An adorable, small dog with the personality of a big clown, the Cockapoo is the first of the “designer dogs” dating back to the 1960s, rather than to just a few years ago. Completely people-oriented, the Cockapoo is intelligent enough to train easily, hardly sheds, forgives quickly, and is so affectionate that you’ll never feel alone.
You might even have to shut the bathroom door for a minute of privacy. They’re happy running around an agility course, showing off their tricks to company, being petted as a therapy dog, or just hanging out on your lap. Your lap is theirs, by the way.
See below for a complete list of characteristics!
All Around Friendliness
Dog Breed Group
Hybrid dog breed
10 to 15 inches
6 to 19 kilograms
12 to 15 years
When it comes to designer dogs, the Cockapoo is an old hybrid, popular since the 1960s. The first breeding may have been accidental, but the happy result was a litter of puppies who were intelligent, almost odorless, had the low-shedding Poodle coat, and showed the easygoing and loving nature of the Cocker Spaniel. These puppies were well received, and the Cockapoo line began.
Some efforts are being made today to establish breed standards and start the Cockapoo on the hard road of becoming a true breed, one producing offspring with consistent traits. They’re one of the few designer breeds who aren’t owner-surrendered at high rates, even now, and many fanciers of the breed attribute that desirable circumstance to the Cockapoo’s intelligence and his sweet and loving disposition. He’s become a highly prized family dog.
Once the Cockapoo became more well-known, he only grew in popularity. Some Cockapoo breeders want to make the Cockapoo a purebred dog and use multigeneration crossing, while other breeders prefer the basic Poodle/Cocker cross. There are Cockapoo clubs, but they’re unaffiliated because of these differing philosophies.
The Cockapoo is bred in four different size categories:
- The Teacup Toy is less than 6 pounds in weight and less than 10 inches in height.
- The Toy Cockapoo can reach 10 inches in height but has a sturdier build, the bigger ones tipping the scales at just under 12 pounds.
- The Miniature Cockapoo weighs 13 to 18 pounds and ranges between 11 and 14 inches high.
- The Standard or Maxi Cockapoo should weigh more than 19 pounds and be at least 15 inches in height.
Intelligent and easy to please, the Cockapoo was established as a companion dog. Friendly and happy, happy, happy. Has an outgoing nature and usually gets along with everyone. Depending on his temperament, can be active or can simply enjoy snuggling up on the couch with you.
They have the intelligence of their Poodle forebears but also the sweet disposition of the Cocker Spaniel ancestry. If the parents don’t have the loving quality that is expected in a Cockapoo, then their offspring won’t either.
Like every dog, the Cockapoo needs early socialization exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences when they’re young. Socialization helps ensure that your Cockapoo puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
He prefers, always, to be with his family and can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for too long. He can be easy to train, though that’s dependent on the parents’ temperament. Positive reinforcement is the best way to train a Cockapoo; can achieve high levels of obedience with time and patience.
The notion of hybrid vigor is worth understanding if you’re looking for a Cockapoo. Hybrid vigor isn’t necessarily characteristic of mixed breeds; it occurs when new blood is brought in from outside the usual breeding circle — it’s the opposite of inbreeding.
However, there is a general misconception that hybrid vigor automatically applies to mixed breeds. If the genetic pool for the mixed breed remains the same over time, the offspring won’t have hybrid vigor. And if a purebred breeder brings in a dog from an unrelated line, those puppies will have hybrid vigor, even though they’re purebred.
Not all Cockapoos will get any or all of these diseases, but
it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.
- Cataracts: Cataracts cause opacity on the lens of the eye, resulting in poor vision. The dog’s eye(s) will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and sometimes can be surgically removed to improve vision.
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as slipped stifles, this is a common problem in small dogs. The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means dislocation of an anatomical part (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation is when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, although many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don’t display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Allergies: Allergies are a common ailment in dogs, and the Cockapoo is no exception. There are three main types of allergies: food allergies, which are treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog’s diet; contact allergies, which are caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemicals; and inhalant allergies, which are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.
- Liver Disease: This condition is becoming more prevalent in Cocker Spaniels in two forms: chronic active hepatitis and copper toxicosis (poisoning). Both conditions may or may not be genetic; at this point no one is certain. More research is needed, but meanwhile ask your Cockapoo breeder about the parent Cocker’s liver history.
- Ear Infections: These afflictions may plague the Cockapoo because of his floppy Cocker ears, which can trap moisture, dirt, and debris. The Cockapoo’s ears should be regularly checked and cleaned. Ask your veterinarian about appropriate ear care products.
If you’re buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy’s parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Cockapoos, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
Health clearances are not issued to dogs younger than 2 years of age. That’s because some health problems don’t appear until a dog reaches full maturity. For this reason, it’s often recommended that dogs not be bred until they are two or three years old.
Most Cockapoos have a moderate level of energy, but that doesn’t mean they’ll laze around all day. They enjoy a good walk — and need it to keep them from becoming overweight. The best type of exercise, though, is a good play session in the backyard. Expect him to need at least 15 minutes of exercise every day.
The Cockapoo is an adaptable breed. He can live in an apartment, though the smaller varieties seem to do better there than do the Maxi or Standard Cockapoos. None of them should live outdoors or in kennels, since they’ve been bred to be companion dogs. They thrive when with their family and can suffer from separation anxiety when left for long periods of time — and that can lead to excessive barking and to destructive behavior.
Crate training benefits every dog and is a kind way to ensure that your Cockapoo doesn’t have accidents in the house or get into things he shouldn’t. A crate is also a place where he can retreat for a nap. Crate training at a young age will also help your Cockapoo accept confinement if he ever needs to be boarded or hospitalized.
Don’t stick your Cockapoo in a crate all day long, however. It’s not a jail, and he shouldn’t spend more than a few hours at a time in it except when he’s sleeping at night (although he would much prefer your bed). Cockapoos are people dogs, and they aren’t meant to spend their lives locked up in a crate or kennel.
Recommended daily amount: 1/4 to 3/4 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl.
Keep your Cockapoo in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you’re unsure whether he’s overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can’t, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your Cockapoo, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
The Cockapoo has a single, long coat that can range from straight to loose curls, but it shouldn’t be kinky. Cockapoos can be found in all the colors and color combinations that are seen in both Cocker Spaniels and Poodles — a more rich variety of coat colors than is usual in many other breeds.
The Cockapoo is usually seen au naturel, but many people like to clip the coat. However, it should only be trimmed to two to three inches in length. Hair around the eyes should be trimmed to allow visibility, so he’s not doing an impression of an Old English Sheepdog. The coat should be brushed daily.
Although it’s different for every Cockapoo, a puppy resulting from a multigenerational breeding is supposed to be odorless and nonshedding (although “nonshedding” is a fantasy, since every dog on the planet sheds at least a tiny bit). To retain coat oils and health, he only need be bathed when absolutely necessary.
Because his floppy Cocker ears block air circulation, the ears must be checked and cleaned weekly to prevent ear infections. Gently wipe out the ear — only the part you can see! — with a cotton ball moistened with a cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian. (Don’t stick cotton swabs or anything else into the ear canal, because that could damage it.) Your Cockapoo may have an ear infection if the inside of the ear smells bad, looks red or seems tender, or he frequently shakes his head or scratches at his ear.
Brush your Cockapoo’s teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn’t wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they’re too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you’re not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
Begin accustoming your Cockapoo to being brushed and examined when he’s a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you’ll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he’s an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
The Cockapoo does well with youngsters, although he generally prefers homes with older, more considerate children. He also gets along with other dogs and pets.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party.
Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
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