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Socialization, Weaning and Picking Your Puppy or Dog

    Cocker Spaniels are a very loving breed, but for a Cocker puppy to become a well-adjusted, happy, out-going adult, he must be well socialized.  Young Cocker puppies need to be raised in the house and should be handled, talked to and exposed to normal levels of daily household activity and noise.   Socialization should include interaction with all family members, visitors and any other animals that reside at the home.  Puppies also need to learn how to behave and interact with humans and other animals in public places.  However, socialization should be done slowly, over a period of time and owners should try to be sure that these exercises are conducted in non-threatening environments where the owner can control the situation and assure that the puppy only has positive, happy experiences.  For more information on socializing your puppy, please check out my SOCIALIZATION page. 

  Cocker puppies can usually be completely weaned by six weeks of age, but this does not mean they are ready to go to a new home.   There are many differing opinions as to when puppies should leave their mother and siblings.  In my experience (with my own dogs), no puppy should leave the breeder’s until it is 8 weeks of age.   I generally recommend that homes with young children (under 6) wait until a puppy is 10-12 weeks old before they take it home.   Most dogs that have been raised by a responsible breeder will adjust readily to a new family no matter their age.  A responsible breeder will be able to help you choose the right dog for your particular family and home activity level.  

    I also stress that homes with children must have a crate where the puppy can be safely confined away from the constant noise and attention of rambunctious children.   After all, you wouldn’t allow your six year old to have unlimited access to a new born infant would you?   Puppies should be treated with the same respect and consideration that would be shown to a new human family member.

   Many people worry about taking an older puppy or dog home because they’re afraid the dog won’t be trainable.  This is not a realistic concern.  I have placed dogs of all ages that have been “kennel” dogs, “house” dogs and everything in between.   Almost all of these (99%) have made the transition to a new home with excellent results.  Failure of a dog to be trained, housebroken or to behave himself is almost always due to a lack of commitment and training by the new owner.   No dog is ever too old or stupid to learn.  If new owners don’t try to rush the training or have unrealistic expectations, then almost any dog can become a cherished pet.

    An older dog takes the same amount of training that a younger puppy does, but many people run into problems because they expect the older dog to be trained in a matter of days.  Because the older puppy/dog is bigger, they believe that he must understand what is expected of him after they show him one time or two times or ten times.   That’s not how training works.  Training is repetition and reward until the dog performs the expected task in a reliable pattern.  If the dog is not able to repeat the task on a regular, daily basis, then the dog is not trained. 

    New owners cannot blame a dog, no matter how young or old, if he goes to the bathroom in the house or chews on the furniture or turns over the trash.   These actions are always the fault of the new owner, because it’s the owner’s responsibility to supervise the dog in a manner that makes it impossible for the dog to do the wrong thing.  Until the dog is completely trained and 100% reliable, it’s not the dog’s fault if he does the wrong thing.  He doesn’t know any better!!  It’s never fair to blame the dog because you weren’t paying attention and he was able to wander away from your supervision.   

    So, no matter what age dog you choose to bring into your home, please understand that a one year old puppy or an 8 week old puppy will take the same level of commitment and training to become a perfect companion.     When you take an older puppy or dog, you must do the same repetitive steps that are required of a younger puppy, without rushing to get to the next step.  Crate and house-training for the older dog should be handled just as you would a baby puppy.    Do not expect immediate results or rush to leave the dog loose in the house just because you THINK it should have the right idea.  No dog should be allowed unsupervised run of the house until it is 100% trustworthy, with no accidents for at least 2 months.

    The thing to keep in mind with any new pet is that, regardless of the dog’s age and experience, your family, home and schedule are all new experiences for the dog.  The dog must be trained, or re-trained as the case may be, to the behaviors that are important to you and your family.   This is generally not a problem with Cockers as they want so much to please that they will adapt quickly once they realize what is expected of them. 

    Choosing the right puppy or dog is where a reliable breeder is a must.   Someone who truly knows and cares about the placement of her dogs will help guide you to the dog that is right for you.   Remember when you are looking for a puppy that a reliable breeder can sometimes determine what you want and NEED in a pet, better than you can.  A good breeder will know the temperament of her dogs and won’t sell your 90-year-old grandmother a hyper buff puppy just because Grandma likes the color! 

    A reliable breeder will try to help you pick the right dog for your lifestyle.   Puppy’s come in all colors and sexes and they each have a slightly different temperament.  Some litters have little or no major temperament differences while others can have littermates that are shy or fearful, hyper and everything in between.   Make realistic decisions about the kind of dog you want and listen to the breeder’s recommendations with an open mind.  

    Do you want a dog to jog with you?  Will he be making trips camping and to the lake every weekend?  Do the kids need a playmate?  Is the dog a companion for an elderly person or your wife?  Are you gone a lot and the dog will have limited exercise?  Are you retired and want a dog that can travel with you?  Or go to work with you?  Try not to get caught up in the color or sex game.  If you need a quiet dog that won’t scare a timid child, don’t buy the over-exuberant female when there is a laid-back, quiet male available. 

    Yes, you do have you’re preferences, but don’t set yourself up for years of frustration and anger by purchasing the wrong puppy because it was the right color or sex.   Each puppy is an individual and just because you once heard about or had an aggressive black male or a “piddling” parti-color female, you should not condemn all males or blacks as aggressive or all females or parti-colors as “piddlers.”  Be flexible or you may pass up a dog that could have been the most wonderful companion of your life!  


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Copyright © Sandcastle Kennels 2004

Last revised: January 06, 2006