Fishing and Shooting: Cockers have sweet and humorous natures. But then, whose dog doesn’t?

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WELL that’s your lot gone to the dogs, I remarked to Crumpet, our working cocker spaniel. Now that Kate Middleton has a cocker, the breed will be ruined; everyone will want one.

Cocker spaniels will become the pet of choice among very silly people who shouldn’t be allowed to own so much as a pi-dog. The same happened to golden retrievers. They were never the same after Goldie joined the cast of Blue Peter.

I will not be remotely surprised to hear that our local likely lad has already acquired a cocker bitch and is planning to keep her in constant pup “Royal spaniels just like Kate’s – ready for Christmas; £500 each”. He will probably not have paid much attention to the fact that there are at least three types of cocker spaniel, the American, the English and the working cocker.

The first two are bred almost entirely to appear on greetings cards or at Crufts. They tend to be shaggy with ears like a full bottomed wig and bark annoyingly and incessantly. The working cocker, on the other hand, is not (as far as I know) a breed at all, but a sort of cocker subset bred by enthusiasts for their ability to hunt and retrieve. They also have sweet and humorous natures. But then, whose dog doesn’t have that?

Now everyone will want one like Kate’s, who is about to do for working cockers what Princess Di did for Barbour jackets. Black working cockers like the Cambridges’ (or Strathearns’ when they are in Scotland) will be in high demand, although they are not that easy to come by. Working cockers are bred for their ability to hunt, so breeders are not too fussy about colouring. Even so, expect to pay up to £600 now the royals are on the dog cart.

The big question, apart from the name of the royal puppy, is whether it has had its tail docked at birth. While it is still, ludicrously, illegal to dock a working dog’s tail in Scotland, it is fine in England and Wales if the breeder attests the puppy will be used for shooting. A shortened tail reduces the risk of painful injury and possible amputation, when working in thick undergrowth. In Scotland the prophylactic docking of working dog’s tails (under review) is considered cruel and politically incorrect and is consequently banned. So if Kate’s doggy has had his tail docked we can assume he is going to be trained for shooting.

I have suggested the canine Cambridge might make a suitable husband for Crumpet if he is staying at Balmoral, but she is sniffy and says he is far too young and inexperienced.