Cockapoos are one of the first designer dogs to be bred in the US during the 1960s, although some argue that it may have been a decade earlier. The Cocker Spaniel Poodle mix is on the top 10 most popular hybrid dog breeds at the time of writing (July 2020). What accounts for their popularity? Is it their look and coat? Are they high maintenance? Are all Cockapoos curly and if not, what influences this either way? Let’s get started.
Cockapoos will not necessarily be curly. You will not know for sure until they start to grow their adult coat from around 6 months old. To have a greater chance of producing a curly-coated Cockapoo an experienced breeder will breed an F1b litter where there is a larger Poodle gene pool.
Let’s take a more in-depth look into the many variants in the Cockapoo coat type. We will explore the colors, the textures and the curl of this popular breed popular in finer detail.
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Why do Dogs have Curly Coats?
Dog coats, not unlike human hair, come in a variety of colors, shades and textures. These traits and appearances are all down to genetics. Hair curl is caused by a mutation in the gene known as KRT71. Sometimes this gene is fixed and sometimes it is variant. It can also be accompanied by other mutations which are responsible for coat length and type.
Genes can be dominant and recessive, and the hair curl gene is a dominant characteristic. This means only one copy is needed in order to display the characteristic it is responsible for. This is why a puppy can have two curly parents yet have a straight coat themselves. If both parents are carriers of the non-curly gene, there is a 25% chance that they will produce an offspring without curls.
This can be simplified for those non geneticists amongst us. We will refer to the curl gene as C and the non-curl as c and dogs will have a pair of each gene, inheriting one from either parent:
- C/C – This dog will be curly and can only pass the curl gene down to its offspring
- C/c – This dog will also be curly but may pass either the curl or the non-curl gene on
- c/c – The coat of this dog will be non-curly and will only pass this characteristic to their puppies
If you look into the origins of a curly haired dog, you will often find that they were bred for water work. The Poodle is a perfect example of this – a curly breed who was used to retrieve waterfowl, their dense curls protect their skin from the water. This means that they can work for longer periods of time without being affected by their skin being wet.
The Cocker Spaniel Breed
This breed is most definitely up there in the popularity ranks due to their friendly nature and rather appealing appearance (it’s all in those ears…) They were bred originally as hunting dogs yet at their highest only reach around 15” tall.
They were originally bred in the UK to hunt the Eurasian Woodcock, hence the name Cocker. After being brought to the US, the breeding standard changed in order for them to focus on hunting the American Woodcock. In the 20th century further physical changes have been bred into the American Cocker Spaniel.
This is why today we have both an English and an American Cocker Spaniel. Both are commonly referred to as just the Cocker Spaniel in their respective countries. In 1946 in the US, the English Cocker Spaniel was recognized as a separate breed. Similarly, in 1970 the UK recognized the American Cocker Spaniel as a breed in their own right.
There are some differences between the two breeds. The ECS is taller whilst the ACS has a longer body and shorter muzzle than their English cousin.
The Poodle Cross
Cockapoos are Poodles usually crossed with the American Cocker Spaniel. However, some breeders use the English Cocker Spaniel. These are sometimes known as the Spoodle. The Spoodle and the Cockapoo name can be interchangeable so it’s important to speak to your breeder to confirm which type of Cocker Spaniel has been used. Just to complicate matters even further, the Spoodle is not to be confused with the Sproodle which is a Poodle and Springer Spaniel cross.
Poodles come in three sizes, Toy, Miniature, and Standard. Cocker Spaniels are usually crossed with either the Toy or Miniature Poodle to produce Cockapoos.
Cockapoos come in four sizes and this will be determined by the size of their parents and even grandparents:
- Teacup Toy – under 10” in height from paw to shoulder
- Toy Cockapoo – also up to 10” but with a sturdier build
- Miniature Cockapoo – between 11” and 14” in height from paw to shoulder
- Standard or Maxi Cockapoo – will stand at least 15” tall from paw to shoulder
Fun Fact – It is widely believed that the first litter of Cockapoos were a mistake. However, since the 1950/1960s they have heightened in popularity.
The Cockapoo Coat Types
The Cockapoo can have a single or double coat which can be straight, wavy, or curly. They boast a very diverse range of coat colors adapting both those of the Cocker Spaniel and the Poodle. These include black, cream, apricot, red and chocolate.
Alongside the vast array of colors there are four main coat patterns which are:
- Solid – One solid color
- Parti – One predominant color broken up by patches of one or more other colors
- Phantom – One solid color broken up by a secondary color of a specific pattern. This includes the muzzle side, chin and chest
- Merle – A genetic pattern which creates mottled patches
Like with other breeds puppies can change their coloring quite dramatically and aging dogs are also prone to some changes in color. In fact, coloring can change over time for varying reasons which also include genetics and weather. Our article do Labradoodle puppies change color will go some way to explain this further. The Cockapoo also sports some of the cutest ears in Doggy-Ville with their droopy and soft appearance.
There will be much variation between the coat types due to the Cocker Spaniel and Poodle combination, and this can even occur in the same litter. A Cockapoo’s coat will usually feel soft to touch and is generally more hypoallergenic due to the Poodle influence. By the time a puppy is 6 weeks old, an experienced breeder may be able to tell how the coat is likely to develop but you won’t know for sure until their adult coat comes in.
Does the Generation Determine the Coat Type?
An F1 Cockapoo is a first-generation breed being 50% each of the purebreed parents. As we have already discussed, there is no way of guaranteeing how their offspring’s coats will turn out and there are no breed standards due to the relative newness of the cross.
An F2 Cockapoo is a result of breeding two F1’s, and an F3 two F2’s. Once we venture into the multigenerational breeding then we will see much more variety in the coat types until breed standards can be decided and met.
We then have the F1b generation. This is achieved by breeding the F1 back to one of the purebred parent breeds. This is usually the Poodle and the main reason is to increase the chances of low to non-shedding litters suitable for those who have allergies.
Sometimes the Cocker Spaniel will be used to breed an F1b and this is often known as a reverse F1b. The F1b litters have a greater chance of displaying the coat type of their purebred parent.
Can You Guarantee a Curly Cockapoo?
If you are prepared to possibly widen your budget and approach an experienced and reputable breeder then you can certainly increase the chances, but even consistent breeding lines can throw in a curve ball. Ultimately, as with all their characteristic and traits it’s down to genetics. Canine DNA testing is available to determine whether dogs carry the gene mutations that cause the hair to curl.
To increase the likelihood of your Cockapoo developing a curly coat your breeder would produce a litter consisting of F1b pups using the Poodle, so the bigger percentage belongs to the Poodle gene pool (75% Poodle, 25% Cockapoo).
As we touched on earlier, newborn Cockapoos will all look the same so they will be a good 6 weeks old before a breeder can confidently assess their coat type. There can be variation within the same litter and ultimately you cannot be completely sure until they have their adult coat so be wary of any breeder guaranteeing a coat type.
There are some factors to consider when you have your heart set on a curly Cockapoo, and we’ve collated these you:
- Even the curliest, tightest of coats will never be 100% hypoallergenic. This is because all coats produce dander
- A Cockapoo’s coat can change as they grow. A shaggier coat appearance will develop weekly and their appearance can drastically change over time
- Be mindful of backyard breeders. They will not offer the same expertise or professional approach as a reputable breeder
- Some Cockapoos will have furnishings, and some will not, and again this won’t be obvious at birth. Will my Goldendoodle have a beard goes someway to explain the genetics behind this.
Are Curly Cockapoos Higher Maintenance?
Generally speaking the curlier your pooch the more grooming they will require. A dog with a straight coat will not need as much attention and time spent on them. Curlier coats are in danger of becoming matted if not brushed and clipped regularly. Those with furnishings will also need regular trims. Curlier Cockapoos are often referred to as Teddy Bears due to their cute appearance.
For Cockapoos with very tight curls, you will most likely need to be brushing your dog daily, a factor to consider with this coat type. Straighter coats are much more forgiving for those who can’t allocate time every day to a grooming session.
Cockapoos can be prone to seasonal shedding if they inherit the double coat of their Spaniel parent. During this time (which occurs twice a year in Spring and Fall) the coat will need brushing more regularly. This is down to the undercoat getting caught in the outer coat.
You can get away with bathing your Cockapoo fairly irregularly, maybe once every 2 or 3 months unless they are especially dirty. It is important to take great care when bathing especially around your Cockapoo’s ears as their loose, floppy nature makes them more prone to ear infections. Never clean inside your Cockapoo’s (or any breeds for this matter) ears, instead just use a cloth to wipe around and under the ear. Drying the ears after a bath is essential.
There is an abundance of grooming tools available on the market for your Cockapoo. Here a few of the most popular:
- Trimming Scissors – Great for quick touch-ups especially for those facial furnishings
- Dematting Combs – These can be useful particularly on the hindquarters that can be prone to matting
- Dematting Rakes – Great for dogs with undercoats and therefore will aid the seasonal shedding process
- Detangling Spray – These can be used on either wet or dry coats making brushing more manageable
We know that there can be variations even within the same litter of Cockapoos so until the puppies are around 6 weeks old, we cannot even begin to determine which, if any, will have a curly coat. Even an experienced breeder will be making an educated observation and will be unable to guarantee the long-term outcome.
An F1b litter gives the best chance of producing those much sought after curls. However, with the curls comes brushing, lots of brushing. So, it’s imperative to ensure you have the time to take on the daily brushing sessions and have the extra funds for regular visits to the groomers.
Do Cockapoos Lose their Puppy Coat?
Yes, all puppies lose their early coat and develop an adult one. This will usually happen at around 6 months old. Grooming is a must during this transition to prevent knots in the coat. It’s also a great time to familiarize your Cockapoo with the brush.