The (American) Cocker Spaniel by Tais Vagostelo 

This article was written by Tais Vagostelo, St' James Cockers-Brazil — donated to Connie Bliss-Cochran who edited it to be better understood from her language!

When I start­ed to breed cock­ers, I remem­ber I had a very hard time read­ing the stan­dard. It was so dif­fi­cult to me to under­stand what it tru­ly meant, and how an ide­al dog should be. But I was lucky enough to have a men­tor – Mrs. Sonia Peixo­to, Gold­en Gate Ken­nel in Brazil – who didn’t mind to spend hours and more hours, month after month, teach­ing me all the points of the stan­dard and show­ing the faults and qual­i­ties of my dogs, help­ing me to find a good stud sire for my bitch­es and giv­ing me a pic­ture how a per­fect dog must be. 

How­ev­er, there are so many breed­ers around the world who are not as lucky as I was, and think­ing on them, I decid­ed to show my inter­pre­ta­tion of the stan­dard, with as many pho­tos as pos­si­ble, try­ing to help the novices to under­stand the stan­dard of our so loved breed. 

Remem­ber, nobody is able to breed to improve the stan­dard. The stan­dard is what it is. The breed­ers must IMPROVE THEIR DOGS to meet the stan­dard. That is the goal of any good breed­er and a good dog is the one who is as close as pos­si­ble to the standard's description. 

Nev­er for­get some­thing: To breed good dogs you don't need any luck. You need KNOWLEDGE. If you are able to under­stand the stan­dard and visu­al­ize how a good dog should be, you will not have any prob­lems to breed good dogs. You just need luck to breed GREAT DOGS, but the decent ones are a piece of cake!

So, here we go!

« To attain a well pro­por­tioned head, which must be in bal­ance with the rest of the dog, it embod­ies the fol­low­ing: 
EXPRESSION — the expres­sion is intel­li­gent, alert, soft and appeal­ing.
EYES — eye­balls are round and full and look direct­ly for­ward. The shape of the eye rims gives a slight­ly almond shaped appear­ance; the eyes are not weak or gog­gled. The col­or of the iris is dark brown and in gen­er­al, the dark­er the bet­ter. 
EARS — lob­u­lar, long, of fine leather, well feath­ered and placed no high­er than a line to the low­er part of the eye. SKULL — round­ed but not exag­ger­at­ed with no ten­den­cy toward flat­ness; the eye­brows are clear­ly defined with a pro­nunced stop. The bony struc­ture beneath the eyes is well chis­e­lead with no promi­nence in the cheeks. The muz­zle is broad and deep, with square even jaws. To be in cor­rent bal­ance, the dis­tance from the stop to the tip of the nose is one half the dis­tance from the stop up over the crown to the base of the skull. 
NOSE — of suf­f­i­cent size to bal­ance the muz­zle and foreface, with well devel­oped nos­trils typ­i­cal of the sport­ing dog. It is black in col­or in the blacks, black & tans and black & whites; in oth­er col­ors it may be brown, liv­er or black, the dark­er the bet­ter. The col­or of nose har­mo­nizes with the col­or of the eye rim. 
LIPS — the upper lip is full and of suf­fi­cient depth to cov­er the low­er jaw. 
TEETH — strong and sound, not too small and meet in a scis­sors bite.

The head is the most impor­tant part of any dog — Why? Which part of the dog do you look at first to rec­og­nize if that is a dober­man, a cock­er or a col­lie? The head, right? We have dif­fer­ent opin­ions about how the per­fect cock­er head should be. Basi­cal­ly, there are two types of heads that meet the stan­dard: Sport­ing and Plush and the dif­fer­ence between them should be the length of the foreface and the skull shape.

Here are two VERY BEAUTIFUL exam­ples of each one:

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. On the oth­er hand, I will not think twice to use a male with a sport­ing head if I believe this male will help me to fix some faults in one of my bitches.

How­ev­er I have noticed the sport­ing head is quite dom­i­nant to the plush one. Every time I used a sport­ing to a plush I got NO plush head­ed pup­py. A good exam­ple are the two pup­pies below. The dam is the same, a bitch with a very plush head out plush head­ed par­ents. The pup­py A is out the MALE A (sport­ing) and the pup­py B is out the MALE B (plush), each pup­py (they are girls) was the first "head choice" of their litters.

As you can see, the PUPPY A is in the mid­dle of a sport­ing and a plush head. It has the same round skull and high fore­head as the PUPPY B, the stop is almost as deep as the oth­er, but the muz­zle isn't as broad and the foreface isn't as short as the pup­py B.

So, if you are a plush head lover, but all your dogs have sport­ing heads, I don't have good news for you. It will be very dif­fi­cult you get a plush head out them. But you will be able to get plush heads in two gen­er­a­tions. You will use your bitch to a plush male, hold the best head­ed girl and use her again to a plush male. You will have a good chance to get a plush head­ed pup­py by doing that. 

Anoth­er impor­tant point to iden­ti­fy a good head- IT MUST HAVE A FIGURE "8" SHAPE, the two elipses being almost the same size. There are more exam­ples below (believe it or not, the par­ti­col­or was bred by me. It was the only par­ti lit­ter I ever bred):

More good heads with cor­rect 8 shape:

We have 3 oth­er kind of heads than the plush and sporty, but not all of them are correct.

There is the the dog that doesn't have a deep stop, has a plain skull, the muz­zle isn't broad, the foreface is long. I don't know if there is a cor­rect descrip­tion for this kind of head. I name them CARROTS, because it is what they look like to me.

If you have a cock­er with this kind of head, maybe it would be a good idea to take this out your breed­ing pro­gram, because it will be so hard to have good heads (even if you like the sport­ing type) using it. Maybe you can keep a bitch (if her body is tru­ly nice) and use her to a very plush head­ed male. But if you are plan­ning to keep a male with this kind of head … well, it must have a FANTASTIC body, the best move­ment and ter­rif­ic tem­pera­ment. But please nev­er for­get.. this is MY POINT OF VIEW.

But some­times the dog has a high fore­head, short muz­zle, deep stop, but the two elipses of the "8" are not the same size, it usu­al­ly hap­pens for two reasons:

  • The muz­zle isn't broad enough
  • The eyes are too wide

The exam­ple below is a com­bi­na­tion of both: the eyes are too wide and the muz­zle isn't broad enough.

I always used to think a head should be very plush; the plush­er the bet­ter, but I found out we can have heads that are much too plush and they are not cor­rect either. I call them over­done and it looks like a result of cross­ing of a box­er to a shar-pei! 
You can note the stop is much too deep, "the bony struc­ture beneath the eyes isn't well chis­eled". There are so many folds under the chin and on the area at the side of the eye to the earset. Here are two examples:

There is anoth­er kind of over­done head, but unfor­tu­nate­ly I don't have any pho­to. It is when a sport­ing head style is over­done. The dog will look like a slumber.

But I have used over­done head dogs in my breed­ing pro­gram and I got very good results. You can use any kind of head with them (except the plush ones) and the pup­pies will have very nice heads. They work very well with sport­ing bitch­es. It is the only case you can get a plush head (out a sport­ing head) on the first generation.

We didn't fin­ish yet! we must pay atten­tion in every lit­tle detail of the standard:

EYESthe stan­dard says it is round and full, but not gog­gled, and the dark­er the bet­ter. The bitch in the pho­to below, has two prob­lems with her eyes. They are gog­gled and could be dark­er. All the oth­er dogs I used to illus­trate the stan­dard have good shape of eyes and cor­rect color.

EARS — The stan­dard men­tions the ears are to be "of fine leather and must be placed no high­er than the line to the low­er part of the eye". We see the expres­sive high earset very often, espe­cial­ly on the dogs in adver­tise­ments. High earset is when the ears are placed high­er than the eye line. Unfor­tu­nate­ly you see many more cas­es of high earset in the plush heads than on the sport­ing ones. Here is an exam­ple of a high earset:

Some dogs, espe­cial­ly pup­pies, look like they have a high earset in the pho­tos. In sev­er­al cas­es, it is because some­one is try­ing to get their atten­tion for the cam­era. Why do they do their best to look to any oth­er side than the cam­era?! It is the same dog in two dif­fer­ent posi­tions. His earset isn't as high on the 2nd pho­to as it is in the 1st one.

And final­ly, don't for­get almost all the plush head pup­pies have high earset before the age of 2 months! Same pup­py girl at dif­fer­ent ages:

TEETH — The stan­dard asks for strong, not small teeth, and for a scis­sors bite, we have seen in the USA, cham­pi­ons who have a lev­el bite. The Amer­i­can judges penal­ize the bite as any oth­er fault and to tell you the truth, I don't think they are that wrong. But in the oth­er coun­tries around the world (FCI mem­ber) the bite is so very impor­tant. The dog will be heav­i­ly penal­ized if it doesn't have a per­fect scis­sors bite and it is just impos­si­ble to fin­ish a dog with a lev­el bite. In fact, the (FCI) judges would like to dis­qual­i­fy them, the only rea­son they don't do that, is because it is not a dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion in the standard.

It has been a big headache for the breed­ers who import dogs from the USA in the past. Some­times we import a dog who had a good bite but who pro­duced bad ones because there are cas­es of bad bites in their line. But I am notic­ing day by day more Amer­i­can breed­ers are pay­ing atten­tion to the bite prob­lems and are elim­i­nat­ing dogs with bad bites from their breed­ing pro­gram. But the small teeth still are very com­mon, not only in the USA, but almost everywhere. 

I believe the oth­er descrip­tions of the stan­dard about skull, nose and lips are very easy to under­stand and I don't need to com­ment on them. 

NECK — the neck is suf­fi­cient­ly long to allow the nose to reach the ground eas­i­ly, mus­cu­lar and free from pen­du­lous "throat­i­ness". It ris­es strong­ly from the shoul­ders and arch­es slight­ly as it tapers to join the head. TOPLINE — Slop­ing slight­ly toward mus­cu­lar quar­ters. 
BODY — The chest is deep, its low­est point no high­er than elbows, its front suf­fi­cient­ly wide for ade­quate heart and lung space, yet not so wide as to inter­fere with the straight for­ward move­ment of the forelegs. Ribs are deep and well sprung. Back is strong and slop­ing even­ly and slight­ly down­ward from the shoul­ders to the set on of the docked tail. The docked tail is set on and car­ried on a line with the topline of the back, or slight­ly high­er; nev­er straight up like a Ter­ri­er and nev­er so low as to indi­cate timid­ty. When the dog is in motion, the tail action is merry.

"The shoul­ders are well laid back form­ing an angle with the upper arm to approx­i­mate­ly 90 degrees which per­mits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy man­ner with for­ward reach. Shoul­ders are clean cut and slop­ing with­out pro­tru­sion and so set that the upper points of the with­ers are at an angle which per­mits a wide spring of rib. When viewed from the side with the forelegs ver­ti­cal, the elbow is direct­ly below the high­est point of the shoul­der blade. Forelegs are par­al­lel, straight, strong­ly boned and mus­cu­lar and set close to the body well under the scapu­lae. The pasterns are short and strong. Dew­claws on forelegs may be removed. Feet com­pact, large, round and firm with horny pads, they turn nei­ther in nor out. 

When I start­ed with cock­ers — 1993 — the fronts were the big prob­lem in the breed and since then, it has improved a lot, but it still is what our cock­ers have the worst prob­lem with. Each part depends of the oth­er one. Bad shoul­ders will "destroy" the topline, bad shoul­ders will make your dog's neck be short, bad shoul­ders will make your dog not have a good reach. And the most ter­ri­ble, you can fix a head in two gen­er­a­tions (like I said before) but you will fin­ish your breed­ing pro­gram with the shoul­ders you start­ed with. 

My foun­da­tion bitch had quite decent shoul­ders with a good neck . I used her with a dog with decent shoul­ders (at that time it was quite impos­si­ble to find a cock­er with excel­lent shoul­ders) and I didn't have any tru­ly bad shoul­ders in her litter.

But I decid­ed to import my first Amer­i­can dog and I can tell you, its' shoul­ders were ter­ri­ble. I used him once with this same bitch and all the 6 pup­pies had the same shoul­ders as their father. I used him with anoth­er bitch and she had only one pup­py, but with the same ter­ri­ble shoul­ders. I just placed him in a pet home as well his kids and didn't think to use him or any­thing out of him ever again. THAT WAS THE BEST DECISION IN ALL MY "DOG LIFE". Just a lit­tle detail — I paid US$ 2,000.00 for that dog plus ship­ping cost and it was in 1994!

If you want some advice, here it goes: You can take your chances with heads, with hindquar­ters, bites, even with tem­pera­ment, but NEVER use bad shoul­ders in your breed­ing pro­gram. In few gen­er­a­tions you can destroy all your years of hard work breed­ing dogs.

But let me start to explain about the shoul­ders and all the oth­er impor­tant points. The stan­dard says the shoul­ders are to form a 90 degree angle with the upper arm. There is no way to explain this oth­er than using pho­tos or drawings.

This is the ide­al cock­er, with prop­er angu­la­tion. In this draw­ing you can eas­i­ly see the prop­er 90 degree angle, but some­times we have prob­lems see­ing these angles in a "real dog". Well, things will be much eas­i­er if you remem­ber to trace an imag­i­nary line from the with­ers (noth­ing more than "high­est point of the shoul­der blade" the stan­dard is talk­ing about) to the ground. This line MUST TOUCH the dog's elbows. Check these photos:

The line touch­es the with­ers and elbows at the same time. It is what the stan­dard means: "when viewed from the side with the forelegs ver­ti­cal, the elbow is direct­ly below the high­est point of the shoul­der blade". Much eas­i­er, right? What else are you able to see on this girl? Can you see her long neck and short back? Any clue why her neck is long and her back is short? BECAUSE SHE HAS PERFECT SHOULDER ANGULATION! Because her elbows are under the high­est point of her shoul­der blade. It is exact­ly what the stan­dard asks for! 

Like before, I traced a line from the with­ers to the ground, but this time it isn't even close to the elbows. Why? Because the shoul­der angu­la­tion is over 90 degrees. And what about the topline? Can you see the short neck? Can you see the long back from its with­ers to the tailset? 

Now pay atten­tion to the 2nd line I traced, the one from the elbows to the ground. What would hap­pen if the shoul­ders had prop­er angu­la­tion from its with­ers were there? This dog would be much short­er in back and with a longer neck, wouldn't it? If you get a cock­er mag­a­zine and start to trace these lines you will see why peo­ple say the fronts are the biggest prob­lem in our breed!

SO, if you want to eval­u­ate your own dog, and if there is no one to stack it for you while you take a look on it. What to do? Use your hands! Stack the dog, put your thumb on the with­ers. Your lit­tle fin­ger should touch the elbows. Check the pho­to below. 

But did you remem­ber when I said bad shoul­ders will lim­it dogs move­ment? Why it hap­pens? Look at the pic­tures once again:

This time, I traced a line from the with­ers across to the point where it meets the upper arm and keep a line­go­ing straight to the ground. This line is exact­ly where they will put their fore­leg when they are mov­ing. It is the famous REACH! There is no way the leg can go ahead past that point, and it's not because they don't want to move, don't have atti­tude or is not being shown by a pro­fes­sion­al han­dler, it is because THEY CAN'T GO OVER THAT POINT. Their anato­my doesn't allow them to do that.
Look­ing at both of them side by side, can you see how the black & tan's shoul­ders are well laid back, like the stan­dard asks for? So, every time you read or hear some­thing about well laid back shoul­ders you now know how it should be! Now pay atten­tion to the ground. The black and tan will be able to put her leg much far­ther ahead than the black one, right? It means she will cov­er much more ground than the oth­er, with a sin­gle step. Now imag­ine the dif­fer­ence it will be in one day work­ing on the fields. But I will talk more about this when I start to work with the GAIT subject.

Just anoth­er impor­tant thing: When you are watch­ing a dog in move­ment (espe­cial­ly in a dog show) pay atten­tion to its front legs and on the nose (YES, THE NOSE). A dog with a good reach will be able to put his fore­leg ahead of his nose. If it is not able to do that, it is because it doesn't have a good reach and its has prob­lems with the angles of its shoul­ders. Let's see what I am talk­ing about:

This is a Brazil­ian dog bred by one of my good friends — CH Good Advice Total Eclipse, aka Jordan.

Now Jor­dan in move­ment. Can you see his front leg is ahead of his nose?

Now the same pho­to with some lines so you see bet­ter what I am talk­ing about:

It wasn't that dif­fi­cult, was it?

Now you already know how to eval­u­ate a good head, lay­back of shoul­ders & long neck. Believe me, the head can change, but the shoul­ders nev­er will. Bad shoul­ders nev­er will be good ones. And the oppo­site doesn't hap­pen too. Some­times it can improve A LITTLE, but don't wait for MIRACLES, ok? I have some pho­tos to prove what I am say­ing. Take a look at this girl. Since she was 15 DAYS OLD I was pret­ty sure how her shoul­ders should be. DON'T FORGET TO TRACE THE IMAGINARY LINE, ok?

I will repeat this again: To breed good dogs you don't need any luck. You need KNOWLEDGE. If you are able to under­stand the stan­dard and visu­al­ize how a good dog should be, you will not have any prob­lems learn­ing to breed good dogs. You just need luck to breed GREAT DOGS, but the decent ones are a piece of cake!

But we are not done with the fronts. We must check the ribs. The stan­dard says: "its front suf­fi­cient­ly wide for ade­quate heart and lung space, yet not so wide as to inter­fere with the straight for­ward move­ment of the forelegs. Ribs are deep and well sprung." 

This is a dia­gram of a cock­er, front view. You can see the ribs on it. If the ribs are not wide enough, the dog will have a nar­row front, but if it is too wide it will force the elbows to be out, like a bull­dog front.

These are the three types of front:

Anoth­er pho­to of a good front. This time I am using a shaved down dog. I traced lines at the side of its scapu­laes. The forelegs are exact­ly under it, show­ing how a prop­er front should be. Read again what the stan­dard says: "Forelegs are par­al­lel, straight, strong­ly boned and mus­cu­lar and set close to the body well under the scapulae."

Don't for­get about what the stan­dard says about the ribs and move­ment "it is not so wide as to inter­fere with the straight for­ward move­ment of the forelegs". Let's see what hap­pens with the move­ment of a dog with wide front:

Pay atten­tion to the elbow. Can you see it is "out" of the dog's body while it is mov­ing? I know it looks like it could be dif­fi­cult now, but believe me, you will be able to see it even the dog is in full coat. In fact, it is eas­i­er to see when the dog is in show coat, because you will see the coat going to that direc­tion while the dog is mov­ing. You just need to train your eyes a little.

Some­times we hear the expres­sion: "this dog needs more sub­stance". Usu­al­ly peo­ple are talk­ing about the fronts. The dog who needs more sub­stance is the one with the nar­row front. 

Some pup­pies with a nar­row front will improve with exer­cise. By the way, exer­cise is the best thing for any pup­py. Some breed­ers don't like to do that, say­ing it will dam­age the coat. Remem­ber, that a coat can grow out when the dog is old­er, but the same will not hap­pen with the dog's struc­ture. Exer­cise works great for the rears too, but we will talk about that later.

We are almost fin­ished with the fronts. We only need to talk about the chest and forech­est. The stan­dard asks for a deep chest, "its low­est point no high­er than elbows". There is no way you "see" how deep a chest is in a dog in show coat; but you can feel it. Put your fin­ger on the elbows (there is an arrow show­ing the right place), the chest must be deep­er than your fin­ger. By the way, it is a good test for the ribs too. If there is a "space" between your fin­ger and the ribs, it is because the ribs are not wide enough. Ribs with good shape will be very close to the elbow.

The pho­tos above are of the same girl. When she was 2 months old, you already could see her fore chest (check the arrow). She had a good fore chest at that age and kept that when she was an adult. I traced one line in front of her fore­leg. The forech­est must be ahead of the line.

And I traced anoth­er line to show where her chest "fin­ish­es". If you put your fin­ger on the arrow (exact­ly on the elbow) you will be able to touch her chest.

Now, a pup­py with­out enough fore chest. It is easy to see the prob­lem when the dog doesn't have much coat, but in full coat, it is quite dif­fi­cult, espe­cial­ly with a good trim­ming. It will be nec­es­sary to touch the dog to feel the problem.

FINALLY! We are done with the fronts. To con­clude, the dog with a good front MUST have prop­er shoul­der angu­la­tion (90 degrees) + good rib cage (not nar­row, not too wide) + deep chest + good amount of forech­est + par­al­lel forelegs.

TOPLINE — Slop­ing slight­ly toward mus­cu­lar rear quar­ters. Back is strong and slop­ing even­ly and slight­ly down­ward from the shoul­ders to the set on of the docked tail. The docked tail is set on and car­ried on a line with the topline of the back, or slight­ly high­er; nev­er straight up like a Ter­ri­er and nev­er so low as to indi­cate timid­ty. When the dog is in motion, the tail action is merry.

Beside the fact I am a "head hunter", I agree there is some­thing in cock­ers (or any oth­er breed) which is more impor­tant than the heads. It is the TOPLINE. What is the topline? It is the neck + back + tailset. A dog with a good topline is half way to being a good dog. 

Basi­cal­ly there are three kind of toplines, but I don't know how to say that in Eng­lish. But let's see:

As the stan­dard says, the back must be strong and sloping. 

  • The first pup­py is a good exam­ple how a good back should be. 
  • The pup­py in the mid­dle has a curve (roach) to it. Some lines have this type of roachy back on the pup­pies, but when the dog is an adult, the back will be ok. That was the case of this pup­py as well as her dam. I saw them grow­ing up and their backs were absolute­ly strong before one year old. I have one friend who is a very famous schnau­zer breed­er in Brazil and he says he has the same in his line. Some of his pup­pies has this curve, but when adults have the best backs. But how do we know if the pup­py will have a hard back in the future or will keep the curved (roached) back? Only by using a cry­tal ball. There is no way to know. So, maybe it is bet­ter to don't take your chances keep­ing a pup­py like this.
  • The oth­er pup­py is what I call a soft back. It is the same kind of a horse back (sway back) and I nev­er saw one pup­py with this kind of back that will be ok when it is an adult. It is quite the oppo­site. It nev­er improves but can get worse with age. Some pup­pies have good backs when young, but because they are over­weight they can become soft backs when adults. And it hap­pens very often with bitch­es after they have puppies.

With a good trim­ming and expe­ri­ence stack­ing the dog, it is not dif­fi­cult to cov­er the prob­lem when the dog is stacked. So, the best way to see if the dog has a bad back is to watch the dog mov­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I don't have pho­tos to show them in move­ment. But here is a pho­to of a per­fect slop­ing back in movement:

We have three kinds of tailset: NORMAL, LOW TAILSET AND TERRIER TAILSET.

This is an exam­ple of a LOW TAILSET. When the dog is stacked and in show coat, with a prop­er trim­ming, it is very dif­fi­cult to see the prob­lem. But when it is mov­ing, the prob­lem will show up:

"Hips are wide and quar­ters well round­ed and mus­cu­lar. When viewed from behind, the hind legs are par­al­lel when in motion and at rest. The hind legs are strong­ly boned, and mus­cled with mod­er­ate angu­la­tion at the sti­fle and pow­er­ful, clear­ly defined thighs. The sti­fle is strong and there is no slip­page of it in motion or when stand­ing. The hocks are strong and well let down. Dew­claws on the legs may be removed."

As I did with the fronts, I will show the prop­er angu­la­tion. This is a pho­to of a bitch with very good angu­la­tion, front and rear:

Why I am say­ing she has very good angu­la­tion? Let's take a look on the dia­gram I used to show the front angulations:

Now I am using the same lines on the photo:

Can you see she has the same angu­la­tion as the draw­ing? It means she is BALANCED — anoth­er term used fre­quent­ly by breed­ers — and a dog with this kind of angu­la­tion will be able to move very well. And it isn't just the­o­ric, this bitch is a great mover.

To under­stand the rear angu­la­tion and its move­ment (it is called DRIVE) it is nec­es­sary to think in "to bend" and "to jump". I know, it doesn't seem to make sense, but I will show you my point.

You are stand­ing up and start to bend your knee. The more you bend, the high­er you will be able to jump, right? The same thing hap­pens with the dogs rear but the dog will not jump, it will "push the ground". The more angu­la­tion the dog has (bend in the knees), the more it will be able to push the ground, com­mon­ly called 'DRIVE'. The bend in the knee is also called bend of stifle.

This also means that a dog with less angu­la­tion (the knees don't bend enough) will not be able to 'push' the ground prop­er­ly (less dri­ve) and an over angu­lat­ed dog (knees bend too much) will 'push' the ground too much (too much drive)

Pay atten­tion to these two pup­pies, lit­ter­mates, pic­tured on the same day. It is impor­tant to say I resized the pho­tos and the pup­pies have exact­ly the same height , ok?

The first pup­py has prop­er rear angu­la­tion and the 2nd one less angu­la­tion. Can you see the knee of the first pup­py is much more bent than the sec­ond one? What else you can see on these pup­pies? Do you see the first pup­py has a slop­ing back and the sec­ond one a lev­el back? Why it hap­pens? Because the sec­ond puppy's knees aren't as angled as they should be!

You can think the sec­ond pup­py isn't well stacked, but it is the "com­fort­able" posi­tion for him. How do I know that? Because the hock must be in 90 degres with the ground. In fact, his hock is a lit­tle ahead than they should be and you can see the angle with the table is less than 90 degrees. It is the rea­son we say THIS DOG NEEDS MORE ANGULATION, the angle should be higher. 

Anoth­er inter­est­ing bit of infor­ma­tion. Pay atten­tion to their hocks. Can you note the first pup­py has small­er hocks than the sec­ond one? Every time you see a dog with a high hock it is because it doesn't have enough angu­la­tion. In fact, I believe a lot of prob­lems with rear angu­la­tion are because the size of hocks. As the high­er the hocks are, the less angu­la­tion the dog will have.

What I don't know is the fol­low­ing: the dog has high hocks because it has less angu­la­tion or it has less angu­la­tion because it has high hocks? If some­one has the answer for this ques­tion, please let me know.

Now let's see oth­er pho­to of the 2nd pup­py when he was a cou­ple of months older:

This time we put his legs as far back as pos­si­ble, try­ing to improve his topline. But he still is "lev­el" backed and not as a slop­ing back as it should be. The hocks still are at an angle small­er than 90 degrees. I traced a line of the end of his back (where the tailset starts) to the ground. The knee should go ahead of that line, but his doesn't. There is an arrow show­ing where his knee is.

Why the knee can't go ahead of that line? Because when it hap­pens his legs will not bend enough to push the ground properly. 

Check again the pho­to of the bitch with good rear angles. Trace an imag­i­nary line on her tailset to the ground and check her knees. Her knee isn't behind the line like the oth­er pup­py, her rear legs are still bent and ready to push the ground. Here is her pho­to again:

Now let's see the last exam­ple, the over angu­lat­ed rears. This pup­py is over angu­lat­ed. When I stacked him I could see his knee was not ahead of the line of his tailset. 

Take a look at his hock. Can you see the angle with the ground (table) is more than 90 degrees?
But what would hap­pen if I stack this same pup­py and put his hock on the prop­er angle (90 degrees)? His knee would be after that line and that is not right. See the photo:

Maybe you are start­ing to won­der if a dog over angu­lat­ed is much better:

  • He will be able to move faster because he will "push the ground" much more.
  • A dog over angu­lat­ed has short hocks (good point)
  • Dog who is over angu­lat­ed always have a slop­ing back (great point)

Believe or not, a lot of breed­ers thought the same in the past. Nowa­days over angu­lat­ed dogs are so com­mon in the rings, but they for­got about the bal­ance of the dog. The front will not be able to fol­low the rear move­ment even if the dog has a good front. And we shouldn't for­get that until 1992, that cock­ers were to be 15% short­er in their backs than in height 

Try to have a pic­ture. The fronts were ter­ri­ble, no prop­er angles and you already learned a dog with that char­ac­ter­istc doesn't have GOOD REACH. The rears were over angu­lat­ed, it means the dog had TOO MUCH DRIVE. And the back should be short! To reit­er­ate: IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE DOG MOVE PROPERLY. The best movers were the ones with long backs. What hap­pened? They changed the stan­dard in 1992, and the dogs should now be longer backed.

I know a lot of peo­ple will not agree. They will say there are oth­er rea­sons, but it is hard for me to agree with a dog who is overan­gu­lat­ed, for the rea­sons like pain in the back (some­one already told me about that). But just remem­ber IT IS MY OPINION.

You should keep this in mind — A GOOD DOG IS A BALANCED DOG. The rear and front should work togeth­er, ok? 

Now we must see the rear from anoth­er view:

These are the pho­tos of the same bitch. The first one around 45 days old and the oth­er when she was an adult. You can see her legs are par­al­lel, not so wide and not so nar­row. It is how cor­rect rears should look like.

There are two oth­er kinds: cow-hocked (the hocks almost touch­ing each oth­er) and anoth­er one who would be exact­ly the oppo­site: The hocks are too far apart and the legs has the same shape as a "cow­boy leg" (bow legged). I don't have pho­tos of these two types, but I will try to find them.

Well, we are done with the rears. I will talk now about short and up on leg dogs. I am sure you already heard these expres­sions, right?

"SIZE — The ide­al height at the with­ers for an adult dog is 15 inch­es and for an adult bitch, 14 inch­es. Height may vary one half inch above or below this ide­al. A dog whose height exceeds 1512 inch­es or a bitch whose height exceeds 14 12 inch­es shall be DISQUALIFIED. Any adult dog whose height is less than 14 12 inch­es and an adult bitch whose height is less than 13 12 inch­es shall be penal­ized. Height is deter­mined by a line per­pen­dic­u­lar to the ground from the top of the shoul­der blades, the dog stand­ing nat­u­ral­ly with its forelegs and low­er hind legs par­al­lel to the line of mea­sure­ment.
PROPORTION — The mea­sure­ment from the breast bone to back of thigh is slight­ly longer than the mea­sure­ment from the high­est point of with­ers to the ground. The body must be of suf­fi­cient length to per­mit a straight and free stride; the dog nev­er appears long and low."

The stan­dard is VERY CLEAR about the dog's size. A dog or bitch who is over that size should be DISQUALIFIED. For this rea­son I nev­er will be able to under­stand why dogs in USA are so big. How­ev­er I already noticed it is dif­fer­ent from one state to anoth­er. Some­times if you show a dog 15" tall it will look like a mini-cock­er when you put it side by side with oth­er cock­ers on the same show. I am sor­ry, but I don't think that is right. 

My dogs usu­al­ly are as close as pos­si­ble to the IDEAL HEIGHT (around 15", because it is what the stan­dard asks for, right?) but some breed­ers think my dogs are too small !

Anoth­er thing that I don't like are big bitch­es who look more like males than girls, or small males who look like bitch­es. I think you should know imme­di­ate­ly if a cock­er is a male or a female by just look­ing at it. If you must ask the own­er about the sex it is because some­thing is wrong. The same for the puppies.

As exam­ple; I am using pho­tos of two lit­ter­mates — CH ST'JAMES NEVER ON SUNDAY and CH ST'JAMES NOVEMBER RAIN, at the same age. I think you will not have any prob­lems know­ing who is who, right?

But what about this cock­er? Is it a boy or a girl?

Would you be sur­prised to know it is a girl?!

Anoth­er impor­tant thing about the dog's pro­por­tion is the length of the legs. I believe every­body already has seen a pho­to of the "father of the breed" — CH Obo. He was a very low dog. Don't for­get there is a big dif­fer­ence between a small dog and a low one. The low dog has short legs and the small is just small, but still a well pro­por­tioned dog.

When I start­ed out, my dogs used to be small with "nor­mal" legs — not so low not so long — but it was very com­mon to have some pup­pies short on legs. I had to intro­duce new dogs in my breed­ing pro­gram to fix that prob­lem. But you must be care­ful try­ing to make your dogs up on leg because you can get over­sized dogs, and of course, that is not desirable.

The last time I was in the USA to watch a Nation­al was in Jan­u­ary, 2003. I have to say I was so dis­a­point­ed with the buff dogs shown there. Almost 80% of all the dogs/bitches/puppies were short on legs. I believe the length of the legs are the worst prob­lem with the buff cock­ers nowa­days, even worse than the shoul­der angles. Since I haven't gone there since then, I am not sure if the prob­lem is still the same or if the legs are up now.

Here are exam­ples of nor­mal, short and up on leg dogs. As usu­al, I am using puppy's pho­tos to show better:

You must stack the pup­py and see the area under its bel­ly. A nor­mal dog will be almost the same size from it's with­ers to the chest than from the chest to the ground. How­ev­er some pup­pies with a very deep chest will look like they are short­er on legs but in fact, they aren't.

As I said before, the shoul­ders nev­er change, but the legs do. Some short legged pup­pies at 2 months old can be nor­mal when are old­er. The oppo­site hap­pens too. And nev­er for­get; DON'T TAKE pho­tos of your pup­pies just after they got food. Their bel­ly will be so full and they will look like they have short­er legs than what they real­ly are. Anoth­er exam­ple of the same pup­py. I got the first pho­to as soon she got food. The oth­er was around one month after. Much dif­fer­ent, right?

I will start to work with move­ment. That will take more time because it is the most impor­tant aspect of the cocker. 

This is the most impor­tant thing about dogs, not just about cock­ers, but as all oth­er breeds. In a breed like cock­ers. with so much coat, it is not dif­fi­cult to cov­er the prob­lems with a good trim­ming. And if you have enough expe­ri­ence stack­ing dogs, you will be able to make the dog look beau­ti­ful, even when it is not even close to be perfect.

But when the dog starts to move, it will shows all its qual­i­ties and faults. The low tailset will be there, the soft back too, espe­cial­ly the prob­lems with the forelegs and rears.

A dog must walk trot­ting, like a horse. Look these photos:

The first dog has a trot­ting move­ment. Take a look at its legs and its tri­an­gle shape. But the sec­ond move­ment is not a prop­er trot. It is called PACE.. The legs are par­al­lel while its is mov­ing, exact­ly like a camel. Some dogs move like that when they are going faster than a "walk" and not as fast as a trot. Of course that is WRONG. I know only one breed who should move like that — Brazil­ian filas, but maybe there are oth­ers that do the same. BUT COCKERS CAN NOT PACE ok? 

There is anoth­er "move­ment mis­take" very com­mon. A lot of peo­ple (I think they are the major­i­ty of the breed­ers) used to think the faster the dog moves the bet­ter the move­ment is and THAT IS NOT TRUE
Nowa­days the shows more look like races. Who goes faster wins! A prop­er move­ment appears like the dog is going in slow motion. As it has lot of REACH and DRIVE (front and rear) it will take more time to stretch the legs to the max­imun point than a dog with poor reach. Not sure if you under­tand what I mean. Let's try in a dif­fer­ent way:

You have two peo­ple walk­ing side by side. One is mov­ing with big steps and the oth­er with lit­tle ones. But as they are friend they want to be togeth­er. What hap­pens? The per­son with "lit­tle steps" will move their legs many more times than the oth­er, but they have the same speed and are walk­ing side by side

The same hap­pens with dogs with good and bad move­ment. They are able to move the same speed, but the one with lit­tle steps (not prop­er reach and dri­ve — NOT GOOD AT COVERERING GROUND) will have to move the legs many more times than the oth­er with good cov­er (big steps), isn't that truth? 

But do you know what hap­pens? Peo­ple see that dog mov­ing its legs so fast try­ing to go the same speed as the dog with good dri­ve and reach and they think that one with the fast lit­tle steps is a MOVING MACHINE!!! But in fact the oth­er one, who doesn't take so much effort to move because it has the "big steps" is the one who REALLY MOVES CORRECTLY!

Let's see what the stan­dard says about GAIT:

"Pre­req­ui­site to good move­ment is bal­ance between the front and rear assem­blies. He dri­ves with strong, pow­er­ful rear quar­ters and is prop­er­ly con­struct­ed in the shoul­ders and forelegs so that he can reach for­ward with­out con­stric­tion in a full stride to coun­ter­bal­ance the dri­ving force from the rear. Above all, his gait is coör­di­nat­ed, smooth and effort­less. The dog must cov­er ground with his action; exces­sive ani­ma­tion should not be mis­tak­en for prop­er gait".

Do you see? EXCESSIVE ANIMATION SHOULD NOT BE MISTAKEN FOR PROPER GAIT — it is not because a dog moves its legs very fast it means the even prop­er move­ment is right! NEVER FORGET THAT

When the exhibitors (espe­cial­ly the han­dlers) noticed a lot of peo­ple were mak­ing that same mis­take (includ­ing JUDGES!), they start to make their dogs move faster and faster, like a race. But when you make a dog go so fast in its trot, maybe this dog will show some prob­lems in his back that in fact he doesn't have. But that doesn't seem to mean that much for some han­dlers . In their opin­ion; A SHOW DOG MUST MOVE FASTER and that is all.

Anoth­er VERY IMPORTANT THING: Time after time we have in our breed dogs that become great win­ners, espe­cial­ly because they are great movers. It is a great plea­sure to watch them fly­ing around the ring, but when you pay atten­tion to their struc­ture — ugly head, nar­row front and rears, very long back, you real­ize that dog is noth­ing more than a mover. 

I believe you've already noticed that there are some top mod­els who aren't that beau­ti­ful. In fact you can't under­stand why they are so famous, but when they see them in the "fash­ion shows" you notice they have some­thing dif­fer­ent, they have all the "eyes" on them. It is "the flash", it is what we say in the dog world "show atti­tude". And you can be sure the same hap­pens to the dogs.

"The flash" is a great thing to a han­dler. One dog who is a great mover and has flash is half way to become a BIS win­ner, but to a breed­er THAT CAN NOT BE SO IMPORTANT. Of course I like a dog who is able to move cor­rect­ly, but it MUST HAVE oth­er qual­i­ties. I nev­er will use a dog with a bad head, long back, no bone, no sub­stance, just because it is a great mover or because has "show attitude".

I already had so many dogs who had great struc­ture, they weren't per­fect but were very close to the stan­dard but besides that, they were able to move cor­rect­ly, BUT they didn't have "flash". They were able to fin­ish their cham­pi­onship, but they nev­er got any BIS. And every time they were in the same show with the "big movers" they lost. Is that fair? Well … who said the dog shows are "fair games" ?

So here goes one piece of advice. Move­ment is very impor­tant to show the dog's faults, but it doesn't mean a "flashy dog" is a per­fect dog. Don't use a dog with your bitch just because it is a big win­ner or a great mover, because maybe it will mean noth­ing in your whelp­ing box.

But let's talk about movement …

As you already saw on this page, a dog with a prop­er front and prop­er rear angu­la­tion will have a beau­ti­ful REACH and DRIVE, an expres­sion we see very often on the stud sire adver­tise­ments. 
It will be BALANCED.
Let's see these pho­tos in movement:

You see this dog stacked and you believe it is a bal­anced dog. For the topline you are able to see it has good shoul­ders, but you are not sure about the rear. You can't see that very well with all that cov­er, right? And you can't touch the dog to see how it real­ly looks like What should you do? WATCH IT MOVING! When you see this dog's move­ment you have the con­fir­ma­tion it has a good struc­ture. You trace a line from its two paws togeth­er to the back of the dog. And thus trace a line from that point to the front foot and anoth­er one to the back foot These two lines must have almost the same size. I used my com­put­er to trace these lines and believe me, THEY ARE EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE. This tri­an­gle must have two sides with the same size.

Do you want to see anoth­er dog mov­ing, this time a young puppy?

Once again we have the a tri­an­gle with 2 sides of the same size. 

But what is a DOG THAT'S NOT BALANCED? We must think of him as two parts. Each part will walk with dif­fer­ent size of steps. If he doesn't have enough REACH, his "front steps" will be short ones. If he is over angu­lat­ed in his rear, his "hind steps" will be large ones. So a dog that is not bal­anced is the one whose "front steps" will not be the same size as his "hind steps". 

A dog with bad reach will look like this:

You already learned the front legs should go ahead of the nose of the dog when it is mov­ing. And look­ing to the tri­an­gle, you can see that one side is longer than the oth­er. The longer side shows longer steps. The small­er size, small­er steps. In this case, this dog has much more DRIVE than REACH. His "hind steps" are larger/bigger than the "front step".

And you can find anoth­er kind of move­ment prob­lem when a dog has more dri­ve than reach: SIDE WINDING or SIDLE. What is that? It is when the dog can not move in a straight line. Why does that happen?

Very sim­ple … look the pho­to of the buff pup­py mov­ing (above). Do you notice the paws which are on the floor are very close to each oth­er? All the dogs used to move in that way. But now think of a dog that is not bal­anced. He doesn't have too much reach (small/short front steps) but as it is over angu­lat­ed in the rear, he push­es the ground very hard (large/big hind steps). If this dog was mov­ing in a straight line, he would put his hind leg AHEAD of the fore­leg. Of course, he can't do that, so what does he do? He puts his hind leg at the side of the fore­leg. Look the draw­ing below.

Let's imag­ine these are two dogs. The left dog is a bal­anced one. The red elipses are his forelegs. The blue are his hindlegs, ok? He is mov­ing in a straight line, because of his good reach, his forelegs go ahead of his nose. As he is bal­anced, you can trace a per­fect tri­an­gle (green col­or) show­ing his steps are the same size.

But the dog on the right isn't bal­anced. It doesn't have enough REACH (short front steps) and because of that, his fore­leg isn't ahead of his nose. On the oth­er hand, he has too much DRIVE (large hind steps) and his hind leg goes ahead of the point his fore­leg is. He puts his two right legs side by side and to make that pos­si­ble, he can't go in a straight line. He must twist his body. It is Moth­er Nature adjust­ing the dog's move­ment to its structure.

It is what Byron San­tos (Sher­wood Cock­ers in USA) said: "I guess you have to describe the rear as a "bal­anced to the front" because no mat­ter how good or bad the front is, God will adjust the rears so the dog can move more adequately"

Believe me, sid­dle (side wind­ing) move­ment is much more com­mon than you can imag­ine, espe­cial­ly in short backed dogs. As I like the short back dogs, I already had a cou­ple of dogs with this prob­lem in my place. And I had oppor­tu­ni­ty to watch a Dober­man Nation­al Show here in Brazil (I was the judge's assis­tant) and I can tell you 90% of the dogs on that show (includ­ing the ones import­ed from USA) had the same prob­lem. It is eas­i­er to see the prob­lem in a dober­man because there is no coat to cov­er its legs … 

But some­times you have a dog (very com­mon in pup­pies) and it moves straight, but when you put the leash on it he will start to to sid­dle. Some­times he is doing that because the dog is pulling away from you and not because it has prob­lems in his struc­ture, ok?