When I fell in love with dogs at a very young age, Cocker Spaniels stole my heart. I had no idea if Cocker Spaniels shed a lot at the time. Now that I’ve had Cockers for 30 years, I know the answer to the great shedding question.
All Cocker Spaniels shed to some degree, but the amount they shed depends on their coat, how often they are brushed and bathed, and sometimes their overall health. Cocker Spaniels have a single coat, unlike some other dog breeds that are double-coated. What Cockers lack in coat they make up for in the amount of hair on their bodies.
Although they may shed, there are other things to consider with the Cocker coat. Her coat is extremely thick, full, and requires diligent care. Cockers require frequent grooming visits and coat maintenance because the breed is inherently one with a lot of hair. If you are considering adding a Cocker Spaniel to your life, here’s what to know about shedding, Cocker coat care, and some bonus help on how to care for your Cocker’s coat at home.
Do Cocker Spaniels Shed A Lot?
Yes, Cocker Spaniels shed, but the amount they shed depends on the individual dog. Long-time Cocker groomer Kim Vavolo says Cockers shed more in the spring and fall seasons.
“We are not a shedding breed like a Siberian Husky nor do we shed like a Labrador Retriever,” Cocker Spaniel groomer and breeder Marlene Ness shares. “Dogs lose hair like people, so Cockers require regular brushing to get the dead hair out.”
Personally, my first Cocker Spaniel, a red and white, wasn’t much of a shedder. You would hardly know I had a dog if you came to visit until she demanded tummy rubs. My current Cocker Spaniel, a male parti-color, sheds a few times a year. I know his hair sheds because I find his white fluffy hairs all over my lap when wearing black pants.
Because the Cocker Spaniel has a single coat, there isn’t really a fuzzy undercoat. The Siberian Husky has a thick double coat. Cocker coats are medium to long with long, fine, silky hairs on the top of the body and short, soft undercoat beneath. Some Cocker enthusiasts stand firm that Cockers have double coats.
Certified Master Groomer Amy McCauley says Cockers technically have a double coat “because they have the long silky guard hairs as well as the soft woolier undercoat.” For Amy, two hair types equal a double coat. She says a Cocker’s coat is not to be likened to a typical “double coat” such as a heavy shedding breed like Labrador Retrievers or Siberian Huskies.
With all that thick hair, some of it is going to fall off and “shed.” There are two types of Cocker Spaniels: The American Cocker and the English Cocker Spaniel. Both breeds shed pretty comparatively, but not to the degree of a breed known to be a heavy shedder (German Shepherd, sometimes called “German Shedders” by their owners).
What’s the Difference Between Dog Fur and Dog Hair?
We know Cockers shed, but are they shedding fur or hair? Some breeds have hair instead of fur, but the Cocker Spaniel has hair. Fur tends to be shorter and denser. Hair feels finer and much smoother than fur.
Dog hair and dog fur are both composed of a strong protein called keratin. Though there is no chemical difference between hair and fur, it seems like people call it hair when it is long but fur when it is shorter. An example of dog breed with fur is the Pomeranian.
Dogs with hair need more regular brushing, and the Cocker Spaniel is no exception. A Cocker Spaniel in full coat will need her hair brushed for at least a half hour three times a week. You’ll need to keep your Cocker’s hair free of debris and matts, especially if you plan to keep her in a fuller coat.
For those planning to show Cocker Spaniel in the show ring, the American Spaniel Club breed standard calls for a “sufficient but not excessive coat.” Over the years, they note that show Cockers seem to carry heavier coats.
Do Cocker Spaniel Puppies Shed Their Coat?
I recall my Cocker puppies shedding their coats but not in one fell swoop. Taking on a Cocker Spaniel means investing in an intense devotion to keep the coat manicured, clean, matt-free, and brushed.
Generally speaking, Cocker puppies don’t suddenly “blow their coat” so their shed factor is low. As they grow up and grow into their more-developed adult coat, they made begin to shed. Again, Cockers are a moderately shedding breed, and no two dogs are alike.
Bonus tip: Teach your Cocker puppy that grooming and brushing are fun. Use a soft brush on her coat to accustom her to being touched. Touch her paws, her face, her head, and do this on a regular basis. She’s going to have hands on her throughout her life from the grooming table to the veterinarian’s office, so start getting her used to touch early.
What Should I Do If My Cocker Sheds Too Much?
There are many reasons why a Cocker sheds excessively, and one of them may be she needs more regular brushing. When you brush through her hair, you stimulate the oils of the skin and stimulate blood flow.
Regular brushing and grooming also keep mats away and is much more comfortable for Cockers. I am not a professional dog groomer, but I learned to groom my dog at home and will share my favorite grooming tools, brushes, and tips further down.
A Cocker Spaniel who sheds too much may have an issue with her thyroid, a common problem with the breed. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid is underactive. One of the many symptoms of canine hypothyroidism is hair and skin changes.
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According to Dr. Jean Dodds, author of The Canine Thyroid Epidemic, “Common skin and coat issues in hypothyroid dogs include excessive shedding, dry, dull, brittle coat, and hyperpigmentation (darkening) of the skin.
Take your Cocker for a thyroid check if she is shedding excessively. The thyroid is very important and is located in the upper third of the dog’s neck. We wrote about canine thyroid issues and you can click to read that article for more in-depth information.
Cockers need access to cool, clean water at all times. Dehydration leads to dry skin and dry skin leads to itching and shedding. If your Cocker isn’t the world’s best water drinker, there are easy ways to improve her drinking habits. Here’s how to get your dog to drink more water.
Cockers who shed a lot may need a dietary adjustment. Cockers are notorious for food sensitivities and allergies, which produces itching. If your Cocker eats a low-quality diet or is itching excessively, she might shed more.
Most dogs benefit from the addition of fish oils added to their diet. My Cocker Spaniel has a luxurious coat that everyone comments on when they meet him. “He’s so soft” they say as I beam proudly from the other end of the leash.
The benefits of a quality omega-3 fish oil as part of a dog’s diet include, but are not limited to:
- Shinier coat
- Less dry skin
- Reduction in shedding
- Allergy control
- Prevention and treatment of autoimmune disorders
- Helping dogs with idiopathic epilepsy when taken with regular medication
- Cancer prevention
Here’s more about fish oil and dogs, what brand we use, and how it may help excessive shedding.
How To Care For A Cocker Spaniel’s Coat
Invest in some basic grooming tools to keep at home. Some of my favorites include:
Make friends with a groomer who knows how to do the Cocker cut you want. Some people like a sporty cut, others prefer the long, flowy locks. More hair = more hair that can shed. I do, however, know of many Cocker Spaniels with longer coats who shed minimally. A well-groomed Cocker means less shed to worry about.
If you want to try grooming your Cocker at home, start slowly. When I took on the task of learning to groom my Cocker Spaniel at home, I did it with a marathon mindset: slow and steady. Cocker moms and dads often ask me how to learn to clip their dog at home, and I usually ask why they want to learn. If it’s to save money, in the long run is a great reason, but it shouldn’t be the only one, at least not at first.
Here’s how I learned to groom my Cocker Spaniel at home.
Bathe your Cocker Spaniel regularly but not excessively because the skin can actually dry out. Not all shampoos are created equally, and it’s best to invest in something that conditions your dog’s coat. For the average Cocker owner, I always recommend what I use:
Be careful about chemicals on and in your Cocker Spaniel. I am not a fan of anything chemical-based and won’t let my dog use it if I can’t (with the exception of heartworm prevention).
Chemicals in traditional flea and tick spot-ons can harm a dog but also dry out her skin and coat. I had an eye-opening experience when reading through a chemical spot-on many years ago. The instructions called for me, the pet owner, to wear gloves before touching the product.
Here’s our more natural flea and tick regimen without harmful chemicals.
The Bottom Line On Shedding Cockers
Yes, Cocker Spaniels shed but not excessively as a general rule of thumb. For those Cockers who seem to shed a lot, most times there are things that can be changed to decrease the amount. I always keep a dog hair roller on hand like this one from Amazon.
My dog, Dexter, is kept in a sporty cut, sometimes called the puppy cut, and it serves me well for coat maintenance and overall shed factor, which is minimal.
Bark back in the comments below and let me know about your Cocker or any dog who shares your life.
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