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Working Wednesday: The Cocker Spaniel

The Working Cocker Spaniel (WCS) is a very popular breed in the shooting field amongst Springers and Labradors and has a lot of plus points when you're looking for the right dog. They are also a very popular pet dog, coming the 6th of all dog breeds and named as the most popular Spaniel breed. Cocker Spaniels are part of the Gundog Group in the UK Kennel Club and are in the Spaniel category.

Sam Thatcher's OFTW Windwithe Solitaire Of Strigidae

Cocker Spaniel History

Cocker Spaniel type dogs are thought to have been around for over 500 years and were originally just divided between land and water spaniels. It wasn't until mid-19th century that land spaniels became further divided into more specialised categories that were mostly based on weight - it wouldn't be unusual for Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels to come from the same litter.

During the 1850's and 1860's, other types of Cockers were recorded. There were Welsh Cockers and Devonshire Cockers. Additionally, small dogs from Sussex Spaniel litters were called Cockers. In 1874, the first stud books were published by the newly formed Kennel Club. Any Spaniel under 11 kg was placed in the Cocker breeding pool, however the Welsh Cocker was reclassified as a Springer in 1903 due to its larger size and shorter ear length.

Working Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Fun Facts:

  • They were given the name 'Cocker' because of the Woodcock they were bred to hunt

  • They have a life expectancy of 14-16 years

  • They have a very happy temperament and earn the name 'The Merry Cocker' due to their tail constantly wagging

  • They should measure approximately the same from withers (ridge between shoulder blades) to ground as from withers to base of tail

  • They are fearless of heavy cover and have a well-feathered coat to keep them protected whilst working

Working Cockers

WCS are thought as the 'small and portable choice', becoming ever more popular in the field. This could be because of their name - 'working' as they are significantly different from show-bred Cocker Spaniels and have an unbelievable amount of energy and stamina when working, making them a great asset to any beating line. However Cockers don't only beat, when trained they can be a dog that sits patiently on the peg or standing behind the guns picking up and sweeping the field once a drive is over.

Strigidae Gundogs' Working Cocker Spaniels

Working Cockers and show Cockers are both distinctively different and were both bred for different purposes. Show and Working both tend to be roughly the same size but the working strain have longer legs and are slightly higher set. They also have a finer coat which is much more easily managed and don't have to be groomed as much as the show type, as their coat keeps them protected in any harsh working conditions.

A WCS has shorter ears with a flatter skull, less angulation and a longer, narrower muzzle. Most Working Cockers tails are legally docked too, as a long tail could get stuck somewhere when working and get damaged. Most show Cockers will have a long tail.

Working Cocker Spaniels can compete in Field Trials and Gundog Working Tests (GWT) in the spaniel category. Spaniels are set test exercises to try and assess their retrieving and game finding abilities, using seen and hidden dummies. In a GWT, the judges will also be looking for good directional control.

In Spaniel Field Trials the dog will be judged on how well it listens to it's owners commands/whistle, hunting, retrieving, dropping to flush/shot and is often like a stimulated shoot day.

Cocker Royalty

Lupo is a WCS owned by Prince William and Kate Middleton and has been credited with raising the profile of the breed in the UK by the Kennel Club. While the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were awaiting the birth of their first child, they relocated to the Duchess' family home in Berkshire, along with Lupo. He was used to select the name of the Duke and Duchess' first child; they scattered pieces of paper with various names on the floor with the dog stopping at George. Lupo accompanies the Royal Family when out shooting but also makes the perfect family pet and enjoys a stroll out in the countryside with the family.

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