The difference in an English Cocker Spaniel and an English Springer Spaniel
Cocker or Springer?
We have a hunting dog training and breeding kennel in Omaha, Nebraska that offers English Springer Spaniels and English Cocker Spaniels. I have been a gun over, trained, and hunted with both cockers and springers. Also, competed with and judged AKC field trials for both breeds. A well-bred and well trained English Springer Spaniel and English Cocker Spaniel are both fine gentlemen and hard core hunting dogs. Because we breed and train both we get clients who don’t quite know what they want who call and ask us about both. They then ask us which is best for them. Our response is always come see both inside the house, in the field and in the kennel and then you decide which one fits your family situation.
So what are the differences? The most obvious is that on average the cocker is smaller than the springer by about 10-15 lbs. The two breeds tend to have some disposition differences with the cocker being a bit more of a character. Some have claimed the springer tends to train easier. I think this is a field trial comparison and maybe for the average gundog with less pressure the trainer may have equal or better luck with a cocker. In general, in the field cockers I hear of less reported medical issues. However, this could be because there is a better sampling and larger following of springer breeders doing more exhaustive testing.
Let me tell you the things I like about cockers. While a good springer spaniel will hunt hard, it will tend to be a workhorse that has endurance and drive. On the other hand, A good cocker will go and go too, but it has a different attitude which has an appearance of tenacity; the good ones seem to have heart. Many people say they wouldn’t want a cocker because they lack endurance and can’t stand up to the heavy cover. However, Cockers do fantastic in heavy cover and will outlast a larger breed of flushing dog like a labrador in many cases. The cocker is not plowing through the cover, they are running under, over or weaving through it. Many guide operations in North Dakota and South Dakota are relying on English Cockers specifically because of their endurance, close working and ability to find game. This brings up another important aspect and that is cockers tend to hunt a bit closer than a springer of equal caliber. This is good for the average or less than average gun. Cockers tend to be methodical weaving in and out and hitting clumps, they are excellent in thickets and wooded areas, making them a favorite of grouse hunters. I am also asked about concerns of a small cocker’s ability to pick up a cock pheasant; no need to worry because the fireballs hoist them up and do a fantastic job both marking and retrieving. Cockers compete head to head in Canadian Spaniel field trials and hold their own handily. Cockers have won the national championship in Canada against their springer counterparts. I would say in general I would characterize the cocker as being tenacious and small with a bit of clownish character built in. For you men trying to get a hunting dog in the house and failing time after time when you show your wife that cute chessie or labrador picture…try a cocker. You will both be happy; her with a small dog and you with a super hunter.
So the Springers, are my breed of choice and find a fond place in my heart so I can only speak highly of them. They are pleasant, hard working and suitable for most game; rabbit, quail, grouse, duck, pheasant, and even the occasional goose. A good one is hard to beat both in the house and in the field. Clients who are concerned of size need not be worried most of the time about the size of a springer in most situations. Maybe in a small apartment or special circumstances a cocker may prove an advantage but in general the average size springer will pose little problems for size.
This all comes back to my initial advice, find a competent breeder and go to their house. Look at the sire and the dam in the home, in the kennel and working game. Then decide which on is right for you, in most cases it will be a personality thing that bonds an owner to a specific breed so spend some time with them.
Bud Clouse, Owner,