Cocker Spaniel (The American with a British Heritage)
The American Cocker Spaniel evolved in the United States from spaniels imported from Great Britain. By the 1930s the American variety had become so different from the English variety that it was given separate breed status.
Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to a variety of maladies, particularly infections affecting their ears and, in some cases, their eyes. As a result, they may require more medical attention than some other breeds. Common eye problems in Cockers include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), glaucoma, and cataracts. The American Spaniel Club recommends annual eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist for all dogs used for breeding. Autoimmune problems in Cockers include autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) and ear inflammations. Less common are luxating patellas and hip dysplasia. Dogs used for breeding can be checked for both of these conditions, and dogs free of hip dysplasia can be certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
Their temperament is typically happy, trusting, and intelligent. The ideal Cocker temperament is merry, outgoing, and eager to please. They tend to be "softer" dogs who do not do well with rough or harsh training.
The popularity of the American Cocker Spaniel led to a considerable amount of irresponsible breeding in an attempt to keep up with the demand. The results have included fearful or aggressive behavior in some of the dogs, submissive urination, and resource guarding. Responsible breeders have worked diligently to eliminate these negative characteristics while trying to educate the public regarding responsible breeding. Temperment of the American Cocker Spaniel should always be the primary concern when breeding these dogs. As with all puppies, owners are advised to choose their breeder carefully.
The name cocker comes from the fact that the breed originally hunted woodcock. In the United States the breed is registered under the name "Cocker Spaniel", as is the English Cocker Spaniel in the UK, which can cause confusion between these two breeds. By the 1930s the American variety had become so different from its English ancestors that it was given separate breed status. Originally a gun dog, the Cocker now fulfills the position of family pet or show dog most often and unlike the English Cocker, is rarely seen hunting. Some American lines are still bred for fieldwork, and a small movement works to preserve the hunting abilities of the breed. He can be a faithful and responsible children's companion. Cockers have been a highly popular American breed since the 1940s, occupying the top position in number of American Kennel Club registrations from 1940-1952. The breed declined a bit in popularity and then resurged to number one in registrations from 1984-1990. Since then, the breed's popularity has declined. The Cocker Spaniel was 15th in AKC registrations for 2004, down from 14th in 2003.
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