Cocker Spaniel Championship 2018

Sandringham Estate

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Cocker championship

Kennel Club Gundog photographer

When I was asked to photograph the 2018 Cocker Spaniel Championship I said yes straight away as I always loved photographing the Working Cocker Spaniels at the KC events at Chatsworth. But then I was informed that the Championship was at Sandringham “Yes that’s fine” I said. Then I was told that the Queen might come out to watch, “OK” I said. I honestly did not think that HM the Queen of England was going to come out to watch the championship, mainly because that is just how my luck goes.

Queen Elizabeth II

In the morning of day one of the Cocker Spaniel Championship, it was announced that HM The Queen was going to see if she could come out to see the dogs work “Either today or tomorrow” they said. I really did think to myself still, I bet she doesn’t come out we won’t get to see her.

Event photographers

There were quite a few event photographers including myself at the Cocker Spaniel Championship. Plus Paul French Video and his crew who are the videographers for Working Gundogs. I was photographing for the Kennel Club, then the rest of the photographers were mainly for magazines and reporters too. When your photographing events it doesn’t take long to get to know everyone, if you don’t already know them from previous events. And it is so much easier if everyone can get along on the day as we all usually do.

The Judges

The judges for the trial were –

Kennel club Gundog Championship

Four great A panel field trial judges the Kennel Club had judging the championship. Like most people who judge any kind of dog competition you get ‘in the zone’ when you are judging and these four were in the zone for the two days. The Cocker Spaniel championship is a high profile field trial for the Cockers Spaniels. The owners and handlers who will have been training and preparing for this event for months if not a few years. In short the pressure is on and the atmosphere is tense at times.

Kennel Club events Chatsworth

It was great that I already knew Jon Bailey from photographing events at Chatsworth, as he is a member of the Kennel Club Working Gundog party. So Jon plays a big part in also setting up and organising the Gundog events for Kennel Club, everyone knows Jon. 

Photographing Gundog events

When you are photographing any Gundog event it’s not about you or getting portfolio or award winning images from the event. It is about recording the event as it happens with a wide selection of images. Not getting in the way or becoming distracting to the dogs, handlers or judges in any way. Because you are put into a privileged position and you see most of what the judges see. The ‘gallery’ who are the spectators have to stand right back and spectate from a far.

Cocker championship
Kennel club Gundog Championship
Kennel club Gundog Championship

Day 1 of the Cocker Spaniel field trial

Day 1 of the championship was under way and the atmosphere already felt different to other Gundog tests and trials I’ve photographed. Around mid morning there was another announcement  “Her Majesty The Queen is on her way”.  The trial stopped to wait for the Queen to arrive, everyone seemed a little bit excited about it and I’m sure everyone was thinking the same thing ‘HM The Queen is on her way!’ 

Kennel club Gundog Championship

HM The Queen arrived

Sure enough, HM The Queen arrived at the Cocker Spaniel championship and what I found amazing to start with was that The Queen drove the Range Rover herself. There was no chauffeur, plenty of security and clearly body guards with her, but HM The Queen drove the car herself. Got out the Range Rover and went to say hello to all the Game Keepers from the Estate, the Guns for the two days and all the Judges. Incredible to watch, photograph and be a part of. 

Cocker championship
Cocker championship
Cocker championship

Back to photographing dogs

Once we were all over the excitement of HM The Queen arriving the trial continued where it had stopped and we carried on photographing the dogs working. HM The Queen had not only come to watch the dogs work in Cocker championship but she had also come to watch her own dog compete in the trial. Although The Queen is well known for owning Corgis she also owns Working Cocker Spaniels.   

Kennel club Gundog Championship
Kennel club Gundog Championship


At most dog Gundog trials I’ve been to as a rule, you walk, everyone walks a long way even the judges and guns. Depending on the ground you may have an Argocat to take the judges back or the Game Keepers Land Rover close by. But you don’t really have moving vehicles when a field trial is going ahead. So it was a surreal moment when I looked back from photographing the dogs to see HM Queen Elizabeth II and the convoy of black Range Rovers following down the track behind her. 

Cocker championship
Kennel club Gundog Championship
Kennel club Gundog Championship

It was an amazing two days photographing the Cocker Spaniel Championship. Topped off by HM The Queen also watching the dogs work both days and then finally presenting the awards at the end of day two. No dog event which I photograph will ever come close to the atmosphere at this one it was special.

Queen Elizabeth II Sandringham

Winner of the Cocker Spaniel Championship 2018

Abiann Flawless

View the Cocker Spaniel Championship photos in the gallery here >

cocker spaniel championship

Video of the winner, Abiann Flawless from Paul French video.

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