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It can be very difficult for people looking to buy a Cocker puppy to know where to find a reputable breeder. Cockers are hugely popular which has meant there are many breeders who produce puppies purely for financial gain – they have little interest in the health & temperament of their puppies & will not be willing or able to provide any after sales help or advice. Distinguishing this type of breeder from the caring, responsible breeder who does everything possible to breed happy, healthy puppies is not always easy. Here are a few pointers which will hopefully help would-be buyers avoid the common pitfalls:

Reputable Breeders Do…

Reputable Breeders Do Not......

What is a Puppy Farmer?

“Puppy Farmer” is a derogatory term used to describe breeders who produce large numbers of puppies purely for commercial gain - such breeders pay little regard to the health or temperament of their puppies & they will sell a pup to whoever wants one, no questions asked. Many of these pups are taken away from their mothers at an early age & are transported long distances to be placed on sale in pet shops & puppy supermarkets - these pups often have health problems & sadly may have poor temperaments due to bad breeding and/or lack of socialisation Some of these breeders operate outside the law & keep their dogs in appalling conditions, breeding from bitches every season until they are worn out & then discarding them. Other large-scale commercial breeders operate from reasonably clean conditions, are licensed by their local authority & register their pups with the Kennel Club but can still be classed as “puppy farmers” as the aim is still to mass produce puppies for profit – there will be no health-screening for hereditary problems, puppies will be inadequately socialised & bitches will still be over-bred.

For more information on the trade in puppies & puppy farming in general, have a look at these websites:

Hope UK
Puppy Love

What is a Backyard Breeder?

This term covers those breeders with no serious interest in or knowledge of Cockers but who may own a bitch & decide that it would be nice to have a litter on the basis that it would be educational for the children or will help pay for the family holiday! If they happen to own a dog themselves, they will use him and if not, they will use the nearest, available dog. Often no research will have been carried out into whether the dogs’ pedigrees are compatible & there will be no knowledge of possible hereditary problems & very little awareness of how to rear puppies successfully. This can result in a nice, healthy litter (more by luck than good judgment!) but can also result in puppies with health/temperament problems. Sadly such breeders will lack the knowledge/experience to provide any after-sales help to their buyers.

“Just A Pet”

Many people looking for a Cocker puppy make the mistake of thinking that as they want their dog to be “just a pet”, then it does not matter too much where their pup comes from, whether he has “papers” or not or whether he comes from health tested parents etc. But nothing could be further than the truth since fulfilling the role of “just a pet” is the most important job any Cocker Spaniel puppy could do. If you’re looking for a pet Cocker puppy, health and temperament should be very important priorities – no pet owner wants a puppy with a poor temperament or one who goes blind early or dies young from a preventable hereditary disease such as FN. Reputable, specialist breeders will breed for good temperament and will use the available health testing schemes to ensure their pups grow up to be as healthy as possible. If you want your puppy to have been given the best start in life so he can grow up to be a happy, healthy member of your family, then it really does matter where he comes from and you should expect nothing less than the highest standards from the breeder of your pet Cocker. So be prepared to ask lots of questions before deciding on a breeder and do your own checks eg use the Kennel Club's online health testing database to see whether the parents of a litter you are interested in have had the recommended tests:


General Guidelines

Remember that price is not everything! Puppies are not like household commodities where you can shop around for the "best deal". Reputable breeders do not sell their puppies cheaply & whilst it might be tempting to respond to an advert offering puppies at less than the "going rate", the puppy may not be such a bargain in the long run. On the other hand, a high asking price is not necessarily a guarantee of quality either!

Be patient! Reputable breeders do not have a constant supply of puppies & it may be that potential buyers will have to wait weeks, perhaps months for a suitable litter to be born. Mistakes are often made by buyers who will not wait … they want a puppy NOW & so will often rush out & buy in haste (perhaps ignoring the warning signs that the breeder is not reputable). Remember, you will hopefully have your Cocker for 10-15 years - what is a wait of a few months for the "right" puppy compared to this?

Don't assume that because a breeder has an attractive website that they are reputable. Yes many good breeders do have their own websites where you can find information about their dogs but many not so good breeders (including some puppy farmers) also have professional-looking sites. Be wary of breeder websites which give no pedigree information and only mentions dogs by their pet names - this could be a way of preventing you carrying out your own checks into the dogs' background and whether any health tests have been carried out.

Never buy a puppy because you feel sorry for it, either because it appears shy & fearful or because you are unhappy with the conditions it is being reared in. This is a recipe for disaster - you could end up with a puppy with severe health & temperament problems (& you will be helping less reputable breeders stay in business)

How do I find a reputable breeder?

Cocker Breed Clubs are good places to start your search. The Secretaries of each Club should be able to recommend breeders who maybe have puppies available or who are expecting a litter. Contact numbers for all the Breed Clubs can be found here

The Kennel Club has a Puppy Sales List, which is sent to enquirers as part of their Puppy Pack & also appears on the Kennel Club website . This list contains details of breeders who have registered puppies recently. Please note that the KC does not guarantee that breeders on this list are reputable - potential buyers should not assume this & should ascertain for themselves whether a breeder listed is the kind they would be happy to buy a puppy from. This applies to the KC Accredited Breeder Scheme too. Membership of this scheme just involves accepting certain minimum standards of good practice and does not indicate that a breeder has been vetted or proven to be a good breeder.

Copyright J Simmonds 2003-2009

Finding a Reputable Breeder