Breed Information

The Cocker Spaniel is a relatively small, compact dog, with a height at the shoulders of approximately 39-41 cms (15 ½ -16 ins) for males & 38-39 cms (15-15 ½ ins) for females. Weight is approximately 13 – 14 kg’s for dogs and 11 – 12.5kg’s for bitches.

The Cocker is classed as a medium sized dog. The average life span of a well cared for and healthy Cocker is approximately 11 – 12 years although some may live to be 15 plus.

There are a wide variety of colours (the base colours are black, red and liver in solids and in parti-colours there are blue, orange and liver [chocolate]). In addition to the base colours, both the solid and parti-colours can have ‘tan points’.

The Cocker Spaniel is a gundog, and he will enjoy (given the opportunity!) many happy hours investigating interesting smells and looking for the opportunity to flush out wildlife from the surrounding countryside. Equally, a Cocker is at home on his owner’s lap or in front of the fire. Most Cockers (although not all) like water & relish the occasional swim. Cockers are adaptable dogs and can be easily trained to retrieve as well as flush.

Cocker Spaniels are a popular breed; however, this popularity can create problems. Unfortunately, far too many cockers are being bred simply for profit, so it is wise to seek out a responsible breeder with a genuine commitment to Cockers (rather than a commitment to making money), whether it is a show or working type.

For full details of the Breed Standard please go the UK Kennel Club web site http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/

Source:  Powerscourt Cockers

Cocker Characteristics

Cocker Spaniels are a breed that are very much “in your face” and would not suit owners who want a dog to sit in the kitchen on their bed all day.  They will want to be close to you all the time, following you around from room to room and some can be quite lively, bouncy and exuberant due to their zest for life.

Cockers are also a breed which can be manipulative due to their intelligence and the fact that they are ‘in tune’ with their owners & need firm (clear rules and boundaries) but kind and gentle handling. Their soulful eyes and sweet demeanour can mean that they look sad and owners may be tempted to excuse any unacceptable behaviour that occasionally arises which can result in an unruly and disobedient dog.

The very house proud should consider whether a cocker is suitable for their lifestyle. As a breed they shed significantly if left in full coat and due to their long coats, big paws and love of rooting about in the undergrowth they can bring a lot of dirt, moisture & debris into the home.

Cockers are generally very friendly towards other animals including other dogs, cats & small pets. Early socialisation around other animals is important though as like many dogs they will chase other animals (to play with them as opposed to hurt them) if not trained appropriately from a young age.

Cockers can also be a noisy breed. My own dogs are quiet as “church mice” most of the time, very little disturbs the peace! However, many cockers can become over excited or over stimulated (by activities around the home & various sights and sounds) and this is likely to trigger a barking session! Training away from noisy responses to events is the key!

Personality

Cocker Spaniels are known for their fun, lively & kind natures. They are happy little dogs with ever wagging tails whose enjoy life to the full.

They are also friendly & busy little dogs who thrive on human company and really prefer to be around people most of the time. A Cocker likes to be with the family and if allowed will follow you from room to room. They are merry and happy dogs, they are happy to work, happy to play and above all, they are happy to be cuddled and fussed!

Cockers have very gentle & soft personalities and do not like to feel as if they have displeased their owners, their feelings can be easily wounded and they respond badly to overly strict handling by becoming withdrawn and miserable.

Cockers are generally very tolerant of children and owners should ensure that children behave appropriately towards them as a well socialised and trained cocker is very unlikely to retaliate should he get hurt or frightened.

Cocker Spaniels make brilliant family pets due to their wonderful temperament. The Cocker’s reputation goes before him as a friendly, happy and well-mannered dog. They are easy to train (with patience & consistency), eager to please and make devoted companions.

 

Differences Between Show & Working Cockers

Both the show type cocker and the field cocker share the same Kennel Club breed standard and puppies born to either “type” are registered as Spaniels (Cocker). All spaniels including the show & working strains of cockers descend from the same original foundation stock.

Peggylicious cocker spaniels are breeders of show cockers.  Here is a brief summary of the differences between the two strains.

Personality

Field-bred Cockers are meant to be companions in the field and at home, but they can easily become bored and destructive indoors (as can many dogs!) if they aren’t physically and mentally stimulated on a regular (preferably daily) basis. Field-bred Cockers MUST have a job to do; they have active & quick minds and need many opportunities to put their busy minds & bodies to work. Generally, they do not need masses of exercise but like to be busy and to explore their environment.

Most family households are relatively sedentary and any dog they own is a pet, very few owners “work” their dogs or are willing/able to provide sufficient activity to replace a dogs traditional “work” (shooting, field trials, agility, Flyball etc.).

Most dogs can become bored, noisy & destructive unless their specific needs are met. This is especially true of breeds that were originally developed to perform a working role. Field bred cockers have been developed for their ability to work, which requires an endless reserve of energy, stamina and lots of intelligence.

Show bred cockers have calmer dispositions (by comparison), though they are still an intelligent breed and need daily exercise and the chance to use their noses and their minds. Very few show bred cockers are worked, although given appropriate training, they can make good working dogs as most still retain their basic instinct to flush and retrieve game.

Taking a very simplistic view, with show strain cockers if the weather is horrid and the fire is warm they will happily forego an outing in favour of a snooze on the sofa. By comparison, field bred cockers are ‘champing at the bit’ to get out and about, given the choice they would choose the field (regardless of weather) over a day on the sofa or their owners lap!

Show bred cockers are bred primarily as companions and show dogs and many are capable of working (if trained).

Working bred cockers are bred primarily as working dogs that are companionable.

Appearance

As young pups i.e. under 10 – 12 weeks of age, the two strains are comparatively similar in appearance. Many a novice buyer has purchased a field bred cocker in the mistaken belief they were buying a puppy from a show strain & presumably, there have been show strain cockers sold as working bred too!

Field bred cockers will generally be more “leggy”, they generally have longer bodies, less angulation (forequarters and hindquarters) and longer/narrower muzzles (although sometimes they can have more “stubby muzzles). Their ears are shorter and set higher on the skull (higher than the level of the eye socket) and the top of the skull is flatter than a show strain cocker. They have fine coats with short feathering. Coat colours are varied; many will be a solid base colour with often extensive areas of white coat on the chest and muzzle etc.

Show bred cockers will generally be compact and balanced (height at withers equalling approximately the length from withers to root of tail). They will have short bodies, big ribs and short loins. They are generally more angulated, although angulation should be balanced (forequarters matching hind quarters). Their muzzles are square with a distinct stop (the junction where the bridge of the nose meets the gap between the eyes). The skull will be slightly rounded and the ears will be longer and set low on a level with the eyes. They often have a profuse coat and coat colours are varied, however in solid colours no white is allowed save for on the chest. Both parti-coloured and solid colours are popular in show strain cockers.

Buying a puppy

If you are purchasing a cocker puppy, and you are unsure whether the puppy is a show or working strain, the pedigree (family tree) should give an indication. Any Champions (normally shown in red ink) will be depicted as “Sh. Ch.” or “Show Champion”when a puppy is from show lines. With a working cocker pedigree, champions are listed as “FTCH”or “Field Trial Champion”.

Due to the difference in physical appearance & aptitude for work (potential working ability), reputable breeders do NOT mix working and show lines despite the fact that both are technically ‘Cocker Spaniels’.

When planning to buy a puppy (working or show strain) you should purchase your puppy from a reputable, caring and conscientious breeder.

Summary

Both the show and working strain of cocker should have good temperaments & make devoted companions/workers (depending on what your expectations of the dog are!). Both are delightful to own and live with. The choice between the two strains is an entirely personal one & regardless of which type you hope to own you should do your homework. Once you own a puppy/dog, you should aim to meet its emotional and physical needs to ensure you have a well balanced, well trained & happy dog.

Source:  Powerscourt Cockers

Coat Care

The Cocker Spaniel has a long and silky coat. The Cocker coat, if not clipped will require regular and thorough grooming in order to prevent matting & to keep the dog comfortable. Heavily coated Cockers can get very woolly quite quickly and this is uncomfortable for the dog, may lead to skin/ear infections and adds to the time taken to keep the dog mat and tangle free.

A well-trimmed Cocker is a pleasure to behold, however it does take time (lots of time!) and practice to keep a Cocker in full coat without the dog looking like a sheep in need of shearing!

There are two “styles” of trimming a Cocker, the first (used by show breeders) is to “hand strip.” Hand stripping is the removal of surplus hair coat by gentle plucking until the dog is neat and tidy. Only the old and dead hair is removed & when done correctly this method of trimming does not hurt the dog. Delicate areas, the feet and the ends of the feathering are finished using scissors.

Hand stripping leaves the coat soft and natural looking. It is however, a technique that needs to be learned and it is also time consuming and can be quite arduous! The aim of trimming a Cocker is to trim the coat so the natural shape (construction) of the dog is visible but in such a way as to appear as if the coat grew naturally!

The other method of trimming a Cocker is to use electric clippers. Skilful use of the clippers can produce a dog that looks to be in “show trim” but without the hours of work hand stripping involves. It is important to note that if a dog is to be shown its coat must be hand trimmed, the use of clippers is not acceptable.