cocker spaniel

The Working Cocker

The history of the working Cocker Spaniel

The Cocker Spaniel breed, like many others with origins as Gun dogs, has some genetic lines that focus on working skills and other lines that focus on ensuring that the dog’s appearance conforms to a breed standard set out; these are referred to as the “working” or “conformation” strains, respectively.

After World War II, Cocker Spaniels bred for pet dogs and for showing which increased enormously in popular appeal, and, for a while, was the most numerous Kennel Club registered breed. This popularity increased the view that all Cockers were useless as a Working Dog.However, for many dogs this is untrue, as even some show-bred Cockers have retained their working instinct.

Today, this breed is experiencing a resurgence in usage as a working and hunting dog. Dogs from working lines are noticeably distinct in appearance. As is the case with the Springer, the working type has been bred exclusively to perform in the field as a hunting companion. Their coat is shorter and ears less pendulous than the show-bred type. Although registered as the same breed, the two strains have diverged significantly enough that they are rarely crossed.

The dogs that have dominated the Field trials and the shooting world in the United States are field-bred dogs from recently imported British lines. Working-dog lines often have physical characteristics that would prevent them from winning Shows. This is a result of selecting for different traits than those selected by show breeders. The longer coat and ears, selected for the show ring, are an impediment in the field. Cuban authorities train and use English Cocker Spaniels as sniffer dogs to check for drugs or food products in passengers’ baggage at Cuban airports.

cocker spaniel


A field-bred Cocker spaniel is first and foremost an upland flushing dog. In performing this task there are some skills the dog must be trained to perform.

“Hup” is the traditional command to sit and stay. To be an effective hunter the dog must comply with this command absolutely. When hupped the dog can be given direction called to the handler. The ability to hup a dog actively working a running bird allow the handler and any gunners to keep up without having to run.

Retrieve to Hand The majority of hunters which means that a dog deliver a bird to hand, meaning that a dog will hold the bird until told to give it to the hunter directly.

Quarter Dogs must work in a pattern in front of the hunter seeking Game. The dog must be taught to stay within gun range to avoid flushing a bird outside of shooting distance.

Follow Hand Signals Upland hunting involves pursuing wild game in its native habitat. Gun dogs must investigate likely covers for Game. The dog must be responsive to hand signals in order for the hunter to be able to direct the dog into areas of particular interest.

Steady when hunting upland birds, a flushing dog should be steady to wing and shot, meaning that he sits when a bird rises or a gun is fired. He does this in order to mark the fall and to avoid flushing other birds when pursuing a missed bird.
Many Cockers and Springer’s are bred each year and not all of them make it to working. Some of the lucky ones end up in loving homes with active families, however some are brought as pets but an active Working Cocker or Springer does not always make a great pet dog. They need stimulation and some sort of work on a daily basis even if it is a good walk twice a day.

If you are going to consider a Working Cocker Spaniel as a pet then consider your lifestyle first, if you are active and like to walk and the outside life then this energetic little dog could be for you.