Posted 3 months ago
By Liz Doyland
If you want a dog who hangs on your every word, get a Cocker Spaniel.
Oscar is a Working Cocker – at five years old, he’s lean, loyal, incredibly easy to train, intelligent and more than a little neurotic. He’s friendly, though barks at every passer-by when he’s in the garden. He adores sitting on people’s knees, is very affectionate, and he cocks his head to one side when spoken to, as though it’s the most important thing he’s ever heard.
He has a flat, glossy black coat with a cute little white tuft on his chest, and whilst he rarely needs grooming (and has never been clipped), he does moult terribly. The entire house is covered in a dusting of Oscar hair, and nine times out of 10 we find them in anything we eat. His coat is fine, with longer hair on the backs of his legs, and long ears which attract little green balls and sticky burrs daily from June to September. He also tends to grow a mohican, which flops down into a crimped mop-top when it's wet.
His ears are long and curly and tend to get matted with food and mud if not trimmed every couple of months – but he’s delighted to let you do this, as it means all of your attention is on him (he’s rather needy).
The Kennel Club’s breed info recommends up to one hour of exercise per day. I’m not sure how many Cocker Spaniels they’ve known, but most of the ones I’ve met have been fiends – machines that can run and run and run, and still beg for more. That said, whilst Oscar would ecstatically accompany you on a 20-mile hike o’er mountain, field and dale – daily, preferably – he’ll also happily lie in until lunchtime at weekends and enjoys a duvet day. He’ll sleep all day long beneath my desk whilst I work, only moving when I do. Basically, so long as we’re together, he doesn’t mind what we’re doing – but if it could involve a tennis ball or a stick, that’d be his choice!
I don’t know if it’s his breeding, but my boy loves snow. Loves it. He snorts through it at a gallop, lunging and plunging around, and covering himself in golf ball-sized iced dangleberries. He also loves the fire, but only if someone sits on the floor next to it with him, when he’ll creep closer and closer to within inches of the flames, basking in their heat. In fact, he loves most things – his tail never stops wagging frantically; he’s the epitome of the ‘Merry Cocker’.
Oscar whips out his Blue Steel at every opportunity, and will happily clamber onto any tree stump, mound or wall in front of a view, just to be told what a clever boy he is. He’s very soppy, and a joy to be around. He’s my first Cocker, but he won’t be my last.
Vet Linda, from Pooch & Mutt, says:
1. Cocker Spaniels have thick and heavy ears which means they are prone to chronic ear infections. Signs you may notice include a bad odour, thick waxy discharge within the ear and red ear canals. While ear cleaners can help, most require prescription ear drops and anti-inflammatories from the vet.
2. The Cocker Spaniel was originally bred as a working dog and would hunt on both land and water. Due to their beginnings, they enjoy spending time in the great outdoors and many will appreciate the opportunity to go for a swim. Importantly, dry their ear canals with cotton wool after every swim.
3. Though the Cocker Spaniel is a working breed, they also make excellent family pets. Playful, kind and curious, they are great fun to be around. A small number of individuals can be aggressive, so it is vital they are socialised thoroughly from a young age.
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