Know about Breed: Cocker Spaniel
- Lifespan: English Cocker Spaniel: 11 - 12 years.
- Height: English Cocker Spaniel: 39 - 41 cm, American Cocker Spaniel: 34 - 39 cm.
- Mass: English Cocker Spaniel: 13 - 14 kg, American Cocker Spaniel: 11 - 14 kg.
- Before the Golden Retriever and Labrador set the modern bar for the great with kids family companion, no breed was more beloved or popular than the Cocker Spaniel. Beautiful, sweet-natured and moderately sized, the Cocker's popularity bounded happily forward after World War II with the two-time Westminster Best in Show winner Ch. My Own Brucie. At his best, the Cocker is a gentle, affectionate, and healthy dog with soft, dark eyes.
- Weighing less than 30 pounds (albeit with a tendency to gain more) with a soft, wavy coat in many colors and patterns, long ears, and the most expressive eyes in dogdom, the Cocker is an excellent family pet lively, affectionate, sweet, and trainable. But at his worst, he's a nightmare. Popularity has truly been a curse to the Cocker Spaniel, and he's one of the favorite breeds of puppy millers, Internet retailers, and pet stores, who sell sad-eyed, floppy-eared, adorable puppies that too often grow up to be unstable, noisy, nervous dogs who are difficult to housetrain and have a tendency to snap and even bite.
- If you're lucky enough to find a puppy from a good breeder, get him off on the right foot with gentle and consistent training right from the start. A well-bred Cocker should be easy to housetrain, happy to be with you, and eager to experience new things even if it means walking on a leash, riding in the car, or going to puppy classes.
- Because Cocker Spaniels are extremely people-oriented, even the best-bred and socialized dogs tend to be a bit unhappy when left alone. For some, this takes the form of full-blown separation anxiety, with the barking, crying, and destructive behavior that usually accompanies it. Accustom your dog to puppyhood to being left alone from time to time. However, if you expect long hours left on your own to be part of your dog's usual routine, this is probably not the breed for you.
- Cocker Spaniels are typically friendly with other dogs and with cats. They are moderate shedders, and their coats require brushing several times a week. They can also be kept clipped, in which case they'll need to be professionally or home-groomed every four to six weeks.
- Merry and lively, the Cocker Spaniel is also intelligent and trusting. Although he still retains a strong instinct to hunt, he is most often a house companion. With his family, he is affectionate and docile. He can be a bit reserved at first with strangers, but he soon makes friends. Cockers can be good companions for children: not so big that they bowl them over and not so small that they are easily harmed by them. When raised together, they can buddy up with other pets, including cats, but birds may be an irresistible lure and not in a good way.
- The Cocker is highly trainable, but he has a sensitive soul. Early socialization is critical, and even with it, some Cockers will urinate submissively when their people come home or when they meet new people or dogs or go new places. Approach training with positive reinforcement methods, especially praise and food rewards.
- The Cocker can be good at field trials and as a gun dog, although for years he was thought of as "just" a companion. A Cocker is versatile and can do so much more than just hanging around the house, but he's quite content to do that too because he loves being with you.
- Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Cocker, the teen years start at six months and continue until the dog is about a year old. His barking can be a problem unless you curb it early.
- Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don't wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper, and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
- All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. Here's a brief rundown on what you should know about the Cocker's health.
- Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to a number of health problems that are at least partly genetic. These include many different eye disorders including cataracts and glaucoma, as well as painful defects of the hips and knees.
- Disc disease can make movement painful for the Cocker Spaniel, who is by nature an active dog who loves to run and play. Heart disease, liver disease, epilepsy the Cocker is at risk for all of them.
- The variety of eye problems that can afflict the Cocker Spaniel ranges from the cosmetic condition called "cherry eye" that can be corrected by surgery and the sight-threatening, including cataracts and glaucoma. While many Cockers lose their vision entirely in old age, some can lose their sight as early as two years of age due to progressive retinal atrophy. Cockers are also prone to keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a condition known as dry eye, a deficiency of tears that can lead to corneal problems.
- Make sure to have your Cocker Spaniel's eyes examined once a year by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, and seek veterinary care immediately at any signs of vision loss, cloudiness, redness, irritation of the eyes, or if the dog is squinting or pawing at them.
- Cockers can also have hypothyroidism, which is the underproduction of thyroid hormone. This can cause weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, shivering, and skin infections. Cockers should have their thyroids checked with a simple blood test any time thyroid disease is suspected. Skin problems may also indicate allergies, which are common in the breed, as are skin masses, which may be benign or cancerous.
- The beautiful, silky Cocker coat that you see on dogs in the show ring does just happen. It takes a lot of work to keep it shiny and tangle-free. For good reason, most people keep their pets in a shortcut all over, known as a puppy cut. Even that requires a fair bit of maintenance. Dogs with puppy cuts should be bathed, brushed, and trimmed about every two weeks.
- If you want the flowing long coat, more care and time must be taken, and typically the bathing, brushing, and trimming happens once a week. Most people choose to take their Cocker to a professional groomer, but you can learn to do it yourself. The cost of the equipment is equivalent to only a few grooming sessions, you won't have to schedule appointments and you will find that you increase your bond with your Cocker. However, grooming is for everyone, so if you don't want to do it, find a groomer you like because it's an absolute requirement for a Cocker.
- Because Cocker ears are prone to infection, check them weekly to make sure the inside is a healthy, vibrant pink and doesn't have a foul odor. If not, get to the vet quickly before the ear infection becomes a major issue. Be particularly careful to check the ears of a puppy as there is a significant wax buildup while the ear canal develops. Clean the ears using a solution recommended by your veterinarian.
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