If you're looking for a great way to exercise and spend time with your Cocker spaniel, there are several different competitions offered through various associations around the country that focus on ability instead of good looks. Cocker spaniels certainly have plenty of both, and while they may be better known for making dramatic entrances at conformation shows, they also excel in agility and obedience competitions. In this article, we'll take a look at both agility and obedience competitions and why the Cocker spaniel is a good competitor in both.
Agility is a sport in which a dog and his handler negotiate an obstacle course in a given amount of time. The dog has to complete the course without a leash and without food or toy incentives, and handlers cannot touch the dog or the obstacles. The handler can only direct the dog with voice or motions. The obstacle course should be just difficult enough that the dog would not be able to complete it without assistance, which the handler provides. The handler is also responsible for making sure the dog is kept safe on the course. The obstacles included in an agility competition usually include an A-frame, which the dog must climb one side and descend the other, a dogwalk, raised about four feet off the ground, a seesaw, which the dog must cross, a tunnel and a series of jumps.
Cocker spaniels are naturals at agility, thanks to their high energy and natural athleticism. Cocker spaniels also have a high desire to spend time with their families and work for them as well. Cockers and their handlers have the potential to become a force to be reckoned with on the agility field. Because of its growing popularity, there are many kennel clubs and associations throughout the country that offer training and competitions in agility, so if you think agility is right for you, seek out a club near you.
An obedience trial is a sport in which a dog must perform a series of tasks under the direction of his handler. These tasks have grown to be so stylized in manner that they hardly resemble what we think of as good obedience, and in that same vein, a dog that is perfectly trained for obedience trials may still be prone to bed for dinner scraps. The basic tasks include Recall, in which the dog must come and sit in front of the handler without delay, Drop on Recall, which is the same as Recall except that, at the signal of the handler, the dog must drop to a lying position, Heel, in which the handler will follow a predetermined pattern with the dog following in heel position and several Retrieve exercises. There are three levels of obedience trials: Novice, Open (intermediate) and Utility (advanced).
Just like agility, Cocker spaniels excel in obedience because of their high energy and their willingness to be with and work for their handlers. Cockers are also natural heelers and excel retrieving thanks to their natural hunting skills. As with agility, there are many associations around the country that help train and promote agility trials, so seek out a club in your area if you feel that obedience trials would be a good pastime for you and your Cocker spaniel.