A reader who has previously owned English springers needs some advice ... Paul Rawlings replies
Q: I have owned English springers for many years but after seeing a cocker trial I am tempted to change breeds to cocker spaniels. First I would like some advice or information on the differences in training. Eventually I would like to take part in competitions if I can.
A: There is a wide diversity of type in both of these popular spaniel breeds, not only in the physical size but also in intelligence, trainability and biddability.
Cocker spaniels come in different sizes, different colours
Working-bred cockers vary in size, just as working springers do, and they come in a wide range of different colours. The majority are fairly small but their physical size does not make any difference to their training regime which is in line with the training for a springer. Cockers do have big hearts and usually are keen retrievers right from young puppies, though the odd one may bury the dummy.
Choose the colour you prefer
I prefer the more compact type
of cocker, with a dark eye and plenty
of tail action and drive. The larger types do not have more power as a rule and can look very “springery” when adult, especially the parti-colours. However, colour has no bearing on whether the puppy will be a good one, but it is always better to choose a colour you prefer.
Be aware that solid liver is difficult to see in thick cover and for visibility I always preferred black and white — though unless conformation was right they could look more like little springers.
If your eventual aim is to compete colour is not the most important factor. Research the top breeders and get one from a good working strain that is successful in trials. Starting with the right material will give you the best chance of training your new cocker for trials and, of course, as an excellent shooting companion.