The Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel mix (also known as the Cotralian in breeding circles) is a mix that at first seems odd – a herder and a hunter combined. But in affection and all-out cuteness, they make for a popular breed.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Dog Breeds History
The Australian Shepherd, as the name implies, has its roots firmly in sheep farming. The Cocker Spaniel is a traditional hunting dog. How can that possibly work as a mixed breed?
Australian Shepherd history
The Australian Shepherd is a seemingly unlikely American favorite. It currently beats out 179 other purebreds to tank 17th on the American Kennel Club’s charts. You don’t do that without a certain charm. Originally bred in the Pyrenees (the mountain range that divides France from Spain… yes, we know that’s not in Australia), it got its modern name and its lasting fame in the sheep farms of Australia for its springy competence in rounding up sheep and getting them to go where they were needed.
A highly intelligent but live-wire breed, it bounded into American hearts in the 20th-century and has been impossible to shift ever since, its can-do attitude seeming to fit with a natural American optimism.
Cocker Spaniel history
Spaniels have a long history – they’re first written by Count Gaston III of Foix as far back as the 1300s.
That said, the Cocker Spaniel is a much later development, and English, rather than French. In the 19th-century, Cocker Spaniels were bred as hunting dogs. The “Cocker” in their name comes from their use to hunt the Eurasian woodcock. When the breed was imported to America, a bigger breed of woodcock demanded a slightly tweaked breed. It was further evolved through selective breeding during the early 20th-century and has since been more or less the breed we recognize today.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix history
The Cotralian is a fairly new hybrid breed. So new in fact, we’re not entirely sure who was the first breeder to create it, when, or where. But that it’s fairly new is a certainty, because frankly, anything this cute would have been noticed before if it had been around!
It’s initially difficult to escape the feeling that a combination of the genes of the Australian Shepherd and the Cocker Spaniel really shouldn’t work, and it’s true, the breed carries risks of several impressively unpleasant medical issues. But it’s also energetic, loyal, friendly, and bright, so the likelihood that people will stop breeding the Cotralian any time soon is very low.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix Personality & Temperament
Australian Shepherd personality and temperament
The Australian Shepherd is a resilient, intelligent breed that’s full of energy. That’s always made it a popular choice among working dogs because if anything, it gets the work done but has less austerity about its temperament than a standard German Shepherd.
It sometimes has an abundance of aggression that needs watching, and ideally, before you bring an Australian Shepherd pup home, you’ll get to meet its parent dogs – observing them will give you a sense of any likely aggressive issues. If you get one of the majority of Australian Shepherds in which that aggression has been bred out in favor of fun though, you’re in for a great time with your dog, which will be affectionate, energetic, and bright.
Cocker Spaniel personality and temperament
The Cocker Spaniel is something of a darling – it has what might be thought of as a soft caramel personality, so training it with too much roughness will make it nervous.
The breed can have a tendency toward nerves in any case, so lots of affection is the order of the day. There’s an inevitable reference point when talking about Cocker Spaniels – if you can picture Lady from Lady And The Tramp, you’re thinking of a cartoon Cocker Spaniel. Soft, sweet, unused to roughness – and yet, never forget, Cocker Spaniels were bred to be hunting dogs originally, and the instinct still surges.
They may well go charging after a suspicious noise. They may well also scare the life out of themselves when they discover what it is they’ve been chasing, so while gentle training is the way to go, you’ll want a good “Stop!” command under your belt with a Cocker Spaniel more than with some other breeds.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix personality and temperament
Perhaps surprisingly, given the whole “Lady, from Lady and the Tramp” element in the Cotralian’s ancestry, you’re going to need to have gone once or twice around the block of dog ownership before you consider taking on a Cotralian.
Yes, it’s a gorgeously loving breed, and there’s no getting away from the fact that you will want to watch it do things 24/7. But the intelligence of the Australian Shepherd will shine through those innocent Cocker Spaniel eyes, and that will mean a penchant for mischief.
There’s also, more seriously, a potential for snappy aggression, presumed to be the mixture of hunter and herder genes coming together to party. So while you’ll want to be as gentle as possible, you’ll need a firm hand to curb some of the more antisocial instincts of this breed.
Again, despite a cuteness factor that’s off the charts, they’re actually not recommended for households with smaller children or pets – something in the primal DNA identifies things smaller than they are as potential prey. Older children, larger pets – no problem.
The sweetness you think is there in the breed really is there though, and they’re loyal, playful pets, so long as order and control have been established.
One good thing is that the Contralian’s not a yappy barker. It tends only to bark when it feels a need – potential intruders or uncertainty about strangers. Most of the time, it’s a quiet, relatively contented breed.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Size, Height, and Weight
What are you likely to be dealing with in terms of size?
Australian Shepherd size, height, and weight
Australian Shepherds generally stand somewhere between 18-23 inches from paw to shoulder, and can healthily weigh in at anywhere from 40-65 pounds.
Cocker Spaniel size, height, and weight
Cocker Spaniels have a tighter range of heights than most breeds, standing usually around the 1’1”-1’2” mark. They’re among the smaller dogs ever credibly used for hunting, and usually weigh around 24-28 pounds.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix size, height, and weight
The average Cotralian stands between 16-22 inches high and can weigh anything from 30-60 pounds.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Training and Exercise Needs
Both the parent breeds of a Cotralian have a history of working dogs in their DNA. Activity is in their nature. So be prepared to spend between 1-2 hours per day engaging your Cotralian in both physical and mental activity. It matters less than with some breeds what that activity is.
Walkies are great, but it’s by no means your only option. Play stick-throwing, ball-chasing, or even frisbee with your Cotralian if you like – their instinctive gifts for chasing things and bringing them to the ground will make these extra-special activities for them.
More to the point, they’ll help your dog burn off any physical or mental boredom, so it won’t bring pent-up aggression out in destructive ways.
Channeling potential aggression into exercise and play means the Cotralian you bring back into your home is the dog you think it is – adorable, loving, and keen to cuddle.
Always remember, the Cotralian may look like the extra-cute offspring of Lady, but it has hunting and herding in its genetic history. It will be the loveable dog you want, but you have to put in the effort to help it blow off its hunting steam.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Coat Care, Shedding & Grooming
How much hassle is involved in grooming the blended product of an Australian Shepherd and a Cocker spaniel?
Australian Shepherd coat care, shedding, and grooming
Coat care generally with an Australian Shepherd is fairly low maintenance, but one thing you will have to come to terms with is the shedding. There’s quite a lot of seasonal shedding. That means a regular brushing routine so you can keep the coat free of loose or shedding fur.
And it probably adds to the cleaning bill, because you’re likely to find shedded fur, technically seasonally, but practically all year round.
Cocker Spaniel coat care, shedding, and grooming
A Cocker Spaniel is the nearest thing to a cleaning cloth Nature has yet designed. Its feathery, layered coat, picks up practically everything with which it comes into contact: dirt, bugs, stickers, you name it, you’re going to find it stuck to or in the waves of the coat of a Cocker Spaniel. The long-fabled treasure of the Sierra Madre is not lost – it’s just hiding in the coat of a slightly neglected Cocker Spaniel.
You’re going to need a bigger brush.
Or at the very least, a more regular one, because you need to go through that coat on a daily basis, not just to keep the dog looking smart, but because you really don’t know what might be in there, and that might include things that would do the dog more lasting harm. Gentle trimming by a professional groomer could help to keep the dog at its pristine best too – and also might stop it from picking up anything and everything on its next foray into the outside world.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix coat care, shedding, and grooming
The Cotralian is not high maintenance. But it’s not high maintenance in the kind of way that would were it a human being, demand you acknowledge how not high maintenance it is.
If you wanted truly low maintenance, of course, you’d get a cat, and not a pedigree one, at that. The Cotralian is moderate maintenance – there’s not a lot to the grooming it needs, but it’s worth remembering that both the parent breeds of a Cotralian shed seasonally. That’s going to mean brushing the Cotralian a couple of times a week, to comb out any loose or shedding hair, and while you’re at it, pull out any trapped dirt, and spread the dog’s natural oils around, to improve the shine of its coat.
How about bathing? Perhaps surprisingly for such an energetic dog with hunting in its background, you can get away with once a month (or as needed depending on heedless puddle-jumping). That said, when you bathe your Cotralian, make sure to do it properly – including drying its ears thoroughly.
The breed has folded-over ears, which can trap moisture and lead to preventable ear infections. Make sure to clip your Cotralian’s nails regularly too, because if their claws get too long, they can get snagged in carpets, and accidentally hurt themselves trying to pull free.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Longevity & Health Issues
Australian Shepherd longevity and health issues
The Australian Shepherd is prone to dysplasia in its hips and elbows.
Under normal circumstances though, they should live between 12-15 years.
Cocker Spaniel longevity and health issues
The Cocker Spaniel is susceptible to issues with its eyes, ears, and joints, including glaucoma, ear infections, and elbow dysplasia.
Usually, a Cocker Spaniel, like the Australian Shepherd, will live for between 12-15 years.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: longevity and health issues
The Cotralian gets double trouble from its heritage – it can suffer from deafness, serious eye issues including cataracts and glaucoma, and hip dysplasia.
Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Is This the Right Dog For You?
The Cotralian is a highly loving, playful, energetic dog – but if you have very small children – or very small pets for that matter – it might not be the best addition to your household, at least for a few years. The Cotralian’s hunting ancestry seems to condition it to aggression towards things that are smaller than it is. By the time both the pets and the kids are a little bit older and bigger, they stop becoming a Cotralian’s hardwired ‘prey’ and everyone can enjoy the breed.
If you want to own a Cotralian, you’re going to need to put time and effort into socializing it early, and you’re going to need to commit to regularly burning off its aggressive energy and its potential for boredom. Make that commitment though and the Cotralian will be one of the sweetest, most affectionate, silly, and enjoyable pets you’ve ever owned.