Raise a Cocker Spaniel
Edited by Kathy McGraw
Cocker Spaniels are people-pleasing fun loving, affectionate little dogs that make great companions and family pets. They're also long-lived, if they're healthy, easily living into their teen years. I should know; I've had Cocker Spaniels my entire life. When I was ten, my mom took me to a Cocker Spaniel breeder, and I got to pick out Ginger, the Cocker Spaniel I grew up with. We had many good times together; my mom and I would bring her everywhere with us. My fondest memories are of my mom bringing her to pick me from horse-back riding lessons and of her jumping on my bed to wake me up in the mornings. She was with me until I turned twenty-six and she turned sixteen.
In my adult life, I have had three other Cocker Spaniels, a black and tan lady named Belle, and two buff Cockers, one named Paprika, and the other Honey. Of all of them, only Honey is still around. Each of them is special and holds their place in my heart.
If you've just brought home your first Cocker puppy, I want to share with you how you can raise him or her up to be a healthy and happy member of your family and the best companion you could ever ask for.
Your Puppy's First Few Days in His New Home
You've just brought home your new little friend, and you're eager to show him his new digs.
- 1It's kind of like child-proofing, only you don't need to worry so much about fingers poking into things they shouldn't. Make sure that there are no electrical cords lying around that he can get into (and believe me, he will. Honey chewed through the power cord of a fan, which luckily for her, wasn't plugged in), and that there is nothing sharp he can hurt himself on.Puppy- proof your house:
- 2Your pup's first days at home are an important time for bonding with you, your family, and his new environment. Therefore, it's important that you spend as much time playing, cuddling, and beginning the early lessons that he will need to grow up into a secure and well-adjusted member of the family. If you need to, take a week off work to spend quality time with your pup.Don't leave your puppy alone during his first few days.
Puppy Care 101
If your Cocker pup is your first dog, then you might be a little unsure of basic puppy care. Here are the most important aspects of taking care of your little fur-baby:
- 1After that, he can be fed twice daily, and at 12 months, you can have him down to one meal per day. There is nothing wrong with continuing to feed him twice a day when he is fully grown, as long as you watch his calorie intake and weight. You might also consider self-feeding, where you leave his dog dish full of food and let him graze on it throughout the day.Feed your Cocker four small meals each day until he is four months old.
- 2Pick him up and hold him close. Cuddle him in your arms and encourage family and friends to do the same. Puppies that are handled often have been shown to be calmer, better socialized, and less prone to behavioral issues later in life.Handle your puppy regularly during the day.
- 3Socializing a puppy involves introducing him to common sights, sounds, and smells to get him used to his environment. Socialization is a very important part of puppy training and care because dogs that are not properly socialized tend to be nervous, anxious, hyperactive, and may react aggressively to stimuli they've not been conditioned to accept as normal.Socialize your puppy.
- The best time to socialize a puppy is between the ages of 4 and 12 weeks. The reason it's the best time is that during this period they learn very quickly. A good breeder will have already started socializing every pup in the litter. Be sure to ask your breeder what they've done regarding socialization so that you can continue with it after you bring your puppy home.
- It is important not to expose the pup to diseases before he is fully vaccinated, so to socialize him safely, always carry him in your arms when he is outside your home. Once he has had all his vaccinations, then he can run around to his heart's content.
- Take him to out to a busy public area and let him get used to the sights and sounds of people coming and going, the sounds of car engines, etc. If he remains calm, praise him and give him a treat.
- 4Cocker Spaniels are prone to ear infections because of their long, pendulous ears. Dirt and debris get caught in the long silky hair that hangs from the earflap, and moist warmth encourages bacterial growth. Start your Cocker's ear care early so that he learns to accept it calmly.Regularly inspect and clean your Cocker's ears.
- Wash your hands before handling your puppy's ears
- Inspect his ears. They should be pink and shouldn't smell. Some brown wax is acceptable as long as it has no odor.
- Squeeze a little ear cleaning solution inside his ears and massage the base of each ear for about a minute. They usually really like this part.
- Clean the external canal. Use a cotton ball or swab to gently wipe away the excess solution and dirt from the outside area of the ear canal. Be sure to get into the folds and crevices.
- Dry the ear as bacteria love warm moist places
- Give your puppy a treat if he behaved well during his ear cleaning.
- 5All puppies chew, and even adult dogs do, for that matter. It stimulates their gums, and when your pup is young, he'll be teething just like a human baby. Give him things to chew, such as strips of rawhide, pig's ears, and rubber or plastic chew toys. If you catch him chewing on something he shouldn't tell him to drop it and gently take it from him. Then give him his chew toy and when he starts to chew on it, praise him.Control unwanted chewing.
I know some dog owners have the devil of a time with housebreaking their pups, but I've found the procedure pretty quick and easy. I think it is all in the approach you take and the expectations you have for your puppy. The thing to remember when housetraining is that your puppy instinctively does not want to soil his bed or the place where he eats, which is why housetraining is even possible. Your job is to let your puppy know where it is appropriate for him to relieve himself and where it is not.
An important fact to keep in mind during this process is that puppies will need to relieve themselves after they wake up, either in the morning or from a nap, after a meal, and after exercise. Knowing this, you can take your puppy out at these times to have the best chance of praising your pup when he does his business in the appropriate spot.
- 1You may start with paper training and then move on to outdoor housebreaking, or if you live in an apartment, continue with it. Lay newspaper or puppy pads down in the spot where you want your pup to do his business and after every meal, after your pup, wakes from a nap, or first thing in the morning put him down on his papers. When he relieves himself, praise him lavishlyPaper training:
Although Cockers excel in obedience and agility competitions, you needn't take your pup that far, unless of course, you want to. However, every puppy should learn the basics:
- 1I don't mean the classic heel position on your left leg; I mean walking on a leash without pulling you so hard that he dislocates your shoulder.Train him to walk on a loose leash without pulling.
- Start by accustoming him to the weight of the leash on his neck. Put the leash on him and let him drag it after him around the house.
- Once he is used to the leash, then pick it up and lead him around your yard. Walk forward, and as soon as the leash gets tight, change direction in the opposite way he is going. When he reaches you, and the leash is loose, give him a treat and praise him. If the leash tightens, move in the opposite direction again. Do this as many times as it takes for him to learn to watch you and anticipate your movements.
- 2Call your dog to you and praise him lavishly when he does. Never call your dog over to you to scold him; you want him to know that coming to you is always a good thing.Teach him to come when he is called.
- 3Tell your pup to sit and stay, then calmly walk in front of him and turn toward him. Wait for a beat, and if he doesn't move, praise him and give him a treat. If he moves, calmly and without a fuss, put him back where you want him and try again. Gradually increase the number of beats he has to remain sitting, then when he is consistently staying seated with you right in front of him, take a couple of steps back and repeat the process, starting from a single beat onwards. Continue moving back and increasing the time until you are about ten feet away from him.Teach him to sit and stay.