Cocker Spaniel Breed Magazine - Showsight

Cocker Spaniel Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.


Let’s Talk Breed Education!

Official Standard for the Cocker Spaniel General Appearance: The Cocker Spaniel is the smallest member of the Sporting Group. He has a sturdy, compact body and a cleanly chiseled and refined head, with the overall dog in complete balance and of ideal size. He stands well up at the shoulder on straight forelegs with a topline sloping slightly toward strong, moderately bent, muscular quarters. He is a dog capable of considerable speed, combined with great endurance. Above all, he must be free and merry, sound, well balanced throughout and in action show a keen inclination to work. A dog well balanced in all parts is more desirable than a dog with strongly contrasting good points and faults. Size, Proportion, Substance: Size -The ideal height at the withers for an adult dog is 15 inches and for an adult bitch, 14 inches. Height may vary one-half inch above or below this ideal. A dog whose height exceeds 15½ inches or a bitch whose height exceeds 14½ inches shall be disqualified. An adult dog whose height is less than 14½ inches and an adult bitch whose height is less than 13½ inches shall be penalized. Height is determined by a line perpendicular to the ground from the top of the shoulder blades, the dog standing naturally with its forelegs and lower hind legs parallel to the line of measurement. Proportion -The measurement from the breast bone to back of thigh is slightly longer than the measurement from the highest point of withers to the ground. The body must be of sufficient length to permit a straight and free stride; the dog never appears long and low. Head: To attain a well-proportioned head , which must be in balance with the rest of the dog, it embodies the following: Expression -The expression is intelligent, alert, soft and appealing. Eyes -Eyeballs are round and full and look directly forward. The shape of the eye rims gives a slightly almond shaped appearance; the eye is not weak or goggled. The color of the iris is dark brown and in general the darker the better. Disqualifications: Eye(s) blue, blue marbled, blue flecked. Ears - Lobular, long, of fine leather, well feathered, and placed no higher than a line to the lower part of the eye. Skull -Rounded but not exaggerated with no tendency toward flatness; the eyebrows are clearly defined with a pronounced stop. The bony structure beneath the eyes is well chiseled with no prominence in the cheeks. The muzzle is broad and deep, with square even jaws. To be in correct balance, the distance from the stop to the tip of the nose is one half the distance from the stop up over the crown to the base of the skull. Nose-of sufficient size to balance the muzzle and foreface, with well developed nostrils typical of a sporting dog. It is black in color in the blacks, black and tans, and black and whites; in other colors it may be brown, liver or black, the darker the better. The color of nose harmonizes with the color of the eye rim. Lips-The upper lip is full and of sufficient depth to cover the lower jaw. Teeth-Teeth strong and sound, not too small and meet in a scissors bite . Neck, Topline, Body : Neck -The neck is sufficiently long to allow the nose to reach the ground easily, muscular and free from pendulous "throatiness." It rises strongly from the shoulders and arches slightly as it tapers to join the head. Topline -sloping slightly toward muscular quarters. Body -The chest is deep, its lowest point no higher than the elbows, its front sufficiently wide for

adequate heart and lung space, yet not so wide as to interfere with the straightforward movement of the forelegs. Ribs are deep and well sprung. Back is strong and sloping evenly and slightly downward from the shoulders to the set-on of the docked tail. The docked tail is set on and carried on a line with the topline of the back, or slightly higher; never straight up like a Terrier and never so low as to indicate timidity. When the dog is in motion the tail action is merry. Forequarters : The shoulders are well laid back forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately 90 degrees which permits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy manner with forward reach. Shoulders are clean-cut and sloping without protrusion and so set that the upper points of the withers are at an angle which permits a wide spring of rib. When viewed from the side with the forelegs vertical, the elbow is directly below the highest point of the shoulder blade. Forelegs are parallel, straight, strongly boned and muscular and set close to the body well under the scapulae. The pasterns are short and strong. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed. Feet compact, large, round and firm with horny pads; they turn neither in nor out. Hindquarters : Hips are wide and quarters well rounded and muscular. When viewed from behind, the hind legs are parallel when in motion and at rest. The hind legs are strongly boned, and muscled with moderate angulation at the stifle and powerful, clearly defined thighs. The stifle is strong and there is no slippage of it in motion or when standing. The hocks are strong and well let down. Dewclaws on hind legs may be removed. Coat : On the head, short and fine; on the body, medium length, with enough undercoating to give protection. The ears, chest, abdomen and legs are well feathered, but not so excessively as to hide the Cocker Spaniel's true lines and movement or affect his appearance and function as a moderately coated sporting dog. The texture is most important. The coat is silky, flat or slightly wavy and of a texture which permits easy care. Excessive coat or curly or cottony textured coat shall be severely penalized. Use of electric clippers on the back coat is not desirable. Trimming to enhance the dog's true lines should be done to appear as natural as possible. Color and Markings : Black Variety -Solid color black to include black with tan points. The black should be jet; shadings of brown or liver in the coat are not desirable. A small amount of white on the chest and/or throat is allowed; white in any other location shall disqualify. Any Solid Color Other than Black (ASCOB) -Any solid color other than black, ranging from lightest cream to darkest red, including brown and brown with tan points. The color shall be of a uniform shade, but lighter color of the feathering is permissible. A small amount of white on the chest and/or throat is allowed; white in any other location shall disqualify. Parti-Color Variety -Two or more solid, well broken colors, one of which must be white; black and white, red and white (the red may range from lightest cream to darkest red), brown and white, and roans, to include any such color combination with tan points. It is preferable that the tan markings be located in the same pattern as for the tan points in the Black and ASCOB varieties. Roans are classified as parti-colors and may be of any of the usual roaning patterns. Primary color which is ninety percent (90%) or more shall disqualify.

Tan Points -The color of the tan may be from the lightest cream to the darkest red and is restricted to ten percent (10%) or less of the color of the specimen; tan markings in excess of that amount shall disqualify. In the case of tan points in the Black or ASCOB variety, the markings shall be located as follows: 1) A clear tan spot over each eye; 2) On the sides of the muzzle and on the cheeks; 3) On the underside of the ears; 4) On all feet and/or legs; 5) Under the tail; 6) On the chest, optional; presence or absence shall not be penalized. Tan markings which are not readily visible or which amount only to traces, shall be penalized. Tan on the muzzle which extends upward, over and joins shall also be penalized. The absence of tan markings in the Black or ASCOB variety in any of the specified locations in any otherwise tan-pointed dog shall disqualify. Gait : The Cocker Spaniel, though the smallest of the sporting dogs, possesses a typical sporting dog gait. Prerequisite to good movement is balance between the front and rear assemblies. He drives with strong, powerful rear quarters and is properly constructed in the shoulders and forelegs so that he can reach forward without constriction in a full stride to counterbalance the driving force from the rear. Above all, his gait is coordinated, smooth and effortless. The dog must cover ground with his action; excessive animation should not be mistaken for proper gait. Temperament: Equable in temperament with no suggestion of timidity. Disqualifications : Height-Males over 15½ inches; females over 14½ inches. Eye(s) blue, blue marbled, blue flecked. Color and Markings-The aforementioned colors are the only acceptable colors or combination of colors. Any other colors or combination of colors to disqualify. Black Variety-White markings except on chest and throat. Any Solid Color Other than Black Variety- White markings except on chest and throat. Parti-color Variety-Primary color ninety percent (90%) or more. Tan Points-(1) Tan markings in excess of ten percent (10%); (2) Absence of tan markings in Black or ASCOB Variety in any of the specified locations in an otherwise tan- pointed dog.

Approved January 9, 2018 Effective March 1, 2018

Oil painting by Maud Earl, Lager Gallery, London




T he final lineup of Cocker Span- iels at the 2014 American Span- iel Club National Specialty was stunning with the dogs coming into the ring at the Purina Event Center in Grey Summit, Missouri, to a rousing round of applause by the fanciers. Long-time Breeder/Judge Nancy Gallant had the di ffi cult task of choos- ing from the Parti-Color special, Grand Ch. Jem’s Going for the Knockout, the ASCOB special, Grand Ch. Silverhall’s

Strike Force and the Black special, Grand Ch. Mario N Beechwood’s Mid- night Express. In the end, Mrs. Gallant’s choice was the Black special, known to his fans and friends simply as “Ace”. In an interview following her judging, Mrs. Gallant said she was pleased the three variety winners not only showed correct type for the breed but also correct move- ment. As for her Best of Breed winner, she said she had in mind all the beautiful pictures there have been over the years of Cocker Spaniels which exemplified the breed and added Ace is everything breed- ers and judges should ever want in a dog. Ace is the present—the latest in a long line of Cocker Spaniels that have thrilled show audiences for well over a century. He is a Best in Show winner with a stellar career in both the United States and Can- ada, including his ASC National BOB win and a Best of Variety win at Westminster. But show wins do not tell the whole sto- ry about either Ace or the Cocker Spaniels

that have come before him. His breeders have said he has not only been a great show dog, but also a pleasure to live with. And that trait is what has endeared the Cocker Spaniel to people for decades. Author Ruth Kraeuchi described the Cocker Spaniel as “right in size. His beau- ty is breathtaking. But most of all, he is a dog of superb disposition.” 1 What was true when that was written in 1979 is true today, just as it was when the breed first arrived in North America in the 19th Century. Th e Cocker Spaniel is the smallest of the sporting dogs. It was developed in the United States during the latter part of the 19th century by sportsmen who hunted over their field spaniels. Th e smaller dogs in litters became known as cockers because they hunted a bird known as a woodcock, beautifully depicted in paintings by famed canine artist Maud Earl (see above).

Photo copyright J.J. Hanlin

1 The New Cocker Spaniel , by Ruth Kraeuchi


Sportsmen valued their cockers because they were small enough to go under hedge rows and through brambles and other bushes, where larger dogs were not as e ffi cient. Th e cockers were also adept in retrieving the birds on land and in water. As sportsmen and breeders worked on the development of the breed in the United States, its popularity blossomed. At the Morris and Essex show in 1938, the breed with the highest entry was the Cocker Spaniel. Th ere were 319 Cock- ers shown that day on Mrs. Geraldine Dodge’s polo field! At the same time, two styles of Cocker Spaniels were emerging—the “American” and the “English.” Th e divergence of the two styles was such that in the early part of the 20th Century, the American Kennel Club agreed to allow separate conforma- tion classes for the “English” style dogs. By the early 1940s, the two styles were no lon- ger inter-bred and in 1946, at the urging of the inimitable Mrs. Dodge, the AKC granted separate breed status to English Cocker Spaniels. Dog fanciers around the world can be forgiven for some confusion about which breed is being discussed because of the designations that are given to them! In all countries except the United States, the American-style dog is known as the Amer- ican Cocker Spaniel—however in AKC events, the breed is known simply as the Cocker Spaniel. Th e “other” Cocker Span- iel in AKC events is the English Cocker Spaniel, known everywhere else in the world as the Cocker Spaniel. In AKC conformation events, the breed is shown in three varieties, based on coat color: Black (includes solid blacks and those with specific tan markings); ASCOB (any solid color other than black, including those with specific tan markings); and Par- ti-Color (two or more colors, one of which must be white, which also include the roan pattern; this variety can also include spe- cific tan markings). At all-breed shows the varieties do not compete against one another, except in the group ring. At specialty shows, the varieties are judged separately and then the variety winners compete for Best in Specialty Show and Best of Opposite to Best in Specialty Show. Th e foundation of the Cocker Spaniel in the United States (both American and English) is traced to Ch. Obo II, who was

described in the American Kennel Regis- ter as, “a nice, compactly built little fellow, perhaps a trifle short in the back, but his stock are remarkably long and low. His head is a little strong, but it is nicely car- ried; his coat is dense and flat and his legs and feet first-class.” His dam was pregnant when she was imported to the United States by Mr. F.F. Pitcher of Clermont, N.H. and his litter whelped in 1882. 2 Obo II proved to be both an outstand- ing show dog and producer. In 1884, he was awarded a special prize for Best Cocker Spaniel at the New Haven Kennel Club show and was awarded a sil- ver cup, which is now a part of the Ameri- can Spaniel Club archives. Obo II’s grave was reported to the ASC Archival Work Group in July, 2001. It’s on the former property of Mr. J.P. Willey in the small city of Rollingsford, New Hampshire. Th e grave marker has been registered with the Rollingsford Historical Society as a His- torical Monument to the Cocker Spaniel. Long considered a hallmark of the breed is the head and eye expression. Even though head shapes have changed—the soft expression can be found throughout the more than 130-year history of the Cocker Spaniel. In CH Obo II, there is a compelling look to the eye and head. Th at same look can be seen in “Ch. Idahurst Belle II”, the only Cocker Spaniel bitch to have won Best in Show at the American Span- iel Club three times—in 1930 (from the classes), 1931 and 1932. Th at look is also seen in the two-time Westminster Kennel Club winning Cock- er Spaniel, Ch. My Own Brucie. Brucie was noteworthy not only for his win record, but also because he represented the beginning of a change in the structure of the breed. Ella Mo ffi t wrote in her book, Th e Cocker Spaniel : “Interestingly enough, the demand for a more sporting type of Cock- er was created about 1923 and became a reality when the first progeny of Red Bru- cie [My Own Brucie’s sire] began to show their value for this purpose. Th is dog, more than any other specimen of the breed according to my records, has been respon- sible for improving the type and for devel- oping the Cocker along sporting lines.” “Red Brucie is particularly outstanding for having produced lean, sloping shoul- ders and powerful hindquarters which give

CH Obo II, welped August 7, 1882. Photo from the American Kennel Register, c. 1884.

Obo II cup. Courtesy the American Spaniel Club.

Ch Idahurst Belle II. Courtesy The American Spaniel Club.

Ch My Own Brucie, c. 1941. Courtesy the American Spaniel Club.

2 “The American Kennel Register” Vol. II, No. 10., 1884

continued on pg. 292


continued from pg. 240

a dog that freedom of movement so neces- sary to his calling. As for conformation, he has contributed much that made it easier for a Cocker to take the grueling pace and the long hours which are required of him as a shooting dog.” In the decades since Ch. Obo II thrilled sporting fanciets, Mo ffi t’s description has held true with the breed evolving through dramatic structural changes. Th e back has shortened, the dog has gotten taller and breeders have selected for more abundant coat. Th e popularity of Ch. My Own Brucie and the breed’s look and merry tempera- ment made it a favorite of people across America in the mid-20th Century—and that popularity was embraced in all forms of media. In the mid-20th Century, everyone seemed to want a bu ff Cocker Spaniel just like Disney’s Lady. Th ere were Satur- day Evening Post covers featuring Albert Staehle’s black and white cocker Butch getting into humorous situations—and the illustrations were found on all forms of commercial products, including play- ing cards that were used to advertise local businesses. Coppertone® used a black Cocker Spaniel tugging on a girl’s swim- suit bottom to sell its suntan lotion. And people sent loved ones postcards featuring America’s favorite breed.

Actors and actresses had Cocker Span- iels. In 1952, then vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon famously talked of his fam- ily’s black and white Cocker Spaniel Check- ers when responding to his political critics. But that popularity had its downside and some people tried to capitalize on the breed by producing litters with little regard for temperament, health or correct type. While responsible breeders tried to maintain the breed as a loving compan- ion, unfortunately there were Cocker Spaniels being produced which did not meet that standard. In the latter part of the 20th Century, the breed’s popularity waned. While still among the breeds with the highest AKC registrations, there has been a slow, but steady decline those numbers. Despite the setbacks, the Cocker Span- iel has bounced back because of the people who love the breed. In the conformation ring—just as it was for Ch. Obo II in the 19th century and Ch. My Own Brucie in the 20th cen- tury—once again the top-winning dog in the 21st century is a black Cocker Span- iel, Platinum Grand Ch. Casablanca’s Th rilling Seduction. As of February, 2014, Beckham was the all-time Best in Show winning Sport- ing dog with 122 BISs. In 2011, he was the number one dog in all-breed competition 3 The Cocker Spaniel , Ella Moffit, 1949.

Postcard from 1950

Photos courtesy Nancy Gallant

Photo copyright J.J. Hanlin


Above: Photo courtesy Carol Rives, copyright Kevin Devine. Below: Photo courtesy Diane Kepley

Photo courtesy Diane Kepley

and winner of the Purina Pro Plan Cham- pions Cup. Beckham is the only Cocker Spaniel to win three national specialties and Best in Show four times at the Ameri- can Spaniel Club Flushing Spaniel Show. He also won the Sporting Group at West- minster in 2011 and was awarded a group two at the show in 2014. Th e Cocker Spaniel is not only excelling in the conformation ring, it also remains true to its hunting heritage, without the need for a breeding split between bench and field dogs. Th e breed is a wonderful, loving com- panion in the home and has proven to be versatile in obedience, rally and agility, Th e Cocker Spaniel has an innate under- standing of people of all ages, loving chil- dren and often working as a therapy dog. We said at the beginning that this is a breed that not only excels in the show ring, but also is a pleasure to live with because of its loving, merry outlook on life! As the AKC breed standard states, “above all, he must be free and merry, sound, well balanced throughout and in action show a keen inclination to work.” 4 Among the stewards of the breed are the members of the American Spaniel Club, the parent club of the Cocker Spaniel. Th e ASC was founded in 1881 as a club for all sporting spaniels and it still maintains that position, even though the other sporting spaniels have formed their own parent clubs.

Each year the club sponsors a “gather- ing” of other spaniels at the club’s annual Flushing Spaniel Show. Th e limited breed event is a showcase for Cocker Spaniels, English Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, Welsh Springer Spaniels, Clum- ber Spaniels, American Water Spaniels, Boykin Spaniels, Sussex Spaniels and Field Spaniels and in the past even Irish Water Spaniels. Some of the finest dogs of each of these breeds complete each year for the coveted American Spaniel Club Best in Show title. Th ere is also an award for Best Cocker Spaniel in Show, as well as other non-regular class titles. Th e 2014 Best in Show winner was the English Springer Spaniel, Ch. Telltale American Ride. Prior to this year, the Black Cocker Spaniel, Grand Ch. Casablanca’s Th rilling Seduction, won the event an unprecedent- ed four consecutive years, from 2010-2013. His son, Ch. Ashdown’s Time to Th rill was awarded Best Cocker Spaniel in Show in 2014. In 2006, the stunning English Cocker Spaniel, Ch. Chestnut’s Selling the Drama took home the top prize and returned in 2014 to win its breed out of the veterans class. Julia Gasgow’s Ch. Salilyn’s Condor was awarded Best in Show three consecu- tive years in the 1990s—the third Salilyn English Springer Spaniel to win the cov- eted award. Th ere have also been Clumber

Spaniels, Sussex Spaniels, a Welsh Spring- er Spaniel and an Irish Water Spaniel awarded Best in Show at the ASC Flushing Spaniel Show. Th e American Spaniel Club also sup- ports health and rescue e ff orts for Cocker Spaniels through the American Spaniel Club Foundation. It’s most recent project has been “Eye Support Cockers”, an e ff ort to fully fund Cocker Spaniel cataract research at the University of Pennsylvania. Nearly $90,000 has been raised by the American Spaniel Club, the ASC Foundation, mem- ber clubs and other individual e ff orts. More information on the American Spaniel Club and Cocker Spaniels can be found through the club’s website, http:// ABOUT THE AUTHOR Diane Kepley is an AKC Cocker Spaniel breed- er/judge and also judges other sporting breeds. Diane is a member of the American Spaniel Club and serves on its board as a director- at-large. She is an American Spaniel Club approved breed mentor and an AKC Breeder of Merit. Beginning with ASCOB Cocker Spaniels in 1990, she has since bred or owned champions in all three varieties. Dogs from her breeding program have also attained titles in Obedience, Rally, Tracking and Agility.

4 AKC “Cocker Spaniel Standard”, c. June 1992.



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- . 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.


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.




Photo courtesy Jeanne Grim

“T he Cocker Spaniel is the smallest member of the Sporting Group. He has a sturdy, com- pact body and a cleanly chiseled and refined head, with the overall dog in com- plete balance and of ideal size. He stands well up at the shoulder on straight fore- legs with a topline sloping slightly toward strong, moderately bent, muscular quar- ters. He is a dog capable of considerable speed, combined with great endurance. Above all, he must be free and merry, sound, well balanced throughout and in action show a keen inclination to work. A dog well balanced in all parts is more desirable than a dog with strongly con- trasting good points and faults.” Anyone who has ever read the open- ing paragraph of the AKC Standard for the Cocker Spaniel should recognize this state- ment—but what does it mean when it comes time to judge this breed? And what are the challenges judges are encountering when try- ing to find “the good ones”? Indeed the Cocker Spaniel is the small- est member of the Sporting Group, but judges should be aware that does not mean he is slight of build or without the mus- cling that is necessary for him to do the job he was originally bred for. Many of the Cockers in the ring in recent years (both dogs and bitches) have been small in stat- ure, bone and muscling. And because of that, they do not have the “sturdy, compact body” called for in the standard. Th at stature and muscling is neces- sary for the function this breed is meant to perform—pushing its way through dense underbrush and bramble and flushing birds from their hiding places. Th is hunting style is the reason for the height disqualifica- tion in the breed. Dogs that are more than

15 ½ inches at the withers and bitches that are taller than 14 ½ are considered to be too large to e ff ective work in the kind of condi- tions in which they are asked to hunt. While there is not a disqualification for a Cocker Spaniel that is too small, the stan- dard calls for a dog which is undersized to be penalized—something judges are asked to keep in mind when considering exhibits in their rings. Because judges cannot measure to determine whether dogs are below the preferred height (smaller than 14 ½ inches for dogs and 13 ½ inches for bitches), this penalty is di ffi cult to assess. But a Cocker Spaniel that is too small in size as well as bone and muscling is unable to correctly do the job for which it was bred. As is true in considering other factors in judging, the dog or bitch which seems larger than the others in a class may actually be of cor- rect height. Th is does not mean a coarse or overly heavy-boned dog should be reward- ed. Th e Cocker Spaniel should retain its refined beauty no matter its size.

Judges are urged to measure larger dogs and bitches to disqualify those that are over-sized. Th ey are also urged to take the opportunity to train their eyes and hands to understand correct height and bone by going over a number of specimens through a variety of learning experiences. Now let’s consider the Cocker Span- iel’s headpiece. It is both endearing and breed-defining (see Figure 1). Th e cor- rect proportions of the head are critical to maintaining type. Th e “skull is rounded but not exaggerated with no tendency toward flatness”. And the area under the eye is well-chiseled. “ Th e muzzle is broad and deep, with square even jaws. To be in correct balance, the distance from the stop to the tip of the nose is one half the distance from the stop up over the crown to the base of the skull.” In order for the Cocker Spaniel to hold and carry a bird, it must have correct length of muzzle. However, too often in modern show rings we are seeing muzzles that are too short and lips which are not full

Fig. 2: Teeth strong and sound, not too small and meet in a scissors bite. Courtesy the American Spaniel Club Illustrated Standard.

Fig. 1. Courtesy the American Spaniel Club Illustrated Standard.


enough to e ff ectively carry a bird as large as a pheasant. Remember the standard calls for the upper lip to be full and o ff su ffi cient depth to cover the lower jaw. One of the issues facing the breed is that head size is becoming smaller along with the rest of the dog. Th at leads to a shortening of the muz- zle that does not allow for teeth that are “strong and sound, not too small and meet in a scissor bite.” See Figure 2. And now a few words about tails. Th e AKC standard describes the Cocker Spaniel’s body as follows: “Back is strong and sloping evenly and slightly downward from the shoulders to the set-on of the docked tail. Th e docked tail is set on and carried on a line with the topline of the back, or slightly higher; never straight up like a Terrier and never so low as to indicate timidity. When the dog is in motion the tail action is merry.” Please note the standard does not say an undocked tail is either a disqualification or should be considered a serious fault. Judges are asked to consider the entire dog, keeping in mind its function as a hunting companion. Th e American Spaniel Club will support a judge’s decision to excuse, withhold or con- sider a dog with an undocked tail, but it also encourages judges to consider the function of the dog when making decisions. Keep in mind this question from a long-time Breeder/Judge who judges the entire Sporting group, “Are you judging the dog or the tail?” Th e American Spaniel Club’s Board of Directors has issued a statement in support of docked tails for Cocker Spaniels and all Flushing Spaniels, because of its importance as a charac- teristic for a hunting dog. In a statement released by the ASC board in 2009, the Board points out that “since 1881 Cocker Spaniels with docked rails have been a part of the fabric of the United States.” And that because of the Cocker Spaniel’s “incessant, merry action of the tail while working in thick, dense cover which is sometimes deeper than the dog is tall absolutely necessitates docking to prevent injury to the ani- mal.” And then there is this note for judges—please remem- ber that “above all, he shall be merry.” Th e temperament of the Cocker Spaniel is one of its most important breed characteristics. Th e standard tells you the Cock- er is “equable in temperament with no suggestion of timidity.” Well-bred Cocker Spaniels love people, and enjoy meet- ing new “friends” (even judges). When approaching a Cocker Spaniel that is stacked on a table for exam, it is not unusual for them to wag their tails, move a foot or otherwise show their delight in meeting you! I once had a judge look at one of my dogs on the table and proclaim with some distaste, “She’s wiggling.” My response? “Indeed she is—she’s a Cocker Spaniel.” While we all want dogs to be under control and trained, please remember this is an outgoing, happy, high-energy breed. Th e only Cocker temperament that should be penalized is timidity. If a Cocker Spaniel is fearful, or unwilling to be approached, it should not be rewarded. Finally—please enjoy your time in the ring with Cocker Spaniels. It almost goes without saying—they are happy to be there with you! REFERENCES

W hy Cocker Spaniels have a docked tail: Th e Cocker Spaniel is the smallest of the Spaniel breeds, and the inherent desire to hunt renders him a capa- ble gun dog when judiciously trained. Th is con- tinues today. Th e usual method of hunting is to let him quarter the ground ahead of the gun, covering all territory within gun range. Th is he should do at a fast, snappy pace. Upon flushing the game he should stop or preferably drop to a sitting position so as not to interfere with the shot, after which he should retrieve on command only. He should of course, be so trained that he will be under control at all times. He is likewise valuable for occasional water retrieving and as a rule takes to water readily. Because of this mode of hunting for which the breed was created more than 100 years ago, the Cocker Spaniel is a docked tail, hunting breed. Th e characteristic incessant, merry action of the tail while working in thick, dense cover which is sometimes deeper than the dog is tall absolutely necessitates docking to prevent injury to the animal. Th e position of the American Spaniel Club: Th e recent AVMA labeling of tail docking as cosmetic, or the proposed legislation some states are considering outlawing tail docking, is in the view of the American Spaniel Club a severe mischaracterization of this important breed characteristic. It connotes a lack of respect and/ or knowledge of the function of Cocker Spaniels, as well as other docked tail Flushing Spaniels or other docked tail breeds. Keeping in mind the welfare of the Cocker Spaniel breed and the function it was bred to perform, the American Spaniel Club continues to support docked tails for Cocker Spaniels as an important char- acteristic required by the breed’s function as a hunting dog. We firmly believe that we, jointly with our veterinarians, should have the right to decide in the proper care and treatment of our beloved Cocker Spaniels. Of course, the American Spaniel Club advocates that appropriate veterinary care should be provided. When tail docking procedures are done under the direction of a vet at an early age they are virtually pain free and safe. An informed public is required to combat misinformation: Th rough education and communication such as this letter, the American Spaniel Club hopes to foster a more informed general public that can appreciate and support the continued history of this docked tail breed. Th e Cocker Spaniel is excellent in Breed, Obedience and Field work, with many having dual and triple titles. As a pet and companion the Cocker Spaniel popularity has been exceptional. He is a great lover of home and family, trustworthy and adaptable—as adaptable for the 21st century as in the past. More information about Cocker Spaniels and the American Span- iel Club can be found at our website by CHARLES P. BORN President, The American Spaniel Club, Inc. COCKER SPANIEL DOCKED TAILS: A VITAL BREED CHARACTERISTIC

Official AKC Cocker Spaniel Standard, effective June 30, 1992 American Spaniel Club Docked Tail Position, March 2009.

Published March 30, 2009




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.


Oakleys son, Stetson (Blue Roan) Ch. Bow-k’s & Gardian Cowboy Up, is ready to start working in the field.



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.



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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