What you need to know before purchasing a Cocker Spaniel puppy or adult

A Cocker Spaniel Puppy or an Adult Cocker Spaniel?

There are three main options you should consider, a reputable breeder, an individual or a rescue / animal shelter. You need to know the answers to these questions before you even start looking for any Cocker Spaniel puppies for sale.

Questions to Ask yourself before purchasing a Cocker Spaniel Puppy/Adult

How will s/he impact my lifestyle?

You need to get a dog that can easily fit in with your lifestyle without any major changes either way. If you choose to buy a cocker spaniel puppy you will get a very playful, energetic and eager addition to the household who will mold his life around you.

If you are looking for either a more relaxed dog or aren’t interested in going through all the training of a puppy then an adult would be better for you.

Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniels are very happy dogs that look at you with pure love and their forever wagging tail shows their huge interest in everything around them. If you’re sitting down they’ll usually lie down, but as soon as you get up they spring back into life, ready for the off.

Cockers need mental as well as physical stimulation and enjoy nothing more than jumping into bushes, hedges and undergrowth to see what’s in there! They really do love life and live every day for enjoyment and with such happiness.

They are renowned for their affectionate nature and show their love as often as possible with the whole family. Many people have fallen for the beauty of Cocker Spaniels over the years and you can easily see why with their adorable faces and the looks of pure love for you.

Cockers can be quite mood sensitive, so if you’re having a bad day then so will they, but try to let their eternal optimism wash over you and you can forget it all in an instant. The fur that Cockers have normally needs a high level of grooming and if you have a working bred dog as I have (I call her Megan) they will spend most of their walks in the bushes, undergrowth and anywhere else they can explore.

This means that even after an hour or so of walking you can easily spend another 30-60 minutes getting all the bits out of their fur that they have collected. I always say that there’s far less countryside out there when Megan and I return from a walk as most of it’s in her fur. Megan has the two layer coat and it’s this that causes the main problem as the softer feathery undercoat is what seemingly magnetically attracts all forms of mud, twigs, brambles, leaves, burrs and many other bits of the countryside.

Cocker Spaniel

Their fur needs a thorough brushing three or four times a week in addition to just getting out the bits after each walk although you can obviously combine these activities. You also need to trim their fur every 6-8 weeks and I have an electric pet groomer that does the job so easily.

Can I cope up with my cocker’s activities?

Cockers are very active dogs so if you are looking for Cocker Spaniel puppies for sale get ready for a whirlwind of activity to hit you! Cockers were originally bred as hunting dogs to raise game such as woodcock, where they get their name from.

Don’t be fooled by their seemingly lazy attitude when resting, they are just conserving their energy. Megan normally gets 2 x 1 hour walks in the countryside where I walk a total of about 6 miles and she spends at least 95% of the time dashing round like a mad thing and probably does nearer 50-60 miles a day.

Cocker Spaniel

As she is from working stock she needs at least this amount a day, but the show / standard Cockers will probably need less than this. If they have had a good walk and run round you shouldn’t get any problems with frustration due to lack of exercise that can be apparent if they don’t get enough of a run round or mental stimulation.

Do cockers have dominance issues?

When choosing your Cocker you need to be aware that there does seem to be some variation in attitude between the solid coloured and multi-coloured dogs. Studies have shown that the more independent and strong willed dogs tend to be the solid coloured ones, whereas the multi-coloured dogs tend to be a bit more submissive, easier to train and need a less strict upbringing.

Whatever you choose to purchase, be it a male or female and either a cocker spaniel puppy or an adult it is purely your own decision. There is a school of thought related to domesticated packs (more than one dog) that mixed genders are less likely to get on due to dominance issues.

All I can really say on this is what works for my family in that my dog is a bitch, as are my parent’s two dogs and my brother’s dog and they all get on fine. They do have some minor disagreements, but that is due to past bad experiences and is one of the things you may need to deal with when buying an adult dog.

Males normally need more direction during training because of their more dominant nature as the pack leader in the wild. He will test both dogs and people to see who is the boss and therefore needs to know his place, i.e. humans are at the top of the pack hierarchy whether they are adults or children. Bitches are generally more submissive and will follow their master or pack leader whether they are human or a dog.

There is an informal test you can do to see the kind of cocker spaniel puppy will grow to be. Generally dogs will be more dominant than bitches and you can soon see or hear the noisy, dominant and intrepid characteristics when you observe all the Cocker Spaniel puppies for sale. Therefore always make sure you visit the litter as early as you can and preferable at least a couple of times to gauge which puppy has what character and then pick one that matches your personality.

When taking on a cocker spaniel puppy you need to be aware that dominant dogs need strong leadership in order to guide them into acceptable behaviour and respect for their position. The more dominant a dog is the more it will test its owners to see who the boss is and what the hierarchy actually is. You must make sure that they know their place and that all human members of the family are above them.

Bitches usually have their first season at around 6-12 months when they are sexually mature, but it is variable and could be either sooner or later than that. It is strongly related to the time of year and the length of the days. If there are other bitches in season or the close presence of male dogs a bitch can go into season early.

Mounting of other animals or toys is not normally sexual it’s usually social dominance to test whether they are more dominant than whatever it is they are mounting. For instance with our family’s dogs each bitch will mount another bitch to test or assert their dominance over another which means that our least dominant bitch mounts her toys as they are what she has dominance over.

Generally a season lasts around three weeks, with the most fertile period being the second and third weeks. Normally a bitch will have a season every six months, but it may not be every six months, i.e. she might go eight months without one and then have another one four months later.

As the season progresses, you may notice some or all of the following signs:

  • Restlessness and variable appetite
  • Increased frequency of urination on the walk
  • Apparently skittish behaviour and poor recall
  • Increased underside swelling and reddening
  • Attractiveness to male dogs, although at first not interested herself
  • Blood discharge and spotting
  • Nesting behaviour

When she becomes fertile, she will tease male dogs, mutually sniffing one another, standing with her rear facing a male and moving her tail to one side. Try to keep your bitch supervised, or absolutely secure from getting out or having access to an unneutered male dog. Take her on short walks on the lead and don’t let her off it.

Drive to a place to walk your dog rather than directly from your house as when your bitch urinates see leaves a pheromone scent that she is in season. This will act as a series of signposts to all male dogs in the area and they will become directed to your property and do their best to get in. Avoid common dog walking routes used by local dog owners to avoid any unwanted encounters.

Generally it is recommend neutering bitches that are not intended for breeding 3 months after a season. Early neutering of bitches significantly decreases the risk of them ever getting cancers related to the reproductive system.

 Males will become more masculine once they become sexually mature and he will make sure other dogs know by urinating in as many places as possible, sometimes only a few drops. If there is a bitch in season nearby he will be able to detect her and will be very keen to get to her. Again, as with bitches, if you don’t intend to breed from your dog neutering significantly decreases the risks of testicular and cancers.

Apart from this gender specific care upon sexual maturity there is very little difference in the normal care needed for either bitches or dogs.

Okay, what’s next!

Once you have decided upon a male or female Cocker the next choice is whether you are going to choose Cocker Spaniel puppies for sale or adult dogs. Your daily routine at home will play an important part in this decision as you need to know whether you have the time and effort needed to train a puppy or not.

It’s brilliant to have a lovely little cocker spaniel puppy around the house, but having one does take a lot of time, effort, patience and perseverance. During the first year or so of a puppy’s life he or she will learn more than during the rest of their life so it is important that you get all the basics covered to raise a well-rounded adult dog.

Similarly if you buy an adult dog you need to know that he or she has learnt the basics of living in a home as they are less able to learn these things the older they get. The ‘golden year’ as it’s called is when you lay all the foundations of how the dog will grow up and start to build up the key building blocks of behaviour, social interaction, obedience, house training and all the other key areas that must be covered for them to coexist in your home.

Initially a cocker spaniel puppy will require a lot more input than if you choose an adult dog, but that is not to say that either of them won’t need correcting and adapting to your situation.

Puppies are renowned for leaving a trail of destruction when they are very young as they explore new things all the time. Cockers are very mouth orientated dogs due to their hunting background so expect some chewed furniture, clothes, slippers and anything else they can get their paws on.

In many ways treat them like young children, if you have something of value that you don’t want damaged then keep it out of their reach. Some puppies as with kittens will take a great interest in your curtains and can even manage to tear them down if left unattended for too long.

With a good well-rounded upbringing they should never exhibit this kind of behaviour and if they do it should be short lived. As a general rule you shouldn’t have to worry about this destructive phase with an adult dog, but you need to be aware of whether they are prone to destruction when, for instance, left alone or bored.

When looking at Cocker Spaniel puppies for sale you will realise that the greatest achievement you can have is to be able to bring your puppy up as the well-rounded individual he or she should be. This is a crucial stage in the puppy’s development as their stimulus and training will shape their life forever. You also need to consider the higher cost of owning a puppy, not only in terms of vaccinations and boosters, but eating things they shouldn’t plus puppy scrapes and injuries from inquisitiveness.

Puppies have a lot of energy and need a lot of time, energy and money from you as well. Although an adult dog costs less in general maintenance than a puppy their characteristics and traits are already formed. You need to ask about as much of an adult dogs past as possible to assess whether you think they have been raised positively or not.

It’s not just good for us to have more than one dog in the household, but it’s good for the dogs as well. They can relate to the pack / family more if they are not the only dog in the pack. They often get an added dimension of company with another dog there, but there can be rivalry and social dominance to watch out for.

They will probably play fight or show social dominance by mounting the subservient dog to assert / test their dominance. For instance, my dog, Megan, is the only dog in my household and is therefore top dog. In the wider family pack including my parents dogs she is second in the pack, my parents Cocker (her older ¾ sister) being the top dog.

Megan will therefore test her dominance over Lilly from time to time to see whether she has moved up to top dog in the wider pack. Lilly will assert herself over Megan and growls are exchanged, but this is normal behaviour and it rarely needs our intervention unless neither of them backs down. A short sharp command to stop and people calling them away in different directions is enough to separate them.

If you have decided to have two or more dogs then it’s always best to avoid buying two from the same litter or even from different litters at the same time. Raising, settling in and building firm bonds with a new dog takes time and if you bought two dogs who don’t know each other together you would be halving the initial attention and increasing the likelihood the dogs will bond with each other rather than you.

The reason I say that you shouldn’t buy two dogs from the same litter is that studies have shown that there’s an added dimension of litter rivalry added to the mix which can result in more aggressive

Dominance and move the play fighting into actual fighting. If you’re buying from a reputable breeder who has one or more litters a year then you can always go back another year for another dog, as we did. Our Cockers came from the same breeders, but a year apart.

This is why they are ¾ sisters and there is an added bond between them because of that, but they still bond with humans as well. There is a small exception to this rule, which is that if two dogs are used to being together you can get them together.

For instance, sometimes you will come across two dogs in a rehoming centre that have lived together, are used to each other and are having to be rehomed together. This is fine because they know each other and are used to each other’s company. It’s really that it’s best to avoid buying related dogs from one litter or dogs who don’t know each other at the same. When introducing two dogs it is always best to do this on neutral territory which prevents any territorial behaviour.

With our two we introduced them together in the field at the breeders which is common ground for both of them. When you get them home together they can sort out the household hierarchy themselves. It is always best to observe them getting on initially and not to get involved as there will be some postulating, maybe growls, maybe play fighting, maybe mounting for dominance. You should leave them to it unless it starts to get physically out of hand. When they have established the hierarchy they should get on fine together.

If you have an older dog and decide to get a puppy it often has a positive effect on both of them. A puppy will usually give an older dog a renewed energy for life and in return a well-rounded adult will help with teaching your puppy the basics. A cocker spaniel puppy will normally copy what the older dog does so you will need to be consistent in commands with both of them and treat them equally with attention.

Initially you should take each dog out for a walk on their own to start with as well as together so that the older dog does get a bit of peace and quiet without an energetic puppy around them all the time. Puppies need to sleep a lot and this is often the time to devote a bit more attention to your older dog to reassure them of your continued attention towards them.

If you do decide to have both male and female dogs you will need to keep an extra eye on them due to the increased dominance of a male over a female. It is always advisable to stick to dogs of the same sex as there is far less off a risk of adverse dominant behaviour.

Neutering is advised by vets, due to the decreased risk of cancers and other associated problems, if you are not planning to breed from your dog. This should not be a decision to be taken likely as it is obviously irreversible.

Children and dogs make great playmates and both get a huge amount of fun from playing together. Any child interacting with a dog, whether it’s a cocker spaniel puppy or an adult, needs to understand the fact that dogs are not toys and they can be hurt in the same way as you or I can. This can help to create an awareness of animals and how to care for them effectively and responsibly.

Cocker Spaniel dogs are renowned for the placid and easy going nature that typifies the breed as a whole, but dogs can easily become confused, frightened and sometimes aggressive if they aren’t happy with the situation they are in. This is when the ‘fight or flight’ instinct will become apparent and they will either flee and hide or fight off what they see as an attack on them.

Therefore children need to know what a dog does and doesn’t like being done to them to avoid any misunderstandings and consequences. Simple games are often the best, such as catch the Frisbee, fetch the ball or even hide and seek. Children must learn to leave a dog alone when it is resting so make sure they know the saying ‘let sleeping dogs lie’.

A dog woken suddenly confronted by something very close to it may well react with a ‘fight or flight’ instinct and the first of these is what often makes the headlines. Children can also help with the general care and grooming of a dog which helps to build that extra bond between them and your new family member.

If you already have a cocker spaniel puppy or an adult and you have a baby on the way then before the baby is due you should let the dog see and smell the new things for the baby as you get them. This is so that it’s not too overwhelming for a dog when your baby arrives and lots of new things suddenly start appearing. Once your baby is home make sure your dog is involved in the welcome home as possible and continued interaction as well.

Make sure both your dog and baby get plenty of attention so that the dog doesn’t resent the new arrival. You should never leave a dog alone with toddlers or infants as they can often make sudden moves a dog wasn’t expecting and ‘fight or flight’ will be apparent. This is really for the safety of both your dog and your baby to avoid any misunderstandings.

Very young children can also do things like see if the dog’s fur, ear or tail are really attached to them by pulling it or see what their eye feels like or what a dogs ear tastes like in the same way as they do with their own toys. At the end of the day a dog, no matter how placid, will act on ‘fight or flight’ if they feel they are threatened in any way.

Once your child is older and your dog is wiser there shouldn’t be a problem, but this is something to be careful of in the early years of your child. It is of course always dependant on the dog and if you have a particularly submissive dog you shouldn’t have anything too much to worry about, but the advice still stands nonetheless.

There are many places to find Cocker Spaniel puppies for sale as well as adult dogs and some of these places can be reduced by the decision you have made as to whether you are getting a puppy or an adult. If you choose to get a puppy the best place to get one is from a reputable breeder who has a litter already or coming soon.

If you decide to get either an English Cocker Spaniel or an American Cocker Spaniel, both of which are very popular, then there should be enough choice around somewhere locally to you. For instance, the breeders we bought our two English Cocker Spaniels from also breed English Springer Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers so they have several litters of each breed each year.

Due to the quality, trainability and temperament of the dogs there puppies are in high demand and they usually have a waiting list drawn up for a breed before the litter is born. I personally wouldn’t buy a dog from the small ads / classifieds or shop windows due to the seemly random quality of dogs advertised there so it is better to stick to reputable breeders.

We have bought a dog from the small ads and whilst she was still a puppy she came with an inbuilt set of problems that needed to be worked through that we were happy to do, but many people would not. With popular breeds like Cockers you need to be on the lookout for litters breed for profit. These are commonly called Puppy Farms in the UK where a bitch is continuously mated with to provide one litter after another without any regard as to the quality of the puppies.

This form of breeding does nothing to avoid any breed specific illnesses, in-breeding, bad traits, unwanted behaviour or anything else a reputable breeder would avoid. Puppies are separated from their mothers as soon as possible and no bond is created, nor are they in any way socialised. Never buy any puppy without seeing at the very least their mother, preferable their father as well.

Some reputable breeders may not be able to let you see the father due to him being a stud from another breeder, but they should be able to give you plenty of information about the father and always let you see the mother. Never buy a puppy that is younger than eight weeks old or that hasn’t had the minimum inoculations for their age.

Fortunately there are plenty of genuine professional breeders out there who will be more than happy to help you. Please also be aware that a Kennel Club registration is not an endorsement by the Kennel Club or a guarantee of reputation. At the current time even cocker spaniel Puppy Farms can register on the Kennel Club list of breeders so make sure you are happy with the breeders and satisfy yourself that they are a reputable breeder.

For instance, the breeders we bought our two Cockers from have spent over twenty years creating their kennel’s bloodline and use many championship winning studs to expand their gene pool. The guy who owns and runs the kennels is a highly respected gundog breeder and is a published author of one of the definitive books on gundog training in the UK.

You are free to take a look around their kennels and fields as much as you want and they take dogs in specifically for breaks, gundog training and other reasons as well. The kennels are all kept to a very high standard and you get a distinct sense that they really care for the dogs. Always check the parents were tested and are certified free from Hip Dysplasia (HD), Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and Cataracts.

 Always check that the breeder you have selected is prepared to help you if you encounter any problems with your puppy and to work together to find solutions to that. A pedigree dog is not a guarantee of quality and is really only proof of their descendants. Over the years we’ve had some brilliant crossbreed dogs from rehoming centres, excellent pedigree dogs from breeders as well as a psychopathic pedigree puppy, you really can’t predict it in advance.

A pedigree certificate can still be given to dogs suffering from both breed specific and other hereditary conditions and kennel club’s do not come out and manually check any litters. A pedigree certificate is therefore a record of who a dog descended from and records, in some cases, colour varieties and championship status. There are often clubs involved in rehoming adults of a specific breed so it’s always worth checking to find adult dogs that are being rehomed because of a change in circumstances.

 Buying a cocker spaniel puppy is a lifetime commitment and you shouldn’t therefore buy on a whim even if they are cute. Dogs need love, attention and care over many years and you’re taking on a long-term commitment by buying one. Dogs are also neither toys nor fashion accessories that can be discarded as soon as something better comes along.

When assessing a puppy’s mother check that she isn’t highly strung, nervous, aggressive, carefree or neglected as she will pass these traits onto a puppy before you have them and you’ll have to sort the resulting problems out as they get older. Remember that the mother is the key to both the quality of the breeder and the quality of the litter.

A puppy should be socialised as much as possible in its early weeks so if the puppies are with their mother in an area where both she and her puppies can get a lot of attention then that’s a good thing. Always look at all the paperwork a breeder has for their litter, i.e. parents and puppies vaccination certificates, pedigree certificate, vets letters and bills and anything else health related.

Don’t buy a puppy younger than eight weeks and make sure you draw up an agreement with the breeder in writing. Your kennel club should have a draft agreement available for you to use and adapt with your information.

Once you’ve got your cocker spaniel puppy only take them for short walks initially followed by some playtime, some food and then a sleep to recharge themselves. Don’t let your puppy continuously run after balls and sticks or play roughly with large dogs as injuries to joints and bones that have not yet formed properly are quite a risk.

Never let a dog have a walk or run round within thirty minutes of being fed as this can cause a twisted gut when the stomach is full. Don’t let your puppy drink straight after a meal as they can drink too much, it’s better to moisten their meal a little and then put the water bowl back down about thirty minutes after feeding.

Try to avoid steps as much as possible with a puppy in its first year and carry them up and down the stairs if you have them so that you don’t put any strain on their joints. Dogs are at risk on shiny floors like glazed tiles and laminate floors, particularly when they have wet paws so make sure you are extra careful if you have those. A young puppy with a dislocated hip is not a pleasant thing and may setup a lot of health problems for the future.

Don’t add any supplements to puppy food as the puppy foods contain all they should need. There are increasingly breed specific dog foods on the market so if you can get these you are giving your dog a good start with those. Make sure you keep on top of a puppy’s weight as an overweight puppy puts too much stress on bones and joints that have not yet fully formed and can therefore lead to health problems in later life.

Make sure your cocker spaniel puppy has somewhere quiet and out of the way to sleep so they can rest undisturbed for as long as possible. Always make sure you handle dogs in the correct way by lifting them up with one hand under their chest and the other under their hindquarters to avoid any undue strain on joints, bones and muscles.

 

You may also like to read Information on English Springer Spaniel Breed

 

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