Saturday, 22 October 2011

How the Yanks cocked-up the Cocker


Now this is a dog... (as opposed, that is, to a novelty valance) but it sure as hell ain't a gundog.  And yet this American Cocker - Afterglow Zippor Just Annabelle - just won Best in Show at the Gundog Society of Wales Show.

This breed needs to be re-classified as a Toy breed. Its retention in the Gundog Group does a disservice to those breeds that can and do still do the work for which they were bred. And, frankly, this amount of coat is a welfare issue  - not perhaps directly (as long as it is groomed regularly), but because top show dogs can't possibly get much of an opportunity to be dogs. There's certainly no way they could do a day in the field - it would ruin that all-important coat.

And how on earth do the males pee without soaking their coat?

Here's what the Americans have done to the Cocker...  from sturdy sporting dog to dome-headed,over-coated, increasingly-brachycephalic hairdresser's dog in 120 years.

1892: Ch Obo II - the foundation sire of the American Cocker Spaniel

2011: Casablanca's Thrilling Seduction, Westminster BOB
And here's how they did it...

1882
1887
1911

1921


1937 (if only they'd stopped here...)

1940 (or here...)


1941




1946




1953



1959




1969




1981




1983




1989




1993



2000


2011



116 comments:

  1. Nice post J!

    The good news is that while cocker spaniels are still a pretty common pet dog over here (though almost never a bird bird), these show ring monstrosities are almost never seen. In fact, outside of a show ring, I have never seen a dog with a head like the show dogs or a coat either. They are simply an impractical dog to own as a pet. And as a Welsh Gun Dog?! Lauging hysterically at that one, and I cannot wait until I see my welsh buddies later this month -- I will beat them 'round the head with it (all in fun, of course).

    A bit of history here is that the road to ruin with the cocker was not an accident -- it was a product of the human-sterilization eugencist and Hitler admirer Leon F. Whitney. I tell the story of how he acquired the Obo stock here >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2009/11/leon-whitneys-brood-stock-of-cockers.html and I detail his fascination with human eugenics here >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2008/12/eugenics-man-at-kennel-club.html

    As for cocked up dogs, I urge you to read the article I link to here about what has been done to english cockers by the "dual elgible" pretenders. >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2006/08/cocked-up-dogs.html The good news is that the folks who pretend and/or who need show ring rosettes as some sort of psychological salve cannot do too much harm to real dogs used by real men and women in real fields, forests and hedges. We would no more turn to a show dog for our work than an Innuit, a Berber or a Highland shepherd would for theirs.

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  2. Absolutely disgusting.

    I don't understand how people who claim to love their dogs can make them endure such privation for the sake of their own personal glory. The coat serves no purpose except to please the owner and the rosette giver.

    No doubt the anonotrolls will be along in a bit to parrot the usual "stop picking on our breed/try breeding before telling us what to do/my dogs are perfectly healthy" drivel.

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  3. I like the novelty valance analogy.

    I have, for some reason, always thought of them, when maintained for the show ring, as these:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oh0OdgjOdDk

    There's a more troubling aspect to the transformation of the American cocker, entirely aside from the My Little Pony hair and the disturbing skull deformities. Temperament.

    17 years as a professional trainer (and a whole life among dogs prior to that) and I have NEVER worked with a cocker that was safe and sane. (And precious few of the many cocker mixes -- the "cock-a-poo" is a dirt-common deliberate crossbreed that predates the "designer dog" fad by at least three decades.)

    A disturbing number of them have what appears to be fully neurological idiopathic aggression that presents in seizure-like episodes and is remarkably dangerous for such a small dog. Usually directed at the owners.

    Almost all the rest (and many of the "rage syndrome" animals as well) are just full-time nasty, or defensive, habitual hand-and-face biters. Not safe with children. Aggression is almost always owner-directed, frequently stranger-directed as well.

    Ask any pet groomer or veterinarian. What breed do you expect WILL --not might -- attempt a bite every time you have one on the table? These aren't warning snaps either -- the cockers go straight from a brief ominous stillness to a full-out uninhibited bite. Professionals and owners quickly learn to key onto that stillness and take evasive action.

    Of the single-digit numbers of sweet-natured purebred American cockers I've worked with, ALL have had another severe behavior issue -- obsessive-compulsive circling or licking, intransigent submissive urination (they have physiologically leaky bladders, too, forgot to mention that, and, of course, the chronic ear infections, which cannot improve their personalities) or seizure-like episodes that manifested as inconsolable terror rather than the more common psychotic aggression.

    Good times.

    My mother reports that the bite proclivities of cockers were well known when she was growing up in the 40's and 50's.

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  4. Don't think they were ever Welsh, Patrick. Or rather there was a Welsh Cocker, but think it got reclassified as a Springer. If Wikipedia is to be believed, anyway.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Cocker_Spaniel

    Jemima

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  5. is this the level of drivvel to be expected in PDE2? no wonder the BBC have now distanced you from the world of dogs and have taken on a new direction

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  6. Retromodernist... you're psychic!

    Jemima

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  7. Cockers were not the first fancy spaniels. Springers weren't either.

    The first two spaniels that became really quite distinct as show dogs were the Sussex and field-- the big difference between the two is that Sussex were liver and fields were black (although not always). These dogs were quite short-legged, and they became even more so during their height of popularity as show dogs. Fields were actually shorter-legged than Sussex. The field spaniel has had a major conformation adjustment, because it was so short-legged that it was deemed useless in the field.

    Both types of cocker derive from a Sussex/field crossbreeding that produced Obo, and it was one of Obo's sons, Obo II, that founded the American type of cocker.

    There were other dogs called cockers. Cocker was just a size. Cockers were the smaller sized spaniels. The larger ones were called springers, and you could get both in a litter. One of the dogs suspected in the foundational golden retriever pedigrees is a suspected red, as in English cocker spaniel red, English springer.

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  8. My late grandfather gunned over a cocker spaniel. Judy was a fine little grouse dog.

    She didn't look anything like these mops.

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  9. Nice photo series!

    Like Heather, my mother remembered the cocker as a ruined breed. Except she grew up in the 20's and 30's (in Minnesota). She spoke of cockers both as smart little hunting dogs, and as ill tempered show dogs, with the latter crowding the former out. We were raised (1950s) with a Springer, which Mom viewed as the nearest thing to an old style cocker that she could find.
    I'm confused, though, about which cocker Heather is talking about. I think the University of Cordova work on cockers and aggression was done, not on the American cocker spaniel, but on the regular cocker. I suspect that breeding has harmed both variants. . . .though the visual aspects are most spectacular in the Am. version in the show ring.

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  10. There are a few people who hunt test American cockers. They clip them down very much, and if memory serves, I remember seeing a program about a woman who was trying to breed the original coat again.

    Most working-type cockers are of the English breed, and they have also diverged quite a bit from this type. Many of them look like small Brittanys.

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  11. This time, Jemima, you have cocked up!

    Yes, there is an overabundance of coat on the American cocker, but coat can be trimmed for hunting. And, yes, there are temperament problems, probably allied to epilepsy, in the breed. It has been exceedingly popular in the States for nearly a century now and is small enough to appeal to puppy farmers, etc. Show breeders aren't to blame for everything!

    But the American Cocker is coming in for a revival as a hunting dog, and the hunting instincts are very often found in show stock. Of course, hunting lines are more dependably trained to the gun, but the show lines are often still quite capable of the work, given a haircut.

    Go to http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CFPage?mode=article&objectID=31053&storeId=10151&catalogId=10001&langId=-1
    for more information.

    They are still a game little dog.

    Nonetheless, keep up your good work. Things aren't quite as hopeless as they sometimes seem, but the questions must be asked.

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  12. Jennifer, I'm referring to the American cocker, pet and show-bred.

    English cockers are uncommon here. I've only worked with one. She was a bit shy, but not crazy. I don't have enough of a sample size to speak to the English cocker.

    I've been told that the "rage" type disorder also appears among English cockers, and it certainly does among English springer spaniels.

    So I postulate that the genetics for this problem were lurking in the original gene pool from which all the modern spaniels of this lineage derived.

    A combination of inbreeding (if your popular sire, often said to have been My Own Brucie, had the genetics for the problem) and lack of culling (keeping insane or nasty dogs in the breeding pool) would be the way to spread the issue or issues uniformly in across the newly-derived breed. That appears to be what has happened.

    I honestly believe that the American cocker breed is not salvageable as an acceptable pet, nevermind gundog. I used to suggest that people looking for small spaniel-ish dogs for family pets look into CKCS. Now I don't know what to say.

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  13. This page gives a glimpse into the thinking of those that have favored the 'plush' head. - http://www.showcockers.com/standard.html - "Which one is the right one? That is the big dilemma!

    The "plush lovers" say the skull of the sporting heads aren't round enough and the foreface is too long.

    And the "sporting lovers" say the plush heads' foreface is too short and sometimes the eyes are too round. And they never will be able to work on the fields because they couldn't carry a bird.

    I like the plush head better and as I think the head is so important, I do my best to breed dogs with plush ones. I am what people call a "head hunter". It is quite difficult for me to like a dog without a plush head."

    The last wonderful Cocker I owned was 40 years ago.

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  14. Very interesting photos. The 1921 photo looks a little like a modern UK working cocker. Then, judging by the next photo (and quite aside from all the other sad changes) for some reason the US breeders decided to reposition the top of the ears an inch lower, just as we have done in our own show cockers. Not sure what that is about?

    Incidentally Heather 'cocker rage' seems to be confined to show cockers in the UK, the working strain, now totally different in appearance to the show variety, fortunately seems to have escaped this affliction along with the other unpleasant changes such as impractically long ear and ridiculous amounts of hair.

    It is truly sad to see the degeneration of the American cocker during the last century illustrated so graphically.

    Pippa

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  15. what proof does Pippa M have to make the claim that rage is only in show cockers?

    I have to say if this is the path you are still going down for your next programme it seem as in the first one your view/mindset is already made up so to call it anything else but a personal (and very narrow) view would be anything but unfair, but this begs the question should the BBC really fund the view of one person? will they allow for another programme to be made to give the needed balance? Perhaps if Crufts returns to the BBC it might show a full and more balanced view.

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  16. J. These dogs, according to you, just won the Best in Show at the Gundog Society of WALES Show. That means the welsh gave them a ribbon at their gun dog show, the reason for the mirth. No one talking about a Welsh cocker!

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  17. According to what my mother (American, b. 1928) told me, American Cockers' temperament problems go back to WWII when they were thoroughly overbred by all and sundry for the patriotic appeal of their being an American breed. Dachshunds had their name changed to "Liberty Pups" at the same time.

    This is not to say that show breeders didn't try to overlook a very real problem and thereby increase it. But I do think it is unfair to point to them as the source of all the problems in dogs.

    Now, if we could only persuade ALL show breeders to become part of the solution to those problems,it would be great! Some are already working very hard at improving the health of their dogs.

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  18. I was dismayed when Patsy Hollings gave the Gundog Group at Crufts to an American Cocker.... I agree that this dog should be reclassified. I know that a lot of gundog people agree! There is no evidence to back up the assertion that cocker rage is an infliction of the working cocker. The working cockers are bred for health, temperament and working ability and are, in the main, very healthy and appear not to suffer to the same extent as show cocker spaniels. Incidentally, show cockers and working cockers are classed by the KC as Cocker Spaniels. It has been said that people crossing the show type with the working type has introduced some of the problems affecting the show cocker into the working cocker bloodlines. You can cross a show with a working and still have a pedigree cocker spaniel. People tried to get the breeds separated because of the distinct differences - they look nothing like each other - but I understand that the KC refused. Some people who want to buy a show cocker end up with a working cocker - and all the exercise and mental stimulation that goes along with it. That said, I would never have any other type of spaniel than a working cocker. Fantastic little dogs, incredibly intelligent and as long as they get the stimulation they need they make fantastic family pets. They're not hyper or mad like somebody said in another thread. They are simply bred to do a job of work and, thankfully, because of this we don't see the same problems as the show cockers - although working cockers are recommended to have health screening and most good breeders will do this. I personally think its a sin to see these ACSs...

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  19. American Cocker Spaniels are brachycephalic? News to me.

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  20. Sarah, the "Liberty Pup" nonsense was during the First World War, when the British similarly converted the German shepherd dog into an "Alsatian."

    For the Dachshund's sake, the name was only an ad-man's neologism, and the breed name was never bowdlerized. The GSD had to tolerate being French (and perhaps fed on Freedom Fries, er, chips) until what, the 1980's?

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  21. Obo wasnt the foundation of American Cockers, I do wish you get some things right, or cant you do an honest job when I comes to research?

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  22. I'm not sure I understand what others are finding objectionable about this breed. Is it because they feel it's essentially a toy dog masquerading as a gun dog and that it's unfair to proper gun dogs? Or is it because it's been bred to be no longer able to function as the breed was originally suited? If it's the latter, then surely people that feel that way are aware that would mean any dog unsuitable for working is by definition supposedly inferior to dogs that can?

    Some breeds were bred to fight. Does that mean we should disparage the exceptions to that breed trait for being too good-natured? And what about those breeds who were never meant to serve any official purpose? And what about mongrels then?

    And, if we're judging the breed on how their abilities alone, shall we ignore the health concerns that come along with the physical traits that enable them to be so able to serve their purpose? Surely Bassetts and Dachshunds are more vulnerable to back problems, but they're shapes enable them to do what Bassetts and Dachshunds do.

    I understand the point of this blog, and I appreciate it and the issues it brings to light. I read it regularly. However, this breed seems to me like it should be way further down the list of breeds we need to improve for the breed's sake. The dog's coat surely isn't so outrageous that it's vastly worse than some others...or what about those dogs who hardly have a coat at all? American Cocker Spaniels are a long-lived breed with relatively few health issues. Mine lived to be 2 days shy of her 15th birthday, and she was a healthy dog most of her life. Her temperament was by far no worse than the cranky Chihuahua I grew up with.

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  23. You can hunt with an American cocker. It's just harder to find one that still has the instincts and biddability. All you have to do is clip away the fuzz.

    But this brings up a bigger question:

    If you are just a regular hunter, which are you going to choose: a working English springer, which has coat that is not that extreme and many generations of selection for working ability, or an American cocker, which might be physically capable of doing the work and may want to, but it must be shaved off before you can use it?

    My guess is you're going to go with a working English springer.

    American cockers used to be the most popular dog in the country. And they held this title for many years.

    As a result, there are tons of crappy cockers about, which is why people are leery of buying them these days.

    It just takes one bite for the rumor mills to go crazy, and soon, no one wants to buy one as a family dog.

    I once thought they should be removed from the Gun Dog/Sporting group, but I don't think that helps them or the breeders who are trying to sort some of this craziness out.

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  24. Obo was the father of Obo II, who was the basis for the American cocker spaniel. Obo was the basis of the English cocker spaniel.

    So Obo was the basis of both. He wasn't the sole ancestor, of course. Otherwise, we'd be talking about how inbred they are.

    There were other cockers before these dogs and they are in the pedigrees, too. It's just that these two dogs became the most important sires.

    Cocker just referred to the smaller size of working land spaniel. Spingers were the larger size. You could get both in the same litter. Fields and Sussex could produce cockers. There was a lot more crossbreeding of types then. Obo the Elder was a first cross between a Sussex and a Field, which is why many cockers had shorter legs-- and you still see shorter legs in working type English cockers.

    Shorter, but not like a Sussex spaniel or the old Field spaniel, which was like a dachshund spaniel.

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  25. Anon @ 23:36 wrote: "Obo wasnt the foundation of American Cockers, I do wish you get some things right, or cant you do an honest job when I comes to research?"

    Obo II is very widely cited as such. But always happy to be corrected - ideally with the information that proves the point. Perhaps you could provide?

    Jemima

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  26. What's happened to their tails? Not the docking so much as the girth? The show cockers look like they have a pencil tail as opposed to the healthy stump of the older cockers. Is that an optical illusion or a hair cut issue or have fancy breeders found a way to diminish the quantity of spinal bone?

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  27. Interesting point. The tails are shaved or clipped, it would appear, but it seems as if they should still have a bit more substance relative to the size of the dog.

    All my immediately available dogs have rather furry (and normal-length) tails, so I'm bothering them all by squeezing the fur down at the bases and trying to imagine them naked. They seem to be (relative to each dog's overall size) about twice as thick as the cocker's tails.

    Except for the 12-week-old pup, who is currently in the unfortunate mode we call the 'rat-tail phase.'

    FWIW, that page illustrating the cocker standard that went on and on about "plush" and "sporting" heads was one of the most bizarre reads I've had in a long while.

    One thing I noticed, though, was how unhappy ALL of the dogs looked. Not a one of them seemed to be enjoying life, and a bunch of them, including puppies, seemed really ticked off. A few sour expressions I could write off to camera-shyness or just being manhandled for the photos -- but ALL of them? Like, 40, 50 dogs?

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  28. Since the goal of every responsible breeder is improvement of the breed, maybe an American Cocker breeder would like to weigh in here, and describe how these modern dogs are an improvement on the older dogs.

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  29. The change in the appearance of the tail is due to a change in grooming. Feathering was kept on what was left of the docked tail though trimmed for a neat outline. Nowadays the feathering is trimmed completely off so that now you have what appears to be a thinner tail.

    Rage syndrome can affect all breeds of dog and all types of a breed, show or working type. Very few instances of aggression in Cockers or Springers are actually due to rage syndrome. Mostly the case is a dog with a terrible temperament due to bad breeding.

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  30. Jess, they are more "refined," doncha know. The old dogs were "coarse." Certainly "common."

    How am I doing?

    Anon 04:31, while I agree that many self-diagnosed, or GP vet-diagnosed, cases of 'rage' are, in fact, just the characteristically nasty temperament, two points:

    This neurological problem is, fortunately, vanishingly rare in dogs, dead-common in American cocker and English springer spaniels. I've seen it in one golden retriever that also had regular seizures and a very bad temperament, one Labrador, heard of it credibly in bull terriers -- and expect to see it about 20% of the time if the client's dog is a springer or American cocker. These are the breeds in which the genetics of 'rage' are studied, not Maltese or mastiffs.

    I am not at all certain that the 'rage' is as divorced from overall genetic temperament as the eggheads want us to think. Most of the dogs that had seizure-like episodes of clocked-out berserking were also snappy little tyrants the rest of the time. The only dramatic exception I can think of was the Lab. It is hard to parse out what is going on with the full-time nasties, which is one of the challenges of correctly diagnosing 'rage' in the first place.

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  31. The simple facts are that most working gundogs are bred for their working ability, temperament and being fit and healthy enough to survive the rigors of work.

    Show dogs are bred to conform to some "standard" in which the primary interest is the dogs appearance, not whether it is healthy or beneficial for the dog to be like that.

    Most working cockers are intelligent, active, biddable, with great natures and natural instincts.

    It is saddening to see such "Plush headed" brainless psycho floor sweepers being bred for a moment of gratification and a tin cup.

    It is the unnecessary docking of show dogs to meet a breed standard that has gone a long way to causing the outlawing of tail docking in Scotland. For breeds which do hunt and work, tail docking was done to avoid future injury, pain and suffering not to satisfy some pompous judges.

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  32. Has anyone on here criticising these cockers as "floor sweepers" and the like actually owned one? If you had, you'd realize that the pictures in this post are of dogs in the show circuit. I'd say I've actually never seen one actually look like that outside of the show circuit. Their coats are trimmed about every 3 months, and most people have the cut quite short. Criticizing the breed for the looks of the show pictures in this post is about as ridiculous as overtly criticizing Maltese, Yorkies, Bichons, Poodles, Pulis, etc. for the way those show dogs look as if all dogs of those breeds are burdened with an unhappy life when the reality is that rarely do you see those same dogs actually groomed to walk around looking like that.

    Why are so many on here criticizing the Am Cocker for not adhering any longer to those traits that make it a good gun dog? One person on here referred to whether or not you'd "use" the Am Cockers as opposed to other Cockers when hunting. I think the key word here is "use". If a dog is looked upon primarily as an object to be "used", then I propose that the dog's health is actually secondary, and that attitude is no better than that of breeders whose goal is a dog who will win in the show ring.

    Just food for thought.

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  33. Hi Jemima, with all due respect I think you might be ''losing the plot'' with this particular blog post. More and more of late, you seem to be drifting away from your original message of health reform and taking cheap shots at just about every aspect of purebred dogs, because you can.

    American Cockers are classified as the smallest member of the gundog group here in the UK, US and the rest of the world. Toy group?!? The girl in the photograph stands around 15'' and probably weighs about 15kg, so hardly fragile. Braceocyphalic (sp?).....come one, not remotely.

    With regard to hunting: yes, they ''can'' but most people don't hunt these days full stop. I don't own a gun nor desire to kill things. Fair play if you do, but its not my scene. My neighbour has a Beagle, and they aren't hunter's either....is that a bad thing? I'm a bit confused.

    Here's a link to a US breeder who is actively involved in hunting as well as showing http://www.versatilecockers.com/Field.htm

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  34. I'm Anon 4:31 and 14:55 --

    I was trying to make the same point as Brit, (but he/she has done a much more articulate job of it. :-)) in that most dogs (purebred or not) aren't used as working dogs. Therefore, so long as they're happy and healthy, what difference does it make if they do the best job of pointing at prey, digging up a vermin, retrieving a bird, killing prey, guarding a house, beating a bull, winning in the pit, etc., etc., etc.? I would argue that focusing too much on the work they can do for you is exploiting the dog in the first place.

    Most people have a dog for companionship. I agree with the premise of this blog to promote breed health. However, some articles and reader comments seem to be more worried about a dog's ability to be useful as a working dog.

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  35. http://www.acscgb.com/?p=p_40&sName=health-information

    Taken from the UK breed club.... I wouldn't say these are "relatively few" health conditions. Some very very serious eye problems there.... :-(

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  36. Kate @ 17:09 wrote: "Most people have a dog for companionship. I agree with the premise of this blog to promote breed health. However, some articles and reader comments seem to be more worried about a dog's ability to be useful as a working dog."

    The point is not that every dog must work - of course not - but that there are lessons to be learned from the working dogs in how the work shapes the breed. Working bassets, spaniels, setters, labradors, mastiffs, German shepherds, collies - they are very often considerably more moderate than their show counterparts - less bone, less hair, less angulation. In some breeds we've seen wholesale remodelling by the showring and while, sure, a bit of extra coat isn't going to hurt, in other instances it has been clearly detrimental.

    Jemima

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  37. This says it better than I ever could:

    http://saluqi.home.netcom.com/belkin.htm

    Jemima

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  38. What bothers me immensely is the written standards that call for a dog to need a specific form to be able to do the work it was supposed to do...a dog needs a certain topline to be fluid in the field or a certain head shape, and must show smoothness of movement when gaiting at a trot...yet if you look at real dogs who do these jobs very few conform to these specifications. Its all cosmetic and not functional for the work or even really a pet person. If the average pet person needs to keep a cocker clipped down to be a functional pet, why on earth are the show dogs being bred with the ridiculous coats? What pet owner wants to maintain a coat like we see on the Maltese or Yorkie in the show ring? To Kate I say that for many people the work is actually important, there are still real working dogs in this world. But just as importantly, it was the work that created the breed...a certain set of characteristics that were needed for that type of dog to be that type. Temperament and personality is included in that character set. I say if you don't want a dog with those characteristics you should reconsider wanting that breed because you like the way it looks or it fits an image you have, as opposed to changing the breeds to meet the needs of a pet owner. Keep working breeds for working and companion types as easy to manage pets.

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  39. If people want to groom dogs then why are you people so irate about it? Get a life. Sorry but get over it

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  40. "If people want to groom dogs then why are you people so irate about it?" . . . . probably because those of us that loved the breed and who don't have a use for this coat (even when clipped) have had it 'improved' out from under us.

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  41. Heather Houlahan said...

    "Jess, they are more "refined," doncha know. The old dogs were "coarse." Certainly "common."

How am I doing?"

    Actually, it's a legit question. Look at any 'how to spot a responsible breeder' list, and 'shows their dogs' and 'breeds to improve or better the breed' will be right at the top. I don't think it's too much to ask, how these changing traits 'improve' the breed, because I believe the answer will give you some insight into the breeder's priorities and motivations.

    For instance, in this case, you could ask, "How does this increase in coat improve the breed, or make it better?" You might get answers like this (I am just guessing since nobody took the bait on my question except Heather, and she doesn't count.)

    "The early dogs would have grown that much coat if they'd had proper shampoo and brushes." This breeder is delusional.

    "They really aren't used for hunting any more so it's okay that their coats have become so much work that they are routinely clipped if not being shown." What's the point of breeding for that much coat in the first place if it needs to be cut off to make the dog 'normal maintenance?' Why not breed a 'normal maintenance' dog?

    "We like the way it looks." This answer is at least honest.

    "Oh, we hate the coat but it's very difficult to put a championship on a dog without it." So winning is the priority, then? Or is it that if you don't show, you're not 'responsible?'

    The Cockers I remember when I was growing up, and there were several, didn't have nearly that much coat. However, the pet breeders that produce animals with moderate coats aren't the ones being held up as the epitome of dog breeding, the truly 'responsible' breeders. They are usually vilified. I know why pet breeders don't breed for a lot of coat (too much maintenance.) Why do show breeders feel that such an obvious change is a desirable thing?

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  42. Annie - I looked at the link. Things like cruciate ligaments, hip dysplasia, patella luxation, dermatitis... These are all conditions any number of breeds suffer from. I have a couple of bound books with basic information for every breed. Those conditions are listed on so many that I start to discount them as breed specific. I'm not saying those are things that, if noticed in a dog, should be disregarded. Any dog who suffers from those things possibly shouldn't be bred regardless of whether it's an Am Cocker or mongrel.

    When I had my Cocker, it was just common sense to keep the hair around the eyes trimmed as it could get in the eyes and cause irritation. What breed is it that has so much hair that you'd never guess they had eyes at all, much less that they actually have good eye sight? I can't remember, but it was a *working* breed and, therefore, intended to be that way. Hey, I'm not saying it's right to make a dog look a certain way while sacrificing health. Definitely not. But let's not say that it's justified if a dog is bred to have certain working abilities at the expense of its health. Bassetts have huge ears by design. (OK, I'm not promoting the show version.) But even the working standard's ears pick up a lot of gunk, and that makes Bassetts prone to ear infections. Does it make it alright that those ear infections are a consequence of trapping scents so Bassetts can be better scent hounds? Because, if we're going to target Cockers for health predispositions due to their physical appearance, it's really not that different if the goal is the ultimate scent hound. (I owned a Bassett cross with shorter ears and less extreme breed traits, and I can vouch that those ears are still vulnerable to infection.)

    Beth and Anon 20:28 - Don't forget that we're talking about the Am Cocker Spaniel. No one is messing with the English Cocker. Unless the breeders of them take a liking to the American version, I don't see how that breed is being changed to suit the fancy or improve it out from under you. The people that want the American version are, I suspect, not looking for a working dog. They're looking for a companion dog, which brings me back to my original question: Why do so many people object to it? So it won the gun dog prize...so what? Call it a toy dog then because it seems to me that the frustration is more with the fact for many on here that it no longer fits the description 'gun dog' rather than with anything to do with health or happiness of the dog.

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  43. The american cocker is a lovely breed ~ they are very versatile. They are small and compact, but they are built for speed and strength. They are not going to cover the ground as fast as a Springer, yet they are very efficient for their size and can get into areas of cover that other dogs cannot. they mark well and they love to swim. A correct, healthy cocker is a pleasure to hunt over. I am an AKC hunt test judge and also show my cockers in conformtion. They are easy to train and easy to live with. the standard was written with the gun dog in mind. Yes, in the show ring you will see more coat than is needed. Take the coat down and you have a nice working dog. We have held instinct tests at several of our national shows and cockers have maintained the hunting instincts quite well. Just because you may not like the look from ring side, doesn't mean these dogs lack any gun dog instinct. Here is a link to article called; Second Coming of the American cocker: http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CFPage?mode=article&objectID=31053&storeId=10151&catalogId=10001&langId=-1

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  44. Kate, I am Anon 20:28 and I WAS speaking about the Am Cocker Spaniel . . . . and it has been "improved" out from under myself and many others that happily owned these dogs as wonderful pets 40 years ago. Now, as I watch a friends on occasion, I will state absolutely that I will not touch the breed on the point of coat care alone.

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  45. I wonder is Ms Harrison will now be up in arms because a Yorkshire terrier is now too small to kill a rat, or that Greyhounds arnt being used to quarry hares, or Teckles arnt used to kill badgers anymore!!

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  46. Anon - OK. I didn't realize the Am Cocker has been in the UK that long so I assumed you were talking about the English Cocker. I only know the Am Cocker as it is from about 20 years ago until today so can't compare what it was prior to that. I knew when I got my girl that it would mean regular visits to the groomers. I just accepted it as something that came with having an Am Cocker.

    FWIW, she was a healthy dog discounting certain incidents where she enjoyed stealing a box of chocolate truffles from the dining room table. Ear infections -- none more than other dogs I've had...certainly not as many as the Bassett. Eye infections -- only when I didn't keep the hair around the eyes trimmed... Her sight failed, but that was old age (13-ish). No joint problems except for a bit of arthritis around 12/13. No skin problems. In fact, any health problems she had were pretty much self-induced courtesy of truffles and the like.

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  47. The Am cocker Spaniel was, when I first reasearched it in the late 80's, my ideal dog. ( a family dog, in size and was smal enough to travel easily. { How many larger size dogs NEVER go on vacation with their ownersz or are puppy sat or kenneled somewhere?) Yes, I read about the inbreeding almost 60 decades proir to my interest[but alsoclearned the characteristics of what t look for in a quality breeder]; and the possible required grooming [and eventually learned to groom my own cockers]. I also learned from biology class in high school that each parent contributes 50% of the pups genetic makeup. I was lucky to find a local breeder that summer AND FELL IN LOVE with my first cocker pup.

    She was of a temperment to earn a Therapy dog title and make weekly visits to a nursing home. She was so untrainable that she erned an Open Obedience [requiring jumping and retrieving] titles in the US AND in on vacations in Canada, which I spent at dog shows there. We also competed in agility events in multiple venues in her middle years.

    No, she was not a "show dog", but as a family pet there is none better.

    I was fortunate to also have a breeder who encouraged obedience training, which we did attend weekly classes for over nine years. No it wasn't because it was needed but becaus we enjoyed it! Each cocker since over the last 21 has also attended obedience classes, but now, I am also a wiser dog owner. and have therapy and obedience titles on every one of my cockers since Belle.

    Belle's second favorite activity a jumping off docks after her retrieving bumper that made be believe in dock dogs before the sport existed! NO instinct? HA! You have yet to meet a proper Ameican Cocker!

    In Loving Memory of
    Sundowne "Belle" Seranade, A/C CDX, AD, OA, CGC/TDI

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  48. I have found the American cocker to have a high rate of cherry eyes. I gave up on them due to their bad eyes, aprox 600.00 for surgery, then there are meds, and complications after that. Next is cataracts. I have seen some cockers go into a trance and just become aggressive with no stopping them. Beautiful dogs with problems with their brains and eyes. I have seen a line of beautiful cockers with a lineage of cherry eyes, breeding a stud and the stud goes blind within a few years. It is terrible and no one including the AKC is stopping it! I am always spending money on ear infections. Thick leather ears and constant problems, how could they go into the water to get a bird! I am done with American cockers and they are not the only purebred with problems! Once again, AKC will do nothing about it. They do not document the problems and work on their health! They just keep breeding!

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  49. I have found the American cocker to have a high rate of cherry eyes. I gave up on them due to their bad eyes, aprox 600.00 for surgery, then there are meds, and complications after that. Next is cataracts. I have seen some cockers go into a trance and just become aggressive with no stopping them. Beautiful dogs with problems with their brains and eyes. I have seen a line of beautiful cockers with a lineage of cherry eyes, breeding a stud and the stud goes blind within a few years. It is terrible and no one including the AKC is stopping it! I am always spending money on ear infections. Thick leather ears and constant problems, how could they go into the water to get a bird! I am done with American cockers and they are not the only purebred with problems! Once again, AKC will do nothing about it. They do not document the problems and work on their health! They just keep breeding!

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  50. The American Cocker hasn't just suffered in looks... When I was trying to breed cockers, you wouldn't believe all of the crap I went through. Cherry eyes left and right, they were practically ADHD or austrailian shepherd in energy which I don't see as a cocker trait, one got a really bad case of folliculitis (a giant cyst that had to be cut out), as well as chronic ear infections.

    I've chatted with the ACS breeders, and they actually say to BREED a cocker with cherry eyes. I was outraged. This is why I no longer want to touch an ACS with a ten foot pole, and really others shouldn't either, you will get a rude surprise. I know one particular stud who I got several puppies from (of which one was the foliculitis pup and that particular stud always produced cherry eyes as every puppy I got from him did) who had at least 13 litters in the time I knew him, and the lady sold him without neutering him and now another unsuspecting breeder is continuing to breed him. They stuck him in a kennel outside with no hood, and it gets very cold and snowy here, I feel so bad for him. I then saw her post a craigslist ad saying he has cataracts (due to "old age", yeah right) and she was selling him because she needed to "downsize on dogs"... I've thought about buying him just so I could neuter him and get him the care he needs. Its absolutely disgusting how these people behave. Cockers are what started my hatred of the AKC and purebred breeders and are why I breed mutts.

    The only good cocker I've ever had was a merle. He looks like the old cockers here, has a wonderful laid back personality that is very sweet, but he still has problems with ear infections. Figures that a dog whose looks have been exiled by the AKC would be the best cocker I've ever had.

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  51. I have had the pleasure of owning two American Cocker Spaniels. Well actually, one Am Cocker and one Am Cocker/English Springer (not bred on purpose, but rather an oops situation, but a wonderful oops).

    My first Cocker was almost 23 years ago. She had what they call a field coat, meaning, thinner, and not as much grooming. More desirable as a pet from a grooming standpoint, and her breeder said they bred with this in mind. She was a wonderful, loving, sweet, and very smart companion. Her head was not domed. I would have 10 like her if I was able. She was unassuming, yet everyone who met her fell in love with her. I groomed her myself it was that easy.

    My second was the Am Cocker/Eng Springer mix. He had surprisingly much more hair, and required more grooming, but could be kept in decent shape with grooming every 3 months or so. He was also a wonderful little guy that was a wonderful companion.

    Neither of my dogs ever bit or attempted to bite anyone. Neither were barkers, and they certainly didn't obsessively circle or lick (being of the sweet natured variety that you mentioned Heather). They both were prone to ear infections, but so is my friends Lab.

    Perhaps instead of looking for changes within the physical appearance of the breed to criticize, we should look for ways to improve the health of our beloved pets. No doubt over breeding, and small gene pools are issues for many breeds with severe health issues. But the large number of puppy farms within the US is a major factor in inherited disease/disorders in many breeds seen in the US.

    We need legislation that puts the puppy farmers out of business.

    I'd prefer to look for solutions rather than criticism.

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  52. Oh, and I forgot to add, that particular stud also had another litter earlier this year while in the care of the lady who purchased him. Two already look like they have obvious cataracts (I'm not just talking cloudy, I mean full on white). After that is when he was posted on craigslist, but still in tact. He was a champion too, which is why I got puppies from him.

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  53. Having read some of the fiction in this blog I would like to make an observation that seems to be missing from the posts.
    They should all start "IN MY OPINION". Because that's what it is, your opinion, "in my opinion".

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  54. Am. Cocker Spaniels still have plenty of muzzle to retrieve and the claim they are brachycephalic is just plain ludicrous. All these people claiming 'they can't hunt', have they ever tried? The fact is that most breeds don't do the job anymore once bred for, may that be ratters, guarders, hunters or earth dogs. A lot of the same people complaining about the Am Cocker's non functional properties are the same ones who hate hunting and want to ban it. Things that make you go, hhhmmm.

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  55. i read a story online about your 'dogs today' whisker plucking story, which was picked up by a newspaper, which ended up scoring a poodle groomer a really large £££ payout for defamation...

    jemima, you seem to be loading the gun, and when others accidentally fire it, you wave a white flag.

    plastering a piccie of someone's pet dog, and branding them as a welfare issue is at the least inappropriate, and at worst,libellous.

    i see you as a basically decent person at conflict with the well intended campaigner sitting on one shoulder, and the salivating fame hungry tabloid attention seeker dancing seductively on the other.

    id say this blog was a point for the latter.

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  56. I can think of many reasons for not breeding dogs with such extreme coats.
    what is the point of breeding dogs like that if they only look "nice" on show days and the rest of the time are in curlers.
    Grooming and keeping them clean takes a lot of time and if you clip them thats going to take you 2 hours + ever 6 weeks or cost you a fortune to get someone else to do it.

    But the main reason is sadly not all dogs get good homes no matter how hard the breeder tries. it is totally unfair to breed a dog with so much coat that if it ends up with an idiot for an owner its going to get matted & diseased. I once shaved a young afghan who's legs where matted together and its head matted to its chest so it could barely move. Its coat came off pretty much in one piece.

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  57. i propose that both toenails and teeth are a welfare issue.....nails grow too long, hurt the poor dogs feet and legs, then bleed when they are eventually trimmed.........teeth harbour bacteria and lead to disease

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  58. Am. Cocker Spaniels still have plenty of muzzle to retrieve and the claim they are brachycephalic is just plain ludicrous"

    Actually brachycephalic does not mean a totally flat face , cavaliers are classed as brachycephlic as are many other breeds without flat faces.
    & My griffon can retrieve

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  59. Anon 13:15 - Define a fortune. Mine was groomed professionally every 3 months, and the cost was small. She had a good bath and blow dry, as well, and I think in the end she walked out of there a happy dog.

    I see what you're saying about the possibility that Am Cockers with such coats would suffer were they to end up in the hands of an irresponsible owner who doesn't bother to manage the coat. However, the same could be said of many different breeds of dogs with coats that must be maintained. Shall we stop breeding poodles, Bichons, Yorkies, Maltese, Pulis? And what shall we do with dogs with barely a coat at all since they (by the same logic) could end up in the hands of someone who doesn't care and leaves them outside in the harsh winter or to sunburn in the summer? What about Golden Retrievers and other breeds who have coats that easily pick up all kinds of uncomfortable foliage in the woods and fields. They could end up with an owner who doesn't remove it for them, and that could be awful. And what about Bassetts prone to ear infections. They could end up with owners who don't bother to clean them or take them to the vet when they become infected. What about dogs that have easily broken bones like Chihuahuas and Papillon? They could end up with owners with rowdy children and not bother to explain to the children that they must not rough the dog about. It should be clear by now where I'm going with this one.

    Lots of dogs need grooming. Others have other needs, and they could all end up with owners who don't care for them adequately.

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  60. Kate, your points are so valid and logical....and will fall on completely deaf ears in this forum!

    You're right....how far can you go down this 'welfare' route?

    Until we end up with an end to domesticated pets?

    And we didn't think PETA had such a prescence in the UK!

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  61. They may not be brachycephalic but let's just say they are less mesocephalic than they used to be.

    The domed head also accentuates this appearance.

    The shortening of muzzles is also happening in golden retrievers. If you look at many of the early dogs they were quite long-muzzled.

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  62. So this is a rant about the coat of a dog which can easily be trimmed back and maintained . ..

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  63. Kate,

    I will be the first to say that golden retrievers are being bred with entirely inappropriate coats. Too much feathering and not enough undercoat for protection.

    They are also getting too cobby to be agile on land or swim light on the water.

    There is an attempt to breed the dogs so they look like Nous, the foundational sire in the breed. However, Nous was alive at the time when the general wavy-coated retriever, as was being campaigned by Dr. Bond Moore and Sewallis Shirley was a large, heavily boned dog. The dog, Ch. Zelstone (b. 1880), who appears in both golden and flat-coat pedigrees, was said to have been an ideal specimen. But these big dogs were too slow in the field. The modern flat-coated retriever is based upon Zelstone's more famous son, Ch. Moonstone, (b. 1882). Golden retrievers held onto the cobby phenotype for a while, but they lost it over time. Many of the first goldens that were registered with KC were nothing more than red or yellow flat-coats in appearance, though some were quite wavy-coated. The had this more lithe body-type until the 1938 KC standard revision. Then they started down the Nous-Zelstone anachronism road. Many working type dogs maintained the lighter frame, and many still do today. In the US, the breed was first founded on the old lithe golden in the Midwest, but in the 1950's, East Coast breeders started importing cobby dogs from the UK. That caused a lot conflict in the breed in the US, which still exist today, even though the ACK conformation golden has become something distinct from either the lithe working type and the cobby European show type. It's more like a large American cocker.

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  64. I've had American cockers my whole life. While the high stop is certainly the look of the show cocker most cockers still have enough jaw to retrieve ducks, grouse, and the sort of upland wood game that they are intended.

    That said there have been two distinct popularity booms which has certainly caused some lines to suffer both with health conditions and poor temperament. That said my cockers have been long lived to 18, 16, and the current being 13, relatively healthy, and an absolute pleasure as a family pet. At the same time the Am cocker is not near the popularity and commonality at least in the west of the springer, and the labrador for field work. However - I would not hesitate training one of my american cockers for the job. They're certainly birdy enough for it, have no problem covering ground, and certainly not brachycephalic.

    To me critic of show cockers is akin to critic of show poodles. The coats are insane but under that fuzz there is a bird dog in both cases capable of learning the job.

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  65. Goodness me. Have none of you seen the BBC interview (on the Crufts programme) with the breeder/owner of the dog featured. It showed a day in the life of his Americans. And never a happier bunch will you see. Cavorting about on the beach at Blackpool, having a fabulous time. So they get mucky? Groom them ! I have short and long coated dogs who get filthy when they wade through the dykes where I live. I groom them ! Takes longer with the longer coated ones - but I knew that when I bought them. I could clip them off if I was really lazy. Don't buy a long coated dog if you can't bothered to look after it. Or clip it. Simple. Either way do your homework before choosing the right breed for you. And what a load of nonsense about rage in ACS. I have a friend who likes to attend shows and I sometimes go to ACS shows. They are all happy and friendly. Those of you who are vets or behaviourists will only see 'problem' dogs. Not the thousands who are wonderful family pets.
    What is wrong with you people? If you want to address real cruelty I suggest you look at livestock. Such miserable lives then transported in cramped conditions to be slaughtered, rendered and eaten. Without love or affection their whole lives. And they are as aware as the family pet dog who probably spends his or her life in the lap of luxury. Yes drive irresponsible owners and puppy farmers out of owning and breeding, educate the ignorant in how to be a responsible owner but leave the good people alone. ACS breeders who show (and maybe work ) their pets are not the enemy.
    Or doesn't that matter to you?

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  66. Here’s an interesting study on aggression for those who, like Pet Spaniel Owner, are in denial about the temperament issues in American cocker spaniels. Guess which breed ranks very highly in owner-directed aggression.

    Duffy, D.L., et al., Breed differences in canine aggression, Appl. Anim.
    Behav. Sci. (2008).

    Of course, aggressive individuals may occur in generally well-tempered breeds and just because a breed ranks highly in one or more types of aggression does not mean that every individual is a danger to other dogs or humans. However, I’d advise those looking for a nice, easy family pet to beware of certain breeds and really do their research.

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  67. Pet Spaniel Owner raises what could be a valid point -- that of sample bias.

    What he/she fails to grasp is that those of us who work with problem dogs do not work with just one or a few breeds of dog. (And as a trainer, I try *not* to work only with serious problem dogs, even though that is a significant portion of my business. It's important for many reasons to work with regular dogs who just need some training -- and of course, the owners who seek help often do not know which they have at the onset.)

    Same with groomers -- most see a wide cross-section of many breeds.

    Groomers, trainers and veterinarians are the professionals who are best qualified to make comparisons across breeds.

    As a trainer of any type of dog that presents itself, and one of the few local trainers who will work with aggression cases, if I was to make the pronouncement that idiopathic aggression was enzootic among all breeds, one could legitimately question that opinion in light of a uniform sampling bias.

    But I don't think you will find any trainers or veterinarians who say so.

    We see, instead, idiopathic aggression of a seizure-like nature, as well as nasty, snappy temperaments disproportionately concentrated in a few breeds -- in this country, American cocker and English springer spaniels, and English bull terriers.

    I think it's reasonable to work on the thesis that it is "the same" issue in the two closely related spaniel breeds, and "a different" issue in the unrelated bull terrier. (Bull terriers also commonly suffer from certain obsessive behaviors that appear to be primary neurological issues, and I haven't seen those in the spaniels, and haven't heard others report them. I expect that the light-chasing that one often sees among bull terriers is a wiring problem related to the 'rage' episodes seen in some of them.)

    Well, anecdote is not data. Correct. My experience as a trainer of many dogs of many breeds hasn't been controlled.

    It is analogous to, say, a pediatrician observing "Oh crap, there sure are a lot of kids coming in with severe diarrhea this week, and they are all attending the same elementary school." You gonna pay attention to that? I would. Especially if the pediatrician sees children from many different schools and observes this difference. I sure hope the county health department takes note when the pediatrician calls it in.

    Pet Spaniel Owner's experience is, by contrast, the same as a parent whose child attends that school saying "I think it is a very good school, the teachers are wonderful, and my kid isn't sick, so there's no problem."

    Both anecdotes. Neither are controlled studies. They are not equal in weight.

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  68. Sarah - Interesting study. It's disheartening to see, however, that the study lumps SBTs into the Pull Bull category. What a hurdle it is to correct the tainted image society has growing more and more to have of the SBT as a dangerous dog when studies like these are so flawed. I haven't finished looking at the study yet and I know the point is off topic, but I couldn't help but make the observation as soon as I saw it.

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  69. Just to play devil's advocate... Trainers and behaviourists are not a regulated or licensed profession...at least not in the UK. Sadly anyone can pass themselves off as a trainer or behaviourist and be far from an expert in anything. Therefore, it depends on the individual trainer and/or behaviourist and their experience and credentials as to whether or not they're qualified to make comparisons across breeds. The same goes for dog walkers and people who offer doggy day care services. Some are probably very competent and proper professionals. But honestly anyone can call themselves one.

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  70. no such thing as an "English" Bull Terrier..no matter what the "web " tells you.. the dog is known as the Bull Terrier.. period.
    "anecdote is not data".. well you got that part right.

    Jan Dykema

    PS I would say that yes not equal in weight but I put more value in the pet owner who views dogs as dogs.. not something to give shots to. operate on, train or even groom.. all pretty stressful situations for many dogs and certainly not ones where the owner is in control..
    Groomers and trainers in the same league as vets?? LOL now that is funny. A groomer can be a groomer by training on the web..in many places "trainers" just need to hang out a sign..vets know dogs as blood, muscle and bone.. very little about breeds.. want to know about breeds.. ask a breeder.

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  71. Can I just say Sarah, please buy that poor stud boy, and give him a few decent years. Please

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  72. American cockers are allowed in the gundog group because they have the ability to do the job they are supposed to and are able to complete in other activities part from showing with the amount of coat they have on themselves. i know that have the ability to work because i have been training a couple this year and i have managed to be able to get them running in woods, brambles, hunting,finding birds/cold game, retriving, water work. they are now ready to be seen completing in working test and on shoots. They are illengtent breed who is able to workout what they are suppose to be looking for.

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  73. It seems to me J. Harrison that you have never owned or worked an american cocker. We are at present training 4 of ours in the field. They work almost every day of their lives either in the field, obedience or agility. They are good swimmers also. All of ours take part in the K. C. good citizen scheme, and have some at silver and gold level. The only reason we do not compete in obedience funnily enough is because they will not keep their noses off the floor, as they are such natural hunters. Our dogs are trained to sniff out and search as well , and we are shortly training 2 of them for the search dog essex charity, which help search for vulnerable people. Give them a scent, and they will find it for you. We have also supplied the yanks for the international junior handlers at crufts, because their temperaments are so steady, and they will work with and for anyone. And beleive it or not,in their spare time they are Show dogs, in full coat, but controlled, and thinned out so they still retain the american cocker appearance, but are seviceable at the same time for their work.We spray them with some oil before gundog training, and the twigs, etc just brush out easily. JOB DONE.
    We do agree that we have many breeders/ exibitors in this breed that are so worried about them losing a hair or 2, that they are keeping them in cages, and are only allowing them out for grooming and the show ring.This is giving our breed a bad name in the gundog group, and is destroying their natural instincts. But PLEASE don't blame the breed for this, but their selfish, attention seeking owners who use these wonderful dogs to service their own vanity.

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  74. Jemima, you wrote " top show dogs can't possibly get much of an opportunity to be dogs." This is the kind of assumption which is criticised in your item on Bassetts - making a statement of fact without bothering to check those facts. If you are making this allegation about the kennel which owns the featured bitch you could not be more wrong. All the show dogs from this kennel are excercised both on and off lead regularly, enjoying free running on the beach and on grass. Reading any article from the kennel's owners, you would learn that they are passionate about show ring conditioning being about the whole dog, not just the coat, their advice is that a successful dog has to be a happy, healthy dog, excercise and play are a vital part of both mental and physical well being, as important for muscle tone as for a relaxed and outgoing attitude. The coat is maintained by washing and drying after excercise if it has become dirty, quite simple, requiring only the commitment to carry this through.

    Anyone hoping to achieve anything like the standard of the pictured bitch by lack of excercise, keeping their dog caged, etc. will be sadly disappointed. Perhaps an apology is in order from you?

    Reading through a lot of the posts here many, many of the facts and figures appear to be based on the breed as pets in the USA, where there is an enormous problem of puppy mill dogs. The "Cocker" is an extremely popular breed in the States and is one of the mainstays of the puppy mill industry. Consequently large numbers of the pets there are badly bred, poorly reared and badly socialised before going on to their new owners. As I am sure you are aware, this kind of start in life is a recognised route to dogs aquiring many defects, including poor or unreliable temperament.

    I am puzzled by your statement that the breed should belong to the toy group, have you ever met an American Cocker? They are substantial dogs, nothing "Toy" or flimsy about them. They are several lbs heavier than the biggest members of the Toy Group, considerably taller than Cavaliers or Pugs (the biggest in the group) ,and considerably speedier than any member of the Toy Group I can think of. Over the years I have heard the occasional comment they should be moved to the Utility Group, never the Toy group.


    There has been very little, if any, change in the appearance or structure of the breed in the last 30 years. There is variety of head shapes and types, but an extreme short nose is not desirable, usually leads to a poor bite, and is certainly not going to win in the showring. It is not something which breeders are trying to achieve - in fact it is something we try to avoid.

    I have owned and bred American Cockers for over 20 years, they are happy, outgoing, bouncy. Wonderful companions and great family dogs they have a record of excellence in the show ring too. As active dogs they can excel in agility, in the UK only a few are used in the field, but often impress those who work their dogs and have previously discounted the breed until actually meeting one working. In the USA I have watched with fascination as they compete in Obedience. Yes, the dogs involved in these activities are usually clipped off or trimmed down, as are most pet dogs, but then so are many, many breeds - including so many of the "designer breeds " which your articles and programmes have done so much to promote.

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  75. The problem is that not everybody has the time - or the staff - to wash and groom dogs every time following exercise and, indeed, there is surely a welfare issue there too if you are having to bathe your dog every day! The owner of this bitch is very fortunate....he is a professional dog handler and seasoned "shower" with a reputation that goes before him. He owns lots of breeds - and probably has his name on many more! He has kennel staff at his business - and it is a business! I am not knocking that...I applaude anybody who takes care of their dogs in the way he does - but lets get something clear here! These dogs are not pets....they are there for a purpose...this person is running a business and I would like to bet he makes a pretty penny from the puppies he produces - because he's very well known. Let's not think that these dogs are pets and get confused. I am sure that when many of these dogs are finished their show careers in the UK - they will be either shipped abroad to be shown or sold on as pets.

    Another thing we must remember too is that while dog behaviourists and the like are unregulated - so are dog breeders.... You don't have to have any qualifications to breed a dog; the people that pontificate about being experts in their breed have very often just grown up with the knowledge, learning along the way and passing this on from generation to generation.... You just have to pass a breed seminar and prove you have owned the breed - either in partnership or in your name but it doesnt need to have lived with you previously - t become a "breed specialist". Many professional handlers buy a dog in their name just to become breed specialists. They then do the breed seminars and hey presto - they're breed specialists, leaving the rest of us who have worked hard in the past out there in the cold while they do their level best to change the breed beyond recognition. There's a little more to it than that but in layman's terms that's about it. If anybody knows any different then please enlighten us. Lots of these people don't even show an interest in a breed until it comes off the Import Register and then they will get involved because they can be seen in the main ring.

    The whole world of dog breeding, showing, dog activity etc., is not regulated....and if somebody comes back and says the KC regulate it then I would beg to differ because the KC does nothing to regulate dog breeding and will happily accept registrations from puppy farmers, BYBs, show breeders, working breeders etc., etc., etc.,

    Personally I think we need to stop the demand for these dogs... The more people buy them, the more they'll be produced. Shocking really as it's not an inanimate object they are tinkering with but a sentient being who feels pain and distress!

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  76. @Anon 14:30
    Why it sounds like you are also describing designer dogs--need plenty of grooming and wow are some so nasty its unreal but seems they are okay especially when they get talked about on here as of course they have Hybrid Vigour
    So no difference so would you like all breeding to stop???

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  77. One word......YES - for the timebeing until something can be done to stop this madness - although I'm realistic and know that will never happen.....

    While so many dogs are being killed each day in rescue up and down the UK (pedigree and crossbreed!); while so many dogs are suffering in puppy farms; being bred by BYBs and show breeders with inherited health problems - not to mention the lack of good homes - we should be asking ourselves the moral question of whether it is right to continue accepting the level of dog breeding that goes on in the UK - by everybody and nobody singled out here!

    Let's get things into perspective! Too many dogs are being bred with too many health problems - be it designer dogs or pedigree dogs or mutts - and they are suffering because of it..... Dogs are dying because there is no regulation on dog breeding. Even some of the new "rare" breeds are being bred horrendously and there is no breeding strategy in place by most of the breed clubs to handle health issues. Experts......ha! Doctors and vets have to study for a good few years to become qualified - passing exams and practical assessment. A dog breeder just has to have a couple of litters and they become "experts" on a particular breed. They tell us that we're the ones who don't know anything because we happen to raise some very good questions about health and welfare! Patronising is the word. I would take it as red if these people had studied long and hard for their "expert" status but some of them are just talking nonsense - and that's clear to see by anybody who has a brain cell! Please give us all a break! There definitely needs to be something done to stop this inherent suffering. I don't do "designer dog" slating etc., but I will certainly have my opinion about those that continue to breed dogs well knowing the suffering re health issues, welfare problems that their actions cause.

    This attitude "I know everything and you know nothing because you've never bred a litter" is just nonsense! You don't have to have a degree to breed dogs - and the current state of many breeds is testament to this. Head in the sand stuff once more - and getting back to the old "designer dogs" argument doesn't wear any more because we see through it all as smoke and mirrors...... Very sad that sentient beings have to suffer because of arrogance.... I say no more...

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  78. Anon 17:51: I agree with a lot of what you said.

    I volunteer at an animal shelter and in good conscience I cannot get my next dog from a breeder. It must be a rescue dog. Too many are being PTS, and it's heartbreaking.

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  79. so anon 17:51.. what post do you hold in the PETA branch in the UK? sounds like you might be President.
    Kate.. if you do not buy your dog from a good breeder then you support those who are not good breeders and thereby put more dogs in the shelter..
    the best way to keep dogs out of shelters is to buy your dog from a breeder..

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  80. Jemimah;
    Since you seem to have shifted your focus from the Brits to the Americans, can one take it that you're satisfied that you've solved all the ills of dogs in the UK?
    I'm curious about how much research you personally have put into this diatribe. Judging by the pictures you use to illustrate I think not much. If you really knew anything about the American Cocker surely you would have used at least one picture of Ch. My Own Brucie, a black dog who won BIS at Westminster in 1940 and 1941. Yes, Obo II was significant for Cockers in general in the US. But, Brucie, for good or ill, had a far greater influence on the development of American Cockers in the US. As can be readily seen in photos of Brucie, he had a moderately feathered coat, suitable for working for which his breeder, Herman Mellenthin, did use him. Brucie did pass on his miserable stubborn temperament to which I can attest, having been bitten in a dustup as a child with a son of Brucie owned by my father.
    Cocker rage ? ---perhaps. But wasn't that sired by English Springer Spaniel Rage ?
    While I would agree that some Cockers can be nasty and not good with children, I must say that the rest of the many Cockers we lived with while growing up were wonderful family companions.

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  81. Anon 19:11 - I think you misread my message. If my next dog, as I say, is a rescue dog and comes from a shelter, then I am reducing the number of unwanted dogs in shelters by precisely one dog. And that empty kennel will go to a dog that might otherwise have been PTS. Were I to buy a dog from a breeder, I'd do my best to make it a reputable breeder. But that's not going to be much of a help to a dog already without a home.

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  82. Not involved with PETA at all actually....just a person who knows what its like in the real world and who actually cares. Why is it that when anybody actually starts to make a bit sense about all the welfare problems cause by reputable and disreputable breeders alike they are targeted as belonging to Animal Rights? bah! I care for all the poor souls that are living their lives in rescue centres while breeders keep adding to the problem. You say that buying a dog from a reputable breeder stops dogs ending in rescue! How on earth is continuing to breed dogs, be it a reputable breeder, PF or BYB going to stop dogs going into rescue? Please share with us the basis of your reasoning here? The mere fact that dogs are continuing to be bred at such a rate when there are not enough homes to go around is the sole reason there are so many dogs in rescue. The poor SBT is probably the biggest victim of this continuous obsession with breeding dogs. It's not about animal rights; it's about animal welfare. Those out there actually working for the dogs needing homes know what the "real" world is like and, while I do my bit, I am not one of the many that do this day in and day out. You don't have to be Einstein to work out that a continuous supply of puppies into a market that doesn't have enough good homes is perpetuating the suffering. Good or bad breeders are adding to this. It looks like some breeders recognise this by looking at the latest KC registration figures. Good for them! If you want to keep a puppy back from a litter - the others in the litter have to be found homes and these puppies are taking homes from the dogs in rescue. I think it would be a good idea for everybody to take a step back, breathe, and then look at the real situation....then decide if continuing to breed is in the best interests of the breeds we think we love - especially with the number of health issues being bred in puppies each year. Jemima has had so much dirt flung at her that I bet she's now teflon coated - you have to be to speak out about the horrific condition of some breeds. Hat's off to her she's stuck at it and is weathering the storm. Very real questions are being asked now about the health of some of our dogs here in the UK by some very influential people and I, for one, think that's a good thing. If you don't,I think that says much more about you than anything you say to try and justify the reasons surrounding some of the health issues and conformational "oddities" some of our precious breeds are plagued with. Breeding has been left to the breeders for so long now that there really needs to be legislation brought in somewhere down the line to prevent the suffering that's been caused by the so-called "experts". Pity breeders don't have to do a university degree and have hand's on experience before they're let loose on the dogs. We the "inexperienced" can only comment on the evidence presented before us and question the reasons why the suffering is being allowed to continue.

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  83. Anon, if you really were in the 'real world' you'd know that the number of owned dogs vs the number that end up in shelters shows that your claim that 'every pup born steals a shelter dog's home' is complete B.S.

    The number of dogs that never end up in shelters outnumbers the minority that do by a great deal. I believe in the U.S., out of 75 million dogs nationwide (with less than 20% of that population being intact), around 2% are euthanized in shelters because they are unwanted. On what planet would banning all dog breeding make a difference in that number? We may as well ban people having children until there are no more orphans -- which is the same brand of extremist logic you are using. The shelter dog issue is not so simplistic as you believe it to be. There are many reasons why dogs are abandoned/unwanted, and most of the time is has nothing to do with the fact that 'dogs are being born'.

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  84. In my breed (Italian greyhound) many MANY dogs are surrendered not only for behavioural problems but vet bills- part of the problem plaguing the breed are leg breaks due to structure. Yet people still keep breeding them do be ever so dainty and tiny boned. Yes, the shelter problem is not so simplistic as to be just "too many dogs" but rather, a mix of too many dogs, inexperienced/bad dog owners and health and behavioral problems.

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  85. But it's the breeders that breed the dogs that end up in shelters! These dogs were not delivered by a Stork! So Pai, are you saying that we should just keep breeding blindly while all our dogs fall to pieces?

    Humans make the choice to have children.....dogs often don't! We make that choice for them...

    I don't get the logic around what you are trying to say Pai - sorry if I'm one of the "dim" people who know nothing! Here's my logic around what I have said. All the people that own dogs - already own dogs so that leaves the remainder as possibly homes. There are thousands of dogs in rescue. One family decides that they would like to share their lives with a dog and they purchase the dog from a breeder - be it PF, BYB or "reputable". That means that there is one dog still sitting in rescue waiting for a home that may have been homed from a rescue. That's the logic around it. Let's not forget also the ex-breeding/show/working dogs that end up being sold as pets after their usefulness is over! You then start to see a picture forming don't you? So what is BS in what Anon has said? Now let's hear your logic....I'm still waiting.

    The rescue problem is not simplistic but as I said before - you don't have to be Einstein to work out that if the market is still being flooded by puppies that are being sold then the dogs in rescue are going to suffer.

    Everything starts with the breeder. They mate their dogs; they rear a litter of puppies; they sell the puppies; the new owners don't bother to do any training and the dog develops behavioural problems; the dog is surrendered to a rescue and the circle continues because the breeders are still breeding the dogs. You can't get away from that - for every dog in rescue there's a breeder who bred it - be it PF, BYB or reputable. The reputable breeder may not be responsible for their dogs ending up in rescue but the fact that they continue to have as many litters means that the dogs in rescue have less opportunities to finds homes.

    Let's not confuse people by saying it is a "minority" that end up in rescue......2% of 75 million is 1.5 million - and that's only the dogs in shelters that are monitored. There will be plenty more elsewhere.

    The US has a huge rescue problem but the UK is no better in comparison to size.

    When are you guys going to wake up and stop trying to deflect all blame?

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  86. Actually, the UK is a LOT better than the US in terms of dogs in rescues - and particularly in the official figures (at least) of the number of dogs euthanised. NB: I am not saying that there isn't a problem.

    I also do not think that a rescue dog is suitable for everyone - and I say this as someone who runs a rescue - and not everyone wants the staffies, collies, greyhounds (and crosses thereof) that tend to predominate in many UK rescues.

    I fully support breeders continuing to produce puppies as long as due care is taken and, although I personally now choose rescue over buying a new pup, I would hate to see others deprived of that choice. Good breeders do not contribute directly to the rescue problem as most will take dogs back, and I believe the rescue problem can and should be tackled in other ways.

    Jemima

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  87. Let us also be 100% honest and I hope someone will answer this. What is the cross breed to pure bred ratio in shelters?

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  88. I have gone through 7 different websites for interest and looked at the miserable faces of the doggies up for adoption. IMO the ratio is at least 80% cross breed to 20% "pure" bred. And by "pure" I think it is 2 of the same type dogs getting together. The problem here is irresponsible PET OWNERS! More emphasis should be put into educating dog owners. A very very small amount of dogs bought from a reputable breeder will land up in a shelter again that is my opinion, and I would LOVE to challenge anyone to prove me wrong. That it is KC bred animals landing in shelters and that it is breeders of registered dogs that is responsible for the pandemic of dogs in shelters. Please research the ratio of mixed breeds vs pedigreed. Come on MAKE MY DAY.

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  89. OMG I actually agree with Jemima re rescues. A rescue dog is not for everyone and so many rescues have stringent rules that a lot of good homes are being refused due to their rules. To Anon who is all for no breeding/ rescue--In the UK most pedigree rescues are either from puppy farmed dogs or BYB's imo as most do not even look like the breed they should be.
    Most Ethical Breeders have contracts that state they will take back a dog they have bred and imo this does happen here in the UK

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  90. Bill Ironside is famous for working AND showing his American Cockers.
    http://www.ourdogs.co.uk/News/2001/November2001/News021101/showspaniels021101.htm

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  91. Last time I did neutering in a shelter the mix was probably 80:20 pure:cross BUT this shelter did a lot of work rehoming ex brood bitches from puppy farms. Most of the of adults that came in from the public tended to be crosses or 'types', a lot of collie mixes as I was in Wales!

    Good breeders will try their best to vet and educate buyers, even putting them off sometimes! And always try to help find new homes for pups they have sold when circumstances change. Finding a 'good' breeder can be hard though and even the KC ABS can't guarantee what, although it's a start.

    But breed, cross or mongrel the problem isn't the dogs, it's the humans.

    American cockers are a difficult breed; a gundog brain in a glamourpuss coat! They do want to hunt in bramble and retrieve and their 'rage' (not a real disease but a behavioural problem) is caused by people not understanding their need to display spaniel behaviour, plus unreated eye, ear and skin problems which sadly many do suffer from. But trimmed, trained, stimulated and given proper vet care they are a nice wee dog. No we just need to stop he yanks changing the english springer into a giant american cocker.....too late!
    VP

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  92. These aren't official numbers by any means, but I believe at one very established shelter in the UK approximately 50% of dogs are Staffies and Staffy crosses. Idiots are breeding Staffies at an alarming rate as status dogs. Their goal in many instances is to create the ultimate status dog so a trace of Mastiff here, a trace of American bulldog there, etc. in combo with the Staffy is a common sight. This isn't exactly news though for anyone reading the news in the UK. Full breed Staffies end up as a backlog in the system because the public is brainwashed by the media's over-hyped and frequently inaccurate stories of Staffy attacks in the news. Good example: the child that was recently attacked in Twickenham. The media has reported this as a Staffy-type dog, but in the same article describes it as having a Pug-like face! Anyone who knows the least about dogs knows there's nothing Pug-like about a Staffy's face, but -- hey, the public have yet again read "Staffy" and dog attack linked together, and so the Staffy's image suffers more. Therefore, in addition to there being too many Staffies bred by idiots, they often have problems finding homes as people are afraid of their temperament. (OK, I'm off my soapbox now.)

    I don't have time to look into this more thoroughly at the moment, but I'll post again later once I have.

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  93. BTW - I should clarify. In my post above where I refer to idiots, I'm not talking about the reputable ones so please don't be offended if you're a breeder. I'm talking about the ones that breed solely for a profit and/or with the aim of producing status and fighting dogs.

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  94. Jemima,

    I have the great good fortune to be enjoying the second year of owning my first UK-bred American Cocker Spaniel. We are having lots of fun and success in both the show ring and gundog training/shooting on the Estates in Highland Scotland. He has very strong hunting & retrieving instincts (from cover & water), & it's been such a pleasure showing it off to the sceptical old gamekeepers!

    Most rewarding of all, is when I share him with others at "Pets as Therapy" and helping at "Riding for the Disabled". No angry-managment problems with my little dog anyway, but then he's probably too tired!

    Personally, I really enjoy looking after his coat/ears/nails, but don't buy a high-maintenance dog if you can't put in the commitment - that's just common sense! I'm quite sure no-one baths their dogs "every day", but I do have a bucket & a towel at the back door....

    Friends I've made showing, similarly, have lots of fun working & doing agility with their dogs. There's much more to these little dogs than meets the eye, & new people in the breed have the benefit of a wealth of knowledge available from those in the UK Breed Clubs, where pre-breeding health screening is strongly encouraged.

    Bit disappointed that others who've chosen to support the breed have chosen to do so anonymously.

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  95. Don't forget breed rescues too as often they take the purebred dogs so they don't end up in rescue centres. Most of the dogs in rescue are sadly Staffie or staffie cross and yet there are still advertisements for more all over the internet and Facebook. The type of puppies bred by PFs do tend to be the high maintenance breeds ie poms, cavs, maltese, bichon, shitzu, lhasa and it would make you cry to see the images of these poor dogs with their matted coats.

    What actually makes somebody a "good" breeder though? If we look at all the health problems in pedigree dogs and criticise breeders for still breeding them, when they know these issues exist - is there such a thing as a good breeder of pedigree dogs? Yes, they may take the puppy back and re-home but does that make them a good breeder? Perhaps we should first establish what a good breeder is and then move on from there?

    I do think there's a huge welfare problem in all areas of dogs including breeding, health, training and behaviour regulation - and - rescue and all need regulated.

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  96. Yes, I thought about the term "good breeder" after I posted, and asked myself the same thing. We'd have to start with the obvious -- not doing it for the money but out of love for the breed. Obviously love of the breed is with good intentions but good intentions don't necessarily a good breeder make.

    I'm a bully lover (gasp!) so I love bulldogs. My definition of a good bulldog breeder is one who breeds to produce healthy bulldogs and, therefore, doesn't breed any dogs that exhibit or are offspring of dogs that exhibit hereditary conditions. Yes, we can all argue that bulldogs are by definition inherently genetic messes. That's why I say improve the breed so that we see less of those issues. Therefore, a good breeder's priority will be health first and foremost. To be honest I agree with a lot of what's said on this blog regarding the breed standards being detrimental to the health of the breed, and that's why I cringe when I see some show bulldogs who are overweight. That is just about the worst thing that a bulldog can be as they already have a huge propensity for joint problems without carrying around extra weight. But unfortunately that's the breed standard in the show ring, but hopefully that will change. If I were to get another bulldog, I'd start with the breed rescue, but hypothetically, were I to get one from a breeder, I wouldn't care one bit how many champions (be it in a show ring or agility) their dogs have in their pedigree because I'd be looking for healthy ones.

    Breeders must also be responsible and look at the bigger picture. Were I hypothetically a SBT breeder, I wouldn't be breeding at the moment. The market is flooded with them already with supply far out-numbering demand. Breed rescues and general ones can't keep up due to limited space and resources. Therefore, it really comes down to simple mathematics. If there are only 100 homes for everyone 200 SBTs, then it makes no sense to breed more in the short-term until breed campaigns to wipe away the blight on their image starts to become effective and more people want to rehome them.

    I agree about the breed rescues. If you love the American Cocker, try to find a breed rescue if one exists and get the next one there before a breeder. That goes for any breed if your heart is set on one.

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  97. Anon, seeing as how the shelter deaths in the U.S. has dropped from 20 million yearly in 1970 to 3 million today without any 'bans on breeding', I'd say my logic is pretty sound and shown clearly by real life facts rather than emotional, biased beliefs. The main change that affected shelter numbers were not draconian laws, but better owner education the care of their animals.

    Nobody likes seeing homeless, unwanted dogs, nor the fact that many die for basically no reason. However, your belief that the 'cure' for unwanted pets existing is to attack dog breeding is not only extremist, it shows a deep lack of knowledge about the topic you claim to be so passionate about. Only by targeting the ACTUAL common reasons of animal relinquishment to shelters can we truly reduce the shelter problem. There are many groups who have been collecting demographic data for decades and will tell you that most dogs are relinquished as adults, because of reasons that 9/10 times have nothing to do with someone, somewhere, breeding a dog.

    However, since we all live in the real world and not a utopia where nothing bad will ever happen to animals, there will always be a small number of needs dogs and cats that will need the help of rescues and shelters; there will never be an 'elimination' of needy animals from the world. The most we can do is continue educate owners and breeders on how to be better to their animals. Passing un-enforceable, anti-pet laws like 'bans on pet breeding' will accomplish nothing but punishing law abiding people and responsible breeders for the crimes of a small majority of people.

    To me, the existence of many millions of healthy, loved, purposely-bred animals is something valuable and positive, and something that deserves to be protected and celebrated, not destroyed out of spite in a misguided attempt to punish a minority of scumbags.

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  98. Delete the extra " on the second link to view the webpage of the National Council on Pet Population. They have demographics info on the most common shelter relinquishment reasons.

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  99. 3 million dogs is still a lot of dogs - whether you like it or not - and whatever the reason for somebody giving up a dog, there is always the person who bred it - whether a good or bad breeder.

    My views are not meant to be extremist - they are meant to be thought-provoking and encourage debate. Is there such a thing as a good breeder? How can there be when we are always having to justify their actions for breeding from dogs with horrendous health issues? There are far more bad breeders than good breeders. It's not the minority that are scumbags - its the good breeders (if of course we agree that such a breeder exists).

    Sometimes when things get so bad you have to go back to the begining and start again. You don't just carry on regardless and hope you produce healthy puppies.

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  100. I'm sincerely sorry that you see an 80% reduction in shelter dog impounds and deaths since the 1970s as 'things getting so bad'. To be frank, I think it's very destructive to become so fixated on the worst possible aspect of something that you become numb to the good, even when the good is the overwhelming majority. I see that type of attitude a lot among many people in rescue as well as the ARists. I can only assume it's a type of compassionate burnout where seeing the worst of society day in and out within your personal experience makes you embrace a scorched-earth policy out of sheer despair, regardless of how unrealistic it is.

    The vast majority of dogs both in the UK and US (regardlesss of pedigree) are loved and cherished and healthy. That's not just my opinion, it's a fact, regardless of our personal opinions about the qualities of various breeders or their motives.

    We all need to be honest with ourselves and accept that what we personally have seen and experienced is only a very tiny part of the overall picture. Thus, we need to be very cautious before announcing that the entire concept of 'pet dogs' is so flawed that it needs to be obliterated to alleviate the suffering of a minority.

    You are claiming that it's 'dogs existing and being born' is the main reason why dogs end up in shelters and unwanted, even though the facts show that it not the case at all. Sure, we could theoretically solve the problem of homeless dogs by banning all breeding (and making pet dogs extinct). Animals that don't exist can't suffer, after all. No matter how you paint it, espousing that kind of belief -is- extremist.

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  101. "You don't just carry on regardless and hope you produce healthy puppies."

    Many of us who post here do so because not only do we love dogs, we agree that there are problems with many of the current concepts of 'purebred breeding', dog shows, and closed registries. Just because I disagree with the premise behind your claim that breeding needs to be banned, doesn't mean I think everything in the dog world is 'a-ok'.

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  102. A groomer can be a groomer by training on the web..in many places "trainers" just need to hang out a sign..vets know dogs as blood, muscle and bone.. very little about breeds.. want to know about breeds.. ask a breeder.

    Yes, those highly-regulated, inerrantly educated experts in all things cynological who have absolutely nothing to sell to you, are never breed-blind or kennel blind or in any way partisan, and have certainly no more arcane lore than, say, professional baseball players or Scientologists. Believe what they say. Yes, do.

    When someone whose livelihood depends upon successfully handling 10 or 50 or 200 different dogs, of widely different types and breeds, each work week makes a generalization, it's for a reason. This reason all-too often has to do with not going to the emergency department today, or sending one's client there tomorrow.

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  103. A good breeder...
    For me this is someone producing puppies only when there is demand. Someone who has experience with and understands their breed (or the cross they are producing). They should be willing and able to discuss the postives and negatives of their breed/cross to potential buyers and shouldn't be afraid to say, 'no, i don't think one of my pups is for you at the moment'. The good breeder will only breed from dogs of the best health and temperament and will also pay heed to the dogs breed type/conformation. For working dogs the breeder should only breed from those proven to be able to do the job in question. A good breeder will sell well habituated and socialised pups with ongoing advice relevant to their breed and be on the end of a phone or email for any queries. A good breeder works with their vet to expand both parties knowledge and encourages puppy buyers to do the same.
    In short, a good breeder cares about each and every puppy they produce forever, even if the buyer never keeps in touch, a good breeder always hopes their puppy is happy.
    (I haven't mentioned money but a good breeder will probably be getting premium prices for their puppies but will also be putting a lot in in terms of time and money.)
    Vicky Payne

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  104. I'm a bit late here... re rescues, we ended up getting up getting a puppy as we had young kids and all except one of the rescues we contacted wouldn't let you have one of their dogs if you had kids under 5 (10, in one case). And the other rescue had, as the woman I knew who worked there said, 'Lots of Staffs that bite.' Funnily enough, with small kids, I didn't want a Staff that bit. I wanted either a gentle dog who was used to kids, or a puppy would could bring up with children.

    So, yeah, it's all well and good to get dogs from shelters, IF the shelter will let you have one, IF the dogs available fit what you need (or, dare I say it, want, since it's a rare person who really needs a dog...)

    As for that twit Anon 24th Oct 13:48 who said that nails are a welfare issue and bleed if clipped - you know what? If you do it properly they don't bleed, and if the dog gets enough exercise, they don't need clipping anyway.

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  105. The majority of show dogs have coats that have changed drastically over the years. Cocker Spaniel coats have changed nearly as much as their American cousins. This is taken from a 2011 Championship show.
    http://www.thecockerspanielclub.co.uk/chsh_results11.htm

    Compare these to Crufts BIS winner 1948 and 1950 - Tracey Witch of Ware
    http://www.google.com/imgres?q=tracey+witch+of+ware&hl=en&sa=X&biw=1440&bih=676&tbm=isch&prmd=imvns&tbnid=RcVvENWFRBq6SM:&imgrefurl=http://www.natureposters.org/poster-56510-4388868/tracey-witch-ware-crufts-best-show-1948-1950-framed-art-print/&docid=NclcGxYca68VYM&itg=1&imgurl=http://imagecache5d.allposters.com/watermarker/31-3131-6GDGF00Z.jpg&w=867&h=692&ei=lKytTsVikYyzBsL8lAQ&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=972&vpy=153&dur=1359&hovh=201&hovw=251&tx=133&ty=88&sig=101658426716425135942&page=1&tbnh=148&tbnw=185&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:4,s:0

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  106. I agree with Vicky and also would like to add
    A Good Breeder does not sell to the first person that phones just because they happened to see your advert. In this day and age its a throw away society we have imo Most pups are bought on a whim and bad breeders sell to these type of people without any questions asked

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  107. The question here is, why is breeders of dogs, that generally breed for a purpose be weighed up as the minority against the vast MAJORITY of normal ignorant uneducated PET OWNERS whom let their dogs have puppies. There are 90% more of these cross bred unintentional accidental mating offspring that land up in animal shelters. Yet responsible breeders are still being targeted on everyone on this forum. Putting bans and restrictions on registered breeders will NEVER solve overpopulation and pound or shelter issues. I once saw a puppy of a Maltese male cover Rottweiler female (yes no lies) - owners did not think it possible for small dog to cover big dog. Needless to say, there was (thank the Lucky stars) only 1 puppy. But, totally misformed. Front legs long, back legs short. Puppy put down as it would have never had a normal life. This is the kind of people you need to target. Females in season stand for any dog be it big or small. Just look at some of the combo's in shelters. This is not as a result of breeders of pure bred dogs...

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  108. Agree that they look ridiculous when they are groomed up for show.

    However, what is more inportant is what they look like in everyday life, for the average pet owner.
    I don't see any photos of any "pet" american cockers.
    Poodles look very different depending on the way you clip the coat (and yes, I also think the show clip is ridiculous).

    I think there are definitely some breeds with much more serious problems than the amount of coat.

    If we're talking about coat alone I often see poodle crosses with the most matted, awful coats that are so tightly matted they pull on the dogs skin. This can also happen in purebred poodles or any other non shedding curly coated purebred.
    People need to be aware of the grooming requirements when they buy a dog.
    Designer "oodles" do NOT have low maintenance coats, despite advertising. They can be low- shedding but they need daily grooming and regualr clipping!!!

    I personally think these american cocker coats are probably easier to maintain than a poodle or poodle cross.

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  109. Yes, their coats can be clipped, but not if they're show dogs. I bet not many of the show dogs go for off-lead, country walks, especially when it's wet and/or muddy! The coat therefore would impact on their quality of life.

    Surely if it's still classed as a gundog breed, they have to take into consideration that the length of coat would inhibit function?

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  110. That is just insane.
    One American Cocker here in Sweden won "Dog of the Year" a few years ago. After that, she was retired from the show-world and her owner said (to the Swedish Kennel Club Magazine, Hundsport) "Now she can finally run in the forest!"

    A hunting dog... which can't run in the forest because of its coat.
    Originally dog shows were for following a standard which was made to describe how a dog was supposed to look for their specific purpose, but they've gone WAY wrong here!

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  111. I haven't read all the comments above, but I have to agree that the American Cocker is not fit to be used as a gundog when in full coat. But, if he is capable of carrying out that function when suitably trimmed, why should he not be called a gundog?

    There are a good number of breeds that you could criticise for having long coats, many of them in the gundog group, but also in the Utility, Working and Pastoral group. But if you buy a coated breed, it is usually done in the knowledge that a degree of work will be needed to maintain that coat, or your charge will have to effectively visit a hairdresser on a regular basis.

    I heard it said by a person well known in coated breed circles that a dog show is just another form of beauty pageant. Well, yes I have to agree with that statement to a degree. I also know another person who has coated gun dogs that may be in the field on a Saturday, at a show Sunday. It all depends on the amount of work you are willing to put in, and how you care for your animal. In essence, it depends on your personal circumstances.

    But certainly I del it unfair to criticise in the manner this article does. No-one can truly know the circumstances that the top winning dogs are kept, unless you are intimate with the owners and their way of life. And I bet that the owners featured keep their private lives just that......PRIVATE.

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  112. I adopted a cocker spaniel 3 years ago- he was a puppy mill surrender. He is the sweetest dog imaginable. When I was a child in the fifties, my family owned a cocker. Again, mild mannered.
    They are lovely dogs and deserve better management in terms of breeding for temperament and less for looks. I gladly brush my boy every day-he has a moderately long coat, and we walk him and his mixed-breed sister twice a day. It's painful to read the negative comments about these sweet dogs, who were badly bred through no fault of their own.

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  113. I agree with you Anon - it's not the dogs fault they were badly bred.

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  114. Hah! It's very similar to what happened to the Irish Setter:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150693955369924&set=a.459770974923.243420.642234923&type=1

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  115. I actually hunt, frequently, an American cocker. A 18lb female who runs and hunts circles around labs, goldens etc. We clip her relatively short. I would compare her temperament to a 6yr old lab. Calm, intelligent, an awesome family dog. Allways ready to go. A pocket sized dynamo. She will hunt but obviously can't retrieve geese. But for quail, woodcock, snipe, ducks, etc she's awesome. She hunts close and quarters all cover with dedication and a methodical attitude. I know the American has been bred into a fashion dog, but the core genetics are still there. Don't write this little sporting dog off yet.

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