Working Cocker Spaniels can be excellent family dogs and superb loyal pets. They are not so big that they bowl children over, but can be very active. Training these dogs to house basics is very easy as they are very intelligent dogs and once your trust has been gained by the dog they will practically do anything you ask. They are friendly, outgoing and their temperament to children is second to none. They take to obedience training well, and enjoy a range of activities, including retrieving, flyball and agility. This breed is very trainable, so long as the owners are gentle as well as firm, since Working Cocker Spaniels are generally very sensitive dogs you should both have a good relationship without unnecessary problems.
If you decide you want to join a club and train for the field, real training for this type of work does not start until over 9 months of age, some would say to even stretch that to a year plus for Cocker Spaniels, the older and mature the dog, in their opinion things seem to come a lot easier to them, in fact most things seem to come to the older dog like a "JIGSAW PUZZLE" you will find when immature and the pup is not ready you will be going over and over again with the same things a lot more often so don’t be tempted get the house basics in, let the dog have its puppy hood and enjoy watching the dog grow from puppy to adult dog, you will thank yourself in the long run for this vital piece of information.
Working Cocker Spaniels adapt well to the house and to housetraining, they can also put on weight easily. This may be because owners find it hard to resist cute spaniel eyes telling them it's cold outside, or pleading for another titbit. Fat little pups tend to turn into obese adults with associated health problems, so it is important not to believe a little pup who tries to convince you he is starving. Working Cocker Spaniels need a fair amount of exercise, but none more so than any other cocker or dog come to that. Just because they were bred for working it doesn’t mean they need twice as much exercise. The only thing we would stress is that Working Cocker Spaniels are GUNDOGS and very intelligent dogs, they can become quickly bored with the same ground and routines that you take them to and the exercise for their minds in keeping active and busy must be stimulated at regular intervals, so try and go to different exciting grounds where they can bustle around to their hearts content.
On the grooming side, most of the working cocker strain is a lot easier than the show type. They love going in muddy places and through undergrowth, where they can pick up burrs and other debris, they also mat easily, which obviously must be brushed out at regular intervals, they are all excellent swimmers so be prepared for a very wet dog if walking near a river. Whereas show Cockers can also be quite barky dogs, Working Cockers are not so, if reared in the house they are quite quiet dogs in fact you will hear that some don’t bark at all, this is due to the fact that in Field Trials if the dog make any noise whatsoever they would be disqualified from the event, it makes sense as if the dog is working it has to be very quiet not to frighten game.
They also come in a variety of different colours like their show cousins to choose from. Once people buy a Working Cocker Spaniel they seem to want to get more involved and find out about the activities that are available for working and for Field Trials. Children usually like to take an active role in the training and should be encouraged to participate in the activities of your working spaniel, who knows in a few years’ time, they could be the next British Champion. We all have to start somewhere and it is a MUST to keep the sport alive with up and coming talent. If this is not encouraged this generation would be the last.
Before you decide whether you want to get involved with this sport you should find out as much as possible about countryside sports from a number of sources. If your dog comes from working stock, the breeder should be able to advise you about how to start to develop your dog into a working gundog and introduce you to other people in your area with similar interests. There are many large Game and Country Fairs held all around the country every year which are well worth attending if you want to find out more. There are usually working gundog demonstrations at these Fairs and you should take the time to not only watch the displays, but talk to those people involved and ask their advice. The Kennel Club also sends a stand to some of the larger Fairs and the staff are more than happy to discuss the sport with you and help to clarify any Rules and Regulations you need help with. There are plenty of specialist publications which are filled with articles and tips about training your gundog, and the role of the dog owner and dog in the countryside, such as ‘The Shooting Times’, ‘Shooting Gazette’ and ‘The Field’. These magazines also have sporting calendars which list when and where Game and Country Fairs are being held. The Kennel Gazette also features articles about Field Trials and gundogs as well as giving the dates of forthcoming Field Trials.
If you decide that this sport is for you, you can begin the process of training. You should remember that not only your dog must be fit and healthy to do a day’s work, but you should be as well. You will need to be fairly robust to be able to tramp across some of the rough terrain encountered on some country shoots! You should start with basic obedience. Beginning with a course like the Good Citizen Dog Scheme and progressing to more advanced Obedience training is an excellent basis for developing a working gundog. Having mastered basic obedience, you should then join a Field Trial Society. The Kennel Club will be able to help you find the most suitable society near to you. Field Trial Societies will be able to help you with specialist Field Trial training and can suggest trainers who may be willing to train you to the gun on a one to one basis. Training a working gundog is really a sport in itself and can take many years of hard work, developing a good rapport with your dog, to create a dog capable of working in the field.