Cocker Spaniel Fact Sheet
While most everyone agrees that cocker spaniels are beautiful dogs, not everyone is aware of or committed to the maintenance required of such an animal. The coat, skin, ears and eyes need to be given proper attention, else a variety of medical issues can arise.
Owning any dog ~ but especially a higher maintenance breed like a cocker spaniel ~ requires a commitment, and that includes a financial obligation. You should expect the following minimum annual expenses for a cocker:
Good quality dog food: $30 per month $360
Grooming: 6 visits per year minimum @ $50 per visit $300
Heartworm & flea preventative: $15 per month $180
Annual Vet Exam/Routine Shots/Ear cleanser $200 min
If these amounts make you flinch, then you should not be thinking about getting a cocker spaniel! Please keep in mind that this does NOT include any additional vet bills for specialists (ophthalmologists or dermatologists), illness or injury, any professional training, boarding or pet-sitting fees, etc. Approximately 20-25% of the dogs require specialty care. Although owning a cocker spaniel requires a large commitment from the owners, should you commit, you will be rewarded with a devoted friend and companion!
Grooming & Diet
Cocker spaniels need to be regularly bathed and groomed, typically every 6-8 weeks, including nail clipping. Unless you are experienced, it is usually best to have this done by a professional groomer, and the typical cost is $45-60 per visit. While a traditional cocker cut has longer hair forming a 'skirt' around the legs, a shorter 'puppy cut' can be more practical and more comfortable for the dog, especially in the summer. Cockers should be brushed 3-4 times a week, depending on the length of their coat.
Because cockers can be susceptible to various skin conditions and/or allergies, good regular grooming and a high quality dog food will help alleviate this issue. For information about the quality of dog foods by brand, a good resource is http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/dog_food_reviews/.
Ears & Eyes
Cocker spaniels need to be indoor dogs. If kept outside, the beautiful long, heavy, floppy ears trap moisture in the ear canal and bacterial, fungal or yeast infections can develop. These not only make the dog stink, but cause pain and in the worst case scenario can require expensive ear ablation surgery (to the tune of ~$1,000 - $2,000 per ear depending on the severity of infection). Sore ears caused by an infection usually make a dog shake his head frequently and often violently.
Ear problems can be prevented by checking the ears daily and cleaning once or twice a week. Medicated solutions for cleaning are available at your vet, and you should avoid using water or alcohol. Ear hairs are typically clipped at the time of grooming to allow better air circulation as well.
Cockers should also be fed in deep, narrow bowls that prevent their droopy ears from coming into contact with their food and water.
Eyes should be checked regularly and cleaned of any dirt or discharge. The lip folds and teeth will also require regular cleaning. The hair around their feet and between their pads needs to be checked often for mud and matted hair.
Health problems that this breed is prone to includes genetic eye diseases, heart problems, epilepsy, and hip dysplasia. Other problems that can develop are hemophilia, as well as chronic ear and skin infections.
- Life expectancy – average of 12-15 years; range of 9 – 18 years
- Common health issues to watch out for among Cocker Spaniels are cataracts, glaucoma and patellar luxation.
Some cocker spaniels are candidates for cataract surgery, and the average cost for that is around $2,500-3,000 per eye.
Companionship & Training
Companion animals by nature, cocker spaniels want and need to spend time with their humans. A cocker spaniel who does not get enough attention may become destructive, a barker, or both.
Cockers will benefit from patient, gentle and firm obedience training that involves teaching basic commands. Formal classes are optional as long as the puppy responds to commands like sit, down, stay and come, and can walk on a leash without pulling. Many Cocker Spaniels enjoy doing tricks, playing ball and Frisbee. You should know that they are often headstrong dogs who require consistent and loving discipline.
These dogs learn to adjust their activity level according to what kind of home they are in, yet they still require a fair amount of exercise, especially since they are gun dogs at heart. The swimming instinct is in their blood, so keep an eye on them when near water. In addition, it’s a good idea to provide them with the freedom to run off lead in a fenced yard, so they can burn off their energies.