Skip to main content

Breed Profile: The American Cocker Spaniel

American-cocker_001

In the late 1980s, when I began running dogs in and judging AKC's non-competitive hunting tests for spaniels, I experienced an awakening about cockers. Like many, I had accepted the conventional wisdom that "show and pet breeders had bred the hunt out of this once-great little flushing dog."

What a pleasant surprise to see real, actual cockers running in all levels of these challenging tests, performing commendably and successfully! What a pleasant surprise to learn a few breeders were still breeding the old field-bred lines, like Dungarvin. What a shockingly pleasant surprise to find some show-bred owners were trimming most of the luxurious coats off their handsome cockers and proving all the hunt had definitely not been bred out of these dogs!

Perhaps the most memorable of these surprises happened when I was judging a spaniel hunting test in south-central Kansas. In the Senior (middle) level, a gentleman named Walt Cline came to the line with a parti-colored field-bred cocker. He had traveled over 300 miles from his home in Nebraska for this test. Trouble was, he didn't have a whistle dangling from his neck like a "real spaniel guy" would.


"Oh, my," I thought, "he's come all that distance and he doesn't even have a whistle to control his dog. Too bad. Nice looking little dog. What a shame!"


Mmm, boy, was I wrong! And happy to be! Walt and his cocker communicated with one another silently, almost motionlessly, and with perfect mutual understanding. The dog would glance back at Walt; Walt might nod his head or flick his fingers this way or that, and the dog would do exactly the right thing. Amazing. Needless to say, this team earned a qualifying score. Had this been a competition, they would have won the "blue."

Through those early hunting test years, I watched several other cockers perform beautifully. (Nota bene: Their handlers humored my sense of propriety by using whistles!) The hunt had never been bred out of these dogs. However, since 1964, when the last cocker field trial was held, they had no public venue in which to show their field talents and earn respected field titles. Happily, since 1988, AKC hunting tests have provided them such a venue, which they have used effectively to prove the breed's critics wrong.

Do you have a good story about your American cocker? Tell us in the comments section below. For more on this great breed, pick up the August issue of Gun Dog, available on newsstands July 3!

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 3

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 3

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 3

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 10

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 10

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 10

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Gun Dog Breeds: Standard Poodle Profiles

Gun Dog Breeds: Standard Poodle

James Spencer

"Poodles hunt? You gotta be kiddin' me!"

Whether you're building or buying a new dog kennel, following these simple guidelines will ensure a safe and comfy home for your favorite hunting buddy.How To Build the Perfect Dog Kennel How-To

How To Build the Perfect Dog Kennel

Jerry Thoms

Whether you're building or buying a new dog kennel, following these simple guidelines will...

Samosas are a great way to make your grouse meat stretch further.Prairie Chicken Samosas Recipe Recipes

Prairie Chicken Samosas Recipe

Brad Fenson - November 05, 2020

Samosas are a great way to make your grouse meat stretch further.

See More Trending Articles

More Breeds

One of the greatest pleasures of hunting with dogs is the people we meet along the way. Here's a story of one chessie man.A Chessie Man Profiles

A Chessie Man

Chad Mason

One of the greatest pleasures of hunting with dogs is the people we meet along the way. Here's...

The little-known breed can produce game for the table as capably as its more familiar cousins.Meat Dogs: The Curly-Coated Retriever Profiles

Meat Dogs: The Curly-Coated Retriever

M.J. Nelson

The little-known breed can produce game for the table as capably as its more familiar cousins.

The Irish red and white setter is an intelligent, hard hunter that aims to please.Irish Red & White Setter: Older Than Guinness Profiles

Irish Red & White Setter: Older Than Guinness

M.J. Nelson

The Irish red and white setter is an intelligent, hard hunter that aims to please.

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of fight in the dog.Proving Why Good Dogs Come in Small Packages Profiles

Proving Why Good Dogs Come in Small Packages

Dave Carty

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of fight in the dog.

See More Breeds

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Gun Dog App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Gun Dog subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now