The Working Cocker Spaniel.

"These, the Cockers of the different families, are among the most intelligent, vivacious, and beautiful of the canine races. They can creep and crawl, push and scramble, almost anywhere; and, when they are allowed to retrieve, it is wonderful what heavy burdens they manage to carry, an attribute of their perfect shape, whip-cord muscles, and big hearts. The writer has seen one carrying a hare that was half his own weight. They are never more in their element than when rattling the rabbits out of thick gorse-covers, of flushing woodcocks from a tangled hill-side. From this bird, indeed, is their title of Cocker derived; so indispensable, in shooting the long-bills, were their services considered by our ancestors.

And nowadays, on a crisp morning of late autumn, there is no better sport than to repair with a team of good Cockers to some suitable spot that abounds with high banks and almost impenetrable thickets, listening for their shrill voices when game is stirred, and taking snap-shots when you find a chance.

These little Spaniels are quite indefatigable in their exertions..."

The Spaniels (Section) - Author: William Arkwright. British dogs, their points, selection, and show preparation. 1903. William Drury.

While the Spaniel has been the Sportsman's companion for centuries, however it was only as recently as 1899 that a consensus was reached on how to run a trial. This fact alone underlines the passion with which all Spaniel owners view their Breeds.

The Sporting Spaniel Club held the first Spaniel Trials under the presidency of the Mr. William Arkwright, (a Pointer man) at his estate of Sutton Scarsdale, Derbyshire in January, 1899; - "and the work, for a beginning, was very good; - a Cocker, some Clumbers, and a Sussex, besides other Springers, all distinguishing themselves."

It is with immense pride in our Breed we quote Mr. Arkwright comments regarding that first trial, the result and the regard he considered for her some years later.

At the first trials ever held, a very typical liver-and-white Cocker bitch easily won the first prize. After that event her breaker sold her for a large price, and she disappeared from public life. The other day the writer saw her again quite by chance, and he was interested to learn that her new owner is as enthusiastic about her virtues to-day as we aft were nearly five years ago.

The Spaniels (Section) - Author: William Arkwright. British dogs, their points, selection, and show preparation. 1903. William Drury.

By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Spaniel Trials were widely held across these islands and on December 16th. 1925 the UK Cocker Spaniel Club held its first Field Trials at Shardiloes, Amersham.

Mirroring this evolution, - the Irish Spaniel Club (1923), in 1929 became the Cocker Spaniel Club of Ireland. The Club held its first Field Trials just two years later in October, 1931.

These noble, feisty pioneers of the Irish Working Cocker leave us and the breed with more than memories, their legacy is visible daily in the pedigrees of our Cockers. The "Of Boyne", "Of Fews", "Indigo", "Lick Bla", "Melfort", "Offaly", and the "Rosemount's" to name but a few.

The Club's First Field Trial. Held at Colonel and Mrs. Scott Moore's residence at Manor Kilbride on Saturday, October 24, 1931. It includes Colonel and Mrs. Scott Moore, Mr. J. A. Carberry, Miss. D. M. Fagan, Miss. V. Tynte, Mrs. M. F. Rathborne, Mr. W. Greenfield, Dr. J. W. Dawson, Mr. W. McCausland and Miss. M. Esmonde.

For many, both inside and outside the breed - the Cocker Spaniel has indeed actively evolved over time and currently we obliviously have both a "Show" and a "Working" type Cocker, the difference being self explanatory to the observer. At the very least the Working Cocker should be shorter in Ear and with a Coat suitable to Field Work whilst at an equal extreme, many of the Show type are just blousy.

The original 1893 UK Kennel Club Standard for the Breed made no such "type" distinction and the English Cocker is of course a Spaniel first, with all that entails. It was assumed the dog should be fit for purpose, both as an example of the physical requirements of the breed and to exhibit the requirements of the breed as a Flushing Gundog.

The Current FCI Breed Standard still honours this standard and lists the English Cocker Spaniel under Group 8 (Gun Dogs), Flushing Dogs; which requires of the breed under the following sections ...

GENERAL APPEARANCE: Merry, sturdy, sporting; well balanced; compact.

BEHAVIOUR/TEMPERAMENT: Merry nature with ever-wagging tail shows a typical bustling movement, particularly when following scent, fearless of heavy cover.

GAIT/MOVEMENT: True through action with great drive covering ground well.

FCI Faults include any departure from the foregoing points to be considered on the Breeds ability to perform its traditional work.

This Club from its inception holds true to the Breed and does not distinguish by purpose nor physique. Although time and breeding has indeed refined Show and Working type to either end of the breed spectrum.

Our Cockers however, in their little hearts do indeed know what they truly are and we as owners owe a duty to let them be all they should be. The Cocker Spaniel Club of Ireland acknowledges its Remit and Duty to actively promote the Breed in all abilities.

While, for some of the Show type, their true nature may be revealed with the slightest assistance of a decent pair of Clippers, it should `be acknowledged that some modern day Show Judges could not deal with a Working Cocker outside of a Field Class.

Modern Introduction.

The Working Cocker Spaniel is a tireless working dog that is also equally at ease at the fireside. It is a Spaniel that is relatively small and compact in size which allows it to explore the thickest of cover to locate hidden game which it flushes for the gun.

They are exceptional retrievers and collect the fallen game from land or water with gusto and deliver it promptly to hand. The Working Cocker Spaniel can also be a wonderful family pet but it must be remembered that they are working dogs and need copious amounts of exercise and plenty of attention to occupy their active minds.

The Working Cocker Spaniel is bred for sound temperament and health, speed, stamina and intelligence to make it trainable to perform the tasks which it was bred for namely, hunting, flushing and retrieving game.

The day to day work of the Working Cocker Spaniel is to produce game for the hunter within range of his gun and to collect the fallen game as quickly as possible in a tender fashion allowing it to be taken home and prepared for the table. The competitions for the Working Cocker Spaniel are known as Field Trials and are held on live game.

Field Trials can present many different scenarios and it is impossible to outline all situations that may occur but below is a brief outline of what is required of a dog at a Field Trial.

Working tests are generally held during the summer months to progress the dogs' training when the hunting season is closed. These tests are conducted using canvas dummies and simulate a given scenario during a day's hunting.

A brief guide to Field Trials

Field Trials are held to test the capabilities of the Working Cocker Spaniel at a number of tasks with the emphasis on its hunting ability, it must also mark the fall of game and retrieve it promptly to its handler with a soft mouth, a soft mouth meaning that the dog must not damage the game it is retrieving in any way.

Cocker Spaniels are required to work within shotgun range at all times, hunt the ground well and must not pass over game on the beat it is working at the Field Trial. The beat is the area of ground that is specified by the Judge which is to be hunted by the competing dog.

The primary job of a Cocker Spaniel is to find game and to flush it within range of the gun. The wind direction will have a considerable influence on the way a Cocker will work the ground and Judges will take account of the wind and the different ways dogs treat the ground in differing wind situations. With a head-on wind the dog should quarter the ground systematically, left and right of the handler. It must hunt out all likely game-holding cover within the beat but still keep within gunshot range. If the wind is a following wind, then the dog will likely pull out from the handler and work the beat back towards the handler.

It is during the quartering of a beat by a Cocker Spaniel in a Field Trial where the Judge will make as assessment of the dog's general ability in terms of game finding, pace, drive and style. The dogs are required to face cover bravely, be biddable and quarter the beat with minimal handling.

Where dogs catch or "peg" game they should be eliminated from the trial, except where the Judge is of the opinion that there were extenuating circumstances, for example, previously wounded game that did not flush. While the dogs are required to stop to flushed game or to the shot, it is permissible for a dog to move slightly to mark the fall of the game, for example a dog flushing from cover is permitted to leave the cover provided it checks after having left.

This shows intelligence on the part of the dog and is usually marked up by Judges. However, dogs continuing to hunt after the flush or shot will be eliminated from the trial.

The dogs are required to pick up cleanly, return quickly and deliver to hand.

The emphasis at Cocker Spaniel and Spaniel Field Trials is on the dogs' hunting and game finding abilities. They are required to retrieve and are scored accordingly but the emphasis is very much slanted towards hunting. Dogs at a Spaniel trial are run in pairs.

In the first round, odd numbers will run under the Judge on the left and, unless discarded, will run their second round under the Judge on the right of the line and vice versa.

In situations where there are top dogs of equal ability it is usual for these dogs to be run under the two Judges walking together. In this run-off situation, the main judging consideration should be style, pace and ground treatment.

A water test is performed on each dog that's in contention for prizes in which the dog must enter the water on command to retrieve game to its handler, failure to do so is subject to elimination.

A brief guide to Working Tests

Working Tests are held on ground where as far as possible simulate what may be encountered on a days hunting. Canvas dummies are used to simulate game and a dog is expected to hunt or quarter its ground as it would in a Field Trial. Each dog must perform a number of tasks as is set out prior to the test with the emphasis on hunting ability.


Founded in 1929. The parent Club of the English Cocker Spaniel breed in Ireland.

From the gallery