Deciding that you want a Cocker Spaniel in your life can be a very exciting time. It’s also a very serious commitment to make. Are you really ready for what can only be described as a life changing decision?
Here’s a video we have posted to our official Cocker spaniel World Youtube channel. It covers the Pros and Cons of owning a Cocker Spaniel.
Go check it out and don’t forget to subscribe to the channel, it helps us out a lot.
Throughout this guide, I’m going to be discussing pretty much every single topic and question that you need to ask yourself before deciding whether a Cocker Spaniel is the right puppy for you and your family.
Choosing Your Puppy
So you have decided that you want to spend your life with a Cocker Spaniel. Personally, I think you’ve made a great choice but yes, I’m biased.
Do you have a particular reason for choosing a Cocker Spaniel? Cockers are very adaptable and have a terrific temperament suited to many activities.
What are you planning to do with your new puppy?
Many Cocker Spaniel owners take their new puppy’s to agility classes while others simply want their Cockers to be friendly family pets and choose to go to obedience classes.
If you prefer to engage in your own in-house training, then I highly recommend you check out our review of this online training. Great stuff.
Another very, very popular reason for choosing a Cocker Spaniel is to take them on a shoot. They make the most fantastic retrievers of game.
Dog Or Bitch?
An important consideration to be discussed is the sex of your puppy. If your Cocker is going to be the family companion, A cocker Spaniel bitch will be the better choice.
Although both sexes have great temperaments, the female’s natural concern for all young creatures as well as her accompanying tolerance and patience makes her the better choice in my opinion, for a family puppy.
I will add that my Cocker Spaniel Guinness, is male and he has been fantastic with my 3 kids, all of which were born after he was already a family member.
Before you head off to a breeder, there are a few questions that need to be answered. The first is which colour Cocker would you prefer?
There are a few considerations. A red one will usually have an easy coat that does not require too much trimming.
Some blacks have natural non-trim coats but the majority do grow a lot of hair and have to be trimmed as regularly as every 6 – 8 weeks.
The same goes for the parti-colours. Oranges usually do not have much surplus hair and only need occasional trimming of the head, ears, feet and tail. The blue roans, however, have a much heavier coat and will also have to be trimmed every 6 – 8 weeks.
There seems to be a general agreement within the Cocker Spaniel community that solid colours are slightly more intelligent and therefore need a firmer hand.
The general agreement is that if you have a family with young kids, it might be wiser not to buy an all red or black puppy as they will have several ‘masters’ and will end up not listening to anybody.
As I have already mentioned, my Cocker Spaniel is all black and we have had no problems whatsoever however he was already fully trained before the kids came into his life.
I appreciate that it may be very different when introducing a new puppy to kids rather than the other way around as it was for me.
Choosing Your Puppy
I was once given some very sound advice when I told a friend I was going to look at some Cocker Spaniel Puppies.
I was told to purchase the best puppy that I could afford. Never pick the cheapest and think you are getting a bargain. That puppy could end up costing you tenfold in veterinary bills, behavioural problems and heartbreak.
I’ve seen this scenario play at plenty of times since then…..wise words indeed.
When you visit a breeder to potentially select your Cocker Spaniel puppy when you are introduced to the pups that are for sale, be sure to select one that comes rushing to greet you and seems to want your attention.
Cockers naturally crave attention and are generally open to human handling. Never select the puppy that seems shy or withdrawn as this may lead to problems when introducing her to the family.
If none of the puppies that are for sale takes your fancy for whatever reason, do not buy. This is a 100% decision.
Buying because you are afraid to say no or because you feel sorry for the pup is wrong. Remember, the average life span for a Cocker Spaniel is 11 – 14 years. You need to be certain you are making the right choice for the right reasons.
Showing A Cocker Spaniel
Another important decision in buying a puppy is whether or not you plan to show your Cocker Spaniel at competitions.
If this is the case, you may well be better of buying a more mature puppy of 6 or 7 months old.
The reason for this is because certain problems that could prevent you from showing you Cocker may arise but they will usually have appeared by the time the puppy is 6 o 7 months old.
Whether you are buying a pup for pet or for the show, it is equally important to find out about the pups medical background.
Inquire about the necessary inoculations and when was the puppy last dosed for worms.
You should also check the puppy for a well-fed appearance. Make sure it does not have a distended abdomen which may indicate worms or incorrect feeding, sometimes both.
The pups body should be firm with a solid feel. The skin of the abdomen should be pale pink and clean, without signs of scratching or rash.
Also, check the hind legs to make certain that dewclaws were removed, that’s if any were present at the birth of course.
Did you know, you will get two important documents for the breeder when you buy your Cocker Spaniel puppy?
They will give you your pup’s pedigree and registration papers. The breeder should register the litter and each pup with The Kennel Club and its necessary for you to have the paperwork in case you plan on showing or breeding in the future.
Be sure you know which type of registration the breeder will obtain for the pup. There are limited registrations which may prohibit the dog from being shown or from competing in non-conformation trials such as Working or Agility.
If the breeder feels the dog is not of sufficient quality to enter such competitions, he may obtain alternative registration.
There is also a type of registration that will permit the dog in non-conformation competition only so please be aware of which type of registration the breeder is looking to obtain.
If your new pup is registered with a Kennel-Club-recognised breed club, then you can register the pup with The Kennel Club yourself. Any good breeder will assist you with the specifics of the registration process.
Ask To See The Puppy’s Parents
It’s a good idea to ask the breeder if you can see a litter’s mother (Dam) and where possible, the father (Sire).
This can act as a good indicator as to what your chosen puppy may grow up to look like appearance-wise as well as its overall nature and behaviour.
Bringing Your Cocker Pup Home
While you may be all excited over picking you new family member up to bring home, please be aware that taking your dog from the breeder to your home in a car can be a very uncomfortable experience for both of you.
The puppy will have been taken from his warm, friendly, safe environment and brought into a strange new environment.
I will warn you now, be prepared for loose bowels, urination, crying, whining and even fear biting.
I will never forget the 45-minute drive home we had after picking our Guinness up from the breeder. He must have farted the entire journey home, he had the car stinking something rotten. He also shook a lot and all we could do was try to comfort him.
With proper love and encouragement, once we got home, the stress of the trip quickly disappeared.
Preparing Puppy’s Place In Your Home
I can only describe the next part as much as you would prepare a nursery for a newborn baby. What I mean is, you will need to designate a place in your home that will be your puppy’s own
How you prepare your home will depend on how much freedom the dog will be allowed.
Will he be confined to one room or a specific area in the house or will he be allowed to roam as he pleases? We have let our dogs have the freedom of the house eventually but not in the early stages, not until they were fully house trained.
Will he spend most of his time in the house or will he primarily be an outdoor dog?
Personally, I feel a Cocker should be an indoor dog if he is going to be treat as a family member / pet.
If the dog is going to go on shoots like a gun dog then I understand you may want to keep him outside most of the time.
I wrote a post covering whether a Cocker Spaniel should live outside here.
Whichever you decide, you must ensure he has a place that he can ‘call his own.’
When you bring your new puppy into your home, you are bringing him into what will become his home as well.
Obviously, you did not buy a puppy so that he could take over your house, but in order for a puppy to grow into a stable, well-adjusted dog, it’s essential he feels comfortable in his surroundings.
Remember, he’s leaving the warmth and security of his mother and littermates, plus the familiarity of the only place he has ever known, so it’s important to make his transition as easy as possible.
In reality, it shouldn’t take him very long to adjust and get used to his new surroundings but the initial shock of suddenly being transplanted somewhere new will be somewhat traumatic for any young pup.
Try and imagine how he must be feeling……now it’s up to you to reassure him and to let him know, ‘little fellow, you are going to like it here!’
What You Should Buy For A Puppy
To someone unfamiliar with the use of crates in dog training, it may seem like a punishment to shut a dog in a crate: this is not the case at all.
Crates are not cruel. In fact, crates have many humane and highly effective uses in dog care and training.
For example, crate training is a very popular and very successful housebreaking method. We used a crate for this type of training and it certainly stopped our Cocker Spaniel from peeing in the house.
A crate can also keep your dog safe during travel and perhaps most importantly, a crate provides your dog with a place of his own in your home.
It serves as a ‘doggie bedroom’ of sorts. The sort of place he can go when he wants to curl up and be on his own. When my Cocker was much younger, he would often slope off into his crate to for a break and to escape the hustle and bustle of a busy house with three young kids running around.
Many dogs like to sleep in their crate overnight. When lined with warm blankets and filled with his favourite toys, a crate can act as your dog’s very own den.
Just like his ancestors, he too will seek out the comfort and retreat of a den. You just happen to be providing him with something a little more luxurious then leaves and twigs lining a dirty ditch.
Although my Cocker liked his crate, he never really slept in his at night time, only during the day but all dogs are different.
As far as buying a crate, the type you go for is up to you. My best piece of advice I can give on this subject is to buy a crate that will be big enough to accommodate your dog both as a pup and at full size. There’s no need or point to have to keep buying a new one every time he has a growth spurt.
Bedding For Your Cocker Spaniel
Bedding is essential for not only a pup but also a full-grown Spaniel. A blanket or two, or more ideally, a vetbed like this one from Amazon, will help make the dog more at home.
We have a few blankets lying around the house but the one place you must have blankets is inside his own crate.
Firstly, the blankets will take the place of the leaves, twigs etc, that the pup would use in the wild to make his den. With the blankets, the pup can create his own burrow inside his crate.
It will always be in a pups genetic makeup to go back to its instincts and if creating his den in his cage with a blanket or two, then perfect.
Secondly, you have to remember that before you brought your pup home, he was sleeping amidst the warmth of his mother and littermates and while a blanket is not the same as a warm, breathing body, it still provides heat and something with which to snuggle.
In the early stages, don’t be surprised to find yourself washing your pup’s blankets regularly. You can’t expect him to be trained instantly and although he will be reluctant to mess in his own den, accidents will happen in the early stages.
Also, be sure to remove and replace any blankets that become ragged and start to fall apart.
Best Toys For A Cocker Spaniel Puppy
Toys are a must for dogs of all ages, especially for curious playful pups. Puppies are the ‘children’ of the dog world and what child doesn’t love toys?
Chew toys provide enjoyment to both dog and owner. Your dog will enjoy playing with his favourite toys while you will enjoy the fact the toys distract him from your shoes or leather sofa. My Cocker would randomly try and chew the corner of the bottom drawer in our kitchen when he was a pup.
Puppies love to chew, it’s just a fact. It’s also something they have to do. Firstly they are teething and as they are growing fast, they are hungry and everything seems so appetising.
Pretty much everything in your home will be seen as fair game to a teething pup. Anything they can sink their teeth into will taste great to them so be on your guard.
When it comes to toys, obviously safety is paramount. While stuffed toys may be great for inside the crate of a grown dog, they aren’t the best for a teething puppy.
They will shred it to bits in no time and there will be fluff everywhere. This could also be a choking hazard for your pup.
The same can be said of those toys with the squeaky thing inside. As soon as you gave my Guinness one of those toys, he made it his mission to get the squeaker out as quickly as he could.
Again, the little squeaker which is a small bit of rubbery plastic can easily be a choking hazard to a young pup.
Here’s a selection of toys over at Amazon or visit your local pet shop and seek advice about which toys may be best for a young pup.
You could also try giving you pup bones to chew. You can get these from any good pet shop. It’s advisable to keep an eye on these though as over time they can splinter into sharp dangerous pieces and would need to be taken off your dog and replaced with a fresh bone.
Which Lead / Leash?
The first lead you should buy for any puppy is a nylon lead. These are probably the best option as they are the most resistant to puppy teeth should your pup take a liking to chew on his lead.
I won’t lie, I’m yet to come across a pup who hasn’t had a good chew on his lead, especially in the early months.
Obviously this is the sort of habit that you want to stop a.s.a.p but if your pup does develop a liking for chewing his lead, he’s very very unlikely to chew through the tough nylon.
Despite being strong and very durable, nylon leads are very lightweight which is ideal for a young Cocker Spaniel who s just getting used to the idea of walking on a lead.
As your pup gets older and gets used to walking on the lead, you can change his leash to a Flexi style which will give him more of a range to explore but he can be reined in close if needed.
To be honest, we used a Flexi lead from the beginning but we didn’t allow Guinness to extend it until he was used to walking on the lead.
Choosing A Collar
Choosing a collar for your pup should be done straight away. He needs to get used to wearing a collar pretty much from the get-go, after all, you have to attach the lead to something.
A nice lightweight nylon collar will do the job just fine for a young Cocker Spaniel puppy. Make sure that it fits snugly enough so that your pup can not wriggle out of it, but still loose enough that’s it’s not uncomfortably tight around his neck……you should be able to fit a finger between the collar and you pup.
Make no mistake, your puppy will be confused by the collar initially and may take some time getting used to it but once he does, he probably won’t even notice it there.
My Cocker got so used to it being around his neck, that if you took it off for whatever reason, he would find it and carry it around in his mouth until you fastened it back around his neck.
Just like most dog essentials, you can find a massive choice of collars on Amazon. Some people even go for personalized collars but I feel that’s kind of unnecessary for a puppy, in my opinion anyway.
I would strongly advise against buying a choke collar for your pup. Yes, they are made for training but should only be used by people who know exactly what they are doing with this type of collar and let’s be honest, you wouldn’t be reading this guide if you knew how to train with a choke collar.
Food And Water Bowls
Your pup is going to need two bowls, one for food and one for water. Many people choose to go for two sets of bowls, one for inside and one for outside. Obviously this will depend on where he will be fed and where he will spend most of his time.
We have always fed and watered our dogs inside but have always had an extra bowl outside for water. This is especially a good idea in the summer months although this will depend upon where you live in the world and your particular climate.
Many people choose to go for the stainless steel type bowls which are very good but they aren’t ideal for a Cocker Spaniel. Why not? One word: EARS.
Yes, Cocker Spaniels are notorious for getting their ears soaked from their water bowl and covered in food from the food bowl. The solution to this is buying bowls specifically designed for Spaniels.
Spaniel bowls are taller and narrower than standard which allows the dog’s large ears to fall over the outside of the bowl rather than the inside, such a simple yet highly effective design. This type of bowl will save you hours of cleaning and drying your Cockers ears during its lifetime.
My other top tip when buying bowls for your Cocker Spaniel pup is do not get plastic ones. They may be suitable when your Cocker is older and fully trained but your pup will be tempted to chew and if the bowl is plastic, the bowl won’t last long.
Puppy-Proofing Your Home
Not only do you want to make sure that your puppy will be comfortable in your home, but you also have to make sure that your home is safe for your puppy. This involves taking precautions that your pup will not get into anything that he shouldn’t and there’s nothing in reach that may cause him harm should he sniff it, inspect it, chew it etc.
I know this seems obvious but you ill be surprised at what your pup will get into, especially if you take your eyes off him even for a split second.
Make sure any breakables or valuables are out of reach and any electrical cords are secured tightly up against walls etc. And just as you would with a child, keep all household cleaners and chemicals where the pup cannot get to them.
The First Trip To The Vet
I highly recommend you have an appointment booked for your Cocker pup to see your local vet before you have even picked him up. Ideally, you should plan on taking him for a full checkup within the first few days of you bringing him home.
The first trip to the vets will be a full examination. The veterinary surgeon will also set up a schedule for your pups vaccinations. The breeder will already have informed you of which ones your pup has had and the vet will continue from there.
Introducing Your Pup To The Family
Bringing a puppy home to meet the family can be a very exciting time. Everyone will want to pet him and play with him but it’s best to keep this introduction as low-key as possible.
Your pup will be apprehensive already and ill be completely overwhelmed if the family swamp him as soon as he comes through the front door.
Think about it, he’s been separated from his mother and the breeder and then endured the car ride home, the last thing you want to do is smother him and frighten him further.
However, the instant connection between pup and his human family is extremely necessary, it’s just you need to be careful how you go about it.
Gentle petting and soothing words are a good place to start. Putting him down and letting him explore under your watchful eye is also a good idea. Let your pup approach the family when he seems ready. Alternatively, each family member can take their turn at approaching the pup slowly and getting down to his level. Let him sniff their hands etc while they pet him gently.
This is how your pup will form an immediate bond with his new family. Please try and remember that your pup is experiencing a lot of things for the first time, and all at the same time. There are new people, new noises, new smells and new things to investigate, just be as gentle, as affectionate and as comforting as you can be.
Your Pups First Night At Home
It’s been a busy first day for your pup. The car journey, meeting the family, exploring his new home including his new bed and the garden. He’s had his first meal and relieved himself in the proper place…..hopefully!
He’s experienced new noises and smells all for the first time and seen more of the outside world than ever before.
That’s the first day over with and boy is your pup worn out and ready for bed……or so you would think!
It’s your pups first night and you are ready to say ‘good night.’ Keep in mind that this is your pups first night ever sleeping alone. His mother and littermates are no longer a paw’s length away and he’s gonna be a little bit scared.
Try your best to be reassuring to him. Do not spoil him and give in to his inevitable whining. Puppies whine. It’s what they do to let others know where they are and hopefully, get some company out of it.
DO NOT GIVE IN.
Place your pup in his new bed or crate, put him in his room and close the door. With extreme luck, he will fall asleep without a peep. If or should that be when the inevitable happens, ignore the whining. He’s fine and you know it. Do not feel sorry for him and go and comfort him.
I know this will be hard not to do and his whining will be pulling at your heartstrings but you will only be making things harder for you are both if you let his whining win.
Preventing Puppy Problems
Socialising your Cocker Spaniel puppy as soon as possible is critical to how he will behave as he gets older.
The more people you introduce him to the better and he will love the attention of your friends and other family members give him.
Now would also be a good idea to introduce him to other animals. By exposing your puppy to other people, animals and situations at a young age, he will be less prone to being timid or fearful of any new things he encounters.
The socialising he receives up until he’s 12 weeks old is the most critical as this is the time he forms his impressions of the outside world. Lack of socialising can manifest itself into fear and aggression as the dog grows older. He needs lots of human interaction, handling, affection and exposure to other animals.
Cocker Spaniel Puppy Training
Dogs are pack animals and they need a leader or else they will try to establish dominance in their packs. Your Cocker will definitely test the waters to see what he can and cannot get away with.
You or maybe another family member will be the leader. Do not give in to the pups cuteness and those pleading eyes. You and your family must stand your ground when it comes to training your pup and be consistent with everything otherwise you will only confuse the pup.
Early training shapes a god’s personality.
Common Puppy Problems
The best way to prevent problems is to be proactive in stopping any undesirable behaviour as soon as it starts. We have all heard the saying ‘ You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ before and while this isn’t exactly true, it certainly is easier to discourage bad behaviour in a young pup than it is in an adult dog.
As puppies start to teethe, they feel the need to sink their teeth into anything….unfortunately that includes your fingers, toes, other body parts and pretty much anything else that happens to be available.
Teething pups have razor-sharp tiny teeth that really really hurt. This is something you want to discourage immediately with a firm ‘NO’. Be sure to repeat the firm ‘NO’ as many times as it takes for your pup to understand.
It’s also a good idea to give him something he’s allowed to chew like one of his toys. You need to nip any nipping in the bud straight away.
Puppy Crying / Whining
Your pup will often cry, whine, whimper, howl or make some sort of commotion when he is left alone. This is basically his way of calling out for attention and letting you know he is there so that you haven’t forgotten about him.
This is a very common problem among all breeds of dogs and I have written a post on how to stop a Cocker Spaniel from howling which you can read here.
That pretty much sums up the stages you will go through when you get a Cocker Spaniel puppy. If you have read this and do go on to get a Cocker Spaniel or any other kind of puppy, I hope you enjoy your time together.