What is "Dual Purpose"?
History of the English Cocker in the Field

What is "Dual Purpose"?

Each breed of dog was developed for a specific purpose. In this case, that of Spaniels, the purpose is to hunt. A Spaniel's job on the hunt is to run out ahead and to the sides of the hunter, within gunrange (10 to 30 yards, depending on cover), locate game (primarily by scent) and force it from cover so as to expose it to the gun. The hunter then shoots the game, and the Spaniel locates it and brings it back to the hunter.

There was once a time when animals were rarely kept if they did not perform their bred-for task or purpose, be it wool production, milk production, eggs, meat, draft work, riding, herding, whatever. No one had any use for "pets" except the very wealthy. The breeding for improved domestic animals for various purposes has always been a somewhat competitive task. Breeders strived to breed the best animals they could. Formal and informal exhibitions and competitions were held to compare the success of one breeder over another. In the case of dogs, formal field and conformation competitions of hunting dogs became "officially" established around the end of the 1800's. For the majority of breeds in these early years, show dogs and utility dogs were one and the same. But as dog shows and trials became more popular and some breeders chose to participate in one kind of competition over another, these breeds started to see a separation in their appearance and abilities between "show" and "field" dogs. (See Why Breed to a Standard)
Both shows and trials are expensive and time consuming pursuits, making it difficult and largely unaffordable to produce for and compete in both arenas. Concentration on just conformation has made show dogs' conformation more uniform and, for the most part,closer to the standard.... often to the point of exaggeration of the standard.... and heightened hunting ability was no longer selected for and therefore the dogs were no longer competitive in field trials. Trial breeders, for the most part, tend to ignore their breeds' standard, breeding only for dogs that showed high levels of ability, drive and style. Consequently, while superior workers, they lack uniformity and sometimes are even unrecognizeable as representatives of their breed, making them no longer competitive for the ring.

Less common breeds for which no field trials are held and from which both show and hunting companions come from the same litters as they did a hundred and more years ago can perhaps be said to have remained "dual purpose dogs".

The "dual purpose dog" is, very simply, a dog that is both conformationally correct enough to compete well in the ring as well as do a laudable job as a companion on the hunt. The ideal dual purpose dog is both competitive enough to earn a bench championship as well as prove their competence afield by completing advanced test titles and/or earn field trial championships.

A dog with a Bench Championship AND a Field Trial Championship will bear before his name the prestigious prefix of DC ---Dual Champion. A Dual Champion could perhaps be considered the closest to perfect any purebred dog can be for they have proven their excellence in both arenas.