The German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel mix breed dog is just one more new arrival on the scene of the modern hybrid dog breeding craze.
But hybrid dog breeding has a surprising practical side that too few dog lovers are aware of – it can strengthen the health of the puppies.
Too many modern purebred dog breeds, the German Shepherd and the Cocker Spaniel among them have been so strictly bred for conformation (appearance) that they have developed certain heritable health problems.
Crossbreeding can do each purebred dog breed lineage a favor by adding new genetic diversity and lessening the risk of health issues in subsequent generations.
Hybrid breeders are quite deliberate about which purebred dog breeds they choose to cross for this and other reasons.
In this article, learn about one of the sweetest, smartest hybrid dogs being bred today – the German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel mix.
The History of the German Shepherd and the Cocker Spaniel
When you are trying to decide which companion canine makes the most sense for your lifestyle, habits, and interests, it is a great idea to learn more about the dog’s lineage and history.
The same holds if you are considering bringing a hybrid mix dog into your family. In this section, we take a brief look at the history and lineage of the German Shepherd dog and the Cocker Spaniel dog.
German Shepherd history
The German Shepherd is the second most popular (out of 195 American Kennel Club registered dog breeds) purebred dog breed in America today.
This dog was first developed in German in the 1900s by a man named Captain Max von Stephanitz. The Captain’s goal was to breed a perfect livestock guard and herding dog.
He achieved his goal and German Shepherd went on to become one of the most popular military, police, security, service, therapy, and pet dogs as well.
Today, the German Shepherd is known around the world not just for these talents but for this dog’s frequent appearance in the movies, most notably by Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart.
Cocker Spaniel history
The Cocker Spaniel is the 30th most popular (out of 195 American Kennel Club registered dog breeds) purebred dog breed in America today.
This dog breed looks like a plush lap dog (and they do love laps) but was bred to be a sporting dog to hunt birds. There are two distinct breed lines and both are registered: the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel.
These dogs, with their long lush coats, achieved iconic status with the launch of Disney’s now-classic film “Lady and the Tramp.”
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Personality and Temperament
While the German Shepherd is all guard dog through and through, the Cocker Spaniel’s breed lineage is more focused on companion canine traits.
German Shepherd’s personality and temperament
The German Shepherd’s classic personality is affection and love towards “their” family and aloofness towards strangers (people and animals).
German Shepherds are known to be highly people-focused and want to please their owners.
Cocker Spaniel’s personality and temperament
The happy go lucky, cheery Cocker Spaniel is eager for play, activity, and love. They are very people-centric dogs who want to be with their people as much as possible.
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel personality and temperament
In this area, the German Shepherd and Cocker Spaniel have a lot more in common than their wildly differing outer appearances might suggest.
Both dogs are intensely devoted to their families and are very driven to please their owners.
However, while the Cocker Spaniel is unlikely to ever meet a stranger and won’t make a very good guard dog as a result, the German Shepherd is a classic guard dog through and through. So here it is hard to predict what temperament traits your puppy may inherit.
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Size, Height and Weight
While the German Shepherd falls into the large dog category, the Cocker Spaniel fits into the medium dog category.
An adult German Shepherd dog can easily weigh 50 to 90 pounds and stand anywhere from 22 to 26 inches tall (paw pads to shoulders).
In most cases, you will find that the adult male GSD is heavier and taller than the adult female GSD.
The Cocker Spaniel as an adult typically weighs between 20 and 30 pounds and stands 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall (paw pads to shoulders).
From this, you can see how the size of your adult German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel mix puppy may vary quite a bit! Working with a later-stage hybrid breeder (F1, F2 or later) can help control for any size issues imposed by your living situation.
In general, you can expect your GSD Cocker pup to stand between 14 and 24 inches tall and weigh between 30 and 70 pounds.
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Training and Exercise Needs
Many owners have described the German Shepherd dog as “tireless” and they wouldn’t be wrong. However, Cocker Spaniels can also be surprisingly energetic, given their sporting dog heritage.
German Shepherd training and exercise needs
These dogs are working dogs to their core and their focus on tasks is unparalleled. A German Shepherd “on the job” is a tireless worker who will deliver 100 percent performance every time.
While GSDs are now extremely popular as companion canines, they still need a lot of activity and exercise and do best when involved in work or agility of some sort.
Training the German Shepherd becomes easier once you realize just how people-centric these dogs are. However, because the GSD is so smart, only positive training and reinforcement methods work well. Treats, pats, praise, and play are the best rewards.
Cocker Spaniel training and exercise needs
Cocker Spaniels are more all-around companion canine dogs and so as long as they have plenty of daily playtime and regular walks, they will typically be quite content as pet dogs.
Cocker Spaniels are very smart and extremely sensitive emotionally. Only positive training and reinforcement methods should be used, as Cockers can get their feelings hurt very easily. Praise treats, and pats are great training incentives and rewards.
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel training and exercise needs
A German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel dog is going to be a high energy dog. But just how high that energy and drive to stay active is will depend on the influence your puppy gets from either parent dog.
Your puppy’s adult coat type may in part dictate the best forms of exercise as well. While the GSD coat is largely “wash and wear,” the Cocker coat needs to be factored in before engaging in water play and some land sports.
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Shedding, Grooming and Coat Care
While the German Shepherd and the Cocker Spaniel have two very different coat types, both dogs have coats that do require some care.
German Shepherd shedding, grooming, and coat care
The GSD’s coat has been developed as specifically as the rest of this dog breed to aid this active dog in their work.
The German Shepherd coat is a thick, double-layer coat of a medium-length, thick, coarse, water-resistant outer layer and a thick, soft insulating under layer.
Since maintaining coat function is of the utmost priority to keep the working GSD warm and dry, the coat sheds continuously year-round.
The coat also sheds visibly and profusely at the changing of the seasons. You will want to keep your brush, lint roller, and vacuum cleaner handy during these times.
Cocker Spaniel shedding, grooming, and coat care
The Cocker Spaniel’s long, soft, luxurious coat is high maintenance. You will need to commit to daily brushing and detangling sessions and regular bathing. Professional grooming may also be desirable, especially if your time is limited.
The fine, thin hair can easily tangle and this can cause damage to the skin. Careful combing is essential – pulling on any mats or tangles can tear the skin. The coat should always be detangled before bathing or the tangles may become unmanageable.
If the tangles are not groomed out daily, they may become so matted that there is no other choice but to shaving. This means you only want to choose a Cocker Spaniel if you have enough time to do at least one brushing and grooming session daily.
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel shedding, grooming, and coat care
No matter how you look at it, the German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel’s coat is always going to require regular time and attention. If your puppy takes more after the GSD side, your time will be spent vacuuming, lint rolling and brushing.
If your puppy takes more after the Cocker Spaniel side, your time will be spent brushing, detangling, bathing, trimming and perhaps making trips to the groomer.
Here again, when you choose to work with a later-stage hybrid breeder (F1b, F2 or later) this can help you guesstimate the adult coat type of your GSD Cocker puppy with more accuracy.
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Longevity and Health
As we mentioned in the introduction here, one of the biggest perks of hybrid dog breeding is to add genetic diversity back to each parent dog’s gene pool. This can often strengthen breed health as well as contribute to other desirable traits.
German Shepherd longevity and health
According to the Canine Health Information Center’s (CHIC) database, the German Shepherd dog breed has the following known heritable (genetic) health issues:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia.
- Cardiac issues.
- Autoimmune thyroiditis.
- Temperament issues.
- Eye issues.
- Degenerative myelopathy.
Another health issue that GSDs are particularly prone to be bloat or gastric torsion. This happens when the stomach twists suddenly. Often it occurs after vigorous exercise too soon after eating or drinking a lot of water.
Bloat can quickly become fatal. Luckily, there is a simple surgery that can prevent it.
The German Shepherd has a life expectancy of between seven and 10 years.
Cocker Spaniel longevity and health
According to the Canine Health Information Center’s (CHIC) database, the Cocker Spaniel dog breed has the following known heritable (genetic) health issues:
- Hip dysplasia.
- Eye issues.
Overall, the lack of genetic health issues makes the Cocker Spaniel one of the healthier modern purebred dog breeds, which is good news for crossbreeding programs as well.
One additional issue to watch for is ear infections. The Cocker Spaniel’s wonderful long floppy ears are prone to ear infections because of a lack of air circulation to the inner ear canal.
Happily, as a medium-sized dog breed, the Cocker Spaniel has projected longevity of 10 to 14 years.
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel longevity and health
You should always work with a responsible, reputable dog breeder who takes genetic testing of breeding stock (parent dogs) very seriously. This is especially the case where there are known heritable health issues that both parent dogs may have.
For the GSD Cocker Spaniel mix, you know that hip dysplasia and eye issues are two particular concerns for your puppy.
Overall, you can expect the genetic influence contributed by the Cocker Spaniel parent dog to favorably impact your mix dog’s life expectancy upwards into the 10 to 12-year range.
German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel Mix: Is This the Right Dog for You?
The German Shepherd Cocker Spaniel mix is going to be a one-of-a-kind mix dog. You get the loving, people-focused personality and temperament from both parent dogs plus a natural athleticism and love of play that all ages can enjoy.