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A breed standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament, and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function with soundness essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be mindful of features which could be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.

NZKC - Breed Standard - American Cocker Spaniel - Gundogs

American Cocker Spaniel


Group: Gundog
Size: medium
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Exercise: medium
Grooming: high
Trainability: high
Watchdog ability: high
Protection ability: low
Area of Origin: United States of America
Date of Origin: gained American Kennel Club recognition in 1946
Other Names: Cocker Spaniel
Original Function: flushing and retrieving game
Developed in the United States and descended from one of the oldest Spaniel breeds in the “Cocker Spaniel” the “Yankee” as he is affectionately known, was originally bred to find and flush woodcock and is an equally enthusiastic and capable hunting companion as he is an obedience and agility competitor, show dog and companion to his human family.
The American Cocker Spaniel is an ideal family companion, with his never tiring desire to please and endearing expression. An ideally sized housedog equally at home curled up on your lap, the sofa, or in front of the hearth, as will he be in either a rural or suburban setting. By following a routine training programme the Yankee generally responds quickly with that overwhelming desire to please. They will not respond to harsh training methods, don’t lose that typical “merry” temperament.
With his pleading expression and overwhelming desire to snack the American Cocker can easily over indulge, watch his weight, its not only unhealthy but uncomfortable. Routine exercise helps with his overall fitness and health, this need not be extreme, a romp in the park or along the beach or a “fetch the ball” work out will satisfy his requirements.

A Yankee in full coat is a joy to behold, his coat is long and silky and requires regular attention. Regular appointments with a groomer are recommended and will help maintain his general well-kept appearance. You can help by thoroughly combing him at least once a week; take care around the ear canal keeping this area free of hair to assist ventilation. Don’t feel that you have let the side down by having your American Cocker completely clipped off for summer its much cooler for him and makes swimming so much more pleasurable.

Official Breed Standard

A serviceable-looking dog with a refined chiselled head; standing on straight legs and well up at the shoulders; of compact body and wide, muscular quarters. The American Cocker Spaniel's sturdy body, powerful quarters and strong, well-boned legs show him to be a dog capable of considerable speed combined with great endurance. Above all he must be free and merry, sound, well balanced throughout and in action show a keen inclination to work, equable in temperament with no suggestion of timidity.

Head and Skull:
Well developed and rounded with no tendency towards flatness, or pronounced roundness, of the crown (dome). The forehead smooth, i.e., free from wrinkles, the eyebrows and stop clearly defined, the median line distinctly marked and gradually disappearing until lost rather more than halfway up to the crown. The bony structure surrounding the socket of the eye should be well chiselled; there should be no suggestion of fullness under the eyes nor prominence in the cheeks which, like the sides of the muzzle, should present a smooth, clean-cut appearance. To attain a well-proportioned head, which above all should be in balance with the rest of the dog, the distance from the tip of the nose to the stop at a line drawn across the top of the muzzle between the front corners of the eyes, should be approximately one-half the distance from the stop at this point up over the crown to the base of the skull. The muzzle should be broad and deep, with square, even jaws. The upper lip should be of sufficient depth to cover the lower jaw, presenting a square appearance. The nose of sufficient size to balance the muzzle and foreface, with well-developed nostrils and black in colour in the blacks and black and tans; in the reds, buffs, livers and parti-colours and in the roans it may be black or brown, the darker colouring being preferable

The teeth should be sound and regular and set at right angles to their respective jaws. The relation of the upper teeth to the lower should be that of scissors, with the inner surface of the upper in contact with the outer surface of the lower when the jaws are closed.

The eyeballs should be round and full and set in the surrounding tissue to look directly forward and give the eye a slightly almond-shape appearance. The eye should be neither weak nor goggled. The expression should be intelligent, alert, soft and appealing. The colour of the iris should be dark brown to black in the blacks, black and tans, buffs and creams, and in the darker shades of the parti-colours and roans. In the reds, dark hazel, in the livers, parti-colours and roans of the lighter shades, not lighter than hazel, the darker the better.

Lobular, set on a line no higher than the lower part of the eye, the leathers fine and extending to the nostrils. Well clothed with long, silky, straight or wavy hair.

The neck sufficiently long to allow the nose to reach the ground easily, muscular and free from pendulous " throatiness". It should rise strongly from the shoulders and arch slightly as it tapers to join the head.

The shoulders deep, clean-cut and sloping without protrusion and so set that the upper point of the withers are at an angle which permits a wide spring of rib. Forelegs straight, strongly boned and muscular and set close to the body well under the scapulae. The elbows well let down and turning neither in nor out. The pasterns short and strong.

Its height at the withers should approximate the length from the withers to the set-on of tail. The chest deep, its lowest point no higher than the elbows, its front sufficiently wide for adequate heart and lung space, yet not so wide as to interfere with straight forward movement of the forelegs. Ribs deep and well-sprung throughout. Body short in the couplings and flank, with its depth at the flank somewhat less than at the last rib. Back strong and sloping evenly and slightly downward from the withers to the set-on of tail. Hips wide with quarters well rounded and muscular. The body should appear short, compact and firmly knit together, giving the impression of strength.

The hind legs should be strongly boned and muscled with good angulation at the stifle and powerful, clearly defined thighs. The stifle joint should be strong and there should be no slippage in motion or when standing. The hocks should be strong, well let down and when viewed from behind, the hind legs should be parallel when in motion and at rest.

Feet compact, not spreading, round and firm, with deep, strong, tough pads and hair between the toes; they should turn neither in nor out.

The American Cocker Spaniel possesses a typical sporting dog gait. Prerequisite to good movement is balance between the fore and hind quarters. He drives with his strong, powerful rear quarters and is properly constructed to the shoulder and forelegs so that he can reach forward without constriction in a full stride to counter balance the driving force of the rear. Above all, his gait is co-ordinated, smooth and effortless. The dog must cover ground with his action and excessive animation should never be mistaken for proper gait.

The customarily docked tail should be set on and carried on a line with the topline of the back, or slightly higher; never straight up like a terrier and never so low as to indicate timidity. When the dog is in motion the action should be merry.

On the head, short and fine; on the body, medium length with enough undercoating to give protection. The ears, chest, abdomen and legs should be well feathered, but not so excessively as to hide the American Cocker Spaniels true lines and movement or affect his appearance and function as a sporting dog. The texture is most important. The coat should be silky, flat or slightly wavy and of a texture which permits easy care. Excessive or curly or cottony texture coat should be penalised.

Blacks should be jet black; shadings of brown or liver in the sheen of the coat is not desirable.

Black and Tan (classified under solid colours) should have definite tan markings on a jet black body The tan markings should be distinct and plainly visible and the colour of the tan may be from the lightest cream to the darkest red colour. The amount of tan markings should be restricted to ten per cent or less of the colour of the specimen; tan markings in excess of ten per cent should be penalised. Tan markings which are not readily visible in the ring or the absence of tan markings in any of the specified locations should be penalised. The tan markings should be located as follows:

1. A clear spot over each eye.
2. On the sides of the muzzle and on the cheeks.
3. On the underside of the ears.
4. On all feet and legs.
5. Under the tail.
6. On the chest, optional, presence or absence should not be penalised.

Tan on the muzzle which extends upwards over and joins should be penalised.

Any solid colour other than black should be of uniform shade. Lighter colouring of the feathering is permissible. In all the above solid colours a small amount of white on chest and throat while not desirable, is allowed, but white in any other location should be penalised.

Parti-colours. Two or more definite colours appearing in clearly defined markings are essential. Primary colour which is ninety per cent or more should be penalised, secondary colour or colours which are limited solely to one location should also be penalised. Roans are classified as parti-colours and may be of any of the usual roaning patterns. Tri-colours are any of the above colours combined with tan markings. It is preferable that the tan markings be located in the same pattern as for Black and Tan.

The ideal height at the withers for an adult is: Dog: 38 cm (15 in) Bitch: 35 cm (14 in). Height may vary 1.3 cm (0.5 in) above or below this ideal A dog whose height exceeds 39 cm (15.5 in) or a bitch whose height exceeds 37 cm (14.5 in) should be penalised. An adult dog whose height is less than 37 cm (14.5 in) or an adult bitch whose height is less than 34 cm (13.5 in) should be penalised.

Height is determined by a line perpendicular to the ground from the top of the shoulder blades, the dog standing naturally with its forelegs and the lower hindlegs parallel to the line of the measurement.

Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

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