Author Topic: Show-type or Working Cocker?  (Read 40834 times)

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Offline Jane S

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Show-type or Working Cocker?
« on: March 14, 2008, 03:30:09 PM »
Many people new to Cockers don’t realise there are two distinct strains which have evolved over many years. These are the working strain and the show-type strain, each bred for different purposes with different attributes. If you are considering either buying or rescuing a Cocker, it’s important you know the differences between the strains so you can make an informed decision about which type will suit you and your home the best.

Show-strain dogs are the type seen in the show rings (such as at Crufts). Their appealing looks and compact size have made show-type Cockers popular as family pets for many years. If you see a photo of a Cocker on a calendar or in a book, it will be a show-type dog more often than not, although this may be slowly changing with the increasing number of Working Cockers in pet homes.

Working Cockers, as the name implies, are bred as working gundogs, capable of staying out all day in the shooting field. However many are now being increasingly sold to pet homes where, in the right hands, they can make great dogs for the active home.

Physically, Working Cockers can look quite different to the show-type Cocker. Whereas show breeders are trying to breed dogs which closely resemble the Cocker Spaniel Breed Standard as laid down by the Kennel Club, Working Cocker breeders consider working ability to be their top priority and are less interested in what their dogs look like. Working Cockers tend to have flatter skulls and higher set, shorter ears compared to the show type dog with his more domed skull and longer, lower set ears. Another big physical difference is in the coat. Although some working type dogs do carry a heavier coat, as a general rule, they have finer coats and far less feathering than the show-type dog. Their general body shape also tends to be rangier and less compact than that of show Cockers. They may vary considerably in size from the quite small to the very tall (although size variation is also seen in the show-type dogs).

Moving on to personality and temperament, all Cockers (whatever the strain) are busy, active little dogs with minds of their own (as any Cocker owner will testify!) so nobody should expect a lazy, couch potato if they opt for a Cocker. However a Working Cocker may be considerably more active than some show Cockers and have enormous reserves of stamina. He can be on the go all day and still be up for more. A show-type dog can also be very energetic and will happily go for long walks but will probably be easier to tire out. A dog that has been bred for an active life as a working dog needs an outlet for all that energy and something to “do” to keep that busy brain occupied and stimulated. Such a dog won’t usually thrive in a home which can only offer limited exercise opportunities and where owners don’t have the time or inclination to get involved in training/activities which provide mental stimulation. The same is true of show-type Cockers to some extent but as a generalisation, working strain dogs will often need more mental stimulation/exercise than most show-type dogs. Many will enjoy and excel at activities like agility or flyball if they are not to be worked in the traditional way.

At the end of this article are a few photos showing a Working Cocker pup and show-type pup of roughly the same colour and two group photos featuring adult show-type Cockers and Working Cockers respectively (thanks to JaspersMum, Jean and Colin for allowing their lovely photos to be used here)

How do I find out what type my Cocker is?
If you have bought a Cocker pup and are not sure whether you have a Working Cocker or a show-type dog, then contact your breeder and ask him/her. A responsible breeder should be happy to answer any questions about their dogs but unfortunately not all breeders are responsible and some (especially if inexperienced) may not even be aware themselves that there are two different strains of Cocker Spaniel. If your breeder cannot help but has given you a pedigree for your puppy, check to see if any dogs have “FT CH” or “FTW” before their names. These initials stand for “Field Trial Champion” and “Field Trial Winner” meaning dogs with those awards are Working Cockers. If any dogs have “SH CH” before the name or “JW” after the name, these are show titles (SH CH standing for Show Champion) indicating the dog concerned is a show-type Cocker. If there are no dogs with titles on your pup’s pedigree, try posting the details on the COL Pedigree Board as other members may recognise the kennel names and be able to tell you whether pedigree is working or show-type or perhaps (as is not that uncommon) a combination of both types.

Our gallery of Cocker Colours HERE shows many photo examples of both working and show types.