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. TOM DOWELL 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.
282 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , A UGUST 2019
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