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Judging The English Cocker Spaniel

Anne Rogers Clark

Transcribed from tapes recorded at The Dog Judges' Association of America Symposium February 8 - 9, 1980, New York City

    From the Standard we must ascertain what is the correct type for the English Cocker Spaniel.
    Type, to me, is what makes the dog look like its breed, and I must, from my own logic, start at one point and continue on from there.
    Correct type in an English cocker, in my opinion, is apparent in examining the animal in direct profile:
    What is its proportion? Its balance of length of leg to length of body. Its balance of bone to size. Its balance of neck length to back length. Its proportion of overall length of head to size of dog. Its length of foreface in proportion to length of backskull. Its depth of head in proportion to head length. Are the head planes level? Does the topline slope naturally? Does the elbow appear to be just underneath the highest point of the shoulder? Does the shoulder and forearm balance in approximate equal lengths? And is there an angle formed that is somewhere near 100 degrees between these two bones? Does the hindquarter stand comfortably just behind the body with a well-bent low stifle and short hock?
    All of this is pleasing. The animal on my first impression is typical, or can be considered to be within the guidelines set down in the Standard which makes him an acceptable animal to do the work intended.
    And now, does he move from the side? After all, this is the true test of the sum total of his parts. Does the topline remain gently sloping? Does the tail come up to fill the rest of the slope? Can the head be carried in many attitudes? Up, as he would if he were retrieving a bird. Slightly out in front of him for speed at the trot. and will the dog be able while moving to put his head to the ground to pick up a retrieve or to make a scent check? Does the front leg freely extend with no laboring action? Does the rear leg take a good stride under-neath the cocker? And is it able to follow through its arc, unimpeded by a too-sharply sloped croup?
    The temperament may be observed at this time: merry and eager, very typical by the Standard.
    And all this before you touch the specimen or really look at his head or rib spring.
    Now put him up on the table. Check his head, eye, ear, and mouth. Next, the fit and placement of his neck and shoulder. Check for correct heart-shaped rib, tail set, hindquarter and feet all round.
    Now for your coming and going soundness.
    And, once more around to let you see that typical, useful, functional cocker in side movement - the truest test, in my opinion, of the function and fit of all parts.
    What you have done is to judge the overall picture, made your first cut on type and rewarded the soundness of your typical specimens.

An untypical cocker that is sound is useless.

A typical cocker that is sound is priceless.