Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Cockalier
Keith Hamm /

A good-looking, kind-hearted and intelligent hybrid, the Cockalier is sure to increase in popularity as the public become more aware of its existence. Combining the docile temperament of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the fun-loving nature of the Cocker Spaniel, the Cockalier has a personality that truly sparkles.

With their soulful deep brown eyes, flowing ears and sweet, ‘jowly’ muzzle, the Cockalier makes for one very cute cross-breed. Some will have a curlier coat and more feathering than others and there are a huge variety of potential fur colour combinations.

About & History

The Cockalier is a new cross-breed of dog that has been created by mixing together two very popular breeds: The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Cocker Spaniel. Both Spaniels, the Cocker and the Cavie are not dissimilar breeds when it comes to their appearance, though they certainly fall on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their personality! It is unknown when this cross-breed was first created, though it has likely been around for a few decades.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

A dog with a noble history, the Cavalier has always been held in high regard by royalty and aristocrats and, during the 1600s, Charles I is known to have owned several. The working dogs that Charles I would have owned were a far cry from the Cavaliers we know today and would have had longer muzzles and legs, allowing for superior athletic ability.

It was in 1945 that the Kennel Club recognised the breed and they have since been a member of their Toy Group. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have reputations for being some of the most docile and sweet-natured dogs around. They do, however, suffer from many health issues, most noticeably mitral valve disease, which is a degenerative heart condition that is thought to affect more than half the population. In an attempt to eradicate this disease, it has been suggested that Cavies be crossed with other breeds in order to widen the genetic pool.

The Cocker Spaniel

The Cocker Spaniel used to create the Cockalier may be either the traditional English variety or the more modern American Cocker Spaniel. Spaniels were first used for hunting in the 1400s and 1500s and the Cocker Spaniel was used as a gun dog that would flush out Woodcock for the huntsmen to shoot and retrieve anything shot with a soft mouth.

The name ‘Cocker’ is derived from the word ‘Woodcock’. Over time, the breed was naturally separated into those that were used for showing and those that were used for working. In roughly the 1920s, the Cocker Spaniel breed began to divide into the English and American versions, with the American Spaniels being noticeably lighter and less athletic.


Cockalier Large Photo
anniejean /

The appearance of Cockaliers will vary from litter to litter and it will take some time before the breed has a uniform look. For now, puppies may look more like one of their parents than the other. They tend to have a rather domed skull with circular dark eyes that should not protrude and a relatively long muzzle. Their pendulous ears are densely feathered and hang sweetly to the side of their face. Their body is rather sturdy and is supported on short but straight legs. Their tail is medium in length and may have a plume of fur.

The coat of the Cockalier is highly regarded and consists of fine fur that is wavy and medium in length. Bicolour dogs are common and colour combinations can be brown and white, red and white or black and white. Solid coat colours are also possible and will include red, brown and black. A Cockalier grows to heights of 30cm to 35cm and will usually weigh around 4.5kg to 11kg.

Character & Temperament

As the Cavalier and the Cocker Spaniel have such different personalities, the temperament of the Cockalier can be difficult to predict. Most dogs are sweet-natured and people-oriented and happiest when around those they love. They are gentle and patient with children and would rarely (if ever) snap at them. Equally, they can get on very well with any other household pets and will rarely pick a fight.

While the Cockalier can make an adequate watch dog and will bark at the first sign of an intruder, they are just not hostile enough to ever make it as a guard dog and are inclined to greet new visitors enthusiastically.

Easy-going, the Cockalier does not tend to be too demanding and will never say no to a game but does not need constant entertainment. Having said this, it is not advisable to leave this cross-breed to its own devices for too long, as they can be quite dependent on people and may develop separation anxiety if left alone for long periods.


A dog that lives and breathes to please its master, in the right hands, the Cockalier can really go far. They are quick to learn and are always eager to participate in any training session and give it their full attention. Recall, house training and basic obedience are all areas of training that the Cockalier will excel in.

While Cocker Spaniels have high levels of ‘working’ intelligence, the same cannot be said for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, so it is difficult to know if the Cockalier would make a good, all-round working dog.


Various inherited health conditions will be seen in the Cockalier breed and responsible breeding will be needed if this new hybrid is to be kept healthy and hardy.

Ear Infections

Any owner of a Spaniel will know the constant heartache caused by chronic earache. Dogs that are affected may shake their head, scratch their ears and even tilt their head to the side. A perceptive owner may notice that the skin inside the ear is red and that there is a strong smell.

A vet should sample the ear contents when an infection is diagnosed to determine what type of infection is present. Bad infections may require ears to be flushed under anaesthetic, as well as prolonged antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory therapy.

Mitral Valve Disease

Sadly, the King Charles has the highest rate of Mitral Valve Disease in the canine population,with more than half of breed members eventually developing the condition. While crossing these dogs with Cocker Spaniels may help, it will not eliminate the problem. Breeding animals should have annual checks for heart murmurs and should ideally be assessed by a cardiologist.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation can be an issue in any breed of dog but is more often seen in smaller dogs. The first sign an owner spots is usually a temporary lameness of the back leg that makes it look as though the dog is skipping for a step or two. X-rays of the knee can diagnose the condition and surgery is recommended for the more severe cases.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Cockaliers will have moderate to high exercise requirements, depending on which parent they take after more. For most, an hour of good exercise a day should be enough to burn off any excess energy. They enjoy going on varied routes and may well like to take a dip in any local streams or canals. As long as their exercise needs are met, they should be content to live in a small home or apartment. Ideally, they would have access to a garden and would be able to roam about off lead on occasion.

Given their intelligence, it’s vital that the mind of the Cockalier is constantly engaged and that they are given plenty of things to do to keep them busy. As well as obedience training, they should be given the opportunity to participate in canine activities, such as agility and scenting trials. They love to play games and can be kept busy in the home with some interactive dog toys and food puzzles.


Brushing the wavy coat of the Cockalier two to three times a week should keep it in check and owners are encouraged to focus on the areas with more fur growth, such as the ears and paws, which can be prone to matting.

As the ears are pendulous and densely furred they are prone to developing chronic infections, which can be quite painful and debilitating for a dog. It’s critical that the ear canals of the Cockalier are treated as a priority and are cleaned out once a week.

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