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New working Cocker health initiative

When trying to find a health tested stud dog to use on a working cocker bitch, Ali Nicholson-Haynes of the Danalimatt cockers, along with Rachel Birt, realised that the Kennel Club recorded health screening results for working and show cocker spaniels but did not differentiate between the two types, so they had no idea which was a working stud dog and which was not.

Thinking that after the Pedigree Dogs Exposed program was aired that health testing was more important than ever they decided to set up a new web site aimed at working cocker spaniel owners.
“The seed of the idea lay dormant in my mind after watching the Pedigree Dogs Exposed, programme aired by the BBC in August of last year. The programme had a strong impact on me, causing me to research the health screening available for working cockers”, Ali Nicholson-Haynes told Our Dogs, “Our aim at “Working Cocker Pro Health Society” is to raise awareness of the health tests available. These tests are offered to all breeders who wish to enhance their breeding programme by screening for possible unseen conditions. By providing a directory of working cockers that are health screened, from the basic annual eye tests, through to Optigen DNA prcd-PRA and beyond, we will offer, a comprehensive tool for like-minded breeders and owners, to make an informed and knowledgeable decision regarding the dogs they wish to purchase, or the dogs they have in their breeding programme”.

Owners visiting the website will be able to find information about various aspects of cocker health and where they can get their dogs tested. They will be advertising eye testing clinics and other health screening clinics on the site.

“Clearly, when breeding, all aspects of the breed need to be considered. These dogs are bred, for sound temperament and health, intelligence, stamina, speed and biddability, sound in body and capable of being trained to perform the job they were bred for, hunting, flushing and retrieving game. However, these are visual and behaviour traits and we feel that to complete the requirement for producing sound puppies, you need to know that there are no hidden health issues”. Ali and Rachel who designed the website, plan to add a feature for breeders who health test their to advertise their breeding stock, stud dogs and puppies.

Recognising the moves with in the breed for some breeders to breed the two strains togetherto get a more dual purpose dog, Ali told us, “More and more these days both types of cockers are being put together, show and working and we feel that if there are any health issues in either strain of the breed, then it is imperative that we do the best we can to ensure that the breed stays healthy. Unfortunately we are hindered by the fact that The Kennel Club do not differentiate between the different types, when registering litters”.

So far the response to the initiative shown by Ali and Rachel has been very mixed, with some breeders being very supportive and others who feel it is not necessary to test working cockers as they believe they have no health issues. Ali and Rachel both hope that breeders will see that they site can be of great benefit to all cocker spaniel breeders, as Ali says, “It is early days for the society but we hope that the message will trickle feed into peoples consciousness and form part of a health plan that will help to "Keep the Cocker Healthy"

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