The two most popular spaniel breeds are the English Springer spaniel and the Cocker spaniel.
Both are excellent working dogs, that are easy to train, intelligent and fun to be with. They also make great pets and are ideal for families with children.
The key differences between Springer spaniels and Cocker spaniels are size and colour. Springers are normally larger than Cockers and tend to have coats that are either liver or black with areas of white. Cockers, on the other hand are between 12 to 20 kgs in weight and are mostly single coloured although there are Cockers that have roan coats. Both breeds can vary between dogs that are sturdy powerhouses with broad heads and shoulders to dogs that are finer and more sleek in appearance.
Is a Springer spaniel the same as a Cocker spaniel?
No. The two breeds are distinct from each other, even if they do look very similar and undertake very similar activities.
Both breeds are suspected of having originated in Spain, although this has not been fully established, What is known is that the Cocker spaniel was bred and used specifically for the hunting and flushing of Woodcock ( which is a native game bird in the UK ) and this is how the dog gained it’s name.
The Springer, on the other hand, being a larger dog was used for more all round and general purpose hunting of game, which included ground game and birds – it was known as the ‘springing spaniel, as it ‘sprung’ the game into flight which was then often caught by a trained hawk.
Nowadays both breeds are widely used as shooting and hunting dogs both in the UK and further afield, often working alongside each other and other gun dog breeds.
Which is best a Springer or Cocker spaniel?
This can really come down to personal preference but there are some things to consider about both breeds if you are thinking of either:
- Cocker spaniels are more sensitive than Springers and require careful handling when training. This does not mean that they are hard to train, you just need to take time and be patient.
- Springers mature faster than Cockers which will mean that training may embed itself sooner. Note the use of the word ‘may’, all dogs are different.
- Working Cocker spaniels suffered in the past due to poor breeding practices among show breeders who almost wiped out the working aspects of the breed. Thankfully that has been reversed and now Cockers are as strong as ever – bear this in mind when selecting a Cocker for work, check his breeding.
- Both breeds are high energy dogs and need lots of exercise. They are clever dogs and enjoy training. Cockers are more mischievous than Springers and are often the ones in the thick of it if there is any doggy naughtiness.
- Both are great breeds for families. If you take the time to train and exercise either makes a great family dog.
- For a pet and a working spaniel my personal preference would be the Cocker spaniel. Both breeds enjoy family life but Cockers seem more able to deal with sleeping on the bed and then going out and doing a good day’s work – Springers can be a bit distracted by family life – although, again, this can vary among dogs.
Everyone that you ask will have a preference of Springer or Cocker. I have had both breeds and they are as equal as each other in my experience.
Springer spaniels are bigger than Cockers
Of all the common working dogs the Cocker spaniel is the smallest breed weighing in at anywhere between 12 to 20 Kgs putting them at the lower end of medium dog size.
Springers are often larger weighing anywhere up to 25/26 kgs and standing taller at the shoulder.
Both breeds can vary within their own dogs with some dogs being built like the proverbial outhouse and others being finer and slimmer in size.
Both breeds shed their hair and, unless you brush them regularly, you will have dog hairs in your house/car/kennel and everywhere else.
There are some who claim that the Cocker is higher maintenance than the Springer but I disagree having had experience of both breeds and the working Cocker is as clean a dog as the working Springer and is no more difficult to take care of.
Both breeds require regular grooming to keep on top of dead hair to reduce mess.
I cannot comment on the American Cocker spaniel or the show versions of the breeds as I’ve had no real contact with these dogs.
Cockers and Springers are highly intelligent dogs that are keen to please and pick up new skills quickly and easily.
Basic spaniel training, either for work or as a well behaved pet, can begin from around six months of age with both breeds and the average spaniel will catch on quite quickly.
You may need a little more patience with a Cocker than a Springer as Cockers tend to be characters and can ‘joke around a bit’, but, with time a Cocker will be just as competent as a Springer.
Lets just recap on the difference between Springers and Cocker spaniels:
- Springers tend to be larger than Cockers
- Both breeds are intelligent and easy to train
- Cockers have more character and are more likely to be in the ‘thick’ of any trouble
- Both are great with children and make good family pets
- They are both high energy breeds
- They are easy to care for and have very few health issues or other needs
- Both breeds are excellent gun dogs and make ideal ‘all round’ dogs
Whichever you choose, whether Springer or Cocker, you will get a great dog that, providing you spend time with him, learning about spaniels and undertaking training, will become a great working dog and pet.