Cocker Spaniel Breed Council

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF COCKERS

Cocker spaniels are lively, intelligent dogs that were originally bred as working gundogs. Nowadays the breed is divided into two types, the show-type Cocker and the Working Cocker. Very few show-type Cockers are trained to the gun these days but they have still retained many of their instincts. They make very good companions and family pets provided they are given careful training and socialisation as youngsters. If left to their own devices they may quickly develop behavioural problems. A Cocker is not a dog that can be left on it’s own for long periods of time as it will become disruptive and destructive. Cockers are not suitable for people who are out at work all day.

The Cocker Spaniel is generally a healthy breed of dog with a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. Hereditary eye conditions can occur in the breed and for this reason breeding dogs and bitches should be eye tested. Joint problems can also occur but these are not as common as in larger breeds of dogs. The beautiful coat of the Cocker does need regular grooming and trimming. Ears and teeth need checking regularly. Cocker Spaniels customarily have their tails shortened and their dew claws removed.

PURCHASING A PUPPY

If you have decided that a Cocker Spaniel is the breed for you and you have the time and money to devote to this lovely dog then it is essential to contact a reputable breeder. There is a network of 22 Cocker Spaniel breed clubs throughout the country and the secretaries of these often keep a list of people with puppies available. The purchase of a puppy should not be a spur of the moment decision. Breeders will usually allow you to meet other relatives of your puppy so you can see how your little fluffy bundle will develop. You should also make sure that the relatives of your puppy are not nervous or aggressive.

The Cocker Spaniel Breed Council has developed a Code of Ethics approved by the Kennel Club that all their members should adhere to. This gives general guidelines for anyone breeding a litter of cocker spaniels.

Black & Tan Puppies

HOW TO REAR A HAPPY COCKER

Once you have purchased a cocker puppy from a reputable source the real work starts. Cocker puppies look adorable at 8 weeks and many people make the mistake of treating them as babies or little fluffy toys. However they are dogs and within 6 months they are virtually full grown so there is a lot of growing, developing and training to be fitted into a short time.

Dogs are pack animals and as such they need a pack leader, this should be the owner. If you let the puppy get the upper hand at an early age you will have problems for life. For the purpose of this article we will assume that the puppy is going into a family environment, possibly with other pets present.

PREPARATIONS
Red Cocker Puppy Before you collect the puppy there is preparation work to be done. Ensure that your garden is puppy proof, fences and gates need to be secure. Remove any poisonous plants and pieces or rubbish that could damage a puppy. Inside the house decide where your puppy will have his own space. This could be the corner of the kitchen or utility room. Many people make up a pen with a comfortable bed or you could purchase a cage. This is the place where the puppy can sleep, eat and get out of the hurly burly of the household. Also remember that your bed, sofa and chairs are your territory and no go areas for puppies.

Black and Tan Puppy

FEEDING
A good breeder will provide a diet sheet and probably some food to start the puppy off. Stick to the meal times as well as possible, puppies like a routine. Allow about 10 minutes for the puppy to eat his fill and then remove the bowl. Puppies eat to appetite so a good rule of thumb is that there should be about a mouthful left on the dish at the end of the meal. Puppies coming away from a litter may be indifferent to food at first, try mixing some little tasty bits of chicken in with the normal food to stimulate appetite. Get your puppy used to you going near his food bowl by dropping nice pieces into the dish occasionally. Never feed the puppy from the table and don’t allow children to share snacks with the puppy.

BEING CLEAN
Toilet training is a first priority but don’t expect it to be a quick process. Young puppies have very little control and great patience is required. Take the puppy outside to a designated spot on waking, after meals and frequently during the puppy’s active times. You can use a special word or phrase like ‘hurry up’ . Watch carefully and really praise the required result. If the puppy has an accident in the house don’t scold him (he won’t have a memory of what he has done), take him outside as soon as possible and be quicker next time. It will be a long time before the puppy is clean at night, so you can use newspaper as an allowed spot.

LEAVING ALONE
From the first get your puppy used to being left in his space for short periods of time. There is nothing worse than having a dog which cannot be left at home for a few hours. Puppies need lots of sleep so it should be possible to leave the pup while you are working upstairs, doing the school run or shopping.

Blue Roan Pup

HANDLING
A puppy should get used to being handled. This does not mean being picked up all the time. Never allow children to pick the puppy up – remember in 4 months time he will probably weigh 25 pounds. It is better to sit the child on the floor and allow the puppy to approach in his own time. Once a day stand the puppy on a table and spend 5 minutes gently brushing and combing, looking at his teeth, ears and feet. Make sure that you decide when this should finish and give lots of praise. This will mean trips to the vet will be a pleasure in future years.

EARLY SOCIALISATION
Puppies cannot mix with other dogs until they have completed their course of vaccinations but you can familiarise them with common household noises, friends coming to the house and short trips in the car. Dogs are best kept in a cage in the car, but never leave a dog in a hot car. Once the puppy is fully immunised it can have very short walks on the lead and can start training classes. If the puppy shows any nervousness don’t pick him up and make a fuss of him, let him cope on his own and praise afterwards.

PLAYTIME
Happiness is cuddling a puppy! pup with frisbeeToys should be purchased with care. Cockers love to fetch things so get the puppy used to bringing you his toys to throw for him (you can encourage this by having the puppy on a lead or by trading a very tasty titbit for his favourite toy). Never have tug of war games with puppies this can make them possessive and develop a hard mouth.

When you are playing with a puppy always give lots of praise or titbits when he comes to you. When you start having longer walks with the puppy, flexi leads allow freedom at a safe distance and you are able to get the puppy back to you very quickly if you need to.

If you watch litter mates playing together you will see them play fighting and biting. They might well try this with you, try to discourage them from biting you by playing with a toy and not flapping your hand around in front of a puppy. If the puppy inadvertently gets your hand make a noise and finish the game so the puppy knows this is not acceptable to you. If games ever get out of hand calm things down and put the puppy back in his space.

THE LAST WORD
Get your puppy used to the ‘no’ word – he won’t know the difference between his rope toy and your expensive curtains to start with. When he stops doing the wrong thing give lots of praise. Rewarding good behaviour is much more effective than punishing the wrong behaviour.

Following these simple guidelines should ensure that you have a happy, well adjusted dog for life!

BREEDING

Breeding a litter of puppies from your pet cocker bitch will not improve her health or temperament. It just leads to a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, mess, responsibility and heartache for the owner. Similarly your handsome male does not need to be mated to a bitch. It can lead to marking territory and seeking out bitches in season. If your cocker needs a companion it is lot easier to buy one ready made.

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