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Male vs Female Cocker Spaniels: What are the Differences?

Oliver Jones

When choosing a new pet, one of the biggest decisions to make is male or female? While all breeds have traits that carry across gender, there will typically be a few differences between males and females. The Cocker Spaniel is no different. While both genders are gentle and loving, each has some characteristics distinctly their own. For example, male Cocker Spaniels will be more playful and affectionate, while females will mature faster and be moodier. There will also be minor differences when it comes to their health and how they are cared for.

The information below will help you easily compare the male and female Cocker Spaniel to decide which gender is best for you.

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Visual Differences

Male vs female Cocker Spaniel side by side
Image Credit: Left: (Male English Cocker Spaniel) GermanSu, Pixabay ; Right (Female English Cocker Spaniel) Alkhaine, Pixabay

At a Glance

Male Cocker Spaniels
  • Average height (adult): 14-16 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 20-30 pounds
Female Cocker Spaniels
  • Average height (adult): 13-15 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 20-25 pounds

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Cocker Spaniels 101

Cocker Spaniel Puppies
Image Credit: Alkhaine, Pixabay

The Cocker Spaniel as we know it descended from the English Cocker Spaniel. Why “cocker”? The name comes from the woodcock, a bird these sporting dogs flushed out for hunters. Cocker Spaniels only came to the U.S. late in the 1800s, but it wasn’t until after World War II that their popularity as pets started to rise. They come in a wide variety of colors — black, brown, red, buff, golden, silver, cream, sable, red roan, blue roan, and many combinations of all those — and are exceptionally adorable with their long ears and puppy eyes.

When it comes to temperament, the Cocker Spaniel is known for being friendly, intelligent, and gentle, as well as fairly active. These qualities make them wonderful pets and playmates for children of all ages. Despite their easygoing natures, they also make excellent watchdogs. Cocker Spaniels tend to be obedient, which helps with training, but may also prove stubborn, making things a bit harder in that area.

Overall, though, the Cocker Spaniel makes an outstanding addition to any home.divider-dog paw

Male Pet Breed Overview

field spaniel outdoor
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

Personality / Character

There are a few negligible differences between the male and female Cocker Spaniel when it comes to personality and character. Believe it or not, males will be more loving than a female would, and they’ll bond with all members of your family versus just one. They will hate to displease their owners and come running if they see you in distress. They also have more energy and will want to play more, plus will seek out your attention more than a female would. Another positive for males of this breed is that they are less prone to mood swings.

On the less positive side, male Cocker Spaniels will be more dominant and likelier to get into fights with other dogs. They’ll also be more prone to wandering, particularly if there are females in heat around. These guys can also be a bit messier in general than their female counterparts.

Training

black and white english cocker spaniel running
Image Credit: rebeccaashworth, Shutterstock

Male Cocker Spaniels lean more towards the stubborn side, which can make training a bit more complicated. Despite their dislike of displeasing their owners, because of their dominant tendencies, they’ll be more likely to fight you every step of the way. On the flip side, since they’re also eager to please, you can work with them given some patience.

Males are also far more easily distracted, also hindering training. You might have their attention for a couple of minutes, but then they’ll see something out of the corner of their eye and focused on it rather than you.

Health & Care

English Cocker Spaniel Under Blanket
Image Credit: Alkhain, Pixabay

There are a few health issues you should watch out for regardless of whether your Cocker Spaniel is male or female. These include:

When it comes to diseases that are more likely to hit males, you’ll want to look out for the following:

  • Entropion
  • Phosphofructokinase Deficiency
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Your Cocker Spaniel will need between 45 minutes to 1 hour of exercise a day. This can be a 30-minute walk and a game of fetch in the yard or just general play. Males have large appetites and LOVE to eat, so you’ll need to be more careful to watch them, so they don’t overdo it. Generally, between 1.5 and 2.5 cups of food a day should be sufficient, but it’s always best to discuss your pet’s nutritional needs with your vet. Cocker Spaniels will require brushing almost daily to maintain their coats, along with a bath, trim, and nail clipping every 7 weeks or so.

Breeding

A male Cocker Spaniel will reach sexual maturity anywhere between 8-11 months of age. Male dogs, unlike females with heats, are sexually active all year. While males can sire pups of their own even at 5-months, they will be most fertile between 12-15 months of age.

When male Cocker Spaniels reach the age of sexual maturity, you may notice a couple of changes in their behavior. They may become more territorial and begin marking and may also start to wander, searching for females in heat.

Pros
  • More affectionate
  • Less prone to mood swings
Cons
  • Can be defiant
  • Harder to train

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Personality / Character

English-cocker-spaniel_Labrador-Photo-Video_shutterstock
Credit: Labrador Photo Video, Shutterstock

Female Cocker Spaniels enjoy getting attention just like their male counterparts. However, as the more introverted of the two, they also enjoy getting time to themselves. While they will be plenty active and playful as puppies, they tend to chill out as they reach about a year of age. Females are prone to having mood swings — not getting what they want can make them downright sulky!

You generally don’t have to worry about female Cocker Spaniels attempting to assert their dominance. Though they make great pack leaders, they don’t particularly care about being on top or getting into fights. That said, if your female does get into a fight, she will be far deadlier than the male of this breed.

Training

American Cocker Spaniel standing near lake
Image Credit: lkoimages, Shutterstock

You’ll find training a female Cocker Spaniel to be an easier task than training a male. They are less distractable than the males, plus they tend to be a bit smarter too. Also, females mature faster, so you can start training earlier. Since they care less about being dominant, you also won’t have to worry about constantly trying to re-assert yourself.

Did you know? Female Cocker Spaniels are excellent hunters, even more so than male cocker Spaniels.

Health & Care

As stated above, there are a few health issues you should watch out for whether your Cocker Spaniel is male or female, including cherry eye, progressive retinal atrophy, ear infections, obesity, and lip fold dermatitis. But, like the male Cocker Spaniel, female Cocker Spaniels have health issues they are more likely to develop. For females, you should be aware of the following:

  • Canine liver disease
  • Mammary tumors (if not spayed)

Spaying your female Cocker Spaniel (especially before their first heat) will make it much less likely for her to develop mammary tumors.

As for exercise and grooming, they will be pretty much the same as male Cocker Spaniels. As far as feeding, since their appetites won’t be quite as large, you should be fine feeding them between 1 and 2 cups of food a day unless your vet states otherwise.

Breeding

Female Cocker Spaniels should experience their first season between 8 months and 1 year of age. Signs that she is experiencing a heat include displaying the genitals, being more affectionate than usual, tail being upright and constantly wagging, and a light-red discharge of blood. A heat will last approximately 3 weeks and contain different stages.

During Proteus, or the first stage, your pup’s vulva will swell, and she will show off her genitals to dogs and people alike. She will also start becoming much friendlier than normal. Not long after this, you will start seeing some bloody discharge.

When the blood becomes a light pink or tannish color, you’ll know your dog is around the halfway mark of her heat. This stage is when the eggs have been released, and she is ready for mating.

When blood changes back to a darker red color, it indicates the heat cycle is ending. It should be around 6 months before another occurs.

Pros
  • Less dominant
  • Mature faster
Cons
  • Moody
  • Can be deadly in a fight

divider-dog pawWhich Gender is Right For You?

Both male and female Cocker Spaniels make for fabulous pets. They are mostly easygoing, get along great with kids, and are affectionate towards their family members. They also make wonderful guard dogs. However, both genders have pros and cons depending on your family’s needs.

If you have less time to train a puppy, you’ll be better off sticking with a female. If you’re looking for a pup that’s more affectionate and won’t get sulky on you, you’ll have more luck picking a male. Then there are the gender-specific health risks to consider. Males do have a bit more to be concerned about in that area, but keeping your dog active, watching their diet, and visiting the vet regularly will help immensely.

No matter which gender you decide on, you’re guaranteed to love your new furry friend!


Featured Image Credit: Up: otsphoto, Shutterstock; Down, Katrina_S, Pixabay

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.