Working Cocker vs. Show Cocker: What’s the Difference?

cocker spaniels

What’s the difference between a working cocker and a show cocker?  The simple answer would be a lot.  Let’s dive into this further and explain the differences.  

Cocker Spaniels are classified as a working dog and are designed for a specific job, whereas show cockers who are still classified in the working dog category, have specific traits such as posture, muscle tone, lineage, and overall look to get the grade at shows and competition.  Generally, they aren’t used for working at all, but mainly for show quality.

In this article, we will define the difference between a working Cocker Spaniel and one that is used mainly for show and awards.  You then can decide which type is ideal for your needs. Firstly, we think it’s important to describe each of the breed’s traits and then later we will compare them directly.

Working Cocker Traits

A working type of Cocker Spaniel is a breed that has been bred for hundreds of years to do one thing…retrieve.  They are consistently used by hunters to fetch kills such as ducks, geese, and other game.  

They are smaller in stature to other retrieving dogs such as the lab but are extremely well versed in holding their own, such as carrying a heavy load.  Working Cocker Spaniels are also great swimmers, which makes retrieving a duck or other waterfowl out of the water a natural occurrence.

In addition, training is minimal as they naturally know their job.  This certain trait has been bred into the Cocker Spaniel for generations. 

As a smaller retriever breed, they are quite popular with hunters, as they can shimmy into places such as underbrush and holes that a larger breed working retriever can’t.  Also, they make excellent family pets and are a favourite because they are smaller in comparison to their larger cousins.  Besides that, they have a friendly disposition, which also makes them great with children.

If you want to know how to tell a working Cocker from a show Cocker, all you have to do is look at their appearance. A working Cocker Spaniel’s muzzle is long and narrow, plus their skull is flatter on top. Their coats are thinner.  In addition, they sometimes have their tail docked for less interference in the brush.

Show Cocker Traits

As a judge, their focus is mainly on the Cocker Spaniel’s appearance. Competition judges do not rate a dog on how many rabbits it retrieves; they look at posture, genetics, how well it trots down the lane, or how the texture and healthiness of their coat is.  Furthermore, show Cockers are registered with organizations such as the American Kennel Club or AKC.

Balance and symmetry are the key qualities of a show cocker.  Judges also look at the coloration, and coat condition, whereas a working Cocker is judged on its performance in the field.

A show Cocker’s head is slightly different from a working Cocker Spaniel.  The muzzle is short with a rounded head, and their ears are long and set lower on the dog’s skull.  Their coat is longer and more abundant, it will contain less white colouring than a working Spaniel. 

When breeding for show, the owners will look for an outstanding pedigree with a dam and sire.  They look for championship lines and how well the ancestors have done in competition. 

Show Cockers vs. Working Cockers: Comparison

Though both working and show Cockers exhibit a love for human companionship, and are highly energetic; though there are some differences between the two. 

Working Cockers don’t need to be registered with an organization, though sometimes they are.  Registered breeds guarantee that the dog is of full blood with a proven pedigree and is bred to do what it is intended to. 

Show Cocker Spaniels must be registered, sometimes even DNA tested to ensure that their breed is true and not mixed with anything else.

To sum it up, the difference between the two basically comes down to looks and temperament.  Colours will also vary between the two, whereas, a working Cocker can be any colour combination, a show Cocker must adhere to certain acceptable colours to show.

Cocker Spaniel Colours

There are 23 different variations of Cocker Spaniel colours, the most common being a Blue Roan.  In layman’s terms, it is basically white with dark spots; they just give it a fancy name.  Other colours include black, tan, golden, sable, and white.  These dogs can either have one colour, or a mixture of colours. The working Cocker can have any of these mixtures of colours, whereas, the Show Cockers tend to have less white on their fur with the allowed exception of a small patch on their chest.

Though the lack of white on a show Cocker may be true, it cannot be determined on a pup as they are known to be born with a lot of white in their coloration, but it slowly fades as they mature.

Related Question/s

What is the calmest Spaniel?

Unlike its cousin, the Cocker Spaniel, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the calmest out of the breed. They portray a gentle demeanour and are extreme cuddlers.  This breed of Spaniel is a very popular breed that is used as therapy dogs, and also a favourite for families with children.  However, because of their love for their family, they do not like to be left alone for long periods of time.  If given the opportunity, they can be destructive towards your household belongings.

Are show cockers hyper?  

Well, yes, they are, but they don’t require as much exercise as the working ones.  They still need a routine; and an owner who works with them constantly.  They are still Cocker Spaniels after all.  

Do working Cocker Spaniels calm down?  

Yes, absolutely.  Though they are a high stamina working dog, they can still make great indoor pets if given the right amount of exercise.  They are terrific dogs, with loveable tendencies.  Just don’t expect them to funnel out their energy right away if not given the proper attention.

Are show cockers calmer than working Cockers?  

That depends.  Show Cockers require less exercise as they haven’t been used for anything except human companionship and proving themselves on the runways.  A working Cocker needs much more exercise as they are much more difficult to tire out.  Sometimes, if not given the proper exercise will exhibit traits of frustration and more opportunities to misbehave. 

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