Parti
So unusual that chances are you'll never see one of these in your lifetime!
Photo courtesy of Rossana Bartra



heavily ticked Cocker Spaniels
Black & White Parti Color with Ticking
Small black dots among the white fur, reminiscent of a Dalmatian.
It's called ticking because it looks like the dog is covered with the infamous insect.
One very interesting thing about ticking is that it is not evident at birth...
it comes in later, over time.  Look at the second puppy from the right,
in the photo below.  It's the same dog in the right side of the photo above.

At four days old, there is no signs of ticking on the second puppy from the right.
The ticking slowly started to show at about six weeks...  most noticeable when the back was shaved.



Ticking on a chocolate parti
Photo courtesy of Susan Ramaker



The most unusually marked Cocker I've ever seen
This dog has it all...
Merle, parti, tan points, and ticking, too.
What's especially unusual is that there is both black ticking and tan ticking.
His name is Riley...  and the photo comes from his owner, Keri Poole



open marked Cocker
"Open" marked parti
A parti colored Cocker has two colors, one of which is white,
and the white must cover at least 10% of the body.
If the ratio of white to the other color is very high,
the dog is said to have "open" markings.
Photo courtesy of Sherry Chandler



heavily marked parti
"Closed" markings
The opposite of "open" markings on a parti is "closed" markings...
A parti colored dog where the ratio of white to the other color is low.
Another term used to described a dog like this is to say that she is "heavily marked".
But remember, if less than 10% of the coat is white, the dog is not considered a parti.
Photo courtesy of
Ed & Sharon Puett



A mis-marked solid color.
This is what happens when a parti is bred to a solid.
See the white markings on the snout, neck, and feet?
That's a no-no...  according to the breed standard.
Another example of a mis-marked buff, the result of a parti-to-solid breeding, can be found here.



white Cocker Spaniel
People have asked if there is such a thing as a solid white Cocker.
Here is is a mis-marked parti that comes pretty close.
Genetically, this is a black & white parti, but there is almost no black actually showing.
She has a small black area on one ear, and two freckles on her back.  That's it.
The other Cockers that look similar to this are the solid silver colored Cockers,
but they are really just a very light shade of buff, not truly white like this gal is.

Unfortunately, whatever genetic fluke did this to her coat color also made her deaf.
I know all you experienced Cocker people are thinking she's a double-merle...  but she is not.
While breeding two merles together is the most common way to get a mostly white dog with
blue eyes and deafness, it's not the only way.  This dog has no merle ancestors whatsoever.

If you've got a new puppy or you're thinking about getting one, you'll probably also enjoy:

Jim Zim's tips on buying, raising, and potty-training a Cocker Spaniel puppy

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