American Cocker Spaniel

Lifestyle Needs

American Cocker Spaniel

The American Cocker Spaniel is a remoulded version of the English Cocker.  He is smaller, his skull rounded and his eyes more forward facing.  His back is shorter and slightly sloping.  He also has copious hair on his ears and body.  All of these characteristics, as well as his (usually) friendly temperament, make the American Cocker a popular family dog.  He needs plenty of fun and exercise.  His very long, silky coat needs careful and frequent grooming.

Inbreeding Coefficient - COI
(Should be as low as possible)

The UK Kennel Club breed average COI is 4.0% - see 'A Beginners Guide to COI'

Effective Population Size - EPS


EPS is a measure of how many individuals are contributing genetically to a breed population. It is a measure of the size of the gene pool in a breed. Lower than 100 is considered critical by conservationists and below 50 brings a breed close to extinction. For more information see the Kennel Club article.

Health and Welfare Problems due to Conformation
(Body shape and physical characteristics)

  • The American Cocker’s long coat will cause him problems if not groomed regularly and professionally trimmed from time to time.
  •  His over long ears are likely to be stepped on when he tries to follow a scent
  • Long ears and excessive hair can cause ear canal inflammation and infection which can be painful

BVA/KC Health Schemes:

  • Hip dysplasia (abnormality of the hip joints causing pain and disability): breed mean score 9.9
  • Eye disease: Primary glaucoma (G) (annual testing); Multi-focal retinal dysplasia (visual impairment) (litter screening); Hereditary cataract (HC) (annual testing); Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) (annual testing) (gradual loss of vision)

Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) are now available for Hip Dysplasia and Elbow Dysplasia:

DNA Tests Available

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (pcrd-PRA)
  • Iron Refractory Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IRIDA)
  • Phosphofructokinase Deficiency (PFK)

Unofficial (Breed Club) Schemes

None known

Ask the breeder to show you the certificates for the above tests/screening for both parents. If any of the above tests have not been considered necessary by the breeder (and there may be good reasons), ask her to explain why.

Other Diseases Reported
(For which there are currently no genetic or screening tests for sire or dam)

  • Chronic hepatitis (liver disease) (an autoimmune disease)
  • Immune mediated thrombocytopenia (low blood platelets causing spontaneous bleeding – can cause chronic malaise and severe pain)
  • Cancer: ceruminous gland carcinoma; perianal gland tumours; basal cell tumors; histiocytoma; lymphoma
  • Corneal dystrophy (opaqueness of cornea, causing visual impairment)
  • Distichiasis (double row of eyelashes which irritate the eyeball)
  • Entropion/Ectropion (inward turning eyelid/outward turning eyelid)
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (Dry eye)
  • Bronchiectasis (permanent widening of the bronchi) causes coughing
  • Heart disease: Dilated cardiomyopathy and associated taurine deficiency (heart chambers enlarge – heart muscle weakens and gradually fails)
  • Patellar luxation (dislocated kneecap)
  • Cruciate ligament disease
  • Intervertebral disc disease (rupture of a disc with compression of the spinal cord) causes pain and weakness and sometimes paralysis)
  • Haemophilia B (bleeding disease)
  • Platelet storage pool deficiency (may cause haemorrhage)

Ask the breeder about the medical history of the parents, grandparents and great grandparents.  Consider carefully whether to purchase a puppy if some of these or other diseases are in the family line.

Ask about the breeder’s policy in cases of serious genetic diseases occurring to your puppy in later life. Good breeders will request to be informed of such events in order to improve future breeding decisions. Some breeders will also agree to contribute towards medical costs or refund purchase price.

You are strongly advised to buy from a breeder who uses (or is prepared to use) the RSPCA / BVA AWF Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack (PIP):

You are also advised to buy from a breeder who follows the Dog Breeding Reform Group’s (DBRG) Standard for Dog Breeding:

Or the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme Standard and Guidance:
Standard PDF | Guidance PDF

List of Dog Breeds