Cock-A-Tzu (Cocker Spaniel & Shih Tzu Mix)

Height: 11 to 14 inches
Weight: 25 to 35 pounds
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
Colors: White, gold, black and white, black, brown, biscuit
Suitable for: Apartments and condos, new dog owners, families with older kids, owners in all climates
Temperament: Sensitive, Kind, Needy, Intelligent, Affectionate

The Cock-a-Tzu is another breed to come out of the recent explosion of designer mixed-breed dogs. Much like with the Doxie Spaniel (a fellow Cocker mix), you can get the first generation of “intentional” Cock-a-Tzus from breeders, but can also find them up for adoption in shelters all over the country.

The parents of a Cock-a-Tzu both come from ancient lineages. Cocker Spaniels were bred in Spain and later imported to England as hunting dogs that specialized in retrieving birds their owners shot over land. Shih-Tzus are even older, hailing from Tibet and being a favorite companion of Chinese dynastic emperors — they even appear in some statues and paintings.

The combination of a hunting dog and a companion dog can be unpredictable, but predominantly, Cock-a-Tzus are both smart, playful trackers and loyal, cuddly companions. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about finding, training, feeding, and loving your very own Cock-a-Tzu.

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Cock-a-Tzu Puppies – Before You Buy…

Cock-A-Tzu puppies
Credit: meunierd, Shutterstock

Energy
Trainability
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

What’s the Price of Cock-a-Tzu Puppies?

If you go to a breeder to buy a Cock-a-Tzu, expect to pay somewhere between $300 and $500. However, as this is a new breed and demand is forecasted to grow, those prices could increase in some areas.

Going through an honest breeder with a clean reputation is more important than getting a good price. If you buy a Cock-a-Tzu at a breeder for $100, you won’t be getting a good deal — you’ll be supporting a puppy mill that’s been cutting corners at the dogs’ expense.

It’s worth noting that Cocker Spaniel and Shih-Tzu mixes sometimes turn up at shelters. They’re not bred as designer dogs, so their personalities are less certain, but they’re just as likely to make loving companions.

Once you’ve adopted your Cock-a-Tzu, expect to pay another $400 to $500 for essential supplies like a crate, carrier, harness and leash, toys, spaying/neutering, and other medical tests. After that, the total annual expense of keeping a Cock-a-Tzu comes to around $900.

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3 Little-Known Facts About Cock-a-Tzu

1. One Common Shih-Tzu Story is Actually a Myth

A breed as old as the Shih-Tzu (agreed to be one of the world’s 20 oldest breeds) naturally accumulates a lot of legends over the centuries. One claims that, in their native Tibet, Shih-Tzus were trained to turn the prayer wheels in Buddhist monasteries. However, Tibetan monks have refuted this claim — in Buddhism, it’s important that the monk turn the prayer wheel himself. On the other hand, it’s almost certainly true that Tibetan monks initially bred the Shih-Tzu and presented many of them to the imperial Chinese courts as gifts.

2. Every Living Shih-Tzu (and Cock-a-Tzu) is Descended from 14 Common Ancestors

China’s Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi was responsible for introducing Shih-Tzus to the West, but her breeding program ended with her death in 1908. As China underwent a series of revolutions, nobody was interested in caring for the Empress’s dogs, so the population dwindled to just 14. Breeding efforts worldwide soon restored their numbers.

3. Cocker Spaniels have Been Owned by Actors, Athletes, Presidents, and Royalty

Among the most famous fans of this elegant breed are George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Duchess Kate, David Beckham, and U.S. presidents Harry Truman and Richard Nixon.

Cock-A-Tzu - Cocker Spaniel and Shih Tzu dog mix
The parents of the Cock-A-Tzu. Left: Cocker Spaniel, Right: Shih Tzu

Temperament & Intelligence of the Cock-a-Tzu

Cock-a-Tzus tend to have more of the companion than the hunter in their blood. While they do love to play games with clear directions, they’re generally a lower-energy, lower-maintenance breed whose most persistent need is human companionship. They need less walking and playtime than some other dogs, but if you’re too busy to spend time with them, Cock-a-Tzus will suffer from separation anxiety.

Cock-a-Tzus are intelligent and eager to please, which makes them easy to train: although you’ll have to work around a small independent streak left over from their memories of serving the Emperor, positive reinforcement makes housebreaking and socializing quick and painless.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Cock-a-Tzus are extremely loyal and social and will love being the center of attention with multiple family members in the room. They form bonds quickly and get along with everybody — you can hardly walk one around the block without it making a new friend. Cock-a-Tzus aren’t big barkers, so if you’re worried about being kept up at night, they’re a great choice of companion.

As with any dog, your Cock-a-Tzu will get on better with small children if you start introducing them as a puppy. Teach your kids and your Cock-a-Tzu to respect one another, and they’ll be inseparable soon enough.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Just like with humans, Cock-a-Tzus will form their best bonds with your other pets if they meet as puppies. By and large, they get along well with other dogs.

Although they love cats and smaller pets, their Cocker Spaniel genes might make them want to chase anything littler than they are. Make sure your cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. have safe spaces while your Cock-a-Tzu is still getting used to them.

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Things to Know When Owning a Cock-a-Tzu:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Since Cock-a-Tzus are small dogs, they carry the usual risk of obesity, which in turn exacerbates joint pain. We don’t advise free-feeding any small breed, and with the Cock-a-Tzu, we’re sticking to that. Instead, feed them between one and a half and two cups of dry food twice a day.

When choosing a dry food, look for a formula designed for your Cock-a-Tzu’s current age, and make sure it’s not too heavy on gluten meal or by-products. Weigh your pup (you can use a human scale for this), and use the bag’s guidelines for portion size. It’s a good idea to supplement its kibble every now and then with raw meat and fish.

Exercise 🐕

From their Spaniel parents, Cock-a-Tzus inherit a love of walks, but their Shih-Tzu parents gift them with a healthy love of rest and relaxation. About a 30-minute walk every day will be enough to burn off most of their energy.

More important for Cock-a-Tzus is mental stimulation, which can be accomplished through indoor play. Tugging toys, fetching toys, and puzzle feeders will let these dogs work out their big brains. Obedience training is even better, as it combines their three biggest loves: playing, thinking, and pleasing their humans.

Training 🎾

As mentioned above, the Cock-a-Tzu’s combination of a sweet demeanor and an analytical mind make training a cinch. The most important thing to remember is that these pups are submissive and easily cowed. Yelling, scolding, or other methods of “being the alpha” will just make them scared of you.

With a Cock-a-Tzu, you’re already the alpha. You need to display supportive, consistent guidance, not a firm hand. If your Cock-a-Tzu develops problem behaviors, it’s likely just telling you it needs more attention, or that it doesn’t understand the system of consequences you’ve set up.

Grooming ✂️

As you might expect from the child of two breeds both known for their luscious coats, a Cock-a-Tzu requires a full brushing every other day at minimum. They don’t shed very much, but when left unattended, their coats can develop painful mats.

Their coats contain natural oils that keep them healthy. To avoid destroying these, don’t bathe your Cock-a-Tzu too often — save it for when their coat really needs it.

As you’ll see below, this breed has a high chance of ear infections, so check their ears for redness and grit at least once a week. Brush their teeth two or three times a week.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Cock-a-Tzus are a healthy, long-lived breed, but it pays to be aware of anything that might go wrong. Regular vet checkups are the best way to make sure your best friend will be with you for years to come. Read below for a full list of potential ailments that could affect your Cock-a-Tzu.

Minor Conditions
  • Ear infections: Common among both parent breeds; can be reduced by cleaning ears and trimming ear hair.
  • Eye infections: Poor eyesight is common among Shih Tzus.
Serious Conditions
  • Canine Disc Disease: A misaligned spinal disc pressing on the spinal cord, causing pain.
  • Hip Dysplasia: A malformed hip joint that’s passed down genetically.
  • Hypothyroidism: A deficient thyroid gland that causes the dog to lose energy.
  • Skin Allergies: Rashes and hair loss from environmental stimuli.

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Male vs Female

There is very little difference in size or behavior between male and female Cock-a-Tzus. The degree to which a puppy favors each side of the family is much more significant, as it determines whether each Cock-a-Tzu is more of a runner or a lapdog.

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Final Thoughts

Cock-a-Tzus are a great breed for new dog owners. They’re neither unmanageable balls of energy nor passive lapdogs. They love everyone they meet, hardly ever bark or shed, and prefer shorter walks that are easy to fit into a busy schedule.

Again, the only caveat with a Cock-a-Tzu is that they need a lot of attention and companionship. If you can’t spend a lot of time with a puppy, look for a different breed. Otherwise, go meet one as soon as you can — we bet you’ll fall for them right away.


Featured Image:  Laura Cruise, Shutterstock