Working Cocker Colours (2022)

Working Cocker Colours (1)

Working cockers do come in quite a wide variety of different colours and patterns.

The principles of colour genetics are the same for all breeds so a lot of this is common to both the Cockers and Border Collies.

We’ll start again with the basics…
I will try and describe this in the simplest way as I understand it but it is worth remembering that while the understanding of colour genetics is very useful when wishing to breed puppies of a particular colour, the colour should be the last consideration when planning a mating...the breeders’ requirements for health, temperament and type must all be fulfilled before colour is taken into account and when you find all the things you want, the colour is the icing on the cake!

Ok...here we go...

The hair follicles are made up of cells containing two colour pigments – eumelanin (black) and phaeomelanin (true red); so basically eumelanin is the pigment that produces the darker black and brown shades, phaeomelanin produces the true red (golden red). There are a vast number of genes that control the production of these pigments within the cells and therefore control coat colour.

Firstly remember that there are always two of every controlling gene, one comes from the sire and one from the dam. Where a gene is expressed as a capital letter it is dominant, where it is lower case it is recessive.

Working Cocker Colours (2)

Where an animal has two identical genes this is called homozygous and where they are different it is heterozygous.

Working Cocker Colours (3)

Where a gene is dominant the animal only needs a single copy from either parent to express that colour. Where a gene is recessive an animal MUST have two copies of that gene in order to express that colour; so they must get one copy from either parent. In this way recessive genes can be ‘carried’ i.e. the animal only has one copy so does not express that colour but has the gene to pass on to it’s offspring.

Where an animal is heterozygous for a particular gene (i.e has one of each) it will statistically pass the dominant copy to 50% of it’s offspring and the recessive copy to the other 50%. Where an animal is homozygous for a particular gene (i.e. has two copies the same) it will always pass this copy on to ALL it’s offspring.

In the simplest terms…
Brown/chocolate, gold/lemon/orange, tan points and particolour markings are all recessive genes.
This means that…

1)Both parents must carry the gene for each colour in order for it to be produced in a litter
2)Any dog exhibiting a recessive colour will pass the gene for that colour on to ALL its’ offspring

And now for the science part…

So lets say a ‘normal’ animal is black…in a chocolate/brown/liver animal (call it what you like, it's all the same colour!) the eumelanin pigment granules are a slightly different shape which makes the coat appear brown. The gene said to be controlling this is expressed as B for black and b for brown. Brown is a recessive gene so both parents must have the gene to produce it in a litter, Black (B) is dominant and where present it will always be expressed.

So…
a brown/chocolate dog will be bb (homozygous brown)
a black dog carrying brown/chocolate will be Bb (heterozygous black)
and a black dog not carrying brown/chocolate will be BB (homozygous black)

A brown/chocolate dog only has this gene to pass on so all its’ offspring will be brown carriers regardless of their own physical colour.

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It is the extension gene that is responsible for producing the true red (golden, lemon, orange) colour. While this comes in the variety of different shades ranging from the palest blonde to the deepest russet…it is all the same gene.

The extension gene controls the extension of the two pigments in the hair follicle. ‘E’ is dominant and allows the extension of eumelanin, so the dog is black or brown… ‘e’ is the recessive form and allows the extension of phaeomelanin but prevents the extension of eumelanin, so there is no eumelanin in the pigment and therefore the animal is red. The red colour is produced from a recessive gene so the same principles apply, a dog must be homozygous to exhibit the colour and must get one gene from each parent.

So… true red (golden, lemon, orange) - ee (homozygous red)
carrying true red - Ee (heterozygous non-red)
not carrying true red - EE (homozygous non-red)

What is interesting about this gene is that it will mask the dogs ‘real’ colour. As such you can get black, chocolate and tan pointed dogs that all appear as simply red because of the lack of eumelanin in the hair follicles. As it only affects the hair follicles and not other pigmentation the dogs’ nose and eye rims will express its hidden colour.

The agouti gene is the one responsible for producing tanpoints in cocker spaniels…there are numerous alleles of this gene which vary from breed to breed but the simple tan pointed pattern is the only one that concerns cocker spaniels which makes life much simpler!
This gene is expressed as ‘at’ (agouti – tanpoint)

As we already know each individual has two copies of each gene, when tan points are present the dog must have two copies of the tan pointed gene on the agouti allele

i.e. atat - tanpointed

But...it doesn't end there...there is another gene that effectively switches the agouti genes on and off...this is referred to as dominant black and is written as 'K'
So an animal must also be double recessive for this gene for the tan pointed pattern to be expressed.

KK - Homozygous dominant black, cannot be or produce tanpoint regardless of the A alleles
Kk - Heterozygous dominant black, cannot be tanpointed but can produce the patterns it carries on the A alleles
kk - Homozygous, will exhibit tanpoint depending on it's A alleles

In conclusion...
KK atat – this animal is not tanpointed and cannot produce tanpoint but can pass the tanpoint gene on to its’ offspring
Kk atat - carries tanpoint, can both produce it in a litter and pass it on to its’ offspring
kk atat - tanpointed coat colour, can both produce it in a litter and will pass the gene on to ALL its’ offspring.

This is the gene responsible for particolour i.e. ‘something’ and white and is thought to have numerous alleles in different breeds.

‘S’ is the dominant gene and is just solid colour with no or minor white markings (toes, tail tip, chest, blaze etc). These small white markings are considered a fault in the show ring so show breeders always breed true for EITHER solid or particolour (i.e. no solid to particolour matings)

'sp' is the piebald gene and is the one thought to be responsible for particolour in cockers, this is a recessive gene so a dog must have two copies of the gene to express particolour markings.

S S = solid coloured, no particolour carried
S sp = solid coloured but carrying the gene for particolour
sp sp = particoloured

Where particolour is present a dog will either exhibit open marks or roan. Open marked animals will usually exhibit some ticking, although clear open marks can be seen, they are quite rare.

Roan (R) is dominant to non-roan (rr) so where this gene is present a parti-coloured cocker will always exhibit roaning.

R R = roan
R r = roan carrying the gene for open marks
r r = open marked particolour

Let's take an example...

Let’s take Drake as an example…

Working Cocker Colours (4)

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Drake is black/tan, his father is liver and his mother is blue roan therefore we know he is…

Bb – black carrying brown
kk atat – tan pointed
Ssp RR – solid coloured carrying the gene for particolor, in this case just roan
(we don’t know whether he is carrying the gene for open marks as well as roan but we can probably assume he doesn’t)

This theory has been proven, Drake was mated to a liver/tan bitch, they produced 7 pups…4 liver/tan and 3 black/tan. It is apparent then that this bitch probably does not carry particolour.

Drake was then mated to Teal, a blue roan and tan bitch, they had 6 puppies…4 black/tan and 2 blue roan/tan.

Proving then that Drake does carry both liver and roan as we expected.

Below are some examples of the different colours possible within working cockers.

I must thank everyone that has allowed me to use pictures of their dogs to illustrate the different colours but please be aware that these pictures do belong to the photographer and must not be copied or distributed in any way.

Black based colours...

Working Cocker Colours (5)

This is Switch, FTW Rowston Simone, owned by Nick and Kris Cook at Dever Valley Gundogs

Switch is solid black coloured

Working Cocker Colours (6)

This is Bramble, Fourlanes Alena of Summervilles
Bramble is solid black with a white bib

Working Cocker Colours (7)

This is Isla, Gibble Danette of Summervilles
Isla is solid black with tan points

Isla must have two copies of the recessive tanpoint gene (atat) and she will pass one copy of this gene on to all of her offspring.

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This is Maizy, Bryning Makin’ Merry
Maizy is solid black with tan points and a white bib and 'blaze'

Maizy must have two copies of the recessive tanpoint gene (atat) and she will pass one copy of this gene on to all of her offspring.

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This is YoYo, she is black and white, open marked with a small amount of ticking.

YoYo must have two copies of the recessive particolour gene (spsp) AND two copies of the recessive open marked gene (rr), she will pass one copy of each of these genes on to all of her offspring.

Working Cocker Colours (10)

This is Jade, Cumwell Teal, owned by Jacqui Jones at Barrackswood Cockers
Jade is blue roan

Jade must have two copies of the recessive particolour gene (spsp) but she must be either heterozygous or homozygous for the dominant roan gene (Rr or RR). She will pass one copy of the particolour gene on to all of her offspring.

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Working Cocker Colours (11)

This is our own Teal, Cracoe Amy at Bryning
Teal is blue roaned with tan points

Teal must have two copies of the recessive particolour gene (spsp) but she must be either heterozygous or homozygous for the dominant roan gene (Rr or RR). She will pass one copy of the particolour gene on to all of her offspring.

Teal must also have two copies of the recessive tan point gene (atat), she will also pass one copy of this gene on to all her offspring.

Liver based colours

Working Cocker Colours (12)

This is Paddy, Wetlands Skipper – owned by Michelle Martin
Paddy is solid liver coloured

Paddy must have two copies of the recessive brown gene (bb), he will pass one copy of this gene on to all his offsrping.

Working Cocker Colours (13)

This is Ruby, Springfizz Gem at Raezhaven
Ruby is solid liver with a white bib

Ruby must have two copies of the recessive brown gene (bb), she will pass one copy of this gene on to all his offsrping

Working Cocker Colours (14)

This is Trouper, Breezybrook Trouper
Trouper is solid Liver with tan points

Trouper must have two copies of the recessive brown gene (bb) AND two copies of the recessive tan point gene (atat), he will pass one copy of each of these genes on to all his offspring.

Working Cocker Colours (15)

This is Toffee, Summervilles Cairistiona
Toffee is solid liver with tan points and a white bib

Toffee must have two copies of the recessive brown gene (bb) AND two copies of the recessive tan point gene (atat), she will pass one copy of each of these genes on to all her offspring.

Working Cocker Colours (16)

This is Holly, Contact Dancer, owned by Jacqui Jones at Barrackswood Cockers
Holly is liver and white, open marked with a small amount of ticking

Holly must have two copies of the recessive particolour gene (spsp) AND two copies of the recessive open marked gene (rr) AND two copies of the recessive liver gene (bb) she will pass one copy of each of these genes on to all of her offspring.

Working Cocker Colours (17)

This is our own Travis, Raezhaven Bryce at Bryning
Travis is liver roan

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Travis must have two copies of the recessive particolour gene (spsp) but she must be either heterozygous or homozygous for the dominant roan gene (Rr or RR). Travis must also have two copies of the recessive brown gene (bb); he will pass one copy of the particolour gene and one copy of the brown gene on to all of his offspring.

Working Cocker Colours (18)

This is Dotterel, Barrackswood Nutcracker
Dotterel is liver roaned with tan points

Dotterel must have two copies of the recessive particolour gene (spsp) but she must be either heterozygous or homozygous for the dominant roan gene (Rr or RR). She must also have two copies of the recessive brown gene (bb) AND two copies of the recessive tanpoint gene; she will pass one copy of each of these genes on to all of her offspring.

Gold based colours

Working Cocker Colours (19)

This is Drew, Larford Ready of Summervilles
Drew is solid gold coloured

Drew must have two copies of the recessive extension gene (ee) which make him appear gold, he will pass one copy of each of these genes on to all his offspring.

Working Cocker Colours (20)

This is Pie, Northwalden Banoffee Pie of Paoates

Pie is solid gold with a white bib and 'blaze'

Note that Pie has liver pigmentation so she is a liver based gold.

Pie must have two copies of the recessive extension gene (ee) which make her appear gold but she must also have two copies of the recessive brown gene (bb); she will pass one copy of each of these genes on to all her offspring.

Working Cocker Colours (21)

This is Fern, Calkerry Roach at Raezhaven
Fern is Lemon and White, open marked with a small amount of ticking

Note that Fern has liver pigmentation so she is a liver based lemon & white.

Fern must have two copies of the recessive extension gene (ee) which make her appear gold but she must also have two copies of the recessive brown gene (bb) AND two copies of the recessive particolour gene (spsp) AND two copies of the recessive open marked gene (rr) so I guess she's pretty rare! Fern will pass one copy of each of these genes on to all her offspring.

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FAQs

Which colour working Cocker Spaniel is best? ›

There's no disputing the fact that solid black or liver has become the prevailing colour in working cockers, but this isn't so much because these dark, solid-coloured spaniels are the best workers but due to the fact that the dominant working cocker sires in recent years have been solids.

What colour will my Cocker Spaniel puppies be? ›

Cocker Spaniels can be of any of a wide variety of colour and their combinations. The basic colour of the entire fell is black, liver and red (see tables). The nose colour can be black or brown. In addition to the colours mentioned, you can also meet an orange or lemon coloured Cocker Spaniel.

What is a good hip score for a working Cocker Spaniel? ›

The minimum hip score is 0 and the maximum is 106 (53 for each hip). The lower the score the less the degree of hip dysplasia present. An average (or mean) score is calculated for all breeds scored under the scheme and advice for breeders is to only breed from dogs with scores well below the breed mean score.

Does the colour of a Cocker Spaniel affect its temperament? ›

A dog's colour reflects a pooch's personality, scientists say, at least in one breed, the English cocker spaniel. The latest study, recently published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, shows that golden/red English cocker spaniels exhibit the most dominant and aggressive behaviour.

What should I look for in a working cocker spaniel? ›

How to choose a working cocker spaniel puppy - YouTube

Can cocker spaniels be two colours? ›

Particolored Cocker Spaniels

These dogs are two-tone, with either the white or their base color showing as their main color. Their markings can appear in different shapes, sizes, and places, so no two particolor Cocker Spaniels have quite the same coat.

What is the rarest cocker spaniel colour? ›

Chocolate coloured Cocker spaniels tend to be less common than the rest of the breed.

What is the most popular cocker spaniel colour? ›

The lemon and white, red and white, sable, sable and tan, and sable and white are not considered standard. Blue roan is the most popular color choice.

How do you determine what color puppies will be? ›

The only way to know the true genetic color of these dogs and the potential coat color of the puppies they could produce is to do genetic testing. There are several resources on the Internet that can help you understand color inheritance in your dog, including poodles and other breeds.

Is 12 a good hip score? ›

A balanced score of 12 would be 6/6, a better score would be 3/3 and a perfect score would be 0/0.

Should all dogs be hip scored? ›

To help breed out these problems, the Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association set up the Hip and Elbow Scoring Schemes, and breeders are strongly advised only to breed from dogs with good scores.

What is FN in Cocker Spaniels? ›

The Familial or Hereditary Nephropathy (FN) is a juvenile-onset fatal kidney disease in English Cocker Spaniels. The renal disease caused by FN invariably is progressive and ultimately fatal.

What age do cocker spaniels calm down? ›

But, most people will say that Cocker Spaniels don't calm down until they are 2-3 years old. Although this breed will always be active and busy well into their adult life, so don't hold your breath!

How do you calm a hyper Cocker Spaniel? ›

How to Control a Hyper Cocker Spaniel
  1. Tire your cocker spaniel out with lots of exercise and active play. ...
  2. Make your cocker spaniel work for his food. ...
  3. Reconsider his diet. ...
  4. Teach your cocker spaniel commands such as "sit", "down" or "quiet" in calmer moments, to be used when he is acting out.

Does coat color affect dog personality? ›

Making assumptions regarding temperament and intelligence based on the physical appearance of dogs can be a conscious or unconscious human act. Labrador retrievers with chocolate-coloured coats are anecdotally considered to be less trainable and more hyperactive and aggressive than their black or yellow peers.

Are working cockers intelligent? ›

Cocker Spaniels are incredibly smart dogs. For obedience and working intelligence, the English Cocker Spaniel is the 20th smartest dog breed. They are easy to train, which means that owners should have no problem at all teaching them new commands. A working breed, Cocker Spaniels love learning new skills.

Are working cocker spaniels cuddly? ›

It's important to remember show cockers and working cockers have the same ancestors, so there are also show cockers that work brilliantly in the field. They are both extremely loving, loyal and cuddly dogs. They love nothing more than to be near their owners, and because of this can struggle with separation anxiety.

Can working cocker spaniels be left alone? ›

Cocker Spaniels are known for suffering with separation anxiety, so it's best to have someone with them during the day. It's important that your Cocker is never left alone for more than four hours, but even this may be too much for your dog to handle.

Does a working Cocker Spaniel have a double coat? ›

Cocker Spaniels are not a double-coated breed,” according to Patricia Elkins, a long-time Cocker breeder/owner/handler/groomer. She says a Cocker's coat is not to be likened to a typical “double coat” such as a heavy shedding breed like Labrador Retrievers or Siberian Huskies.

What color is a buff Cocker Spaniel? ›

Buff is the most common color in cocker spaniels. It ranges from lightest cream to darkest red. A red and white parti is the darkest of the buff variety. Just like solid buffs, the parti version can come in the lightest cream to dark red.

Can you show a working Cocker Spaniel? ›

For fully trained dogs with expert handlers, Field Trials are held, some specifically for Cocker Spaniels. Cockers which have been specially bred for work make the most competitive dogs, if properly trained. They tend to be more energetic and lively than most Cockers bred as pets and for showing.

What's the difference between a working Cocker Spaniel? ›

The real difference, however is in their behaviour. Show types generally require less exercise and are often quite scent focussed, spending lots of time sniffing. Working cockers are highly energetic and tend to go everywhere at top speed. They often require more stimulation than show cockers.

Are black cocker spaniels rare? ›

Black Cocker Spaniels are not rare, so you can expect them to be in this price range.

Are golden cocker spaniels rare? ›

No, Golden Cocker Spaniels are not rare at all. In fact they are the most common Cocker Spaniel coat color.

What is the best hip score for a dog? ›

The results

The lower the score the better. The minimum score for each hip is 0 and the maximum is 53, giving a range for the total score of 0 to 106. This total score should be compared to the breed median. CHS recommends only breeding dogs with hip scores under the breed median.

What age should you hip score a dog? ›

Yes and No !!! -Yes all dogs must be at least 12 months old before they can be officially scored under the BVA/KC Canine health scheme. -No- The earliest we can estimate with accuracy how good or otherwise the hips are going to be is from approx 5 months of age.

Do cocker spaniels get hip dysplasia? ›

Hip dysplasia is common in Cocker Spaniels. You may notice that he has lameness in his hind legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We'll take X-rays of your dog's joints to identify the disease as early as possible, and we can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to avoid discomfort and pain.

What is a good elbow score for dogs? ›

Grade 0 – These dogs have been graded as having healthy elbows and have the lowest risk of producing puppies affected by elbow dysplasia.

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