Breed Education Resources

This page is to help you find all resources to help you judge the English Cocker Spaniel

Judges Directives

The Breed Education Committee and breeder-judges of English Cocker Spaniels have noticed an increase in the number of questions regarding acceptable color and markings. In order to provide information on color and markings in accordance with the Breed Standard, this clarification was drafted by the Committee. The English Cocker Spaniel standard states under Color – “Various.”; then goes on to list the acceptable colors and markings in the breed. The AKC guidelines (1994, amended 2006) for writing breed standards states: “In breeds where multiple colors or color combinations are acceptable, but not all colors are permitted, the complete list of all acceptable colors and color combinations must be included in the standard. In such cases, any color or color combinations not mentioned are unacceptable, and judges are to pass judgment on this basis.” Please keep in mind when judging this breed, that color patterns occurring in breeds outside the Sporting group, such as brindle or sable, etc., are not described in the English Cocker Spaniel Breed Standard as they are neither parti-color (ticked, roaned, or open marked, with or without tan points) nor solid color (with or without tan points). Issued by the E.C.S.C.A. Breed Education Committee and approved by the Board of Directors of the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America, Inc. Issue Date: October 12, 2010
When judging the English Cocker Spaniel, it is important to remember the original purpose of the breed, which is to hunt in very dense cover. It must be understood that the English Cocker pushes through the cover and does not leap over it like the larger Springer or Setter. To function efficiently in this type of terrain and in this manner, the correct “cockery” dog must have well sprung ribs that are deep and carried well back, a short, broad back, a well-developed forechest, generous bone, a short, broad loin, and broad and muscular hindquarters. He is a compact, broad, and very powerfully built dog for his size. The English Cocker must be viewed from above to confirm that the well-sprung ribcage is the widest part of the dog, with an ample chest and a broad, “hammy” rear to support the body. An English Cocker lacking in substance that is long, narrow, refined, shelly, racy, and/or fine-boned, is “settery” in appearance, is atypical of the breed, and should not be rewarded.
“Bustling” is not included in the U.S. standard because it has been misinterpreted in the English standard. The English standard was written back in the day when standards were written by dog people for dog people, with many concepts mutually understood and assumed. The first three paragraphs of the English standard are titled: “General Appearance”, “Characteristics”, and “Temperament”. It is under “Characteristics”, and only there, that the word “bustling” appears, and it reads: “Merry nature with ever-wagging tail shows a typical bustling movement, particularly when following scent, fearless of heavy cover.” The pursuit of game birds was the reason for the breed’s development and existence, and the above is a description of its hunting demeanor. The English standard then goes on to describe the physical appearance of the breed in detail, beginning with “Head and Skull”. Ten paragraphs later is “Gait/Movement”, which states: “True through action with great drive, covering ground well.” That is pretty straight forward with no mention of “bustling”. When hunting, the English Cocker does indeed present a bustling movement, with a madly wagging tail, he busily darts here and there in a very active pursuit of bird scent. In the show ring, his movement is evaluated as above in the English standard and as follows in the U.S. standard: “The English Cocker is capable of hunting in dense cover and in upland terrain. His gait is accordingly characterized more by drive and the appearance of power than by great speed. He covers ground effortlessly and with extension both in front and in rear, appropriate to his angulation. In the ring, he carries his head proudly and is able to keep much the same top line while in action as when standing for examination. Going and coming, he moves in a straight line without crabbing or rolling, and with width between both front and rear legs appropriate to his build and gait.” The writers of the U.S. standard were wise to not include a hunting demeanor in the breed’s description, as the concept of “bustling” continues to occur occasionally in the wrong sense. It has been used for decades to forgive poor movement, steep croups, high rears, and incorrect tail sets.

Recommended Reading

Judging The English Cocker

Quick Study Mentor Cards.

Understanding ECS Rears

Proportions & Measurements

Quick Study Mentor Card: Measurements.