The Cocker Spaniel

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What can I say about the cocker spaniel?  I love them and they do make very good agility dogs.  You have to keep them slim and this isn't always easy with a spaniel as they love their food.

The cocker should be 15-16ins (38-41cm) in height and this puts them into the medium category for agility.  The weight is 28-32lb (12.75-14.5kg).  This sounds a bit heavy for an agility dog but the breed dogs do tend to be fatter than dogs competing in agility.  Some cockers are smaller than this and they can creep into the small category if they are under 13.75 ins. 

As a breed they are joyful, energetic and full of life and their tails never stop wagging.  Spaniels are usually into everything including the dustbin, muddy puddles and all the places where you can't follow. 

I've always found them to be friendly and non-aggressive, however, a badly brought up spaniel will bite just as hard as any other dog.  The breed standard says that they should be gentle and affectionate and this is how I've found them.

If you have a cocker you will need a good grooming kit.  Their coats tend to tangle easily and they need regular thinning with a good pair of thinning scissors.  (Get someone to show you how to do this.)  I spent some time with a breeder learning how to groom cockers but I found it wasn't so easy when I got home and had to do a whole dog by myself.  

As agility dogs, cockers are fast and accurate.  The survey respondents found them fairly easy to train and would recommend them for agility.

Pictured here is our lovely little Tilly engaged in her favourite activity.

Dog Pictures 9 lg

Thanks to Dave Beart of Petstyle for the photo

Working cocker or show cocker?

Our Tilly was a show cocker and she came from a distinguished line of show dogs.  If you are thinking of getting a cocker for agility only then you might consider getting a working cocker.  These are quite different to the show cockers in that they are bred and used as working dogs and they have a lot of drive.  They are physically different too with the working cocker having more of the look of a small springer.

As you can see in these photos Matthew's Ellie (left) has much shorter ears than our Tilly (right).  She also has a lighter build and a much shorter coat.  One thing I would say about the working cockers is that as agility dogs they can become very excitable and noisy and because they are bred for working they are very driven in everything they do.

You can find loads of cocker spaniel books and products on sale and I've included some of them here.  It's always fun to collect new books or bits and pieces about your favourite breed.  I know they fill up the house but we like it all the same!  There are lots of interesting comments on cocker spaniels below.  if you've sent in some comments and they haven't been published it's because I don't have enough space for them all!  This breed is so popular that everyone wants to talk about it.

Comments:

Matthew:
 Like most other owners I had absolutely no idea of the difference between a Show Cocker Spaniel and a Working Cocker Spaniel until I'd had Ellie for about three months. A lot of people say they have a working Cocker Spaniel just because they work them but in fact they have a 'working' Show Cocker Spaniel. My understanding is that the true Working Cocker is very similar to a Welsh Springer. They have much shorter hair, longer legs and much shorter ears along with a longer head than Show Cockers. In fact they really shouldn't be called Cocker Spaniel at all as they really are a completely different breed.
They are still as gentle as gentle can be, rarely bark but would happily run all day every day. I go for regular 12 mile bike rides with her running at 15-18 mph for the entire run!  Gets you fit! Be warned though, the second they are spayed they pile on the pounds!
Pat Comments: I wanted one of these when we were looking for another dog but it was very difficult to find a true working cocker.  I saw some advertised at 400 each but they'd all gone almost as soon as they were advertised.  They love agility but they can be very, very noisy in an exciting environment such as an agility class.  Can anyone send a photo of a typical working cocker for this Agility Bits page please? 
Pat says:Matthew has now kindly sent some photos of Ellie (above).  Many thanks for these super photos.

Just following on from what a few people say and my last post about Ellie.... Because the WORKING Cockers are so used to running around they dont take to leads very well. Ellie is now 3 and has pulled on a lead since day one. Last week I was advised by a police dog handler to get a HALTI and she is like having a new dog now on a lead! She walks absolutely perfectly and would highly reccomend them. They are not a body harness, just literally fit over their heads and when they try and pull it pushes their head downwards so they cant see where they are going. They are not cruel, they don't hurt them in any way but they dont like not seeing ahead of them so they don't pull. It took all of ten minutes for her to get used to it! However don't keep them on when its time to run in the field. They soon realise that when the halti goes on it's time for work and when it comes off its tine to play! For anyone at all I highly reccomend one! I just wish I'd have been told about them three years ago! My arms would be normal length now if I'd have known!

Kirsten
I have a four year old black working cocker, Seamus who barks incessantly when I am out with him if I speak to other people or stop to pause on a walk. This only happens when he is off the lead, never on.. Any advice please? He barks a lot at home too and is over excitable when visitors arrive.. Have tried squirting water, lemon etc and he thinks its a game!
Pat comments:  Water isn't a good idea.  A lot of dogs love love it.  A calm atmosphere in the house will help and you need to find a way to break the habit.  Try to calm him down and praise him when he's good.  Don't let visitors make a fuss of him until he's calmed down.  He'll soon learn that calm behaviour gets rewards where excitable behaviour doesn't.   

Trish:
I have a working cocker and and English cocker, I would certainly recommend a working cocker if you are active, they are energetic, loving, loyal and I found easy to train, they are always willing to please and learn. My working cocker is 3 years old and before I got him I had never seen or noticed this breed. My English cocker is 6 and more laid back. If I ever get another dog it would certainly be a working cocker they are brilliant dogs. My working cocker is called Clark and my English cocker is Clive, I also have 2 cats Clara & Cloe and a budgie called Charlie, they all get on great Working cockers, love them and it looks like they are getting more popular as I have seen more recently when out for walks

Doglover:
I have a 5 year old English cocker spaniel he looks like a show dog but acts like a work dog he never bites and accepts any other dog

Chris Walsh:
Golden cocker (show type) We have a very handsome golden cocker (boy) but he's very lazy, he doesn't like walking (especially up hills!) he's 5 years old, and very chunky. He's not greedy but very over weight. He was 3 years old when we got him, and I thought I would soon slim him down with plenty of exercise! but I've failed miserably, is this common?
Pat comments: We had to reduce Tilly's food and cut out titbits in order for her to lose weight.  A healthy cocker is normally lively and keen to walk.  In fact they don't walk they trot.  Your vet may have a nutritionist and/or a slimming club for overweight dogs and this would really help.  It's a bit like going to Weightwatchers for dogs.  

Liz Beard:
We got a cocker from a domestic setting at 8 weeks old and he is a typical cocker to look at with the ears and is golden in colour, however we have since got a working cocker from a breeder she is just two weeks younger that 16 week old George but loads smaller she is like a pocket rocket and makes our lovely George look positively cumbersome but we love both of them dearly, and when they are old enough look forward to long romps on the heath together, they get on realy well but the new pup still crys a bit at night and first thing in the morning even though she has George for aompany.

Alicia Thomson age 9 from Alford, Scotland:
My dog's name is Rollo he is 10 month's old when he is hype he tucks his tail between his back legs and he's off. Very loving dog.

Tanya:
We have sasha, 11 month old show cocker, golden in colour with huge ears and she is totally gorgeous. Been to obedience classes, still not heeling and yanking my arms off everytime we go for a walk. However, I am tending to take her to the woods more and over fields as she loves to run around and off lead is much better. She hates the halti, any suggestions.
Pat comments:  You could try using a harness.   I bought a Halti harness for Jamie and and Easy Walk for Sasha.  They both work well.

Rod Jones:
I bought a Cocker Spaniel five years ago and told he was a working breed. However, during a recent visit to a vet she thought there was some collie in him. On reflection, at the time did not get any Kennel Club docs. and if there is any collie in him would like to know what to look for in our dog as we find photos so far unhelpful.
Pat comments: It's almost impossible to be certain what's in a dog unless you pay for a DNA test to determine the breeds.  The sprollie page will give you an idea of what characteristics to look for in a spaniel collie cross.

Hugo (from Portugal):
Hi, I really don't know if my cocker is a Working Cocker Spaniel or a Shown Cocker Spaniel .... what I know is that he loves Agility. He is a strong and big cocker , with 43cm tall and 18 kg weight .. is a very big and strong cocker , so for me is a Working Cocker Spaniel I think that agility is the only thing that he thinks ( ok ..food too :) ) , he is very fast, with very nice turns and contacts ... and he keeps barking all the course :) So if you have a cocker ... agility is the best for him bye

Anne:
I have 2 working cockers - Lacey is a small and Rogue a medium ! Lacey is like dynamite she is the sooo fast and I had to do a lot of intensive training when she was younger to channel her speed and drive as she would get overexcited and nip me - this was easily focussed onto her tennis ball. She is 100% focussed on me when we are competing which is not always good as she will run into jumps instead of looking where she is going!!. rogue is entirely different and is nose to the floor gone hunting ! however he is a rescue and is now responding well to positive training with high energy rewards :) They are a joy to live with buy definitely not for the faint hearted!

Bethany:
I have a cocker spaniel puppy called Archie. He is very good at agility. He Goes over A slim box , hoops and poles. He is very cute at it too.
Pat comments:  Bethany, don't let your puppy do any jumping until he's at least 12 months old.  That will protect his joints and will stop him from hurting himself.  You can do obedience with a puppy and you can put poles on the ground and send him through tunnels.  Things like weaving and jumping can cause long term problems if a dog starts too young.  The important thing is to have lots of fun with your puppy while he's learning.  Larger breeds should be older than 12 months when they start.  If anyone is wondering when to start agility with a young dog the best thing to do is to get advice from a trainer who can assess your dog individually and decide how much it's safe to do.

Anna Shaw:
We have 3 lovely working cockers, the first one was by accident, thinking he would be a 'typical' cocker. The other 2 were entirely by design. They are all friendly, very intelligent, energetic and so keen to please. I'm looking to take my youngest to agility classes to keep his mind active, I hope it does the trick!

Aoife & Dusty:
He jumps more than double his height despite being a bit on the fat side. I see a lot of potential in this breed. :]
Pat comments: It sounds as if your dog really loves jumping and dogs like this should be encouraged to enjoy agility.  In the UK a dog in the medium category will only be asked to jump 45cm maximum, and this is when they are fully fit and not overweight.  Please can I make a suggestion that you lower your jumps to 35cm.  This will give you the big advantage of being able to concentrate on doing more difficult sequences of lower jumps.  If your dog is taller than 49cm then you could raise the jumps to 45cm when he has slimmed down a bit.  (The height categories for small and medium dogs are:  Medium Dogs over 350mm (1ft 1.75ins) and 43cm (1ft 5ins) or under at the withers, Small dogs 35cm (1ft 1.75ins) or under at the withers.

Stuart Wilcox:
 
We were always aware of the difference between the two types of Cocker, because the father-in-law bred and worked them all his life. Sadly, he has now passed away and his pack of workers sold on (no sentimentalism in the working community!) but he left us with a gift we shall treasure for years - the last bitch of his last litter. Ellie is loving, loyal, and biddable (and cunning and mischevous!), learns faster than we do, and has taken to agility like a duck to water. Working Cockers are very special dogs, easier to look after than Show Cockers because of their shorter ears and coat, and no problems with eyes or hips. If you are thinking of agility, they are perfect. As long as there are no interesting smells, or water, or food... We are already considering another. As they say, Would Recommend.

Jo:
 
I've not long had a 2yr old rescue cocker, she's been badly treated and doesn't like many other dogs, although have got her out of the snarling and growling now unless another dog comes flying at her. Would so like to have a go at agility with her as she's so full of energy and life she just needs some focus I think? Do they have to be perfectly behaved to go to a class, I can control her as long as she is not in confrontation with other dogs and then sometimes we do have a good bark n rumble. Can muzzle her but don't like to as believe we're past that stage. Any tips.
Pat comments:  If you have a dog that doesn't like other dogs it's best to speak to the person who is taking the agility class.  Some dogs become so focused on agility that they forget about the dogs around them and it can really help.  As long as you have control there shouldn't be a problem but they do have to be off lead (one at a time).  One thing to avoid is the kind of class where people take two or three dogs along and tie them to a fence whilst they're working another dog.  This is guaranteed to create an aggressive atmosphere.  I know several people who have rescue dogs that weren't properly socialised as puppies.  The dogs are no problem as the handlers have complete control and don't allow them to fly at other dogs.   Many of these dogs have been competing for years.  Go for it! 

India Long:
I love them they have lots of intelligence and love to play,especially fetch.

Barbara Andrewartha:
My cocker spaniel Barney is a working cocker from the Nancarrow stock in Truro Cornwall and he is beautiful in looks. He is gold in temperament and I have found him to be loyal and he loves to be with us as much as possible. He is just 20 months old so I look forward to many more years with him. I love him to bits.

Jackie:
I have a very energetic working /show cocker spaniel who is only 8wks old . She is called Tilly . I also was not aware of the different types of cockers. Has anybody else got one that can give me a report on the temperament of these ? I have already taught her to sit and lie down (that's with treats involved )! So I think she is going to be quite intelligent.

Jacqui Raine
We have an 18 month working cocker named Meg she is full of life and never stops, she loves agility and was very quick to learn. she does get mistaken for a small springer all the time. I would love to get another one soon and would recommend them to any one one who wants a lovely dog.

Juliet:
I have one 13 year old English cocker called Jim, sadly he won't be with us much longer. I will, however be getting at least one if not two cocker puppies, probably working English working ones, I was glad to hear of their good reputation with agility. Jim is a bit past that now but I can't wait to try it with the puppies!
Pat adds: There's lots of groundwork you can do with puppies until they are old enough to start jumping at around 12 months.  As well as obedience you can put poles on the ground between jump wings to get them used to the equipment and they can go through tunnels.  The weave is stressful to the spine so leave that alone but you could do some very small contacts.  (Definitely not the full sized ones.)  Look after Jim first, though.  There will only ever be one Jim and he is precious to you.

Dani Burgess:
We have got two English Cocker Spaniels at home and they are both beautiful dogs with a calm yet energetic when they want to be temperaments. I would recommend them to any family looking for a dog they are great with children and other dogs. They are easy to train because there so clever and their love of treats. I'm only 13 and I have taught them both lots of tricks including agility. They're so loving and if you get one you'll see for yourself.

Jess:
 
Cocker Spaniels have a lovly temperament and are active dogs. Because they are greedy dogs they will do anything for a treat. So this means they are pretty easy to train!

Carol Barnes:
Maya is a working cocker, we didn't know there were two different types when we got her. She's 16 months old and on a waiting list for agility. If offered a treat she will sit, do down, flat, twist and paw all in one go in the hope that one of them is the right one. She only has to see me go to back door and is there before me and waiting to see if I'm going up the garden or to the garage and always gets there first!!

Margaret Craner (Working cocker - field trial breeding):
Our Flash is very, very bright, and needs careful handling to prevent him anticipating what we want.  Calmness always from the handler.  Very athletic dog, ready and happy to work all day and to please us.
 
Kirsty Campbell:
I have a working cocker spaniel and it's true the tail never stops wagging. She is also into every tussock of grass and every hole in the ground. They learn very quickly, it's sometimes hard to keep up with them.

Margaret Craner:
Don't forget that there are two very different types of cocker spaniels (not counting the American) - the show cocker and the working cocker, which is often mistaken for an undersized springer.  The workers are bred purely to work and for their temperament, and just live to investigate every twig and leaf.  They are fast, keen to please and learn VERY quickly.  Having tried ours (who is only 10 months, so cannot start agility proper), we are now looking for a suitable club close to us.  By the way, no-one told him he was too young to jump - trying to stop him on a romp with friends in the fields is impossible.  Having had a show type cocker before, I can vouch for the fact that the workers are faster and more agile, and learn quicker.

Colin Budd (cocker/cavalier cross):
By crossing these two breeds (done specifically for pets) you do not run a great risk of getting any of the inherent problems from either breed ie heart problems from the cavalier or liver/kidney problems from the cocker.  Also the temperament is loving and quick to learn (and fast).  Will run around around all day then cuddle up on your lap.  Colin would recommend this cross for agility and would choose this type of dog again.

 

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