I love Cockers and believe them to be wonderful family
companions. However, I also know they are
not the right pet for every family. There are
several factors that need to be considered by anyone
that is thinking of purchasing a Cocker. Please be
sure you are aware of the following points before you
purchase or adopt a Cocker Spaniel. Hopefully this
will help you avoid taking home a dog that is not right
for your family.
While you may or may not spend a lot of money to
purchase your pet, the expenses will only
continue to add up after you get the dog home.
While Cockers, as a breed, are not exceptionally
expensive to care for over other breeds, they do
require some care that, say a short-coated
breed, would not need. Are you prepared
for the additional expenses that are necessary
to properly care for a Cocker Spaniel?
Initial Expenses - crate, bowls,
harness/collar, leash, toys, shampoo, ear
drying powder, ear cleaner/treatment, brush,
comb, dog food, treats, dog house, kennel
enclosure if you don't have a fenced yard,
doggy door, pet deposit for renters, etc.,
Routine Health Care
If you purchased a puppy, the puppy will
need shots and worming or worm screening
every 3-4 weeks until 16-20 weeks of age
($50-$100 per veterinary visit).
Any dog will need monthly
flea/tick/heartworm preventative -
puppies should be started at about 4
months of age. Generally sold in 6
month supply for ($40-$80).
Every dog will need a yearly veterinary
check-up, shots and any diagnostic or
preventive care suggested by your
veterinarian - teeth cleaning, heartworm
check, worm check, etc. Basic
yearly exams with necessary medications
and tests will run $100-$300.
Dog Food - $15-$20 every 2-3 weeks
depending on the size of the bag.
Grooming - $10-$40 per
Professional grooming (haircut) is
necessary every 2-4 weeks for puppies
and every 4-6 weeks or MORE often for
adults with coat. Bathing/brushing
is necessary weekly or every other week
for most any Cocker. Additional
charges often apply if the dog is matted or
has parasites. (Some or all of this
may be done at home.)
toys/treats - $15/month.
Dog toys should be replaced as worn or
chewed and puppy toys should be replaced
for the same reasons and as age or
chewing aggressiveness dictate.
If your schedule and living arrangements
do not permit you to attend to your dogs
needs for relieving itself or for
exercise, then it will be necessary for
you to hire someone that can do this for
If you travel regularly or have an
emergency and cannot take the dog, you
will need to hire someone to care for
the dog in your absence. Cockers
are generally $5-$20 a day to board at a
kennel facility or your veterinarian.
Pet sitters that come to your home for a
specified number of visits per day may
charge $10-$30 a day. Rates will
vary according to whether the person is
staying in the home or visiting for a
specified number of times per day.
Training - All dogs need a minimum basic
obedience course and puppies should have a
puppy kindergarten course as well.
$45-$100 per course. Each course is
generally one night a week for 8 weeks.
Emergency Care - puppies especially
are prone to accidents, ingestion of foreign
objects, poisoning, illnesses and other
situations that may require emergency or
other types of care. Adult dogs can
suffer from the same as well as additional
age specific injuries or illnesses.
Emergency fees can be astronomical for
serious conditions. Buying from
a good breeder that does health testing can
HELP minimize the chances of some diseases
and illnesses, but there are NO guarantees
that a specific dog will never develop a
serious health condition. Emergency or
other care could be $100 to several thousand
dollars. (Many emergency clinics will
not treat an animal without at least half of the
expected bill being paid UP FRONT! Not
only that, veterinary clinics can refuse
treatment if you are unable to pay!)
You should prepare for the purchase of a dog by
planning for all of the expenses above.
Being prepared for emergencies could save you
the heartache of having to put a beloved pet to
sleep because you didn't have sufficient funds
to pay for necessary veterinary care.
Although I addressed the expense of this portion
of caring for a Cocker in the area above, there
is still some personal involvement that will be
required of you. If the dog only goes to
the groomers once a month and is kept in
reasonably full coat, it will need to be
brushed, combed and bathed about once a week by
a family member. Depending on your dog's
coat and hygiene habits, it might be necessary
to do this more often. (Full coated show
dogs generally get brushed every day or every
other day and are bathed weekly.) If
you do not brush and bathe your dog regularly, it
will develop mats in the hair that pull on the skin
and can cause pain, sores and infection
minimize the amount of grooming a Cocker will need by clipping the dog's feathers
(leg and side coat) short, or at
least shorter, but it will still need to be
trimmed regularly and will most likely require some amount of brushing
You can minimize your grooming expense by learning
to trim the dog yourself. However, you will
likely need someone to help show you how to groom
the dog the first few times AND you will need to
invest $200-$400 in grooming equipment to do the job
Are you willing to commit to
having a groomer do all or part of your dog's grooming
if you are unable to do so?
No dog is born knowing what it should or
shouldn't do. Everything you want your dog
to do (or not to do!) must be taught and
consistently reinforced by you. Training
is not a one shot deal nor is it over with
quickly. Every minute of every day is a
training experience for your dog. Your
actions (or lack of action) will dictate whether
your dog is a pleasant companion or a trial and
burden for your family and neighbors.
All dogs should have a basic obedience
course and puppies should go through a puppy
kindergarten as well. This will
require you to go to class one night a week
for about 8 weeks per course and then the
exercises must be practiced at home daily.
Additionally, all dogs should be taught
"manners" - house-training, crate-training,
not jumping on people/children/furniture, no
Cockers should be socialized with as many
people as possible. This means taking
them to the pet store, walking at the park,
to friends and family homes when appropriate
and introducing them to strangers as often
as possible at home.
Are you willing to commit to training and
socializing a Cocker so that it will be a happy,
self-confident companion and family member?
All dogs deserve a lifetime home, but far too
many end up abandoned, neglected and abused.
Have you honestly considered your family's
situation and what the long-term (10-15 year)
impact of dog ownership will mean?
you rent, have you considered the cost of
deposits, not only now but if you should
have to move? Most rental properties
will not return pet deposits, so if you have
to move, you will lose the money put up as a
deposit on your current home and you would
have to come up with adequate funds for
deposits on a new rental home.
Additionally, rental properties that allow
pets are hard to find and many have size or
weight restrictions. Pet restrictions
can also be changed by the landlord.
You could suddenly face having to move or
get rid of your pet!
Are you purchasing a pet because the
children want one and have promised to care
for it? Children are very convincing
in their desire to get and care for a new
pet and honestly think they will do so.
Unfortunately, this rarely happens.
Nine times out of ten, 100% of the
responsibility for the animal's care will
fall to the parents. Are you
prepared to take on all of the
responsibility for the dog's lifetime?
If the dog is for the children, will they be
leaving for college in a few years?
Will you be retiring soon? Will you
want to travel after the children are gone
or after retirement? Will the dog
suddenly be a burden when there are other
things you would like to do?
Will you be having children soon?
Having a full-time job and children to care
for can be more than enough to keep anyone
busy. Will you still be able to give
the dog a reasonable amount of attention as
your family grows?
Cockers are not exceptionally demanding,
but they do require a certain level of
commitment as regards spending time with and
giving attention to the dog. They are very
social animals and need to spend time with their
human pack members every day. As a
whole, this breed does not do well as outside
pets. If your schedule and commitments
make it unlikely that you can spend some portion
of the day with a dog, then a Cocker may not be
the right pet for you.
If you are considering purchasing a puppy,
have you considered the fact that staying
late at work, going out with friends after
work or getting away for the weekend may not
be as easy as it used to be? Are you
prepared to hire someone to walk your dog if
your schedule doesn't permit you to go home
at lunch to let a small puppy out?
How will you house-train the dog or teach
the dog how to behave in the house if you
work long hours and are rarely home?
If you are looking into the purchase of an
older dog, many of the concerns above will
still apply. You will still have to
train an older dog to your schedule and what
is and is not his to play with/chew in the
new house. An older dog may be
able to stay by itself (crated) for longer
periods of time without relieving itself,
but they will still require training to
learn when, how and where you expect them to
go potty, play and rest. Every home is
different and each person expects different
behaviors from a dog, so be aware that a dog
that has been trained to someone else's
expectations, may not fulfill your own until
after you have spent considerable time on training.
There can be a fairly large difference in
the personalities of Cockers.
Some are very active and love having a job
(obedience, hunting, agility) while others
just enjoy following you around the house
and laying at your side or at your feet.
Most are fairly dependent on their people
and will want to be with whoever happens to
be home. Be sure that you have
realistically evaluated the personality that
you would like to have in a dog and that you
have discussed this with your chosen
While you do not generally have to entertain a
Cocker every minute you are with the dog (a kind
word and loving pat will endear you to the dog
and are adequate reward for following at your
heels all day!), the important fact to remember
with this breed is that they will want to be
with you or another family member as much as
possible. If you would enjoy a dog
that follows you around the house, wants to be
with you while you're outside working in the
yard and that otherwise adores and worships you,
then a Cocker may be what you are looking for in
Most Cockers are great, all-around family pets and
will love children that live in the house or that
come to visit. Keep in mind however, that dogs
who do not live with children must be properly
socialized and trained to interact with children.
Additionally, all children should be supervised when
interacting with a dog and children in the home must
be taught to respect the dog and to "play nice".
Children that are not properly supervised and/or
that do not interact correctly with a dog may
contribute to a dog becoming fearful, aggressive or
otherwise out-of-control when around children.
you are purchasing a dog that will be around
Parents must always assume that the care of any
animal will be their responsibility, and since that
care may involve 12-15 years of effort, please
consider all of the responsibility that pet
ownership entails before buying a puppy.
When purchasing a dog, be realistic in
evaluating the time and effort it will take to train
that dog to be a well-behaved, trustworthy companion.
Very few puppies are entirely trustworthy
(chewing, house-training) in less than 6 months.
Most will need to be supervised closely (by an
adult, not children!) during all playtimes in
the house for 6 months to a year. The dog
will need to be crated for all other periods of
time when it is not supervised. This
training period is the same no matter the age of the
dog that you are purchasing. ANY newly
acquired dog will need to be crated or leashed at
all times after you bring it home.
The initial training period will vary with each dog.
A new owners commitment to the
training and their consistency in training the
dog daily will also impact how long it takes for a
puppy to be trustworthy in the house. Please do not get a puppy with the
mistaken impression that you can spend a couple
of weeks or even a month on intensive training
and the dog will magically understand everything
you expect of it. This will not
happen! Your dog will not be trained
until it has been taught EVERYTHING you do and
do not want it to do.
Did you catch the
"catch" in that last sentence? Many
people fail to understand that only 25% of your
initial training is about teaching a dog
to do certain things or exhibit certain
behaviors. The other 75% is about training
the dog what it is NOT supposed to do! This can
only be achieved with experience and correction.
Your dog will not be trained until it has been corrected multiple
times for chewing on clothing, slippers, shoes,
fingers, toes, furniture, plants, toys, carpets, walls; for
eliminating in the living room, the dining room,
the bedroom, the kitchen; for eating toilet
paper, newspaper, the trash, underwear, socks,
rocks, toys; for jumping on people, children,
the sofa, the coffee table, the new flower bed,
the old flower bed, your bed, etc., etc, etc.
If you do not have the time or patience to deal
with training a dog, maybe you should re-evaluate your decision to
purchase a pet at this time.
While an older puppy or dog may have some of the
above training already, be realistic in your
expectations of an older dog. Any
older puppy or dog in a new home should be
crated when unsupervised and tethered to an
adult by a 4-6 foot leash when out of its crate.
Remember that an older dog will be testing its
limits in a new home, with new owners and
training will be just as important as it is with
a young puppy.
Do not expect the training of an older puppy or
adult dog to be any less time-consuming than
that of a young puppy. You cannot
cut corners with an older puppy's training and
expect to have good results. An older
puppy or adult dog will still need to be taken
outside on a leash - not thrown out the door on
its own. It will need constant supervision
in the house - ALWAYS tethered to an adult
family member, NEVER let loose to explore.
Like a young puppy, an older dog will also need
constant correction/praise/reward training
sessions to teach manners and acceptable
all honesty, there is very little difference between
a spayed female and a neutered male pet. There
may be a slight size difference in an average female
versus an average male (since most females are 1/2
to 1 inch shorter than a male), but some males can
be smaller than a particular female, so this is not
always the case. As for temperament and
personality, males and females can both be sweet and
loving, adventurous and mischievous or dominant
and aggressive. It depends on each dog's
The following are some general observations on
differences between the sexes:
- with my Cockers, I believe the boys are
often easier to train (although they may be more
easily distracted) and they are more laid-back
and less moody than some of the girls.
Many exhibit more of a fun-loving,
eager-to-please temperament and they are less
stubborn than the females (whatever makes you
happy is fine since a disagreement would require
an unnecessary expenditure of energy!).
Males will often be more dependent - attentive,
loyal and devoted - and are less likely to get
their nose out of joint over changes in the home
- new spouse, new pets, etc.
- can be more stubborn over training
issues (convince me to do it your way!) although
they tend to stay more focused during training
as they just want to get it over with.
They may be more independent than a male -
attention is acceptable on their terms, when
they are ready and willing and until they have
had enough; not necessarily at your whim.
Females can also be more territorial and moody,
especially as they get older, even with other
Unfortunately, many prospective buyers insist on
purchasing a female puppy because they believe, or
have been told, that a male dog may exhibit problem
behaviors. What these buyers fail to
understand is that female dogs can, and often do,
exhibit the dominant, "alpha" behaviors that they
are trying to avoid. The fact of the matter
a pack situation, there is an alpha male AND an
alpha female. The alpha female of a canine pack is
just as likely as the alpha male to assert her authority
with dominant behavior. In domestic dogs
(pets), these behaviors may be seen in any
dog (male or female) that is not properly trained.
Dominant behavior may include:
Urine marking - small amounts of urine are
released to "mark" territory or to claim
ownership of an item.
"Humping" - a behavior that is done to show
dominance and which is not a sexual act.
Aggressiveness - physical threats or assaults on
strangers (protecting the pack, territory,
possessions) or on weaker pack members to establish the right to
mate, to claim prime sleeping quarters and to be
the first of the pack to eat.
Improper/inadequate training of any dog results in a
lack of respect for humans. A dog that does
not respect humans will not trust its owners to lead
the pack (provide food, shelter, protection, etc.).
If there is no clearly defined, respected pack
leader, your dog, be it male or female, may believe
it is necessary to challenge you and take over as
the leader of the pack! (Even a relatively
submissive dog may exhibit dominant/challenging
behaviors if he/she does not have confidence in and
respect for humans.)
Purchasing a female dog does not automatically mean
that you are getting a docile, sweet-tempered little
baby. If you happen to purchase a dominant
female puppy and/or if you do not train a female
puppy correctly, you may end up dealing with
behavioral issues. Regardless of the sex of the
puppy you choose to purchase, you
will need to take the time to properly train and
socialize the dog if you do not want to have
problems down the road.
Proper training includes enrolling the puppy in a
puppy kindergarten class, following this with a
basic obedience class and reinforcing this training
throughout the dog's lifetime.
Basically, you must step up to the plate, take
control of the dog and be the "alpha" pack leader.
(This applies to all adults in the household.) You must train the dog to stay in a lower position
within the pack and you must insist on obedience and
respect. If you do not do these things, your
dog, whether male or female, may feel the need to
take charge as he/she matures. (You'll know you're in trouble and being challenged
if you find yourself being growled or snapped at
when you try to shoo the dog off the bed or the
couch; or if your previously house-trained dog
suddenly feels free to urine mark in the house, on
the furniture, on your shoes or even on you!
Other warning signs may include you finding your leg
being humped every time you sit down and guests
coming into the home being challenged for daring
to invade the dog's space!)
point in discussing the differences between the
sexes is not to influence your decision one way or
another about which sex of puppy is best for your
I am merely hoping to illustrate that
male AND female dogs can be perfect pets.
Hopefully this information will help potential
owners overcome unfounded sex-based prejudices and
this will clear the way for potential buyers to
choose the right puppy for their
As I stated above, males and females
often exhibit remarkably similar behavior.
Each dog is
unique, no matter the color or sex of the dog, and
with the appropriate training and socialization
males and females both make excellent companions and
The best advice I can
give for choosing a puppy for your family is to
explain to your breeder what you are looking for in
a pet, what your household schedule is like and what
your expectations for your pet will be. Then listen
to your breeder's evaluation of each puppy and let
her help you choose the dog that most closely fits
your family's lifestyle, activity level and behavioral
expectations. Keep in mind that to get your
"perfect" dog, you may have to throw out some
preconceived notions of which sex or color is
"right". Remember, your perfect companion may be hiding in an
*Not getting a dominant male dog neutered or a
dominant female dog spayed can increase the chances that this type of
dog will want to "mark" territory.
behavior is not really a house-training issue.)
Urine marking is a sign of a dominance issue and
this is tied to a lack of strong leadership and
training from the human "pack" leaders.
In addition to marking territory, males who have not
been neutered will have more of a desire to roam,
will be attracted to females that are "in season"
and will be likely to feel the need to defend their
territory. Females that are not spayed will
have a heat cycle twice a year during which they
will have a bloody discharge that may stain carpets,
furniture, clothing and bedding. They often
become moody before, during and after this time and
they are likely to feel the need to roam, seeking a
mate. Males will flock to an in season female
and may dig under or climb over fences to get to
For homes with multiple dogs, or wanting multiple
dogs, two males will generally get along well
whether intact or altered. (Remember that
neighborhood or wandering females that are in season
could cause an aggression problem between 2 intact
males.) In households where there are male and
female dogs, a female will usually be the dominant,
highest ranked member of the pack. A male and
female should get along quite well in a 2-dog home.
If you choose to add a third dog to a 2-dog home (1
male + 1 female) it would probably be best to get
If you are looking to add another dog to your
household and you already own a female, be aware
that two female dogs in the same household may constantly vie for the alpha dog
position and may have repeated conflicts. I
would recommend adding a male dog to household that
already has a female.
recommendations above are generalizations. As
stated elsewhere in this article, each dog is
different (as is each home), so choosing a new puppy
for your multiple dog household will have to be
based on your knowledge of your existing pets and
your ability to train and supervise a new puppy.
While some part of a dog's personality and
temperament are inherited, owners and breeders can
and do influence the temperament of their dogs.
Unfortunately, if an owner or breeder inadvertently
encourages and/or rewards the wrong behaviors, a
docile, sweet tempered dog can become a dominant,
vicious dog. Buying your puppy from a
knowledgeable, reputable breeder can help you avoid
behavioral problems in a number of ways.
knowledgeable breeder will:
Properly socialize her puppies.
Encourage and reward non-dominant, non-aggressive
behavior in her puppies and adult dogs.
Not allow children or visitors to intimidate young
puppies or engage in activities that encourage or
reward inappropriate behavior.
Help you learn to properly train your puppy/dog.
Owners and breeders should be aware of and avoid a
simple, common mistake that may contribute to some
males exhibiting dominant behaviors. This is the
sub-conscious gender bias of breeders and owners.
As with human children, males and females are many
times treated differently from birth. This can lead
to different behaviors being exhibited by the
different sexes. Breeders and owners may
unconsciously encourage and reward male puppies for
being rough and tumble, independent and/or
aggressive (reinforcing dominant, alpha dog
tendencies) while female puppies are more often
encouraged and rewarded for exhibiting sweet and
docile behaviors (reinforcing submissive and
Examples of human/dog interaction that may encourage
dominant behavior can include:
Play which allows the dog to "compete" with or
challenge humans (such as tug-of-war games).
Allowing "rough" human/dog play with
Allowing or encouraging a puppy/dog to bark at
humans or other animals.
Allowing or encouraging a puppy/dog to guard or
protect food or possessions.
Remember that while it may be
"cute" for a 5 lb puppy to bark or growl, it won't
be cute when the dog does this as an adult! It
especially won't be cute when that adult dog is
challenged and he bites you, your child or the
neighbor. Allowing, encouraging or rewarding
aggressive behavior at any age will "teach" the dog
that he can be dominant and aggressive. This
"training" could impact the dog's personality and
behavior for the rest of his life. Breeders and
owners should NEVER allow puppies to play rough or
encourage barking, growling or biting.
One of the most wonderful things about the Cocker
Spaniel breed is its rainbow of colors!
Cockers come in shades of buff (from the lightest
cream to the deepest red), solid black or brown,
black or brown with tan points and white with black,
brown or buff/red spots (parti-colors).
Black and brown parti-colors may also have tan
points and are called tri-colors. In addition
to the colors described above, Cockers may also be
black, brown or buff/red (solid or parti) with a
roan, sable or merle marking pattern. (Some of
these patterns may also include tan points.)
(Check out my
page for detailed information on Cocker colors.)
Most Cockers require a moderate amount of exercise.
However, each dog is an individual and one dog may
require more or less physical activity than another.
Some Cockers need little more than a regular
adventure in the backyard, while others may need to
be actively involved in the regular training
schedule necessary to compete in "doggy sports"
(obedience, agility, field trials).
Before choosing a particular puppy to take home,
your breeder about your family's household schedule,
the time you will be able to devote to a pet's
exercise requirements and the differences in each puppy's personality,
temperament and activity level.
Be prepared to provide your puppy with walks in the
neighborhood, playing fetch in the yard and other regular
A young puppy should also be enrolled and
participate in a Puppy Kindergarten class
(socialization + training) and should complete a
regular obedience class after 6 months of age.
your dog with appropriate exercise can prevent
health and behavioral problems and will help your
dog bond with your family.