WORKING COCKER SPANIELS
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.