The Cockapoo Handbook: The Essential Guide For New and Prospective Cockapoo Owners


 Click on the cover above to go to this book at

The Cockerpoo is a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle, usually a miniature or a toy poodle. This cross is very popular, and can work very well, perhaps because both breeds share a similar ancestry, in that they both started out as gundogs. The Cockerpoo is one of the earliest designer breeds, dating back to the 1950s. They were initially also called ‘Spoodles’, but the ‘Cockerpoo’ is now the established ‘brand name’ for this designer breed. The Cockerpoo Owners Club was set up in 2011, aiming to promote health testing and responsible breeding.

English, rather than American Cockers are usually used for Cockerpoocrosses in the UK. The English Cocker covers a fairly broad spectrum of types, from show, to pet, to working Cocker. Dogs bred for the show ring are taller, with longer coats and longer, lower-set ears, because those characteristics have been prized in the show ring.

The English Cocker Spaniel has long been one of the UK’s most popular breeds, based on Kennel Club registration.  This popularity has tempted people to breed Cockers for the pet dog market, simply because it’s easy to sell them. Pastindiscriminate breeding means that Cockers can vary a lot in terms of looks, how healthy they are, and whether or not they’re easy to live with.  Some can be a bit grumpy and nippy.  Kennel Club papers are no guarantee of a healthy dog with a nice nature!

Working cockers may be nice-natured, healthy dogs, but lack papers, and may not even be ‘pure’ Cocker. The differences between working Cocker and Springer Spaniels can be slight. Dogs from Cocker and Springer working lines are often crossed, and named by breed they resemble more. Working ability is the desired trait, rather than ‘purity’ of breed. Working cockers tend to have shorter ears than show cockers, and this may help reduce the incidence of ear problems.

The American cocker spaniel is slightly smaller than the English cocker, and its coat is longer and sleeker.  American cockers tend to be more popular as show or pet dogs, so tend to be less active than English working cockers. Willingness to stand and be groomed for show above more working dog characteristics have made for a calmer show dog than its ancestors who were expected to hunt and retrieve for the gun. As with English cockers, American cockers have been bred indiscriminately for the pet market, which means that health and temperament can vary a lot.Their longer ears mean that ear problems are more likely, and their longer coats mean they need more grooming. American cockers have become more popular in the UK in recent years, but are much less common than English cockers. Cockerpoos bred from American cocker spaniels and either miniature or toy poodles tend to be sold as ‘American Cockerpoos’. 

Though poodles are famed for the fancy hairstyles that groomers give them, originally, like spaniels, they were bred for hunting and retrieving. Show dogs have been bred more for their coats and willingness to be groomed (which can take a long time with the dog expected to stand still throughout) have generally made for a calmer dog than its ancestor. Miniature and Toy poodles have also been popular as pets, so have a fair amount of genetic diversity, and temperament can vary. On the whole, Poodles tend to relate well to their owners, but are not always good at getting onwith other dogs.

The Cockerpoo isn’t a registered breed, so parents don’t have to be registered, and being registered is no guarantee of good health and a nice temperament.  Rather than worrying about the ‘purity’ of the parents then it’s worth asking breeders about health testing and temperament. EnglishCockers are prone to a number of disorders, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), Familial Nephropathy (FN), hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and ear problems(because of their long ears).  American cockers may also have a predisposition to glaucoma. Miniature and Toy poodles tend to have fewer health problems than Standard Poodles, but, as with Cockers, predispositions to PRA and to epilepsy are common. Toy poodles are also prone to patella luxation (where the kneecap slips out of place), while hip dysplasia is a problem among Miniature Poodles). 

Healthwise, then, testing for disorders suffered by both cockers and poodles, such as PRA and hip dysplasia, is sensible. ‘Hybrid vigour’ won’t protect a pup from suffering a disorder if both ‘pure-bred’ parents carry the faulty gene. F1 hybrids should also be tested, if they are to be bred from.  If you can track the family tree of any pup you’re interested in, and know how long the pup’s ancestors lived, and what illnesses they suffered from, this is a good guide to how health the pup is likely to be.

Some disorders are linked to the ‘design’ of the dog. Ear trouble tends to be linked to long ears, and like Cockers, Cockerpoos are prone to ear problems. It’s well worth lifting and checking your Cockerpoo’sears after every walk for grass seeds, and keep an eye on any headshaking or smelly ears.

Cockerpoo coats are far from easy care as ‘marketed’. Grass seeds and burrs can easily be caught up in their coats so daily grooming is vital, and it helps to do a quick ‘deburr’ after walks, before burrs have a chance to become embedded. The curly texture of Cockapoo fur is also prone to matting. Cockerpoos tend not to moult at all, like Poodles, and their coats can grow quite long, especially if the Cocker parent had a very long coat, so they’ll also need regular haircuts.

Hair over their eyes obscuring their vision can be a real problem for Cockerpoos, and can contribute to wariness of other dogs and strange objects, a Cockerpoo trait which some owners report.  It’s important for dogs to be able to see our faces when they try to work out what we want, and generally to see what’s going on around them. Some owners give their Cockerpoos a cut that leaves them with too much of a fringe over their eyes to be able to see properly.

On the whole, Cockerpoos tend to be fairly energetic dogs. Those with working ancestors are likely to be much livelier than dogs with pet or show backgrounds. Trainers report that owners most often ask for help with their Cockerpoos guarding food or objects, and overreacting to other dogs, and strange objects.  Luckily, these issues can be tackled with training, and generally, Cockerpoos tend to be quite focused on their owners, which means that they’re relatively easy to train.

It’s quite likely that you’ll have met Cockerpoos, because they’re the most popular ‘designer breed' around, and you may have decided that they’re the right dog for you, because of the ones you know. They’re undeniably cute, but because there’s so much genetic diversity among Cockers and the smaller Poodles, Cockerpoos themselves can vary a lot in terms of health and temperament so it’s well worth doing your homework.

Linda Whitwam’s Cockerpoo Handbook is by far the most informative of books on the breed. It’s a book to read before you get your first Cockerpoo pup rather than afterwards, because she’s very helpful on how to choose a pup that’s likely to have a long and healthy life. It’s a reference book, rather than a glossy coffee-table breed book. It’s packed full of practical tips, covering the whole of a Cockerpoo’s life. It’s easy to read, and it was interesting to read the comments from Cockerpoo owners. This book is recommended by the British Cockerpoo Society, who Linda Whitwam consulted when she was researching the topic.