There are numerous ways to find a reputable breeder;
1. Contact the Kennel Club or Breed Club for a puppy list. This is a list which breeders pay to be on when they register a litter, they are not recommended or approved as such, but the pups will be Kennel Club registered.
2. Ask the Kennel Club for a list of breed club secretaries. They are usually very helpful and will know of pups available in the area you require.
3. Buy the weekly dog papers, make a note of dog shows to be held and visit the shows to speak to owners, breeders and exhibitors. This also gives you the opportunity to see the dogs and helps you decide which colour, if any, you prefer.
4. Word of mouth - you may have a friend who has recently bought a puppy or you may see someone regularly exercising a Cocker.
5. Internet - AVOID kennels which sell numerous 'TOP 10' breeds such as Westies, Cavaliers, Yorkies, Golden Retrievers etc. These are not breed specialists, merely business people who usually buy in litters from unlicensed breeders in order to resell them. In this case it is unlikely you will see the sire or dam of the litter. Also these pups are mixed together and the pedigree you receive will not necessarily be the right one for the pup. It is possible that you will pay as much, if not more, for a puppy from this type of outlet, as from a reputable specialist breeder.
6. A good breeder doesn't have puppies all the time. It is quite possible, that you'll have to wait for some time, but it is worth the wait. A good breeder doesn't breed from his bitches on every season, and he has usually got a waiting list even before a litter is planned.
Visiting The Breeder
Once you have located a breeder who has pups, arrange to go and view at their convenience. Remember the following points:
1. Not every breeder allows pups to be viewed before 4 or 5 weeks old. Respect this decision as it is not always beneficial to the prospective purchaser or the bitch/pups.
2. Do not visit more than one breeder in any one day. You could inadvertently spread bacteria/disease from one premises to another on your hands, clothes or shoes. Dogs kept in the cleanest conditions still carry bacteria which they are tolerant to, but which may affect another premises.
3. Do not handle the pups without the breeder's permission.
4. See the dam of the litter, and if possible, the sire. Respect that when the bitch is with the pups she may view strangers with suspicion. You do not realise it, but you smell very different to the next person. My bitches generally love visitors, but a young bitch with her first litter may be adamant to leave them to fuss you and may even bark. This is her instinct to protect her pups and you should respect this.
5. Ask about feeding, vaccinations and worming. The pups should have been wormed at least 3 times before 8 weeks of age. Mine are wormed every 2 weeks from 3 weeks of age. Make provision to have the food the pups have been weaned onto, so that you don't have too change their diet. All my puppies are vaccinated against Parvo, Distemper, Hepatitis and Leptospirosis before they go to their new homes.
6. Take the breeder's advice and confirm that they are happy for you to contact them after you take the pup. 'After Sales Service' is invaluable. All owners of "my" dogs receive a regular Newsletter (4 times a year).
7. Ask if the parents have been eye-tested in the last 12 months scheme for hereditary eye disease. This is a very important. If the parents are clinically clear you have a better idea of the health of your pups eyes. However, a clear certificate only confirms that there are no signs of any problems - clinically clear can still mean the dog is a carrier; two carriers mated together can produce an affected dog. However, if you at least ask if the breeder eye tests their dogs you get an idea as to their seriousness in their breeding programme. Good breeders invest in their breeding dogs and only want to produce healthy dogs.
8. Good breeders will also help and advise you on all aspect of 'puppy management', such as house-training and socialisation. Every puppy-owner gets an interesting leaflet containing lots of valuable information.
9. Grooming techniques should also be discussed. I issue a simple explanatory sheet at the time of sale. This is a vast subject, so get good advice. Sometimes the breeder does trim/groom as well so ask about this, or if they recommend anyone. I trim Cockers from my kennel, and the first trimming is free.
10. Above all, the quality of the pups should show in their coats, eyes and demeanour. They should look healthy and lively and should crave attention, unless they are tired. Do not disregard a small puppy if it is equal in every other respect to its litter mates. These pups usually catch-up with, and often overtake, the others.
Is a Cocker suitable for you and are you ready for the commitment ?
Can you answer 'Yes' to the following questions?
1. Is there someone at home during the day to
amuse, house-train and feed the puppy?
2. Are you prepared for sleepless nights in the first week while the pup gets used to its new surroundings and being by itself?
3. Is your garden dog-proof?
4. Are you prepared for the upheaval to your life, and your furniture, which a young puppy may cause?
5. Is every member of your family convinced that a new puppy will be welcomed with open arms?
6. Are you willing to groom your Cocker Spaniel on a regular basis, and either learn to trim or be prepared to pay someone else to do it?
7. Do you realise how much it costs to feed and vaccinate a dog?
8. Are you willing to spend time socialising your pup and maybe attending training classes to learn to be a responsible owner ?
9. Do you realise that a young puppy can be very demanding on your time, especially as in the early days he/she cannot be walked long distances and has to be amused at home?
I could go on and on, but maybe this gives you an idea of the commitment involved. A Cocker Spaniel makes a wonderful pet, and will return your love a hundred-fold, but you must not abuse your dogs trust or take it for granted.