Thanks to "Lady and the Tramp," most of us picture cocker spaniels as lovely golden-colored dogs with droopy ears, wavy long fur and a friendly, happy expression. While this is not wrong, many cocker spaniels look a little different from the stereotype.
American and English
They don't have different accents or spell their names differently, but living across the pond has made American and English cocker spaniels different in size and color. The American Kennel Club recognizes the American cocker spaniel simply as a cocker spaniel and the English as the English cocker spaniel. The American cocker is smaller, with a compact body, round eyes and short muzzle. They average 13.5 to 15.5 inches high and weigh 15 to 30 pounds. The English cocker, on the other hand, is taller and longer, more closely resembling a springer spaniel. The English version is usually 15 to 17 inches tall, weighs 26 to 34 pounds and has a longer head and muzzle. Even with their physical differences, it can be hard to tell the two apart unless you are an expert or they are sitting side by side.
Working and Showing
It's not exactly a case of brains versus beauty, but some cocker spaniels are bred for the show ring, and some are bred purely for their working ability. This has resulted in two types that differ in appearance and temperament. Show cocker spaniels closely match the official breed description, with compact bodies, well-rounded heads and square muzzles. Cockers bred for hunting are chosen for their ability rather than their appearance and usually have shorter, less-rounded foreheads, shorter ears with less fur, longer bodies and longer legs. Both types are known for being friendly and cheery, but cocker spaniels from show lines tend to be more content with only moderate exercise and play. They are good pets if you don't want to spend hours keeping your dog exercised and entertained. Cockers from working lines are usually high-energy and need to be kept busy. They become unhappy if expected to lie around the house or yard all day.
American cocker spaniels come in many colors, but the most popular is golden, a light, sandy tan color just like Lady from "Lady and the Tramp." There are other colors, though, like black, brown, red, silver and cream. English cocker spaniels come in additional colors, such as black, golden, lemon, liver, orange and red. Cute cocker babies may surprise their owners and show up in other colors as well, but these colors are not accepted as part of the breed standard.
Spot, Patches and Bear aren't just names for a cute cocker, they're also the pattern they can have on their coat. Solid-color coats are just what they sound like, a single color all over the entire body. They are among the most common. Tan patterned cockers have a solid color on the top of the body, with tan spots above the eyes as well as tan on the muzzle and feet, similar to a pattern you might see on some bears or on a Doberman pinscher. Cocker spaniels that are white with colored spots or patches are called "parti" and can have either two or three colors on their body. Sable cockers are similar to parti cockers but have black coloring in place of white. Cocker spaniels with a merle pattern have patches of that same color, but with lighter and darker areas. An example would be a large black spot with areas of gray within it. Finally, roan cocker spaniels have lighter patches of hair on the body that almost appear as if they have faded or turned gray.