WORK­ING COCKER SPANIELS

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Dif­fer­ent in looks to the show type, work­ing Cock­ers have a flat­ter head, higher-set, shorter ears and less feath­er­ing, along with a leg­gier body shape. Their coat is not as pro­fuse as the show type, so groom­ing is an eas­ier task. Like the show strain, they are good-na­tured and ea­ger, but bred for prow­ess in the hunt­ing field. Work­ing Cock­ers can­not be shown in Cocker breed classes, but can in­stead com­pete in field tri­als and work­ing gun­dog events. Here they excel, dis­play­ing their ap­ti­tude for re­triev­ing and find­ing ‘game’, us­ing both seen and hid­den dum­mies, which are brightly coloured, weighted can­vas rolls filled with sand, or foam for wa­ter. They are also usu­ally much more de­mand­ing of their own­ers’ time for ex­er­cise, play and train­ing. They are ex­tremely lively, es­pe­cially as pup­pies and ado­les­cents, as this is a dog bred for its hunt­ing abil­ity. Nicki Man­ning, from Cam­bridgeshire, has been an owner of Cocker spaniels for more than 40 years, and she can at­test to this dif­fer­ence be­tween the two types, as she has one of each. Nine-year-old Dud­ley is a show type, while Hat­tie aged four, is a work­ing Cocker. “Dud­ley is loyal and steady, with a great per­son­al­ity. He loves life, other peo­ple, other dogs; in fact ev­ery­thing,” says Nicki. “He is a real joy; a clown and full of fun. “Hat­tie is very bright, very lov­ing and al­ways wants to please. She catches onto train­ing and new tasks re­ally quickly and loves learn­ing, which is won­der­fully sat­is­fy­ing as her owner. She has a su­perb brain and is a happy soul in what­ever she does. This is the most will­ing breed I have trained; a true de­light to have around.” Dud­ley is par­tic­u­larly good at scent work and agility. “Scent work is a great way to keep his brain happy and in­crease the trust and bond be­tween us, and it can be used in many sit­u­a­tions. On a visit to the vet, we play a scent ‘find it’ game, and he switches to that, ig­nor­ing any­thing else around him. We have re­cently started com­pet­ing in agility. He is a fab­u­lous dog to work, very steady, and never makes a mis­take, so we have gained many rosettes, al­though never for speed.” Hat­tie has taken part in gun­dog ac­tiv­i­ties and won scurry com­pe­ti­tions, where the dog has to re­trieve a dummy in the fastest time, and now, with Nicki, she is in­creas­ing her skill at agility classes too. “Han­dling them both is a joy,” she says. “They are very sim­i­lar in terms of fun and love and charm, but Hat­tie has a faster brain pro­ces­sor and at­ti­tude. Dud­ley gets there with most tasks, just at a slower pace. They com­ple­ment each other per­fectly. Many smiles ev­ery day is guar­an­teed.”

Nicki Man­ning with com­pet­i­tive work­ing Cocker Hat­tie, left, and steady show-type Dud­ley.

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