#15: Cocker Spaniel

The Cocker Spaniel is actually two separate breeds: the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel. The Cocker Spaniel has a long history that reaches back to before the time of Shakespeare. The breed originally comes from Spain, where they were bred for hunting small game. From there they went to England where they were prized for hunting woodcocks; hence, the name "cocker". The Cocker Spaniel was depicted in art and writing for centuries and has remained a popular dog. The breed was imported to the United States and Canada around the 1870s and was used for hunting. In the 1920s and 30s, the Cocker Spaniel underwent a change when breeders began breeding some lines for show and some for work.

The breeders agreed that the two lines should not be bred back to each other. Thus, the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel became established as two lines - and eventually two breeds. The English were bred for hunting and field work, while the Americans were bred as companion and show dogs.

The American Cocker Spaniel was the most popular dog in the United States for over fifty years. "Checkers" was an adorable black and white Cocker Spaniel owned by President Nixon. The dog was given to him by a political backer during his Vice Presidency. When Nixon went on television and declared that he would not give the dog back even if it was a crime, the nation opened its heart and forgave him any impropriety with the acquisition of the dog.

As with any breed, when looking for a Cocker Spaniel as a pet or show dog, it is advised to select your dog from a reputable breeder. The Cocker Spaniel suffered horribly from over breeding and is a favorite of puppy mills. The long silky ears must be checked and cleaned frequently. "Flapping" the ears from irritation can lead to serious problems that require medical attention.

The temperament of a properly bred Cocker is gentle, obedient, sweet, and playful. On the other hand, a puppy mill Cocker can be barky, snappy, and high strung. The American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel are both good companions for the family. The Cocker needs gentle discipline as it can become downtrodden if the owner is too stern. The breed has graced the homes of Presidents and paupers and is a wonderful addition to any family.

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