English Cocker Spaniel Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.
SPANIEL ENGLISH COCKER
Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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Official Standard for the English Cocker Spaniel General Appearance: The English Cocker Spaniel is an active, merry sporting dog, standing well up at the withers and compactly built. He is alive with energy; his gait is powerful and frictionless, capable both of covering ground effortlessly and penetrating dense cover to flush and retrieve game. His enthusiasm in the field and the incessant action of his tail while at work indicate how much he enjoys the hunting for which he was bred. His head is especially characteristic. He is, above all, a dog of balance, both standing and moving, without exaggeration in any part, the whole worth more than the sum of its parts. Size, Proportion, Substance: Size -Height at withers: males 16 to 17 inches; females 15 to 16 inches. Deviations to be penalized. The most desirable weights: males, 28 to 34 pounds; females, 26 to 32 pounds. Proper conformation and substance should be considered more important than weight alone. Proportion -Compactly built and short-coupled, with height at withers slightly greater than the distance from withers to set-on of tail. Substance -The English Cocker is a solidly built dog with as much bone and substance as is possible without becoming cloddy or coarse. Head: General appearance: strong, yet free from coarseness, softly contoured, without sharp angles. Taken as a whole, the parts combine to produce the expression distinctive of the breed. Expression -Soft, melting, yet dignified, alert, and intelligent. Eyes -The eyes are essential to the desired expression. They are medium in size, full and slightly oval; set wide apart; lids tight. Haws are inconspicuous; may be pigmented or unpigmented. Eye color dark brown, except in livers and liver parti-colors where hazel is permitted, but the darker the hazel the better. Ears -Set low, lying close to the head; leather fine, extending to the nose, well covered with long, silky, straight or slightly wavy hair. Skull -Arched and slightly flattened when seen both from the side and from the front. Viewed in profile, the brow appears not appreciably higher than the back- skull. Viewed from above, the sides of the skull are in planes roughly parallel to those of the muzzle. Stop definite, but moderate, and slightly grooved. Muzzle -Equal in length to skull; well cushioned; only as much narrower than the skull as is consistent with a full eye placement; cleanly chiseled under the eyes. Jaws strong, capable of carrying game. Nostrils wide for proper development of scenting ability; color black, except in livers and parti-colors of that shade where they will be brown; reds and parti-colors of that shade may be brown, but black is preferred. Lips square, but not pendulous or showing prominent flews. Bite -Scissors. A level bite is not preferred. Overshot or undershot to be severely penalized. Neck, Topline and Body: Neck -Graceful and muscular, arched toward the head and blending cleanly, without throatiness, into sloping shoulders; moderate in length and in balance with the length and height of the dog. Topline -The line of the neck blends into the shoulder and backline in a smooth curve. The backline slopes very slightly toward a gently rounded croup, and is free from sagging or rumpiness. Body -Compact and well-knit, giving the impression of strength without heaviness. Chest deep; not so wide as to interfere with action of forelegs, nor so narrow as to allow the front to appear narrow or pinched. Forechest well developed, prosternum
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projecting moderately beyond shoulder points. Brisket reaches to the elbow and slopes gradually to a moderate tuck-up. Ribs well sprung and springing gradually to mid-body, tapering to back ribs which are of good depth and extend well back. Back short and strong. Loin short, broad and very slightly arched, but not enough to affect the topline appreciably. Croup gently rounded, without any tendency to fall away sharply. Tail -Docked. Set on to conform to croup. Ideally, the tail is carried horizontally and is in constant motion while the dog is in action. Under excitement, the dog may carry his tail somewhat higher, but not cocked up. Forequarters: The English Cocker is moderately angulated. Shoulders are sloping, the blade flat and smoothly fitting. Shoulder blade and upper arm are approximately equal in length. Upper arm set well back, joining the shoulder with sufficient angulation to place the elbow beneath the highest point of the shoulder blade when the dog is standing naturally. Forelegs-Straight, with bone nearly uniform in size from elbow to heel; elbows set close to the body; pasterns nearly straight, with some flexibility. Feet- Proportionate in size to the legs, firm, round and catlike; toes arched and tight; pads thick. Hindquarters: Angulation moderate and, most importantly, in balance with that of the forequarters. Hips relatively broad and well rounded. Upper thighs broad, thick and muscular, providing plenty of propelling power. Second thighs well muscled and approximately equal in length to the upper. Stifle strong and well bent. Hock to pad short. Feet as in front. Coat: On head, short and fine; of medium length on body; flat or slightly wavy; silky in texture. The English Cocker is well-feathered, but not so profusely as to interfere with field work. Trimming is permitted to remove overabundant hair and to enhance the dog ’s true lines. It should be done so as to appear as natural as possible. Color: Various. Parti-colors are either clearly marked, ticked or roaned, the white appearing in combination with black, liver or shades of red. In parti-colors it is preferable that solid markings be broken on the body and more or less evenly distributed; absence of body markings is acceptable. Solid colors are black, liver or shades of red. White feet on a solid are undesirable; a little white on throat is acceptable; but in neither case do these white markings make the dog a parti-color. Tan markings, clearly defined and of rich shade, may appear in conjunction with black, livers and parti-color combinations of those colors. Black and tans and liver and tans are considered solid colors. Gait: The English Cocker is capable of hunting in dense cover and upland terrain. His gait is accordingly characterized more by drive and the appearance of power than by great speed. He covers ground effortlessly and with extension both in front and in rear, appropriate to his angulation. In the ring, he carries his head proudly and is able to keep much the same topline while in action as when standing for examination. Going and coming, he moves in a straight line without crabbing or rolling, and with width between both front and rear legs appropriate to his build and gait. Temperament: The English Cocker is merry and affectionate, of equable disposition, neither sluggish nor hyperactive, a willing worker and a faithful and engaging companion.
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Approved October 11, 1988 Effective November 30, 1988
JUDGING THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL Th e Breed Education Committee for the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America selected the following well-known, respected, Breeder/Judges to answer several questions and share their thoughts and insight on judging the breed: David Flanagan, Decorum (NY) exhibiting/breeding for 50+ years, judging since 1998. Bonnie Threlfall, Edgewood, Reg. (NC) exhibiting 50+ and breeding 40+ years, judging since 2000. Virginia Lyne, Ranzfel, Reg. (Canada) exhibiting/breeding for 53 years, judging since 1969. Andrew Jones, Shenmore (UK), exhibiting/breeding since 1985, judging since 1991. Doug McFarlane, Merimac (WA) exhibiting/breeding since the early 1970s, judging since 1998. P lease explain what you are looking for in your first impres - sion of a class of English Cockers as a whole? dramatic toplines and rears extending way out behind them. I want to see the entire dog as a package without my eye being drawn to one or more exaggerated features. Th e correctly-made dogs will appear rounded all over, with no sharp angles or lines. the backline level; do the angles front and rear match; is the dog square; and are there any extremes or exaggerated parts, like a long back leg or long loin?’ Th ese all make up the characteristics that help me form that first impression. Bad vs. good dog silhouettes.
D.F. Th e idea of examining and judging a dog, comparing it to the ideal and plac- ing it accordingly with the other dogs in the class can seem daunting when you first judge, and the tick-tock of the “two-min- ute-per-dog” clock can be overwhelming. Th e more experience one has, the more of a routine you develop. When a class lines up in the ring, I look for animals that have proper balance with regard to size and proportion. I then move from the front of the line to the back of the line getting my first impression of head and expression. Next, I move from the back of the line forward looking down over the animals to see the shape of the dog with regards to neck set, roundness of rib, length of loin and roundness of rear. Finally, I send the class around to observe ease and fluidity of movement, balance and topline. B.T. From across the ring I am look- ing for compact, one piece dogs with balanced angulation at both ends. I am already mentally eliminating the long dogs that appear shelly and narrow, with
V.L. My first impression is always a check for balance and overall proportions. I am looking for an alert, moderate dog with nothing exaggerated and showing a confi- dent, merry temperament. Generally my first impression comes when the dogs are doing their initial move around the ring. A.J. First impressions are the chance for the dogs to grab my attention. As I walk down the line I’ll be drawn to those that have shortness, balance and most importantly, angulation. As I send them once round the ring those with character and drive on the move will demand atten- tion. In a large class after first impres- sions I should have a handful in my mind who will be the contenders and maybe even one that already stands out as the likely winner. D.M. When I am first looking at a whole class I look at each dog to determine proper breed type and assess their overall balance and conformation. I ask myself, ‘Does the head match the rest of the dog; does the neck flow smoothly into the shoulders; is
What are absolute necessities for correct breed type? D.F. Th e absolute necessities with regard to breed type are balance and pro- portion, proper bone and feet, roundness of rib and rear, a short, hard back and a properly balanced head with a sweet, melt- ing expression, and a tail with never stops wagging, all on a sound animal. B.T. Th ere are five necessities to correct cocker body type, which enable the dog to do the job for which he was bred, that being pushing through thick, very dense cover most often higher than the dog. Th ey are of equal importance, so in no par- ticular order: 1) A protective forechest for pushing into cover. Th e forechest will only be present if the dog has the correct fore- hand assembly, the shoulder being well laid back with equal length and return of upper arm, placing the front legs well under the dog. 2) Th ick bone. Th e amount of bone should almost seem too much for height of the dog, but is necessary to support the correctly made body. I have yet to see an
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English Cocker with what I would consid- er too much bone. 3) A very well-sprung ribcage, which is deep and carried well back towards the dog’s rear. 4) a SHORT, broad loin. Th is is a compact, cobby breed. 5) A “hammy” rear, with thick muscling on both upper and lower thighs. Th e thick muscle only accompanies a MODERATE- LY angulated rear. A line dropped from the point of the buttock should land immedi- ately in front of the rear toes. V.L. My breed essentials are a compact dog, with a good spring of rib, moderate bone, width in hindquarter and a merry temperament. A pleasing head piece that has the look of a Cocker and never that of a Setter is a determinant of true breed type. A.J. Put simply, the English Cocker should be a lot of dog in a small package— meaning substance, compactness, width of front, strong ribs and a wide well-rounded back end, all of this with that essential merry character and driving movement displaying the breed’s love of life. D.M. Well let’s start at the front of the dog. Expression: I put a lot of emphasis on expression. I don’t get hung up on head planes as long as they are not exagger- ated and don’t a ff ect the expression, but the dog must have that melting expres- sion the standard calls for so eye place- ment, eye shape, eye color and proper chiseling under the eye are all important to me along with muzzle length balanced with the skull. Body: Since the Cocker is built to plough through thick brush, that dictates the body structure which must have well-sprung ribs, deep chest, ribs well back with a short loin, wide hip bones to support a strong muscle mass on the rear with well-developed first and sec- ond thigh. Tail set should be o ff a slightly rounded croup. When viewed from above, the roundness of body must be evident. Th e angles front and rear should be bal- anced and with good bone and substance, without being coarse or cloddy. Attitude: Th e standard starts right o ff with “merry”. Th at tail action must dis- play that characteristic and be in constant motion. Proper carriage is important. A gay tail is not desirable and you will see it in the ring. Balance: While in motion all the parts have to come together for a
smooth e ff ortless gait with a firm slightly sloping topline. Describe what you hope to find ZKen e[DmininJ D GoJ³on tKe tDEOe Ds ZeOO Ds moYinJ D.F. Th e table examination lets your hands confirm or deny what your eyes have told you. Th is is when you feel for proper bone, fore-chest, flat shoulders, round ribs, short loin, tail set, proper stop and chis- eling, bite, etc. Th is is also when you feel for muscling, proper condition, coat qual- ity and proper trim. Let’s not forget that English Cocker exhibitors are masters of illusion, it’s your job to figure out what is real and what is not. On the move I look particularly at the side gait as proof of proper construction and balance. Th is to me is the true test of what your hands have felt on the table. I am not known as a down and back freak— I use it as a tool, and it is very useful for optical illusion tan points can give. Watch the pads of the feet! A tip for judging this breed, if you feel you need to reexamine a dog, be sure to put it back on the table and to not attempt to go over it on the ground. B.T. When examining an English Cock- er, do not “blow by” the head once the bite is checked. Th e body gets the dog to the bird, but the head has to do its job, too. Looking at the bite you will notice that the teeth can be considered rather large for the size of the dog. Although developed to flush and retrieve woodcock, he is also perfectly capable of working pheasant, if necessary. With that in mind, I look for a strong, full muzzle equally balanced in length to the backskull. Th e sides of the backskull should not be rounded (coarse). Still looking at the head straight on, the topskull should have a noticeable arch to the sides with only a slight flattening at the very top. Th e arch is necessary to anchor the jaw muscles. A thoroughly flat topskull is incorrect. Cor- rectly placed eyes of correct shape and color, together with the requisite chiseling under the eye, and the grooved stop, and ear set, complete the exam from the front. I then evaluate the head from the side. Hold- ing the muzzle parallel to the ground, I check to see where the eyes are looking. For function they must look forward over the
muzzle and not into the sky. Th e neck is just long enough to comfortably reach down to pick up a bird and to carry the bird with- out interfering with front movement, but not too long as to be out of balance with the rest of the dog. A gira ff e neck would not support a heavy bird for any distance. I then examine the rest of the dog hopefully finding the five requisites mentioned in the above question. Feet should be an extension of the bone, and be deep, round, and cat- like. As part of the exam, this breed has to be looked at over the top. Th e ribs are the widest part of the dog, followed closely by the rear. Th is is a broad, round dog. He is not narrow and angular—that is “Setter” type and should never be rewarded. When moving, a balanced English Cocker keeps the same outline as standing. He should show equal reach and drive in moderation. He has a SLIGHTLY sloping topline, and not the extreme topline of the 4 )08 4 *()5 . "(";*/& . "3$) t
American Cocker. Because of his round- ness and considerable width, this breed cannot single track. V.L. On the table I am looking for soft roundness—in the rib, the skull, the firm width of thigh and strong hindquarter. Th is is never a breed of sharp angles. I want to find forechest and depth of body at least to the elbow. I want to feel qual- ity of bone that is proportionate to size. I expect to see a soft expression from a dark, slightly oval eye that looks straight at me. Th e head will have a moderate stop and good width over the muzzle with a soft curve of lip without excess flews. I also assess coat quality—never excessive and of correct protective texture, not barbered severely. Th ere is meant to be a jacket with protective hair and some undercoat. I want to find a thick, tight foot for this sporting Spaniel. On the move, I expect to see a firm, hard topline, reach in front matched by a rear that steps under and pushes back to provide balanced reach and drive. I look for correct carriage of tail that is carried o ff the end of the croup without being pegged up like a Terrier. Hocks are short. I want my dog to hold the same shape on the ground moving that I saw on the table during the examination. I place a consid- erable emphasis on the side movement as I feel it is at this point that balance and correct proportions are confirmed. A.J. On the table is the chance to go ‘hands-on’ and assess real quality. I hope to find a melting eye and expression (looking into the eyes of a top rate Cock- er should be like looking into heaven— kind, warm eyes looking straight back at you, saying, ‘Love me’); with that I want strong bone, straight legs, most important good width of front; layback of shoulder and deep well sprung ribs, short loin, strong and wide back end, well-angulated and finally a good, well-presented coat. On the move, confidence, merry charac- ter, sound and driving movement, happy ever wagging tail. In short, “all Cocker”. D.M. On the table I’m looking at the finer points: eye shape, eye color, bone, feet, coat condition, depth of undercoat, muscle mass and condition, ribs well sprung and back, with a short loin, and correct set on of
high rears, dips and rises and pegged tails are challenging to judge. Narrow fronts and the resulting bad front movement are challenging to judge. Keep coming back to look for the moderate, balanced, firm topline and happy temperament Spaniel that could do the job it was bred to do. Understand the di ff erences between the Cocker, the English Springer and the English Cock- er. You will have a much better apprecia- tion of the three breeds if you are clear on their di ff erences as well as their com- mon heritage. A.J. For many these days, seeing past the hairdressing is the biggest challenge. On both sides of the Atlantic showing this proud historic gundog breed is turning into a grooming contest, so to be a good judge you will need to use your head and your hands to see past the sometimes stunning coi ff ure. Trust your hands and your eye for balance and you’ll find the good ones! D.M. I am not sure the challenges are that much di ff erent from most breeds, at least the Sporting breeds. Th ere is a lot of variation of type. Sorting through a class of dogs where none look similar can be quite a challenge. I also find with our breed that they can look wonderful while stacked, and you see a dog that fits your mind’s eye for what you like and then they move. Toplines go o ff , the tail is down and the attitude may be less than “merry”. Th is breed is very intelligent and can decide not to show o ff their merits on any given day. When that happens, my advice is to choose the best “Cocker” not necessarily the fanciest mov- er. When you get both, that’s a good day! And finally, from Anne Rogers Clark, second generation ECS breeder and ECSCA Past President... A.C. In any breed, the whole dog is hung on its front end. How the neck is set, how its topline is, all go to the front. Must have forechest out in front. We’re getting a lot of English Cockers whose fronts drop straight down, a so-called Terrier front where they’re laid back in shoulder, are short in forearm and their fronts are way out in front of them with no forechest—it’s totally incorrect for a Cocker. Got to have some forechest!
the tail. I’m hoping to confirm the impres- sion I formed as the dog moved in the class. When the dog is moving again I want to see how all the parts fit together. I watch the down and back for soundness, again to confirm what I feel on the detail table examination. When I send the dog around I want to see nice balanced extension front and rear. Th e gait should indicate power and look e ff ortless, no pounding or choppy front movement. I hope to see the dog float- ing across the ground with head slightly forward, exhibiting the proper topline and outline, and all at a moderate speed. :KDt Go you IinG tKe most challenging about the breed when you judge? D.F. We have some really beautiful dogs in our breed, but I wish there were more. I suppose the biggest challenge is trying to stay focused when faced with a mediocre entry. B.T. I really find nothing challenging about judging the breed. If you under- stand the function of the breed and learn what constitutes correct “Cocker” type vs. incorrect “Setter” type, you will reward the right dogs. V.L. Without focusing too much on negatives I think that there are some com- mon faults I see in the English Cocker in the ring today. Lack of a Cockery shape— too often we see the long necked, longer bodied, narrow, fine-boned dog with an over-angulated rear that races at great speed. Th is is not a Cocker. Too many of our dogs do not have the bone and rib- spring the standard calls for. Dogs that are not in hard muscle and athletic form are challenging to judge. Dogs that are emulating the drag of the breed, the Field Spaniel with a longer body and di ff erent proportions are challenging to judge. Dogs with incorrect toplines,
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BALANCE AND MODERATION IN THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL
BALANCE AND WRITTEN BY THE BREED EDUCATION COMMITTEE OF THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL CLUB OF AMERICA, INC., 2021 ILLUSTRATIONS BY PATRICIA JANZEN AND GENELLE JOSEPH, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. MODERATION IN THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL
T he English Cocker Spaniel is a big dog in a small package—strong for his size, compact, and very active in the field. These qualities make him an ideal dog for hunting in rough terrain and dense cover, often taller than the dog. To perform efficiently, he is notably balanced, compact, and round in build, never rangy, extreme and narrow. He is a dog of power rather than speed. WHAT DOES THE STANDARD SAY? The word “moderate” appears six times in our AKC Breed Standard. It is also implied numerous times throughout. From the opening paragraph: “He is, above all, a dog of balance, both standing and moving, without exaggeration in any part, the whole worth more than the sum of its parts.”
From the Forequarters section: “The English Cocker is moderately angulated.” From the Hindquarters section: [Rear] angulation moderate and, most importantly, in balance with that of the forequarters.” From the Gait sec- tion: “He covers ground effortlessly and with extension both in front and in rear, appropriate to his angulation.” The English Cocker is, above all, a dog of moderation rather than extremes; exaggeration of any character- istic will upset the balance of a compact, one-piece dog.
Balanced and Moderate
Unbalanced and Extreme
HOW CAN WE IDENTIFY BALANCE AND MODERATION IN THE BREED? To simplify the images shown above and to encourage your eye to see the balance as well as the exaggerations, we have made the dogs shown into silhouettes. Note how the dog on the left is beautifully balanced, all parts in harmony, with no one part standing out. The degree of shoulder angulation is the same as the rear angulation. The contours are gently rounded, and each piece is in proportion to the whole dog. On the right, we have an image of a dog with an upright (straight) shoulder and an over-angulated rear that stretches way beyond his body, therefore making the dog extreme and out of balance. Because of this lack of balance, the dog would tire easily in the field. Balance is essential for this breed, bred to work in tough terrain, quartering and pushing into the thicket and hedgerow, then retrieving the game. There can be no weak joints or overdone parts; he must be balanced, moderately made, and sound.
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BALANCE AND MODERATION IN THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL
“IN THE FIELD, THE PRESENCE OF FORECHEST IS AN ABSOLUTE NECESSITY FOR PROTECTION WHEN THE DOG IS PUSHING THROUGH THE DENSE COVER HE WAS DEVELOPED TO HUNT IN.”
Balanced and Moderate
Unbalanced and Extreme
In the illustrations shown above, we can see some of the skeletal structure. The dog on the left has a front in balance (same degree of angulation) with the rear. The legs are underneath the dog to support his substantial body. The dog on the right has an upright (straight) front assembly and an overly angulated rear, making it out of balance. The legs are not under the dog and are less supportive. This combination of upright shoulder and overdone rear is a common problem in the breed. CORRECT, WELL ANGLED FRONT ASSEMBLY Let’s investigate what constitutes a correctly made English Cocker Spaniel front assembly. The dog shown to the right exhibits the textbook ideal 90-degree shoulder, formed by the scapula and the upper arm. The correct front assembly has an equal length of both the shoulder (highest point of scapula or “withers” (A) to point of shoulder (B)) and the upper arm or “forearm” (point of shoulder (B) to elbow (C)). The point of the shoulder (B) is mid-way between the withers (A) and the elbow (C). The elbow is located directly beneath the withers and is mid-way between the withers and the ground. We talk about proper “layback of shoulder” (B to A), but if the layback is not combined with the correct angle and equal length of “return of upper arm” (B to C), it is not a good shoulder, no matter how well laid back it is. It is also not a good shoulder if the elbow is not directly beneath the withers. The English Cocker standard requires the forechest to be well developed and projecting moderately beyond the point of the shoulder. In the field, the presence of forechest is an absolute neces- sity for protection when the dog is pushing through the dense cover he was developed to hunt in. The protective forechest will be pres- ent with a properly made shoulder.
90 Degree Shoulder
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BALANCE AND MODERATION IN THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL
THE REAR ASSEMBLY IS MODERATE AND IN BALANCE WITH THE FRONT On a correctly constructed rear ( below left ) , if you drop a perpendicular line from the furthest projection of the buttock to the ground, it should land directly in front of the rear foot. The femur and the tibia are equal in length. The distance from the hock joint to the pad (rear pastern) is short. Thick, shorter muscles attach to this frame. This is an over-angulated rear ( below right ). The tibia is longer than the femur, placing the rear feet too far behind the body, making the dog stand over too much ground. The distance from the hock joint to the pad tends to be longer. Longer, leaner muscles attach to this frame. This is a very common problem in the breed today.
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN ANATOMICALLY? This is a short-backed, compact, cobby breed. From the points of measurement, the withers to the set-on of the tail, he is slightly taller than long. The elbow is the midpoint between the withers and the ground. The breed is neither “leggy” nor low on leg. With the ideal 90-degree shoulder, formed by the scapula and the upper arm, the front legs are located under the body, rather than on the forwardmost end of it. The rear angle and length should match the moderate angles of the front, with the rear foot located under the dog to support its weight. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Remember, this breed was developed to hunt in the dense and unforgiving cover of the English countryside, required to push through the cover to find and to retrieve relatively heavy game. This requires strength, balance, and above all, MODERATION. HOW DO YOU EVALUATE THIS? A dog with a properly angulated front will have a well laid-back shoulder and a scapula and upper arm of approximately the same length, placing the elbow directly below the withers. A moderate dog will have rear angles that match the front. A perpendicular line dropped from the furthest projection of the buttock to the ground should land directly in front of the rear foot (with hocks perpendicular to the ground). Exaggeration of any characteris- tic will throw off the balance of a compact, well-knit dog. He has a SLIGHTLY slop- ing back, with a tail that is carried level off a gently rounded croup. On the move, there should be equal reach and drive, and no wasted motion that will tire a dog in no time. Feet should remain close to the ground at full extension. SUMMARY The English Cocker Spaniel is, above all, a dog of balance, both standing and moving, without exaggeration in any part, the whole worth more than the sum of its parts. Your eye should never be drawn to any one specific feature. This is a well-knit, one-piece dog, balanced and moderate throughout, and free from exaggeration of any kind.
Correct Rear Assembly
Incorrect Rear Assembly
Correct, Balanced, and Purposeful Movement with Equal Reach and Drive
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UNDERSTANDING THE PROPERTIES OF THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL HEAD AND EXPRESSION BY THE BREED EDUCATION COMMITTEE FOR THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL CLUB OF AMERICA, INC. ILLUSTRATIONS BY PATRICIA JANZEN AND GENELLE JOSEPH
N ot only the hallmark of the breed, the distinctive fea- tures of the English Cocker Spaniel’s head also rep- resent the original purpose and function they were bred for. English Cocker Spaniels are built to find, flush, and retrieve game that is often quite large in relation to the dog. In order to pick up and carry such quarry, they must have strong jaws. There- fore, their heads must provide the infrastructure to support the muscle required to perform the task. “ Strong, yet free from coarseness, softly contoured, without sharp angles. ” “ Taken as a whole, the parts combine to produce the expression distinctive of the breed. ” The expression of an English Cocker is: “ Soft, melting, yet dig- nified, alert, and intelligent. ” The head and, particularly, the kind, endearing expression are the appeal of the breed. The soft eyes draw you in, and you instinctively know that this is a breed that exudes a willingness to please and is game for anything involving human companionship. CORRECT EYE SHAPE AND EXPRESSION There is a slight lift to the top eyelid, which gives the Eng- lish Cocker an alert expression, not “hound-like” or mournful. His expression should never appear hard or startled. The head is strong, but clean and gently contoured. A correctly fashioned headpiece allows for important functionality in the field.
UNDERSTANDING THE PROPERTIES OF THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL HEAD AND EXPRESSION
Parallel planes are referenced when looking straight on at the head, and NOT from the side. Here is the correct head from the top and front. Note the balanced proportion of skull to muzzle, softly con- toured and free from angularity.
SKULL FROM THE FRONT
Flat, angular, lacking the softly contoured shape, appears harsh.
Domed, overly-arched and missing the slightly flattened top.
Correct and well-balanced skull that is arched and slightly flattened.
Skull arched and slightly flattened on top.
Eyes, medium in size, full, and slightly oval.
Haws are inconspicuous.
Eyes set wide apart.
Cleanly chiseled under eyes.
Ears set low, lying close to the head.
Muzzle only as much narrower than the skull is consistent with a full eye placement.
Well cushioned muzzle.
Nostrils wide for proper development of scenting ability.
Jaws are strong.
Viewed from above, the sides of the skull are in roughly parallel planes to those of the muzzle.
UNDERSTANDING THE PROPERTIES OF THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL HEAD AND EXPRESSION “MUZZLE—EQUAL IN LENGTH TO SKULL”
“... only as much narrower than the skull as is consistent with a full eye placement.”
Brow not appreciably higher than the backskull.
Stop slightly grooved.
Stop is definite, but moderate.
Skull arched and slightly flattened.
Muzzle equal in length to skull.
Lips square, not pendulous or showing prominent flews.
Ears set low, lying close to the skull.
Cleanly chiseled under the eyes.
A Well-Balanced Head with a Definite, yet Moderate Stop
Skull Too Deep, Stop Too Pronounced
Back-Skull Falls Off Too Sharply, Prominent Frontal Bone
Lacking Stop, Flat Skull with Small Eyes
UNDERSTANDING THE PROPERTIES OF THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL HEAD AND EXPRESSION
“VIEWED IN PROFILE, THE BROW APPEARS NOT APPRECIABLY HIGHER THAN THE BACK-SKULL.
While this breed does not have parallel head planes when viewed from the side, downfaced dogs are incorrect. Above top, we have an illustration of a dog whose back- skull drops off steeply, causing him to be “downfaced.” (Note the exces- sively divergent head planes.) The English Cocker, being a jack-of-all-trades hunting compan- ion, is required to retrieve game from water. Therefore, he must be able to carry the game and not be looking up into the sun while keep- ing his nostrils clear of water. The overall distinctive make and shape of the English Cocker’s head provides not just the beauty and appeal of the breed, but also the necessary structure that allows for functionality, from the arch of the skull, the strong muzzle and jaw, to the eye set, shape, and expression.
HOW FORM SHOULD FOLLOW FUNCTION IN THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL by GENELLE JOSEPH
n Sport as in ladies’ hats, fash- ions have changed with each decade, yes, though fashions may change, we find that the merry little Cocker has always maintained his place in the esteem of the public and sportsmen alike, by dint of his extreme adaptability and courage and, let us face it, also by his hardiness to withstand the rigors of our English climate. He should never have been allowed to become a pam- pered pet, although the vast majority are, nowadays just that. Again blame his adaptability and lovable nature: but anyone who has ever seen these game little dogs working in the field must admit that this is their rightful heritage and the place where they are truly happy. A Cocker that has once tasted the delights of bustling in and out of the hedgerows and thickets and has had the scent of hare, pheasant, partridge, or the humble rabbit in his nostrils is lost forever to the drawing room. He will, on the slightest invita- tion, leave the cream cakes to follow the guns.” Quote from the Dual Purpose Dog by A.W. Collins, circa 1950 (Collinwood Cockers, Kent, England).
Judges faced with the prospect of evaluating a ring full of English Cock- ers today might find themselves feel- ing slightly overwhelmed by the task. In this day and age, the breed can be presented in many shades and col- ors, various types and with luxurious, often sculpted coats which can hide the structure beneath. To successfully sort out the classes and reward the proper type, you would do well to remember the purpose for which the breed was developed. From the opening paragraph in the standard, you get a sense of what the English Cocker was developed for: “The English Cocker Spaniel is an active, merry sporting dog, standing well up at the withers and compactly built. He is alive with energy; his gait is powerful and frictionless, capable both of covering ground effortlessly and penetrating dense cover to flush and retrieve game. His enthusiasm in the field and the incessant action of his tail while at work indicate how much he enjoys the hunting for which he was bred.” The essence of type of any breed should lie in the original purpose. Look- ing at some aspects of the standard,
we can decipher the important traits and characteristics developed by the breed’s founders that make up the foun- dation for a distinctive and correct Eng- lish Cocker Spaniel. Substance: “The English Cocker is a solidly built dog with as much bone and substance as is possible without becoming cloddy or coarse.” Historically bred to hunt in the thick cover and underbrush of the English countryside, the Cocker needed stam- ina, endurance, power and strength. Originally the breed was used only to find and flush the game, however in more recent times they were required to also retrieve, which in turn demand- ed a larger, more robust dog. Therefore, Cockers needed to possess a sturdy body capable of carrying the muscle and bone necessary to push through the thicket, hunt, flush and retrieve whatever game was afoot, often com- paratively large foul or hare. It was essential for the breed to be capable of working all day with their master, being moderate in size, with bone, rib, depth of brisket, forechest and a broad, muscular rear. Through careful breeding we now have the veritable “Jack of all trades”, a steady, biddable,
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hardworking and determined compan- ion, flushing as well as retrieving game, even from water. Proportion: “Compactly built and short-coupled, with height at withers slightly greater than the distance from withers to set-on of tail.” Slighter taller than long by the mea- surement listed in the standard, this breed should appear neither leggy nor low on leg. The correct, symmetrical make and shape of a cocker allows them to penetrate the type of dense cover that taller, leggier animals could not. They have just enough neck to comfort- ably reach down, pick up a bird and carry it without interfering with their gait. This is a breed of moderation and balance by necessity, as exaggeration of any characteristic could cause them to tire easily and therefore be incapable of fulfilling the task for which they were bred. Coat: “On head, short and fine; of medium length on body; flat or slightly wavy; silky in texture. The English Cocker is well-feathered, but not so profusely as to interfere with field work. Trimming is permitted to remove overabundant hair and to enhance the dogs true lines. It should be done so as to appear as natural as possible.” An often overlooked essential of breed type, the correct coat on a Cock- er works as a protective shield from the weather and unforgiving terrain. It should be silky, with a topcoat jacket of longer, protective guard hairs and enough undercoat to keep them warm. The feathering should not be too profuse, nor over groomed. A correct coat will
characterized more by drive and the appearance of power than by great speed.” Bred to be a steady hunting com- panion, they should cover ground soundly and efficiently. However, this breed is not one of exaggeration and a moderate stride is desired. The English Cocker should reach to the end of his nose, without wasted motion or restric- tion. Their ever-wagging tail and the darting action they show while seeking game has led to the descriptive term of bustling. In summary, this merry, active breed has won the hearts of many and deserves his place in history. Never let the window dressing he may be found sporting detract from the hardworking little hunting companion he was bred to be. “He is an ideal companion & housedog; a great sportsman in the shooting field and is capable of doing all the work his bigger broth- ers can do, putting that joy into the task which has earned him the epi- thet ‘The Merry Cocker’, his actions denoting the pleasure he derives from his hunting”. Quote taken from the introduction to “Cocker Spaniels” by H.S. Lloyd, of Ware Cockers, Middlesex, England. To see the English Cocker Span- iel breed standard, go to www. ecsca.info/index.php/breed-info/ breed-standard. For more information on the English Cocker Spaniel, please visit ecsca.info.
self-strip in the field, allowing the dog to work while avoiding mishap. A poor, cottony coat will cause a dog to snag and tie them up at the first bramble. A Cocker should also have supple, pliable skin, with enough give to allow them to hunt in the most difficult countryside without injury. Head: “Strong, yet free from coarseness, softly contoured, without sharp angles.” The characteristic head and expres- sion of an English Cocker sets them apart from all the other Spaniel breeds. They have a soft, melting and endear- ing expression, with tight eye rims to keep them free from debris. The skull: “Arched and slightly flattened when seen both from the side and from the front. Viewed in profile, the brow appears not appreciably higher than the back-skull.” The skull is arched and slightly flat- tened (not flat) to allow for the well- muscled jaw. They must not drop off too much in the backskull, as this will inhibit their ability to hold the bird in their mouth and retrieve in water; a down faced dog will be looking up into the sun. Muzzle: “Equal in length to skull; well cushioned.” Their muzzle is well cushioned to protect them from the thorns and thick- ets they work in, as well as the talons of the birds they hunt. They have strong jaws and teeth the size of a much larger breed. This breed is meant to do heavy lifting! Gait: “The English Cocker is capable of hunting in dense cover and upland terrain. His gait is accordingly
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MODERATION THE BREEDER’S PERSPECTIVE EXPLORING MODERATION AND ITS IMPORTANCE IN RELATION TO CORRECT ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL BREED TYPE by THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL CLUB OF AMERICA
MODERATION IN AN ENG- LISH COCKER, WHAT EX- ACTLY DOES THAT MEAN? W ebster’s Dictionary describes Moderate as: “The quality of being moderate; avoidance of extremes or excesses.” HOW DOES THAT DEFINITION TRANSLATE TO OUR BREED? The word “moderate” appears five times in our AKC Breed Standard. It is
also implied numerous times through- out. In the opening paragraph: “He is, above all, a dog of balance, both stand- ing and moving, without exaggeration in any part, the whole worth more than the sum of its parts” As with any breed of dog, form should follow function. He is alive with energy; his gait is powerful and friction- less, capable both of covering ground effortlessly and penetrating dense cover to flush and retrieve game. His enthusi- asm in the field and the incessant action of his tail while at work indicate how
much he enjoys the hunting for which he was bred. The English Cocker is a dog of bal- ance, with no one feature overpow- ering another. He has a round, softly contoured appearance, with no sharp angles or lines. CAN YOU TRAIN YOUR EYE TO SEE A MODERATE DOG? The ability to identify the correct balance and type for our breed requires an understanding of the essential points of measurement.
Moderate rear angulation
Exaggerated rear angulation
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Moderate English Cocker Spaniel (left) versus the exaggerated (right).
Proper substance (left) versus insufficient substance (right).
Correct length (left) versus a leggy English Cocker Spaniel (right).
Moderate shoulder angles (left) versus exaggerated angles (right).
Proper substance (left) versus insufficient substance (right).
Moderate rear angulation (left) versus exaggerated angulation (right).
WHAT ARE MODERATE ANGLES?
back, with a tail that is carried level off of a gently rounded croup. “He covers ground effortlessly and with extension both in front and in rear, appropriate to his angulation.” Here again, the standard is refer- ring to the breed’s moderate angles, effortless and appropriate to his angu- lation. If a dog is over-extending front or rear, overreaching underneath, it is indicative of unbalance, causing wasted motion that will tire a dog in no time. Note the flipped front foot, the curled hind toes and the crossed feet under- neath on the right. The amount of substance for height contributes to the overall harmonious make and shape of a correct Cocker. This breed has the frame and carries the muscle of a weight lifter rather than that of a long distance runner. “The Eng- lish Cocker is a solidly built dog with as much bone and substance as possible without becoming cloddy or coarse.” Remember they were developed to hunt in dense cover and retrieve heavy game. That requires strength, balance, moderation and no Extremes.
With the ideal 90 degree shoulder, formed by the scapula and the upper arm, the front legs are located under the body, rather than on the forward most end of it. The rear angle and length should match the moderate angles of the front, with the rear foot located under the dog to support it’s weight. “Rear angulation moderate and, most importantly, in balance with that of the forequarters” REAR ANGULATION IS MODERATE. A perpendicular line dropped from the furthest projection of the buttock to the ground, should land directly in front of the rear foot. The femur and the tibia are equal in length. THE STANDARD CALLS FOR A SLIGHTLY SLOPING TOPLINE Exaggeration of any characteristic will throw off the balance of a compact, well-knit dog. He has a slightly sloping
Slightly sloping topline (left) versus exaggerated slope (right).
Effortless movement (left) versus overreaching movement (right).
THE ENGLISH COCKER IS SLIGHTLY TALLER THAN LONG
This is a short-backed, compact, cob- by breed. From the points of measure- ment, the withers to the set on of the tail, he is slightly taller than long. The elbow is midpoint between the withers and the ground. The breed is neither “leggy” nor low on leg.
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UNDERSTANDING THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL by PATRICIA JANZEN (photos and illustrations courtesy of the author)
T he front defined: “the forepart of the body as viewed head on or from the side, to include forelegs, chest, brisket and shoulder line.” We should be breeding for correct type and an overall dog; but without a basic understanding of correct structure (which is also part of correct type) we may end up with something pretty that isn’t function- al. While structure is basic dog knowledge, fronts are the hardest to understand. Th e front is possibly the most important part of the four-legged mammal, includ- ing dogs. To understand why the front is so important, we need to consider some important facts. Like all parts of the skeletal system, it includes sca ff olding upon which every- thing hangs. It provides locomotion. It is also housing that protects the vital internal organs. Each of these is of extreme impor- tance on our smallest of gun dogs, which have to be stronger for their size than any other gun dog. Th e front bears more weight than the back half of the animal (even more when the dog carries game, prey or other objects), so it must prove to be strong. During movement, the dog is actually falling forward and downward on its front after propulsion from the rear; the front
also aids the rear in propulsion. Because the animal does fall forward with each stride, it must not only be strong enough to catch the weight but also be well cushioned for impact. Since the front houses the heart and lungs of a hardworking and athletic hunting animal, it needs to have adequate space within the ribcage to accommodate well developed organs. Th e Cocker needs to take fewer, more e ffi cient steps. In this way it travels far- ther with less e ff ort and can do more work in a day. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION On an English Cocker, a good front is not just a pretty-coated, well-feathered piece with withers that are slightly higher than the rear, only ever viewed from the side. Th e Cocker must push through heavy cover carrying game larger for its size than any other sporting dog. Historically it has been used for pheasant and other game birds, as well as hare. Th ere is a reason our beautiful breed’s front needs to be as the standard calls for. Th e standard states: “ Th e English Cocker is a solidly built dog with as much bone and substance as is possible without becoming cloddy or coarse.” Bone needs to be significantly strong in order to carry heavy muscle. Th e muscle
“THE COCKER NEEDS TO TAKE FEWER, MORE EFFICIENT STEPS. IN THIS WAY IT TRAVELS FARTHER WITH LESS EFFORT AND CAN DO MORE WORK IN A DAY.”
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fewer, more e ffi cient steps; therefore he can work for longer periods of time. Th e standard calls for a dog’s withers to be well laid back and the upper arm to return, or lay back, the same distance and at the same degree as the scapula. Th e ideal angulation is for the front to form a 90 to 100 degree angle, with the highest point of the shoulder (withers) to be directly above the elbow, which is also directly above the back of the front foot when properly sta- tioned. Th e reason for this is mechanical advantage: the front legs can reach forward in a projected line that follows the degree of layback of scapula. Th e upper arm needs to be same length as the shoulder. An upper arm of equal length coupled with length and layback of shoulder makes for optimal length of stride and propulsion. Th e bottom left photo is our Cocker’s standing outline with an image of balanced movement over it. Note the 45 degree angled lines over the front and rear legs. Th is illustrates equal reach and drive. To allow freedom in front and correct front reach, the head also drops to about a 45 degree angle. In the show ring, when a Cocker is “strung up” with the lead held
vertical and taught, the head stays in a more upright position, which doesn’t allow the Cocker opportunity to show correct, sporting dog movement. Th e dog with an inadequate front cannot reach to its nose. It is completely wrong for a gundog to be short strided in front. If the scapula is more upright, the upper arm and foreleg cannot reach to vertical line dropped from the nose of the dog, causing a shorter stride. Neither can the dog with a shorter foreleg have a stride of su ffi cient length, or have ideal leverage to propel the dog for- ward. Also, a dog with a more upright fore- leg does not have the ability to have an ideal range of motion and it tends to have a more upright pastern as well. Any of these faults cause the dog to take more steps during the course of an hour, a day, its lifetime. Neither does the dog have any need to reach past the nose. Anything more that the described ideal creates wasted motion, wasted energy. While flashy and eye catching, this type of movement is atypical of a correct Cocker and is of no use in the conditions under which the breed works in the field. It should no more be rewarded in the ring or
is more typical of a weight lifter, capable of pushing through dense cover and car- rying heavy game, as opposed to the type of muscling found on a gun dog that runs over large, open fields. Th e amount of trappy terrain a dog needs to go through is in proportion to the amount of bone and muscle a breed needs. In human form, think of a runner’s build as opposed to a weight lifter’s. Th is is why we say the Cocker is rounded and con- toured and is not made of angular planes with long, flat muscle type. Th e standard states: “His gait is charac- terized more by drive and the appearance of power than by great speed. He covers ground e ff ortlessly and with extension both in front and in rear, appropriate to his angulation.” To carry the dog, his front needs to move e ffi ciently. We want strength and endurance, not speed. Th e ideal, e ffi cient stride allows the front foot to reach for- ward to a line dropped vertically under- neath the nose, landing just behind the nose, in order to push o ff when it is under- neath the dog. Th is allows the dog to take
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