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The Perfect Dog – The Cocker Spaniel

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154 – April 2017


Most of us who own Cocker Spaniels have probably had people ask us what breed we have – whether at a “Meet the Breeds” event, on a walk, therapy visit, or at a dog show – Cockers aren’t always easily recognized.

When you smile and respond that you have a Cocker Spaniel, the reactions range from “Oh, yes, my Mother (Grandmother) had one” or “Oh, I didn’t know they were that color” or “Oh, I grew up with one but that was a long time ago.”

Actually, it wasn’t such a long time ago that the general public knew exactly what a Cocker Spaniel looked like – and nearly everyone owned one, knew someone who owned one or wished they owned one – and the purebred dog, in general, was king.

Cocker Spaniels are the 31st most popular breed in the AKC standings right now, but stories of the 15 years, from 1938-1953, when Cocker Spaniels led the American Kennel Club registrations at number one, are legendary. One would think that Cockers, the smallest members of the Sporting Group and known for being “merry, gentle, and smart” should still be high up on the list of family-friendly pet options for the 21st century.

With discussions occurring among Cocker Spaniel fanciers and American Spaniel Club membership about potential changes to its current Cocker Spaniel standard, I began wondering what makes the Cocker Spaniel of today so different from its exceptionally popular 1950s brother?

What I found truly amazed me.

In fact, in the 1950s, the Cocker Spaniel wasn’t just considered a great pet, it was considered a great example of the dog, in general.

In his creation of the “Anatomy of the Dog” educational series for Popular Dogs magazine, of all the dogs in the world, Robert F. Way, V.M.D., M.S. in 1953 chose the Cocker Spaniel as the “perfect” specimen to illustrate.

In looking at Dr. Way’s illustrations of the 1953 Cocker Spaniel, I was im- pressed not only by how robust, powerful, and beautiful this dog was, but also how natural it appeared. Yes, there was full feathering, and a beautiful, flat back coat and trimmed face, neck and tail, but it all seemed minimal and more a neatening-up than a full-on grooming. This dog looks like one an average pet owner could easily manage grooming and caring for and probably enjoy hours of fun and activities together.

In doing further research, I discovered a fabulous, very thick book with a dusty, dark black hardcover: Visualizations Of The Dog Stan- dards, created by Popular Dogs. (Interestingly, Popular Dogs was published and founded by George F. Foley, at the time a dog show superintendent for more than 60 years and named “Dog Man of the Half Century” in 1950. He founded Popular Dogs in 1928 and his company still exists and is now known as MB-F.)

Click here to read the complete article
154 – April 2017

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