The UKs most informative website for Working cocker spaniels and all working Gundogs for the shooting field
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Working Cocker Spaniel
We have always loved the cockers, firstly because of the practical size they come in, but also because of their appealing character, always up to a bit of mischief, but liking nothing better than to follow their owner round faithfully, like a shadow. Hence the saying "follow you round like a spaniel". My saying is Love & treat them well and they will repay you twenty times over with love, affection, faithfulness and kindness. You will thank me for this small piece of information, whatever you do stand by it, It works and I will quite happily disagree with anybody who thinks different.
Working cockers, compared to show cockers tend to have broader, flatter heads. Their coats are usually shorter and their frame is more athletic and sleeker. Also a more marked difference is their shorter ears, which are far more practical and tend to lead to fewer problems than their show cousins. Colours vary considerably, but are similar to the usual cocker strands. For instance in our latest litter, the dam is liver and the sire chocolate roan. We also have found over the years that you will find that most working cocker breeders tend to go by the quality in the pedigree rather than the colour, we beg to differ in this area completely, we feel that the colour of the dog plays a most important part of the buying and working factor as well as the pedigree you must like the dog you are working with, and if for any reason you do not, and that includes the colour you can forget it, it will not work, (I say this with first hand experience and through various people I have chatted to at working tests and Field Trials) We feel you should wait for the right cocker spaniel, with the pedigree and the colour. If you are like me do not settle for any less, be patient, Dont rush in, wait until the right dog for you comes up, you will thank me for this relatively small piece of advice, it also makes extremely good sense.
Working cockers also tend to suffer far fewer physical problems than the show dogs, for example ‘rage syndrome’ known to occur particularly in golden and black (solid) coloured show cockers does not seem to afflict workers. All the cockers that we have encountered during trials etc, have all had excellent temperaments. Our cockers are all extremely affectionate with our children, something that we were never able to say about our previous dogs. They are on the whole happy, affectionate, faithful and confident.
The training of Working cocker spaniels
The training of cocker spaniels for the gun differs in no wise from that of other spaniels, except insofar as the cocker is inclined to be an individualist and requires greater firmness and tact in handling. When properly trained a cocker of working strain is one of the most useful dogs that a rough shooter can have, being keen, fearless in cover and water, and possessing a good nose for both fur and feather. In regard to retrieving, this varies from dog to dog, but some of the best retrieving gundogs I have seen have been cockers. With experience these little dogs can deal with any game, including cock pheasants and even hares.
The king-pin of gundog training is OBEDIENCE. A dog which is not obedient is not trained, no matter how brilliant a game finder it may be. A wild, unruly gundog of any breed is a curse to the shooter rather than a blessing, putting up game out of range of the gun and generally spoiling sport for everyone present. Wild dogs may develop wonderful noses and find plenty of game, it is true, but they spoil more sport than they provide, and this is particularly true of wild spaniels. The cocker is inclined to be wilful and therefore needs special attention paid to its preliminary ‘hand’ or obedience training. The trainer must be firm but kind, and very patient. The old saw about ‘a woman, a spaniel and a walnut tree, the more you beat them the better they be’ may be true about women and walnut trees — I don’t pretend to know — but as far as cocker spaniels are concerned the less punishment that is given the better. This is not to say that punishment has to be altogether dispensed with, but I wish to dispel the illusion, still retained in some quarters, that ‘the stick’ is the only method whereby cockers can be trained. Punishment handed out indiscriminately and without showing the dog where it is at fault can produce only two types of gundog— the cowed cringing wretch that is the pity of all who behold it, or the hardened sinner who will please himself and accept a beating as a matter of course. No thinking man desires to own either type of spaniel.
What is required of a cocker spaniel in the field? Normally, the cocker is used to quest within gunshot for unshot game, flush it and retrieve the slain only upon command. It must remain steady when rabbits bolt or game gets on the wing, and is generally taught to drop both to flush and shot. There are some owners who not only use their cockers thus but also like them to act as retrievers pure and simple when game is being driven. To use a cocker in this manner, whilst by no means impossible, is asking a lot of a breed whose natural instinct is to be on the move the whole time. I have found that whilst certain individuals will take kindly to the idea of waiting in a butt or at a pheasant stand for driven game, the majority of cockers are far too restless and are inclined to become over excited, whine and even yap when the birds come over and the guns start firing. Such dogs are a nuisance to both handler and to the other guns present, and generally end up by being tethered to their masters’ sides if not removed from the shooting field altogether. My advice to cocker owners is, therefore, not to expect too much from the breed in this respect, but to use the dogs mainly, if not solely, for their natural work as questing dogs when game is walked up, plus, of course, retrieving when required.
Throughout the Felstead Gundog website there is a huge amount of information on all aspects of the Working Cocker Spaniel including Spaniels in general and all working gundogs. We also have a free classified Gundogs adverts for sale a vast amount of stud dogs, Training, Breeding, Field Trials, Working tests, Gundogs Clubs and societies, photo gallery, Dog medical conditions, Links to various gundog kennels and so much more.
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