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 10

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 10

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 10

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

A gun-shy dog is created, not born, and once the damage is done, gun-shyness can prove impossible to cure. Puppies

Introduce Your Pup To Gunfire The Right Way

Gun Dog Online Staff

A gun-shy dog is created, not born, and once the damage is done, gun-shyness can prove...

Training a hunting puppy is no easy task. Training

First Year Tips for Training a Hunting Puppy

Bob West

Training a hunting puppy is no easy task.

You've heard it before: it takes birds to make a bird dog.

Sure, you can train—at least to a Training

Why You Should Be Training with Penned Birds

Dave Carty

You've heard it before: it takes birds to make a bird dog. Sure, you can train — at...

Training a flushing dog with live birds requires you to first build a solid foundation. Training

Train Flushing Dogs with Live Birds

Jerry Cacchio

Training a flushing dog with live birds requires you to first build a solid foundation.

See More Trending Articles

More Breeds

It is generally accepted that our modern pointing breeds originated in Spain around five centuries Profiles

Breed Profile: Braque d'Auvergne

Tony J. Peterson

It is generally accepted that our modern pointing breeds originated in Spain around five...

This gun dog is extremely intelligent, and will hunt just about anything with drive and determination. Profiles

The American Water Spaniel

Richard E. Massey

This gun dog is extremely intelligent, and will hunt just about anything with drive and...

Today's Bracco Italiano is an ancient and stylish breed of gun dog that still works for the modern-day bird hunter. Profiles

The Italian Bird Dog: Bracco Italiano

Jerry Thoms

Today's Bracco Italiano is an ancient and stylish breed of gun dog that still works for the...

Author Scott Linden takes a closer look at the popular French Brittany, a smaller breed that certainly knows how to pack a lot of punch for big hunts! Profiles

In-Depth With the French Brittany

Scott Linden

Author Scott Linden takes a closer look at the popular French Brittany, a smaller breed that...

See More Breeds

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

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