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Our pages are purely intended to give an idea of what is involved when choosing and caring for a puppy. It is by no means comprehensive. Please be sure to purchase some good reference material or visit your local library. A short selection of books can be found on our Cocker Books pages.

Do we really want a puppy?

Puppy Care

This is a question you must ask yourself. Remember that dogs are very 'tying', no more just getting away for a couple of days on the spur of the moment You must arrange for someone to care for your dog in advance. The same obviously also applies to holiday times. Can you afford to keep the dog well? Not only is there the initial outlay for your puppy, but also vet's bills, food, grooming/clipping (where necessary), kennelling, training classes, all of these things and more soon add up. Do you have the time to devote to training, socialising and exercising a dog? Puppies should not be left alone for long periods so is there someone at home for most of the day to care for the pup, especially during those important early months? If not, can you afford to employ someone to care for your puppy or do you have a reliable family member who will look after your pup while the family is out at work? Of course we don't want to put you off but please think about getting a puppy very carefully before you buy.

So you've decided to get a Cocker Spaniel puppy, Where do you go? Well please please stay well away from pet shops or puppy supermarkets (the puppies sold from these outlets usually come from puppy farms where puppies are "battery farmed" in poor conditions purely for profit). You can find information on how to locate a reputable breeder and what to look for HERE

Show strain or working strain?
Many people new to Cockers don’t realise there are two distinct strains which have evolved over many years. These are the working strain and the show-type strain, each bred for different purposes with different attributes. If you are considering either buying or rescuing a Cocker, it’s important you know the differences between the strains so you can make an informed decision about which type will suit you and your home the best.

Show-strain dogs are the type seen in the show rings (such as at Crufts). Their appealing looks and compact size have made show-type Cockers popular as family pets for many years. They have the typical domed head, long ears and long silky coats and are easily recognisable to most people.

Working Cockers, as the name implies, are bred as working gundogs, capable of staying out all day in the shooting field. However many are now being increasingly sold to pet homes where, in the right hands, they can make great family dogs for the active home. Working Cockers generally have shorter ears, a flatter skull, rangier body and far less coat than the show-type dogs.

Show Type Pup (left), Working Type Pup (right)

All Cockers (whatever the strain) are busy, active little dogs with minds of their own (as any Cocker owner will testify!) so nobody should expect a lazy, couch potato if they opt for a Cocker. However a Working Cocker may be considerably more active than some show Cockers and have enormous reserves of stamina. He can be on the go all day and still be up for more. A show-type dog can also be very energetic and will happily go for long walks but will probably be easier to tire out. A dog that has been bred for an active life as a working dog needs an outlet for all that energy and something to “do” to keep that busy brain occupied and stimulated. Such a dog won’t usually thrive in a home which can only offer limited exercise opportunities and where owners don’t have the time or inclination to get involved in training/activities which provide mental stimulation. The same is true of show-type Cockers to some extent but as a generalisation, working strain dogs will often need more mental stimulation/exercise than most show-type dogs. Many will enjoy and excel at activities like agility or flyball if they are not to be worked in the traditional way.

What colour?
This is down to personal preference more than anything. But be aware that if you desire one of the less numerically popular colours (such as tricolour or liver/chocolate), then you may have to be prepared to wait quite a while or do A LOT of searching to find a reputable breeder who has these colours. There are commercial breeders who specialise in churning out puppies of currently fashionable colours but these should be avoided as they breed purely for profit and have no interest in the health and welfare of the breed.

Sex? (And “Yes please!” isn’t the answer!)
This could be classed as personal preference too, but bear in mind that if you choose a bitch, she will come into season once or twice a year from the age of 6 months onwards. When your bitch is in season, she will need to be kept away from entire male dogs and exercised on the lead in quiet areas away from other dogs for the duration of her season (3 weeks or thereabouts) to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Of course this risk can be eliminated totally by spaying your bitch at the appropriate time. Some believe that bitches are more affectionate and easier to train but this is not necessarily the case with Cockers where both sexes are pretty much even tempered and make equally good family pets. A word of warning here, choosing puppies for future showing or working is a very expert business. Try to get advice from someone with many many years experience in the field of showing or working Cockers. Remember also that if a litter does have a possible 'future star' the breeder may very well want to keep it for themselves!

What to look for:
Whatever your requirements are for having a Cocker the puppy you choose should be outgoing and friendly. Look at the pups eyes, are they bright with no discharge and it's nose should be moist but again with no discharge. The puppies coat should be silky and smooth (not wirey) the body should be firm and 'plump', not fat!

Be Prepared.
You've been to the breeder, selected a puppy, you've waited for up to eight weeks until the little chap is ready to leave Mum, you've paid your money and you're ready to bring him/her home. Are you ready?

Things you will need for the puppies arrival:

Settling In
If your puppy is to be a pet, he is bound to miss his litter mates and his mum! You need to really help him settle in to his new surroundings. Do not allow small children to play with the puppy when THEY feel like it, puppies sleep a lot and should not be disturbed when resting. You could try placing a ticking clock wrapped in blankets in the puppy's bed which will emulate the heart beat of his litter mates and help your lonesome puppy settle. Alternatively, you can now buy heated pet soothers (Snuggle Puppies - available on Amazon and DforDog.co.uk) which also incorporate the sound of a heart beat.

Toilet Training.
Patience and perseverance is the key to house training, you need to be there almost constantly! As soon as he finishes eating, wakes up after a nap or after a mad play session, take the puppy outside to allow him to relieve himself. Puppies have little control over their bladders to begin with so if you don't want any accidents you will need to take the puppy out of doors almost every hour to allow him the call of nature (remember to take your puppy out yourself, don't just leave the door open and expect him to work it out for himself). A useful trick is to teach your puppy word association. Whenever they perform use a word or short phrase and repeat it each time they go. For example – say “Hurry up” as they are weeing in a bright voice with “good boy/girl” afterwards. This then helps when you are out and about as your pup will learn to toilet on command.

Communication
A young puppy has no concept of words, remember this. It is no use getting angry when the pup does something it shouldn't. As much as you may want to scream and shout, your puppy will not understand what he has done wrong - you need to train him with patience and consistency so that he understands what is expected of him. Remember also to get all of the family to use the same words as you. It will only confuse the puppy if it hears lots of different commands from lots of different people.

Training
Training is a vital part of dog ownership and will enable your Cocker to grow up to be a well behaved canine citizen. Training will also increase the bond between dog and owner and help exercise mind and body. However don't expect your puppy to be fetching, dropping, sitting and rolling over at ten weeks old! Training sessions need to be short to begin with (maybe 5 or 10 mins at the most) and repeated little and often. Find a good puppy training class with a trainer who uses positive training methods (try www.apdt.co.uk to find a trainer near you) and also invest in at least a couple of good puppy training books. Examples include "Before and After Getting Your Puppy" by Dr Ian Dunbar and "The Complete Idiots Guide To Positive Dog Training" by Pamela Dennison

Inoculations.
All puppies should be inoculated to protect against a number of serious diseases as follows :-

As soon as you bring your puppy home, ring your vet and arrange an appointment to start your pup's vaccination programme, preferably at a time when the surgery will be quiet thus reducing the risk of infection from other dogs. Puppies usually receive their first vaccination at around 8 or 9 weeks old followed by a second at 10 or 12 weeks old. Advice is usually given that your puppy should be confined to your house and garden until the inoculation programme is complete but you can still take your puppy outside if you carry him in your arms or in a purpose-made pet carrier/sling (this helps in his socialisation, allowing him to meet the outside world without the risk of coming into contact with any unvaccinated dogs)

Socialisation.
All puppies need to be socialised, this allows them to become familiar with other people, other dogs and different situations. You should aim for your pup to meet as many different people as possible (of all ages including children) and once he is fully vaccinated, you can start introducing him to other dogs. Care must be taken as big, bouncy dogs can frighten a very small puppy. It can be a good idea to enrol on a puppy socialisation class; they are usually relatively inexpensive and in the hands of a good instructor, your puppy will learn to interact with other puppies of a similar age, everyone in the same boat as it were! At a class you may learn some basic training exercises, house training tips, feeding tips and lots more. I would recommend classes to any new puppy owner and experienced puppy owners for that matter, they really can be lots of fun for you as well as your puppy!

Teething.
At about 4 months of age, puppies begin to lose their puppy teeth as the adult teeth break through. At this time, many puppies suffer some discomfort which can be relieved by chewing on appropriate items such as frozen carrots, ice cubes or a really hard dog chew. Gnawing on a frozen damp flannel or cloth may also help. Puppies may also go off their usual food around this time (soaking the food to soften it can sometimes help if this happens) The adult teeth are usually through by around 6 months old but a secondary teething stage (when the adult molars embed) usually occurs at about 8-10 months (this is often the reason for a resumed bout of enthusiastic chewing!)

NOTE. When the puppy gets his adult teeth, the mouth should be checked for structure of the jaw and dentition, a puppy which has an incorrect bite (undershot, overshot, wry) should be excluded from any showing or breeding plans you may have had. Faults such as these are contrary to the breed standard and once bred in are very difficult to breed out again.

Cocker Puppy Pics

See also our Forum articles “I work; should I get a puppy?” and “Puppies and Children”

Send us your puppy photo for inclusion on this page. Emails to info@cockersonline.co.uk