Widely credited as the very first of the so-called “designer dogs,” the Cockapoo – a crossbreed of Cocker Spaniel and Poodle – has been in fashion since the mid-20th century. While there’s a significant spectrum of size and appearance under the Cockapoo (or “Cockapoodle,” or “Cockerpoo”) umbrella, these mixed-heritage pups at their best combine the sweetness of the Cocker and the keen intelligence (and hypoallergenic coat) of the Poodle.
The Cockapoo hails from the United States, which saw the first cross-breeding of Cocker Spaniel and Poodle around 1950 or so. The crossbreed has only grown in popularity over the decades, and now can be found around the world. While the Cockapoo isn’t recognized by the American Kennel Club and other associations focused on purebred dogs, there are a number of clubs out there – including the American Cockapoo Club, the Cockapoo Club of America, the North American Cockapoo Registry, and the Cockapoo Club of GB – which aim to formalize cockapoo breeding and, in some cases, a clear-cut breed standard.
While the North American Cockapoo Registry, for instance, insists the “true” Cockapoo is exclusively a hybrid of a purebred Cocker and purebred Poodle, in practice there are multiple combinations of parentage and generation encompassed in the crossbreed. As the Cockapoo Club of GB nicely lays out, that “first-generation” Cockapoo claiming purebred Cocker Spaniel and Poodle parents would be called an F1 Cockapoo. Breeding two F1 Cockapoos together produces an F2 Cockapoo, and so on. Crossing a Cockapoo with one or another of its purebred parent breeds – a Cocker Spaniel or a Poodle – results in F1b, F2b, and analogous generations.
In terms of the “true” or F1 Cockapoo, its characteristics depend on what kind of purebred parents are involved in the mix. In the U.S., it’s most common to see Cockapoos with an American Cocker Spaniel on the Cocker side, but English Cocker Spaniels are also used in Cockapoo breeding; sometimes the crossbreed of an English Cocker and a Poodle is denoted as a “Spoodle.” The Cockapoo Club of GB distinguishes between American Cocker, English Show Cocker, and English Working Cocker parents. (American Cocker Spaniels tend to be smaller, shorter-muzzled, and longer-haired than their English counterparts.)
The Poodle element also includes some variety. Most commonly Cockapoos claim a Toy or Miniature Poodle as parent on that side of the equation, resulting in a “Toy” Cockapoo or a “Miniature” Cockapoo. Significantly larger Standard Poodles, however, are sometimes used to breed Cockapoos, in which case the offspring is called the “Standard” or “Maxi” Cockapoo.
As we’ve alluded to above, the appearance of a Cockapoo can vary greatly depending on its parentage: whether American or English Cockers and Toy, Miniature, or Standard Poodles are involved, and whether Cockapoos are being bred with one another or back-crossed with a purebred Cocker or Poodle. (Confused yet?) Some characteristics of the original purebred parents may not express themselves until F2 or F3 generations, so the most “predictable” cross is that first one between the Cocker and the Poodle.
Several basic size categories are recognized for Cockapoos. The Toy Cockapoo typically stands 10 inches or less at the shoulder and weighs less than 12 pounds. The “Mini” is usually 11 to 14 inches at the shoulder and 12 to 20 pounds; the Standard or Maxi is 15 inches or more tall and usually weighs more than 20 pounds. You’ll also sometimes hear references to an especially small Cockapoo variety, the “Teacup Toy,” which would usually fall under six pounds in weight and 10 inches in height.
Because of the variation in appearance, it’s hard to neatly describe an “average” Cockapoo; we have to paint the crossbreed’s look in broad strokes. You’ll be on the right track (logically) by imagining some combination of the physical characteristics of Cocker Spaniel and Poodle: shorter or longer muzzles, domed or moptop heads, straighter or more slanted profiles, etc. The coat may be sleek, curly, wavy, or scruffy, and of course longer or shorter depending on the bloodlines involved. It goes without saying that Cockapoos come in all sorts of colors, too.
Personality and temperament
Generally speaking the Cockapoo ramps up the gentle, loving, and affectionate personality of the Cocker Spaniel: These are sweet-natured and cheerful dogs that typically adore their human companions and greet new people with outgoing friendliness. Such is their attachment that separation anxiety can be a significant issue.
Moderately active, Cockapoos do well in all sorts of apartment and house layouts, and when well-socialized make merry companions for individuals, couples, or families – you name it.
Shedding & grooming
Grooming requirements and shedding characteristics for the Cockapoo – surprise, surprise – vary greatly depending on what coat type it expresses. Cockapoos with curly or ringlet coats will demand higher-maintenance grooming and regular clipping, but don’t tend to shed much; conversely, the straighter or wavier-coated Cockapoos – the more Cocker Spaniel-type fur, in other words – don’t typically require quite the same level of meticulous grooming, but do shed more.
Keep in mind that, while Cockapoos have a hypoallergenic reputation courtesy of their Poodle pedigree, some will produce more dander than others and it’s still certainly possible to have an allergic response.
Health and lifespan
Cockapoos typically have a generous lifespan of 14 to 18 years, sometimes even beyond that.
Some particular health issues to key into with your Cockapoo are hip dyslapsia, patellar luxation (or “slipped stifles,” a dislocated-kneecap condition commonplace among smaller dogs), cataracts, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
Despite their showroom glamor, both Cocker Spaniels and Poodles were originally bred as gundogs or bird dogs, and therefore your Cockapoo comes with plenty of energy. Give it a minimum of a half-hour of vigorous exercise each day, and preferably more. Walks and any games awakening the Cockapoo’s natural retrieving skills, not to mention play sessions with other dogs, are ideal.
Training & intelligence
Like their parent breeds, Cockapoos are smart and easily trainable dogs. Given how much they love interacting with their owners, they’ll ideally have a blast during training sessions driven by positive reinforcement. Needless to say, early socialization is essential, too, to ensure a well-rounded and well-behaved Cockapoo around other dogs and people.