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When I decided that the time was right to get a dog my Mum suggested that I start with a Cocker Spaniel as they have lovely personalities and are easy to train. So onto the Kennel Club website I went and found a litter of puppies just up the motorway at Tewkesbury.

They had one puppy left and I remember sitting in their farmhouse kitchen with the cutest little black and white bundle perched on my lap nibbling my ears - well that was that - there was no way I was leaving that farm without him. And so the tale of Rags begins.

What good ol' Ma didn't mention was the fact that you get Working and Show Cocker Spaniels - and they are very different! So here is what I have learnt about Working Cocker Spaniels, and Rags in particular, on the path of dog ownership.

Working Cockers are very intelligent and need plenty of exercise - Rags gets about 2 hours a day, spread over 4 walks. Whilst he is perfectly happy to have quick 15 minute walks when time is tight, he also loves a good romp off lead around woods and fields. His tail never stops wagging when on a walk and his nose is never more that 2 inches from the ground. Whilst he hares about like a complete looney when out, he will then quite happily sleep at my feet the rest of the time. There are lots of 'experts' who will tell you all sorts of tosh, some of which I describe below:-

People will tell you that Working dogs do not make good house pets - rubbish! Rags has never messed in the house, chewed the furniture, or caused any kind of chaos - nor is he unhappy to be inside. In fact, despite the back door remaining open all summer long, he chooses to stay firmly by my side at the computer.

Another myth is that Dogs are less loving than Bitches - also rubbish! Dogs are just as loving, if not more so - in fact anyone that knows Rags would not disagree with the fact that he is probably the most loving dog you will ever meet - he also flirts outrageously with all my female friends.

Whilst a strong arm tactic in training may suit some dogs, Working Cockers respond to a conversational tone, assertive commands rather than shouts, and reward based training. They are distraught if you shout at them, as all they want to do is please you. Equally, you will be very hard pushed to stop them pulling on the lead (it is in their breeding to be ahead of you in the field flushing, so walking to heel goes against the grain), and if they are on the tail of a pheasant they will simply ignore you whatever you do. Many a time I have stood like a right lemon in the field with my expensive Cocker Spaniel whistle while Rags becomes temporarily deaf!

Working Cockers are very sociable dogs and love not only other dogs to play with, but also people. Rags is perfectly happy being left at home for a while - but I never leave him more than 3 or 4 hours. Working Cockers are not like Labs where you can leave them all day and go to work - I work from home so Rags has me here most of the time and that is just how he likes it. He is a real mummies boy!

Working Cockers love water, and will find the dirtiest, smelliest places to go. Rags does a very convincing hippopotamus impression in large muddy puddles and is happiest when he is wet and muddy. They also have absolutely no road sense - if they were to see something worth chasing, they would not even register that a car was there. Another trait is that they will chase chickens, so if your neighbour has decided to try the 'Good Life' and keep chickens then you will need to keep the dog away.

I have heard that Working Cocker Spaniels came about in 1932 when they wanted a smaller working dog to get into all those brambles to flush game. They crossed a Show Cocker with a Springer and the Working Cocker Spaniel breed was born. You get variegated types and sole-coloured...Rags is the first and is black and white, but some of his puppies have come out liver and white.

Having done my research into Working Cockers, I have now had to change my car, spend a fortune on sensible clothes and learn how to be a Beater during the season. I have lost over a stone in weight with all the walking and am seriously trying to quit the dreaded weed in order that I might keep up with all the other Beaters without turning purple! Rags has transformed my life, and any side effects are well worth all the unconditional love he gives. On his part, he is either wet, muddy and full of burrs or thorns, or he is laying on his back with all his paws in the air snoring his head off...I think he likes it here.

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