Country Life’s Favourite Dogs: Working Cocker Spaniel

Favourite Dog: Working cocker spaniel
Vital statistics (top trumps)


Looks 7/10

Obedience 6/10

Intelligence 8/10

Loyalty 8/10

When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge decided to get a dog, they went not for a corgi or a Labrador, but for a working cocker spaniel. More than a year on, Lupo gets almost as much attention as his owners, accompanying the Duke and Duchess on weekends away, to the polo and Fortnum & Mason. Even his fondness for chewing up antique furniture in Kensington Palace hasn’t dimmed his appeal. In a television interview, the Duke of Cambridge made it clear that ‘For me, Catherine, and now little George are my priorities. And Lupo.’

Working-cocker owners, like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will forgive their charges anything. These loving, endlessly cheerful dogs are the ultimate all-rounders, as happy cuddling up to you on the sofa as they are charging through brambles. They stick to you like glue, and their loyalty will melt even the coldest of hearts. You’ll never be lonely with a working cocker around – or bored. 

Cocker spaniels were bred to flush woodcock – in fact, this is where their name comes from. The breed was recognised as a spaniel type separate from springers and field spaniels in the late 19th century, at around the time the Kennel Club was formed. Leaner and tougher than their show-dog cousins, working cockers have shorter coats and ears, and bear more than a passing resemblance to springer spaniels.

They make devoted family dogs, but it’s in the field that working cockers really come into their own. They’re smaller than other gundogs, which enables them to get through even the densest cover, and they’re brilliant retrievers, carrying birds with ease. Their adaptability is another great selling point – they’ll stand by the peg patiently, or rootle around in the undergrowth. Although they need a firm hand (owners liken them to boisterous children, requiring clear boundaries), working cockers’ businesslike way of going about things is a huge asset on a shoot – particularly rough shooting. Their superior intelligence hasn’t gone unnoticed by the police and border agencies, who use working cockers as sniffer dogs.

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