Let’s Talk Breed Education!
A Total Package in the Field
M any articles, and judges’ education, might start with the Cocker Spaniel being a “total package.” Standing, a Cocker should give a total picture of type, size, proportions, and balance. This picture should be appar- ent when the dog moves. Topline, balance, and the abil- ity to cover ground should be taken into consideration. The same picture, moving and standing, should be seen. All of this is true. However, many judges forget that the standard is based on the Cocker’s ability to function in the field. Finding, flushing, and retrieving birds is all in a day’s work for the breed. “Form follows function” is a key to good judging, and judges should never forget this as they go over these dogs. The Cocker’s coat is impres- sive and beautiful. So, seeing this, a judge might think that the breed could not succeed in the field. But this is why they were bred originally and it is what many Cock- ers continue to do today. What is under the coat—and the make-up of the headpiece—are all important to pro- ducing a Cocker Spaniel that can function in the field. One of these important functional features is the breed’s height. A Cocker is disqualified if it is over 15-1/2 inches for males, and 14-1/2 inches for bitches. The rea- son for this goes back to their function. They are the smallest member of the Sporting Group for good reason. They hunt where there is underbrush and dense vegeta- tion, areas where bigger dogs cannot maneuver. They are bred to hunt in tough, tight terrain. Their size fits with the job of this remarkable breed.
BY NANCY GALLANT ( PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE AUTHOR )
Oakleys son, Stetson (Blue Roan) Ch. Bow-k’s & Gardian Cowboy Up, is ready to start working in the field.
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Oakley is an AKC Conformation Champion and also a Master Hunter—he also has a UKC HRC Started Retriever title—he likes ducks! He is one of only a few Champion/ Master Hunter Cocker Spaniels
A hackney or side wheeling motion shows an improper shoul- der. This shoulder is often too straight for a strong rear. The move- ment in front should be long, low, and smooth. The rear pads should be seen clearly as the Cocker drives forward. This is effort- less movement, making it easy for Cockers to sustain working in the field all day. Remember, fast does not mean efficient. I would like to pause here to include issues about the docked tail, because whenever I give a seminar, there are always questions about the tail being docked or undocked. The Board of Directors of the American Spaniel Club (ASC), on February 28, 2018, made this directive on the tail: The Cocker Spaniel is a docked, hunting breed. The characteristic incessant merry action of the tail while working in thick, dense cover that is sometimes deeper than the dog is tall, necessitates docking to prevent injury. The member- ship voted not to change the standard in regards to docked tails. Thus, the ASC continues to support an important characteristic required by the breed’s function as a hunting dog. But, according to AKC rules, a judge may either choose to judge a Cocker Spaniel with an undocked tail, considering the tail to be a fault, or excuse the dog after examination. The ASC will support your decision to judge or excuse an undocked tail. In judging the undocked tail, it is expected that you would prioritize your judging by virtues, and factor in faults lastly. This is not a disqualification. Lastly, I would like to talk about coat. In spite of the function of the Cocker Spaniel, the breed has become increasingly heavy- coated. Therefore, texture and proper length of coat has become exceedingly important for his dual role. Excessive and/or cottony coats must be discouraged. A coat that knots quickly or drags on the ground makes the dog very undesirable for fieldwork.
The Cocker Spaniel standard does not end there when it comes to those features needed for field work. They need a nose with capac- ity to sufficiently find game. Thus, a large, open nostril becomes very important for finding game. Interestingly enough, this large, dark nose is also an important factor in giving the Cocker head its beautiful, soft, appealing look. Eyes that are almond-shaped and deep-set (not bulging) are definitely needed when working in dense areas. The eyelids should fit tightly around the eye for protection when working in the field. Again, function comes into play with the muzzle, which should have a clean appearance and be long enough to be able to pick up and carry a bird. The ears should be fine and reach at least to the end of the nose. They should fold forward to frame the face. Their placement allows the ears to direct the scent of the bird more read- ily toward the dog’s large nose. The mouth is large with good-sized, well-formed teeth that enable the Cocker to carry a game bird. Another functional feature is the neck, which should be suf- ficiently long enough to allow the nose to reach the ground. Just as important is a neck that fits well into the sloping shoulders, to enable the Cocker to cover ground efficiently. A Cocker with a short neck and a straight front assembly is unable to reach with full exten- sion, and the gait will be constricted, hindering good field work.
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In December of 2015, Gun Dog magazine pub- lished an article on the Cocker Spaniel to show how wonderful this breed is in the field. The article began, “Long stereotyped as frilly dogs, the dimin- utive American Cocker Spaniel is reclaiming its heritage as a capable performer afield.” Despite the precious show ring appearance, a number of Cock- ers, including champions, are doing just fine in the field; finding, flushing, and fetching the birds.” So, in conclusion, I would like to say, please judge this breed with the idea that form follows function. If you would like to see a video of a Cocker in action in the field, go to the Great Lakes American Cocker Spaniel hunting enthusiast website: http://www.gla- cshe.com . Then click on Hunting Cocker Spaniels/ Wisconsin. When you get onto the website, click on Club Info and the video will appear.
Savvy, Ch. Fourfold Gardian Angel. Savvy is an American Champion imported from Sweden, breeder Pernilla Falk. Savvy is also starting to work in the field.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have been breeding and showing Cocker Spaniels for over 30 years and English Cocker Spaniels for 15 years. I judge all the Sporting breeds and the Non-Sporting Group. My dog showing career has been very successful, with four of my greatest memories being: Winning the Futurity at the American Spaniel Club, twice at the Cocker National (the winners were mother and son), winning the Sweepstakes at the English Cocker National, and winning Best in Show at the American Spaniel Club with a black bitch who went on to be Number One Cocker. I have also been involved in many dog clubs, holding several offices over the years. I am currently the Judges’ Education Director for the American Spaniel Club. I was instrumental in developing a new Powerpoint and a field video, which are shown to judges. I have presented several times at Michigan Sporting Dog seminars and presented at the Orlando and Louisville shows. My most recent accomplishment has been to compete in Hunt Tests with my bench-bred Champion Cocker Spaniel. He now has three Master legs, which makes me ecstatic. I also have Agility dogs. My battle cry for people who have dogs is to let them do what they were bred to do. It will be so rewarding for you and your dog. Seeing a hunting dog in the field, doing his thing, is a wonderful experience. But whatever your circumstances, don’t just finish a dog and let it sit in a crate.
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COCKER SPANIEL THE
1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs? 2. How many years in the Cocker Spaniel? Showing? Judging? Breeding? 3. What, in your opinion, is the secret to a successful breeding program? 4. Do you have a favored color? 5. Cockers have been extremely popular for decades; they’re now ranked #30 out of 192 AKC breeds. Is its popularity good or bad for breeders, and for the breed? 6. What is your favorite dog show memory? 7. Is there anything else you’ d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. KATHLEEN BROCK Our home is in Gig Harbor, Washington about 55 miles south of Seattle. My husband Ron, Cocker Spaniel Brody and cat Tom enjoy walks on our seven and one-half acres. We live on Rocky Creek where salmon spawn every year. There’s bear, deer, coyotes, cougar, raccoon and many different birds here including eagles and herons. Gardening and crocheting are two of my favorite pass times. Do I have a favored color? Although I have bred group win- ners in all three varieties the Buff ’s in the ASCOB variety are my favorites. When the Cocker Spaniel was at the Top of the popularity breeders didn’t like it because it encouraged backyard breeders to breed them. Now that we are number thirty we don’t like that either because there are less Cocker Spaniel entered at the shows. As a Sporting Dog Judge my biggest concerns are hocks and straight fronts. I see many sickle, cow and luxating hocks and straight fronts with short upper arms. As a Cocker Spaniel breeder today I find longer loins, short rib cages, backs too long overall, low tail sets, straight fronts with short upper arms. The dogs look like they have short necks but really it is the lack of the correct 90 degrees of shoulder and upper arm placement. The running gear on a Sporting dog must be sound not weak or fancy. My advice to new breeders is to find a qualified Mentor and listen to them and learn from their many years of knowledge in the breeds. Attend as many shows as possible and sit at ring side and just watch the dogs. Check for breed type and sound movement. Then attend a Field Trial or Hunt Test to see what the breed was bred to do. Ask yourself when judging can this Sporting Dog work in the field all day? For new Judges I would apply most of the last paragraph and talk to as many different breeders as possible for each breed. Always go back to the official AKC Standard and apply it to the dogs you are going over or watching when judging. Don’t be shy, ask ques- tions you want to do a good job for each breed you judge. JACKIE CAVALLIN For the last 20 years I’ve lived in Blythewood, South Carolina. In 2011, I purchased and remodeled a home on 30 acres. Five years ago I retired from my 15 year position with a Small Arms Manufac- turer and started “hobby” farming on my property. Here, I garden and raise heritage poultry—Bourbon Red turkeys for Thanksgiv- ings, Dominique chicken for boutique meat sales, Cochins and Dark Brahma’s for egg customers. I’m a self-proclaimed “foodie”, love spending time with family and dear friends. A day visiting
another farm, searching for antiques or attending a dog show always makes for a great time. My first Cocker was whelped in California in 1994 and came to me shortly thereafter. She was the first Cocker I showed but not my first show dog. Showing began for me in 1983 after I received a Golden Retriever puppy for my birthday. While showing my Gold- en, I received some wise words from Judge J. D. Jones. I soon after obtained a better quality dog to show which was an Akita and my first champion. That dog became the sire of my first litter which was whelped in 1987. In late January 1997, just days after surgery for breast cancer, I whelped my first Cocker Spaniel litter. Those two sweet babies were my inspiration to get over my diagnoses and get back into the show ring. The bitch from that litter became my first Cocker champion and her dam, the foundation for Javalin Cockers. My first Cocker Sweepstakes assignment was in 2007 and since then, I’ve been fortunate to be invited to judge many Sweepstakes including 75th and 100th Anniversary specialties. My most memo- rable assignment so far was being elected by my peers to judge Futu- rity at the American Spaniel Club National July 2018. The secret to a successful breeding program is getting multiple experienced mentors. Those mentors should have a proven track record of producing multiple top quality dogs. Spending as much time as you possibly can attending shows with them, evaluating dogs hands on and ringside. Understanding what a structural fault is and comprehending it’s almost impossible to breed it out of a line. Going to breed seminars, totally understanding the breed standard, being able to see both the faults and virtues of your own dogs and being able to rationally select a mate for each based on the merits and shortcomings of both and their ancestors. Selecting potential show prospects from those breedings with logic and reason instead of making “heart” choices. Never forgetting that having current clear health testing of all parents is critical for the longevity of your line. Being able to admit that a well-planned breeding didn’t go as planned, eliminating those offspring from your program, digging to discover why it didn’t and using that knowledge on future breedings. Do I have a favored color? For me the Cocker Spaniel is the loveliest of all the breeds. All of the varieties and colors are just gorgeous. Because we have three separate varieties that also means we have a lot of bloodlines that all hold their own stories. For me, trying to investigate and educate myself on all three was more than I felt I could do justice to so I picked one—parti colored. Is the breed’s popularity good or bad for breeders, and for the breed? Cockers were the most popular for many years. As a result, many uneducated breeders rushed to produce an over-abundance of poor quality dogs with a multitude of health issues and conforma- tional short comings to fill the demand. Some of those still haunt our breed today. Even though Cocker Spaniels are not as popular as they once were, we continue to have many of the same issues. With the costs of showing continuing to rise, the litters from experienced and well educated breeders are in decline but the gap is being filled. It’s being filled by newer breeders, some of which lack appropriate knowledge of our breed as well as, unscrupulous breeders. In my opinion, this is resulting in a lower overall quality of my breed. My MOST favorite show memory is a tough question! I’ve had so many fabulous experiences over the years. January 2005 at Amer- ican Spaniel Club Flushing Spaniel show stays close to my heart. In the 9-12 Futurity Puppy dog class, littermates placed first , second and third. One went on to go Futurity BV and their litter sister was awarded Best Of Winners. The judges, Patricia Darke, Futurity
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Cocker Spaniel Q& A
and Kathleen Patterson, Parti Variety, are both long time and well respected Cocker breeders. I was beyond elated with those awards. Obviously, Cocker Spaniels are my favorite breed. Not too big, nor too small and are sturdy with a long lifespan. Wonderful, merry temperaments and a breed that has the potential for so many ave- nues of enjoyment beyond their companionship. Aside from confor- mation competition they often excel in the field, obedience rings, agility, tracking and other areas. They are a wonderfully versatile breed and as we like to say “Cockers Do It All”. PATRICIA DARKE Patricia Darke started in Cocker spaniels in 1985 under the prefix Darkehaven and finished 90 champions in 20 years with a limited breeding program. Patty bred a number of all breed Best In Show dogs both in the US and Internationally. She is a lifetime member of the American Spaniel Club. She held the position of American Spaniel Club Foundation President, Executive Director, Vice President and Fundraising Chair as well as ASC Board Member. She is also a lifetime member of the Hiawatha CSC and past member of Lake Minnetonka KC. She was a long time member of both the Standards Committee and the Judges Education Committee and is currently serving as a Mentor for the Judges Education Committee. Patty is a Registered Corporate Coach™ and is the Founder, Owner and President of Darke & Associates, an HR Consulting Firm located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I live in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I own and run an HR Con- sulting firm, Darke and Associates, www.darkeassociates.com I also like to stay active by working out, dancing, traveling and spending time with family and friends. I spent 35 years in the breed, 20 years breeding and showing, I have been judging for another 15. I bred under the prefix Darke- haven and had approximately 90 champions. The dogs successfully competed in all forms of competition and made great companions. The secret to a successful breeding program? Several things. 1. Choose a good mentor. This mentor will have your best inter- est at heart and will want you to grow, however they will let you make your own choices and learn from them when you need to. They will cheer you on and cry with you and no matter what… be your biggest supporter through it all. They should be giving, posi- tive, knowledgeable and successful. 2. Develop a “constant learner” mentality. I spent countless hours pouring over magazines studying pedigrees, reading books on structure, going to shows, watching the dogs in the groups through BIS. I checked every book out of the library! I talked for hours on the phone about structure and pedigrees, gaining key knowledge on specific dogs to plan future breedings that would include critical linebreeding or outcrossing. 3. Start with the best possible bitch and breed her right. One without the other is useless! I bought a beautiful six month old line- bred bitch (who became a BISS, national winner) and then bred her back to one side of the pedigree and then to the other, solidifying genotype and phenotype and this set Darkehaven up for the future generations to come. At the time that I went to buy her I was young, had just had my daughter and bought a home. Paying for this dog was not in the budget but the breeder who later became my mentor saw something special in me and pushed me. It was a stretch at that time to get her however I never regretted it. 4. Be objective, limit and linebreed whenever possible! I bred a bitch a very limited number of times which meant that I had to be extremely careful about the breeding, educating myself fully before doing it. There were no “test” breedings done ever. I went into each breeding fully expecting that it would be an excellent one. I spent much time doing my homework. I am sure that was a big part of my success.
I primarily linebred and outcrossed several times in the 20 years that I bred. I did take some risks, the outcrosses were always a risk and one of those paid off exceptionally well. This one was also line- bred on some great old dogs. Do I have a favored color? If you look in my closet you would say black. I have had American Spaniel Club winners in all three of the varieties however I am best known for my ASCOBS. There are times that I walk in a ring and see a dogs expression and say “I recognize that!”. Is the breed’s popularity good or bad for breeders, and for the breed? I am saddened by the decline in numbers of our breed and by the overall decline of all AKC breeds. I do not think it is a good thing for our breed and I believe the breed and breeders overall are at risk. My favorite dog show memory? Well it could be the time we got snowed in at spaniel club for several days. We ran out of most food and clean linens but I don’t think that anyone was bored. We had so much fun! However, I have so many good memories and have made so many great friends over the years it really is tough to name just one. This particular time just stands out. What gets rewarded gets bred. The head: The head is the hall- mark of the Cocker spaniel. As judges, we need to educate ourselves. The bluebook is an excellent guide for this. As breeders, we need to know exactly what our breed should look like and aspire to breed the best every time. The topline: A couple more points, our standard calls for a topline to be slightly sloping when moving. Judges need to rec- ognize and reward this. It is very possible to get a slightly sloping topline with a proper layback of shoulder, good forechest and strong driving rear. Structural issue: If you were to ask me what the biggest issue was today in the breed I would answer “improper shoulder layback”. And I think breeders (and some judges) do not understand correct shoulder blade layback. They also get confused when the dog has a lot of forechest and feel that this is either a substitute for layback or is layback when in fact it is neither. We have some really good Cockers in the ring today. I judged the ASC in January 2019 and saw some excellent examples there and am thrilled that some of the older breeders and handlers are still around to help the younger ones. Finally, if there is a new exhibitor in the Cocker spaniel ring, as a judge I encourage versus discourage them because it is a more dif- ficult breed to trim, show and train. It takes perseverance. I was that person at one time. Please be that judge and exhibitor that promotes our breed! Thank you in advance. TOMDOWELL I live in Powhatan,
Virginia. I am the owner of Loch Lomond Kennel. I have bred and shown Cocker Spaniels since 1983 and got into English Setters as well in 2001. I recently retired from 40 years in the IT world. I have judged many sweep- stakes over the years as well as the Futurity at ASC. I am proudest of the fact that in 2017 I was the first non-licensed
individual to judge several varieties as well as Best of Breed at the Cocker National. In 2018 I traveled to Sweden to judge the Swed- ish American Cocker National. Both were truly humbling honors.
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Cocker Spaniel Q& A
“Find yourself a great mentor, you will not have success or longevity without one. BUT ALWAYS BE OPEN TO LEARNING FROM OTHERS.”
matter buy your first dog. Find yourself a great mentor, you will not have success or longevity without one. But always be open to learn- ing from others. Ask questions of everyone. READ your breeds standard and if there’s something you don’t understand or can’t visualize ask. Something was said to me many years ago about a dog I bred and was showing by someone who’s opinion I truly valued. “This dog should probably never be beaten BUT he will be, and it will probably be by the worst thing in the ring. If you can’t take the heat don’t go in the kitchen.” Those are words to live by in the show world. Lastly, know that this world of showing and breeding is not for the faint of heart. As for new judges PLEASE insure you know the standard before you hand out the first ribbon. DON’T be afraid to withhold a ribbon if you deem it necessary. Most importantly always make sure you are looking at the CORRECT end of the lead when mak- ing your decisions. You are judging breeding stock with four legs not two. I think the most common fault I see in my personal breeds are lack of correct type. Many of the dog’s lack correct angles along with a lack of bone and substance. I love breeding and exhibiting my dogs. I am very passionate about them and the sport of showing. It really bothers me that more people don’t experience the thrill of reading pedigrees, planning a breeding and hopefully seeing that dream come to fruition in that special puppy. I haven’t done a lot of breeding over the years as the job that paid the mortgage didn’t lend itself to that. But I have been very blessed when I did venture to the whelping box. I’ve never had huge winning dogs that ranked highly or broke records. That isn’t why I do this. My greatest joy has always been seeing that promising puppy become all it could be. Do I have a favored color? First and foremost I like a good Cock- er regardless of color. But like all I do have my favorites. A true Silver Buff will always have my heart as that was the color of my first Cocker and foundation for Loch Lomond. Silver is followed closely by Black and Tan. Is the breed’s popularity good or bad for breeders, and for the breed? A breed being popular with the public has its pros and cons. The pros of course are it’s easier to find homes for those in the litter that don’t make the cut for the show ring. The biggest con is that when a breed becomes popular all types of people tend to jump on the wagon and start breeding them. Many do so without doing the proper health testing or giving any care to socialization. This occurred with the Cocker several decades ago when it was at its height in popularity and bad temperament became a huge issue in a breed that should be known for its wonderful temperament. NANCY FOLEY I live in Noblesville, Indiana with my husband David. Outside of dogs, I spend time with my husband and my two grown children. Most of my time outside of dogs is spent working as a Consultant in the Life Sciences/Pharmaceutical Industry. My opinion of the current quality of purebred dogs? Obviously I’m concerned about the overall drop in participation in our sport,
With retirement I finally have the opportunity to do my dogs full time as well as handle for select clients. In my time outside the ken- nel I enjoy gardening, especially working with day lilies. My opinion of the current quality of purebred dogs? I think in some ways we as breeders of purebred dogs have made some improvements, but we have also made mistakes. The truly dedi- cated breeders are staying with correct type and following function in their breeds. Unfortunately, those dedicated breeders are becom- ing extinct. The world today lends itself to immediate gratification more than thinking years down the road. I think this is probably the biggest contributor to the decline in dedicated breeders. There are so few people coming into the sport, the expense of the sport, the constant battle with AR fanatics and ultimately the time it takes if you are going to do it right are major factors in the decline of our sport. In Cockers the decline in folks joining as breeders has one in my opinion huge issue. It’s a breed that takes a lot of time due to all the coat we have bred on them. Learning to properly groom that coat takes years and that kind of time doesn’t exist in most people’s world anymore. Also, our breed has for many years been a “handler” breed. Unfortunately, that can lead to what I call “cheap champions”. There are a lot of dogs gaining their championship that in reality shouldn’t because of who’s on the end of their lead and their ability to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Then those proud owners many of whom don’t have a clue set out to breed their new unworthy champion. The biggest concern I have about my breed? While I think it’s an issue across the board in Cockers breeding to the “dog of the day” has been a real issue that has led the breed down a road to lack of correct front assembly and bone. People seem to forget that while they may not do it often anymore the Cocker is a Sporting dog and should be bred with the conformation to back that up. One of the greatest attributes on the Cocker is its beautiful head built for carry- ing birds. The muzzles are far too short in many cases and the head overall too small. Many would struggle to carry a parakeet much less a woodcock or pheasant. Going back to correct front assem- bly, rarely do you find a dog that has proper reach. Steep shoulders plague the breed in an attempt to get that sloping topline. Also, it seems to be that a Cocker needs to fly around the ring with flash and pizzazz when nothing could be further from the truth. I would like to see that flashy dog in the field working all day as it was bred to do, it wouldn’t last an hour. The biggest problem facing me as a breeder? I love showing my dogs as well as those of others. Like everything there are ups and downs. I have always prided myself on not being kennel blind and I think that has served me well. No one is more critical of my dogs than I am. It’s too expensive to be blind and end up with that expen- sive pet on someone else’s couch. I am the last person you want to come to if you don’t want to hear my real opinion about your dog or mine for that matter. My biggest problem honestly is finding some- thing else that I want to breed to and bring into my line. The best advice I can give to a new breeder is the three L’s. Look, Listen and Learn. If you do nothing else soak up as much knowl- edge as you can before you go toward a whelping box or for that
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Cocker Spaniel Q& A
“ANYTIME YOUR DOG IS POPULAR, IN MY OPINION IT CAN HAVE A NEGATIVE AFFECT ON THE BREED. The popularity drives demand and demand can sometimes be at odds with important things like health testing and selective breeding.”
50 years. Our kennel name is Brickett’s Cockers. I am also a handler of 30 years and my daughter Rachael also has a hand in Cockers. She is 17. The secret to a successful breeding program? You should know the standard enough to understand what’s missing in the quality of each dog just by watching them move. Pedigree’s are important to understand but the overall look should be envisioned. If you know the faults on your bitch, then don’t breed to a dog who may have the same faults. Watch the classes at National and Mark your catalog on your picks and compare to see the parentage. Then strive for “the look” you are trying to achieve in your bitch. Do I have a favored color? I absolutely love buff, red and white, red roan and sable. Is the breed’s popularity good or bad for breeders, and for the breed? I think the popularity is a good thing. We love our breed and why shouldn’t everyone love our breed. My favorite dog show memory? When I was 13, I had my first show dog. His name was Macgyver. He was a little black and white male I got from a breeder in Maine named Judy Koch; Still-Pine Cockers. I showed him against all the top handlers at a specialty in Connecticut. I was very worried I would never be able to win those elusive majors. But that day, not only did I win a major; it was four points, But the specialty judge was the late great Mr. Teddy Young Jr. The place was roaring with excitement and cheers and I just cried. What a day for sure. Cockers are a loving dog. Sweet in nature. They are very loyal to whoever feeds them. But also to whoever cares and takes time out to love them. They need discipline for confidence believe it or not. But are soft and understand without harsh punishment. A simple hug will go a long way with a Cocker Spaniel. JUDIE POSNER I grew up on a peninsula in New York called Rockaway, which was technically part of Queens so I am a product of the NYC school system. I graduated Far Rockaway HS in 1972 and started studying with The North American School of Animal Sciences, so you could say dogs have always been my passion. In 1971 I received my first dog from my mother, she was a silver buff Cocker purchased at a pet store, and her undying loyalty and devotion won my heart for the breed and I haven’t been without a Cocker since. Shortly after High School I relocated to Long Island and raised my three children there while I perfected my grooming skills and learnt the true standard of my chosen bred. That’s when I decided to obtain a show puppy. After many months and a great deal of research “Encore” was born. I choose that name thinking about the theater, when your performance is finished and you are encouraged to return to the stage it is referred to as an “Encore” and here I am 46 years later. My current club affiliations include American Spaniel Club, being a board member of South Atlantic Cocker Spaniel Club, and a founding member as well as past president of The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of Northern Florida.
especially in conformation. I believe this trend has negatively affect- ed the overall quality of most breeds. We still see very high qual- ity animals at the top of our sport but the depth of quality overall has diminished. With respect to Cockers, my primary concern is the loss of breed type—plain heads, lack of balance poor toplines and tail sets. The loss of breed type is so lacking I’m afraid it is becoming mainstream and acceptable. The loss of type includes losing the fundamental traits of a breed which are essential to their purpose—a lack of bal- ance be it straight front compared to the rear or a straight rear com- pared to the front. Poor toplines, loss of rib spring... all traits that are essential to a breed intended to work efficiently in the field. For many years, I’ve been line breeding “at home” and now I find the need breed out. Identifying quality stud dogs is challeng- ing. I recently did a pedigree breeding, an outcross, and the jury is still out on the quality of the litter but my fingers are crossed! Do I have a favored color? I have always preferred and primar- ily bred buffs. I do occasionally breed to black. However, a good Cocker is a good Cocker, in any color. Anytime your dog is popular, in my opinion it can have a nega- tive affect on the breed. The popularity drives demand and demand can sometimes be at odds with important things like health test- ing and selective breeding. Most dangerous is that it can drive an increase in “backyard breeding”. Currently, the #30 ranking for Cockers is probably more of a negative in that it makes it sometimes a challenge to find good homes for companion puppies. Advice to a new breeder or a new judge to my breed? My advice: find a mentor—a long time breeder, and hang on! For new breed- ers: listen, go to specialties, nationals, and seminars. Buy or breed to the best out there and keep doing that. As for new judges, go over dogs—lots of Cockers! The good and the bad. Don’t disregard poor type in the breed just because it’s the norm. Find the ones with the best breed type and soundness and go from there. Study, study, study. The most common fault I see when traveling around the coun- try is generic dogs. JESSICA (BRICKETT) LEGATH I live in North Central
Florida. I have a husband, five kids and my parents. We live on five acres and my husband and I just recently bought a new home in eastern Pennsyl- vania. I am a breeder, I am a handler and soon to be a judge. I was born into Cock- er Spaniels. My parents are breeders and they gave been in the breed for over
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Cocker Spaniel Q& A
“Genes are a funny thing, they can come back and bite you many generations later.”
It’s important to have a good foundation bitch and this is not always easy as no one really likes to sell their very best. I was very lucky, one of my dear friends gave me a beautiful bitch and she has tuned out to be not only a good bitch but also no matter who I breed her to, she gives me herself or better. I have surround myself with wonderful mentors, and have friends that are happy to talk pedigrees and dogs, all this helps me make the best decisions for my breeding program. Do I have a favored color? I really don’t have a favorite color, but there are a few colors I don’t care for. Is the breed’s popularity good or bad for breeders, and for the breed? I would like to think its good for the breed but unfortunately not always the case It can result in greed and many just breeding to sell with no health testing or with the betterment of the breed in mind. My favorite dog show memory? I have so many but my very favorite is when a dog that I bred and raised went BISS, I am not ashamed to say I cried. JEFFWRIGHT I live in Topeka Kansas. I was born and have lived there all my life. I have devoted my life to breeding showing and I’m a profes- sional dog handler. I feel that the overall quality in dogs has changed primarily due to the fact that most all of the big kennels and breeders are no longer here. We have fewer lines to mix our gene pool with which makes creating more quality much harder. American Cockers are also affected by this. Everyone breeds to the same stud dog which limits our diversity in our gene pool. My biggest concern about Cockers is the lack of balance between front and rear assemblies and the lack of correct movement. Breed type is my most important thing, for without breed type, you have just a dog. The biggest problem facing breeders, or new judges is the lack of knowing basic structure and correct movement. Perfect balance between front and rear assemblies and effortless movement. Correct reach is not lifting and a pounding front. A good dog is one that possesses a good head dark eyes and soulful expression. Proper proportions, from the head mussel and skull, width and length, to length of neck to the back, and height of leg. All parts must fit together and in harmony. It’s the sum of all the parts that make up a good dog. The perfect balance in front and rear will be evident in the effortless movement and ground covering few- er steps to get around the ring. A dog will appear to be moving in slow motion, rather than the quick jerking steps working hard to move forward. I feel that this is what appeals people to love a Cocker Spaniel. The most common fault I see is the lack of breed type and bal- ance. Balance is key, but understanding breed type is my biggest concern. dog for each breed. The standard is a written description of a perfect dog for each breed. Studying the standard, and learning the basic structure and bone placements are crucial to know how to breed better dogs that conform to the standard. Knowing the func- tion of the Cocker is also helpful in evaluating the breed. It’s a flush- ing Spaniel that can work all day in a field so balance is important to the stamina for this task.
Over the years I have had the privilege of owning, breeding and loving BIS, BISS, National Variety winners and numerous top ten Cockers in the black and ASCOB variety in both the USA and Asia. I reside in north central Florida, beautiful Ocala, the horse capi- tal of the U.S. Is there an “outside” of dogs? They do, by choice, mandate the majority of my time. That being said ,I enjoy spending time with my children, grandchildren and friends most of which are “dog people” as we are a special bred of folks. I also love traveling espe- cially cruising. I’ve had Cockers for 46 years as loving companions, Been show- ing actively since 1987, bred my first litter in 1974, I’ve come a long way baby. I am seriously considering going for my judging license , but I am struggling with the ethical issue of should a judge exhibit. I’ve seen way too much that irk me with judges campaigning dogs and then having those same handlers have their “ string” presented to them by others. It’s a personal ethic matter for me The secret to a successful breeding program is not being kennel blind! No one dog/bitch can fix everything. Recognize the strong points and work with them. Learn your pedigrees, and for Pete’s sake learn the difference between phenotype and genotype. Dedica- tion and passion are imperative. Do I have a favored color? I truly ADORE the black and black and tans, but there’s nothing wrong with a good buff. Is the breed’s popularity good or bad for breeders? When any breed becomes popular it is the downfall of it. It happened to the Cockers in the 50s and 60s as they became a top commodity for every puppymill, breeding farm and back yard breeder as a cash crop. This created horrific health and temperament problems which some (health-wise) still plague us today. Genes are a funny thing, they can come back and bite you many generations later. I commend the group of us and the AMERICAN SPANIEL CLUB for the diligent effort put forth in health testing and only breeding CLEAR DOGS. My favorite dog show memory? There are soo many, the BIS at Trap Falls KC under breeder judge LaMar Mathis, being there for my friend Arvind DeBraganca when he broke the BIS record for smooth dachshund bitches with his breeder, owner, handled girl JANA, but I guess my personal favorite was winning BOV at our winter national. I have had many breeds along with Cockers over 46 years and nothing comes close to the loyalty, devotion, intuitive instinct and general all round fun of a Cocker. They have no idea how small they areas they face the world with confidence and a “never met a stranger” attitude. A true sporting dog that willingly does competi- tion, performance, field and “couch potato” to appease the people that they love. JUDITHWEBB We live in the quiet Corner of Connecticut and when Im not taking care or grooming my dogs I like to paint. I have been in the breed over ten years, first in the agility ring then bred our first litter ten years ago. The secret to a successful breeding program? I really don’t feel I have been in it long enough to really comment on what the secret is, but if I was to comment on me and my breeding program, I do feel I have grown.
S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , A UGUST 2019 • 287
Spotlight on the COCKER SPANIEL CARL J. ANDERSON
Prior to judging, LaMar was an AKC-licensed all-breed han- dler. We are breeders of approximately 100 Champions, including multiple BIS, BISS, Group 1st and ASC National win- ners. We have bred/owned three top producers, each sires of BIS and BISS, National winners and accomplished perfor- mance dogs. We were Breeder/Owner/Handlers of the top- winning bitch in the history of breed, retired in 1969. She also was the only mother and daughter in the history of ASC to win BV & BW at ASC National. We are Lifetime Members of American Spaniel Club, serving in various positions, con- ducting multiple breed and breeder seminars and also cur- rent member of Archives Committee. It has been one of our highest honors to be inducted into the prestigious American Spaniel Club Hall of Fame for our and our Cockers’ contribu- tion to the breed over the many years.
I live in Simi Valley, California and I love to play bridge, at least twice a week. I have been involved in the sport of pure-bred dogs for over 60 years as a breeder, exhibi- tor, AKC-licensed all-breed handler and an AKC Judge since 1980. NANCY GALLANT
1. Describe the breed in three words. CA: Expression, compact and sturdy. NG: Movement with beauty. DK: “Cockery”, balanced and merry.
I am from Michigan. I am a retired teacher, and work at thrift shop and food bank. I’ve been involved in the dog world for 33 years, showing for 32 years and judging for 15 years. DAVID KITTREDGE I have spent most of my life in upstate New York. Currently, I live in Rochester. Beyond my dog activities, I’m interested in hiking, biking, camping, boating and cars. I have had Cocker Spaniels all my life. I bred and showed Cockers for about 25 years before I started judging. I have been judging for 20 years. ELAINE E. MATHIS LaMar, my husband, and I have been successfully breeding Cocker Spaniels since 1957; so for 58 years we’ve been under the “LaMar” prefix. I have had the pleasure of owning AKC Cocker Spaniels since childhood. Judging for 43 years, I was originally approved to judge all Spaniels in 1972 and proceeded in approval to judge five AKC groups.
EM: Living with Cockers, I would describe the breed in my three words: they are devoted, clean and have intelligent Sporting dog instincts. As with most breeds, they have the great desire and willingness to please their humans. This breed has remained a popular breed for long over 100 years due to these traits. 2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? CA: Soft, appealing expression, a good muzzle, arched neck, clean shoulders, have forechest, slightly sloping topline with a hard back and tail is docked and a continuation of the spine at a 45 degree angle, not Terrier-tailed, have reach and drive and never to appear long and low. NG: Movement, balance, a look that makes you say, “Ahhh!” DK: Correct body proportions, correct head type, hard back, correct tail set and carriage, proper balanced angu- lation and outgoing temperament. EM: The must have traits that make the composite of a good Cocker Spaniel are type, temperament and construction to function as a Sporting breed. I find our standard very adequately describes these three ideals. The construction should consist of the correct balance of front and rear, giving the effortless movement for endurance; as well as correct topline and the adequate spring of rib for heart and lung capacity. Only correct shoulder angles will give the layback of withers and the rounded forechest with fill
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on sides of the sternum and the correct front to provide proper reach in the front assembly. There is no excuse for a Cocker with improper temperament. A Cocker should have size and the silhouette described within the standard. The parent club position is that the Cocker should be judged as a “docked tail” breed as directly spec- ified twice in the standard. This position can be found on the ASC website. Since it is not a disqualification, this deviation should be excused and/or penalized to the extent of the deviation of the tail, such as in the actual appearance of same, carried incorrectly or set on at the base improperly. The tail should be carried on line with the back or slightly higher; although this is not addressed in the standard, as our standard does not call for anything but a docked tail. It does call for a natural grooming look and a Cocker with an undocked tail that has the flag of hair removed definitely appears unnatural. 3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? CA: Over angulated with steep shoulders, lack of forechest and small birdy heads with bug eyes. NG: Top line and heads looking like the Toy breed. DK: I actually feel the breed is in fairly good shape right now. I do think that with the many wonderful products available, exhibitors tend to show their dogs in more coat than is necessary and this can often mask the outline of a good dog. I guess we all have the tendency to think that more is better. EM: The only exaggeration I feel appearing and it has for quite some length of time, is the overabundance of coat. Now, where to place the blame? First, I try to blame the judges for awarding it when our standard is clear on moderate coat and importantly, correct texture. How- ever, the breeders are to blame for breeding and entering these dogs. I do have a solution, but no one wishes to seem to try. Let us start showing our exhibits that are not in spectacular coat. We all have some that did not inherit the huge coat factor, they have just come out of the season or just finished having a litter. There are several Cocker bloodlines that the heavy coat gene is not passed on to each puppy, especially in Ascobs and Parti colors. Blacks, as rumor has it, have more hair follicles per square inch than the Ascob and Parti varieties. At an ASC breeder seminar that I conducted several years ago, I suggested the attendees to start showing their Cock- ers that were excellent, but not heavy coated. They all said they could not win with them. I asked which judges will not put them up. I expected perhaps names, but was told it was the Toy and Non-Sporting judges, though they might chance it under a Hound or Working judge. I told them the story as follows. I was at a Florida dog show merely as a spectator. Exhibitors had built a major, as majors were hard to find at the time. After the first go around a beautifully moving bitch with proper back coat cocker spaniel Q&A
with carl anderSon, nancy gallant, david Kittredge & elaine e. mathiS
and enough body and leg coat to evaluate texture, caught my eye. After watching the judge’s hands evaluate, I said to myself that I would put up lesser-coated bitch in a second. Just then the judge pointed to the filler entry for the major. That judge was Desmond Murphy. I was proud of his judging and the exhibitors, although wishing the major, show good sportsmanship as they also appreci- ated the bitch. Do we need more judges willing to look beyond the abundant coat in not only Cockers, but in many breeds in groups today? 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? Why or why not? CA: When I first started judging the Cocker Spaniel, the entry was always over 100 with many good breeders and good dogs in good condition with lots of substance and mussel tone; unfortunately, as in many breeds, this is not true today. NG: I think a few years ago we hit a real low spot but are coming back. We don’t have the depth we once had. When I started we had the big kennels and long time breeders and people who studied the breed and had a passion for it. I don’t think many new people really study the breed and ask for help. DK: I feel the overall quality of Cockers being exhibited today is better than it was in the late 80s and the 90s. We fought through some huge problems with severe lack of front angulation, cottony coat texture, extremely short muzzles and overly-high tail carriage. We still see those faults, but not nearly as often these days. EM: I believe the majority of the Cockers shown in specials and/or winning in groups and BIS competition has not declined. I do find a decline in the quality in class com- petition. At times, it makes you wonder from where the beautiful specials have come. You will find outstanding dogs in all classes, but not the large classes and overall quality we saw years ago. This change has been long coming in a lot of the AKC breeds. I feel this no doubt is due to the lack of longtime breeders and the techniques they followed to come up with the generation after gen- eration of type and quality. We always have had excellent handlers in Cockers and but also wonderful breeders and owners who love showing their own dogs. We got our start under great judges of the past back when they called us “the kids” around the Cocker ring and prior to LaMar becoming a handler. In the past, if you needed a particular quality, you went to a linebred kennel that had produced generation after generation of that quality. We do not have many breeders today that have that option available to our breed. Now you look for the stud to use on a wonderful bitch and your hopes are strong that you are not to lose what you have already gained in quality and health. We have always linebred with an outcross when needed and brought the outcross back into
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cocker spaniel Q&A
with carl anderSon, nancy gallant, david Kittredge & elaine e. mathiS
our line. However, my important suggestion to new breeders is when you outcross in your breeding program, do not put the outcross into every dog is your line until you have discovered if you received only the good traits in quality and importantly, health test before you find the outcross was a mistake to make. I know this sounds like a lot of dogs to keep, but it truly is not. Make a plan in advance for your next generations. Importantly, if pos- sible go over each dog you are incorporating and require proper health papers applicable to the breed. To stop the decline in quality, my suggestion is to never stop your education and study of the history of your breed; our forefathers were wise in so many ways. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? CA: The new judges today seem to forget the standard the tail is docked for a reason, the Cocker Spaniel is a flush- ing Spaniel and the tail is docked to allow the Cocker to go through the brush without being damaged. Also, faster is not better. NG: The hair confuses judges. I think they don’t understand they are still Sporting dogs and judge accordingly. DK: I have mentored many judge friends who are new to the breed, and sometimes to Sporting, as well. I’m proud to say I’m generally happy with what they do when they step in the ring. If a person has a good eye, they can usually apply that to any breed with a bit of study, guidance and experience. If there’s one thing that people outside the breed do struggle with, it’s our presentation. Yes, Cockers are generally shown on a taut lead. This does not mean they should be “strung up” to the point where the front feet hardly touch the ground. But to insist on a completely loose lead will destroy the class and the judge’s ability to truly assess movement. And yes, it’s second nature for most of our exhibitors to remove the lead during examination. Trying to put a stop to that in your class will probably waste more time than it will save! EM: I think most new judges and several of our long-time judges misunderstand the requirements of correct Cocker front and fail at correct examination to determine it. This is true in a lot of coated breeds. Read the stan- dard. You are to check the withers for layback formed by the correct angles as given in the standard. Check the smoothness of the shoulders. Place your hands on the sternum. This is best done by going to the left side of the Cocker and running your hands from the start of the chest down the front to check for forechest and depth. Correct angles as stated in the standard will give you a sternum that is rounded with fill on the sides and the depth to the elbows. Too wide of forechest is incorrect; also, what old timers call “pigeon breast” is incorrect (where there is a very prominent bone with no fill).
Several multi-group judges whom I have mentored in Cockers tell me they think of me when they go over a Cocker front, as I may be sitting ringside. 6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. CA: When Rosalie and I gave
a seminar on the Cocker Spaniel at an ASC Show,
carl J. anderson
an attendee, in going over a beautiful black and tan bitch, remarked, “What is wrong with her? She has a lump here,” to which we remarked, “That is what we call forechest, a must in the Cocker Spaniel.” NG: My battle cry is don’t just finish a dog and let it sit in a cage the rest of its life. Get out and do something--hunt- ing, agility, tracking, obedience, dock diving, something and if you don’t want to do that, place them so the can sleep on someone’s bed. DK: Cockers have given me a lifetime of enjoyment. I truly hope we can keep them the small Sporting dog that they are. I think attention to overall balance and moderation in all aspects is the best guarantee of that. EM: Please remember the movement should be effortless. Any excessive lift, pounding, etc. would not allow the endurance necessary while in the field. And we do cer- tainly have Cockers excelling as hunting dogs as well as in all areas of companion events. 7. And, for a bit of humor: what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? CA: I requested an exhibitor to make a small circle and they made a pirouette right in front of me, I guess it couldn’t get any smaller. NG: I spilled a bottle of champagne in the ring. The owner wanted a picture of her dog getting his silver grand champion and gave me champagne to hold. It slipped and didn’t break, but the cork came out, spraying champagne all over the ring. My ring steward said, “I’ve cleaned up a lot of things in my day, but this is a first.” DK: I have one, but I’m not saying here! EM: I was judging a pointing breed at an outdoor show. After my instruction to the exhibitor to take her dog down and back, she proceeded. The dog stopped abruptly midway down into the most perfect point stance you would ever wish to see. A bird had just flown overhead. The exhibi- tor came back to me and apologized profusely and asked if she could please try again. I explained to her that it certainly took no points off and would give me a good memory for years to come—and it has!
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