Referenced as early as the 14th century, the American Cocker Spaniel falls within the 'gundog' group, sharing its classification with the Retrievers, Pointers and Setters. The Cocker Spaniel is separated into the English and American variety, although the American is traditionally more popular. Primarily utilised as a hunting gun dog capable of working large acreages and difficult terrain and adept at hunting through water, the Cocker Spaniel was introduced to America in 1620, although it wasn't until 1878 that the breed was officially recognised by the AKC.
A medium-sized breed with a broad muzzle, low-set 'drop' ears, round eyes and glamorous coat feathering on its underside, legs, chest and ears. The Spaniel is common in colour variations of solid black, merle or white, with red, tan, buff or black markings. The texture of the coat is soft, wavy and highly manageable, although it requires regular grooming and bathing. The dew claws are often removed and it is not uncommon to see the tail docked, despite it being an illegal practice across Europe.
Retaining its working instinct, the breed is bold, determined and intelligent, requiring gentle obedience training from an early age. The original family dog, the Cocker Spaniel is highly trainable, making it well suited to domestic living, and is compatible with children and other house pets when introduced to them gradually. Affectionate, loyal and sociable, the breed makes a great addition to family life. On average, a healthy American Cocker Spaniel will weigh 7-14 kg, with a life expectancy of 12-15 years when cared for accordingly.
Susceptible to various health complaints that are partly genetic, the American Cocker Spaniel has been known to suffer from optical disorders including glaucoma and cataracts, as well as issues relating to the hips and elbows. More serious conditions specific to the breed are cardiac weakness, epilepsy and liver disease, whilst deafness is also common due to the ears hanging low against the ground. Additionally, the Spaniel is prone to easy weight gain, so feeding human foods is not encouraged as even the smallest amount of fat can be detrimental to the general health of the dog.