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 www.asc-cockerspaniel.org. 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
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