Breeding involves a tremendous commitment on the part of the conscientious breeder to the dogs involved, the puppies produced and the breed as a whole.

Text (© All Rights Reserved) for this section by Diane Davis

The Breeder

Breeding involves a tremendous commitment on the part of the conscientious breeder to the dogs involved, the puppies produced and the breed as a whole. Most responsible breeders will have only a couple of litters a year, as they know that raising a litter properly takes a lot of time and energy. They will not breed a female with each heat or season because they know it will impair her health and stamina and the health of the resulting litter. They will have only one or possibly two breeds as a breeder knows that it is a challenge to make wise breeding decisions in even one breed.

A breeder spends many hours studying the standard for the breed, health issues and pedigrees. Very often a litter is planned years in advance with the breeder considering things such as:

  • How their dogs compare to the accepted standard for the breed.
  • Evaluating prospective mates for conformation to the standard.
  • Studying pedigrees to evaluate if the mating may produce a beneficial change in the offspring.
  • Reviewing health information and certifications on the lineage of the dogs to be bred in an attempt to prevent inheritable diseases in the offspring.
  • Evaluating pups produced by a prospective mate, especially those from similar lines, for conformation to the standard, health and temperament.

Breeding should be goal directed. The goal being the overall betterment of the breed, both in conformation to the approved standard for the breed and health. The goal is not to make money or supplement an income.

A breeder's commitment to the dogs they produce extends for the lifetime of that dog not just until it is transferred to a new owner. Prospective owners should expect responsible breeders to ask questions. This is to insure a proper "fit" into a new home. Likewise, the prospective owner should expect and receive information about the breed, pedigree, health, training, grooming, etc. from the breeder.

With all this said, let's look at what you can expect from a responsible Cocker Spaniel breeder and what kind of information a responsible breeder will expect from you.

What to expect

Among the health problems that affect the Cocker Spaniel are:

  • The inheritable eye conditions of PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) and cataracts. These are the leading causes of blindness in our breed.
  • Canine hip dysplasia
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Skin and ear problems

You can expect that the breeder has had done and can provide you with a copy of an eye exam done on both parents within the current year. This exam will have been done by a certified canine ophthalmologist. The exam is done at least annually on all dogs that have been bred or are currently being bred to screen for PRA and cataracts. The certification paper that you will see in the US is from the "Canine Eye Registration Foundation" and is referred to as a "CERF" certificate. In other countries please ask the breeder if the parents' eyes have been examined and what certification they received. Be aware that this exam certifies only that on the day of the exam the dog was found to be free of inheritable eye diseases. It cannot identify a dog that is a "carrier" of a disease and cannot predict if the dog will develop a problem later. This is however, the only test we have available to us at this time and it is the best that we can do to try to insure that we are not passing on one of these diseases.

You should also be shown and/or receive a copy of the parents "OFA"(Orthopedic Foundation For Animals) certificate. Again this is the certification in the US and other countries may have a different certification. Remember to ask the breeder about this. This certification indicates that the parents of the litter are free of canine hip dysplasia. This is an x-ray exam that is performed one time after the dog is two years of age. The passing ratings for this exam are fair, good and excellent.

You should be shown/receive the above two certificates on each of the parents at a minimum. You may also be shown or given copies of a thyroid screening panel and/or the results on a Von Willebrand's Disease (a clotting disorder) screen. The breeder should also provide you with the health record of the puppy showing the vaccinations received to date, wormings and significant other health treatments he has received. You will also be given the pedigree of your puppy and usually some written information on the care of the Cocker Spaniel.

The breeder will be asking you many questions in order to try to insure that you are prepared to care for our happy, energetic, high maintainence breed. A cocker is not for every family. There aren't any wrong or right answers to these questions, the breeder is just trying insure that a cocker will be a good "fit" for your family and lifestyle.
Some of the things the breeder may ask and discuss with you include but are not limited to:

  • If you rent or own your home.
  • If you have a fenced yard or will be walking your pet several times a day.
  • If you have owned a pet before. If you have they may ask the name of your vet and/or groomer.
  • Who will be caring for the pup's needs, feeding, grooming, walking, etc.
  • Grooming and hygiene
  • Nutrition
  • Housebreaking
  • Socialization and training

You can expect to see the mother of the litter and perhaps some of his relatives. Often you will not be able to see the father as many breeders send their females to the male of another breeder to be bred. They should however, be able to show you a picture of the father and be able to tell you about him. You will not find many breeders with a single "breeding pair" because breeding the same animals over and over does not contribute to the goal of improving the overall quality of the breeder's line or of Cocker Spaniels in general. Occasionally, a breeder will repeat the same breeding, but this is not the norm.

Your pup will be on the average of 8-12 weeks of age before he is ready for a new home. The age that a breeder will let a pup go to a new home varies but all of us agree that 8 weeks is the absolute youngest a pup should leave his mother and littermates. Breeders know that the time before this is critical to the socialization and health of your pup. During this time the puppy is weaned, socialized and learns to form attachments. This is important for a stable temperament and will help to insure that your pet is happy and well adjusted. During this time your pup will also receive his first immunizations to protect him from diseases that can be picked up in the environment and from other animals.

Be aware that the breeder will be selling you a pet and as such it will be sold on limited registration and/or with a s pay/neuter agreement. Once again this is in the US and other countries have similar breeding restrictions. For example, in Canada the pup will be sold to you with a "Canadian Kennel Club non-breeding registration". Be assured that your puppy is not inferior in any way because the breeder has decided to sell him with breeding restrictions. These restrictions are the attempt of responsible breeders to try to reduce the number of unwanted Cockers that are filling our shelters and rescue organizations.

If you wish to purchase a Cocker for breeding purposes please discuss that with the breeder up front. They will be more than happy to direct you to resources to study the breed and will discuss with you all the things to consider before making the decision to breed.

We hope this has helped you to know what to look for in a breeder and some of the questions to ask and what will be asked of you.

Finding a Breeder

The best place to look for a breeder is by contacting the American Kennel Club (AKC), in Canada, the Canadian Kennel Club and in other countries contact your country's kennel club. Ask for the number of a Cocker Spaniel breed club in your area. In the US ask for the number of The American Spaniel Club breeder referral contact person. These people can give you the names of breeders in your area that may have a Cocker available. For your convenience we have added links below for the American Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club and the American Spaniel Club.

American Kennel Club
American Spaniel Club
Canadian Kennel Club