Acquired: Pet store
Posted September 27, 2015
My first experience with a Cocker Spaniel was when my parents purchased Rennie from a pet store. He was cute as a button and very playful, but showed slight aggressive behavior as a puppy. For example he would not allow you to touch his toys unless he brought it to you and would growl at you if there was food in his bowl. And unless he knew you, he was very aggressive towards strangers. Unfortunately, he was not neutered as my father did not believe in spaying and neutering.
Because of his aggression, my family enrolled Rennie in obedience training thinking this would "fix" the problem. It was a complete disaster! Rennie was so aggressive even the trainer could not work with him (He got some training-he knew how to sit). He "graduated" Rennie early just to get him out of his class!
Since Rennie could not be trained, my parents put him in the backyard and he officially became a guard dog. Looking at him, you would think he was a sweet dog until you walked near the fence. And the only animal he allowed in the backyard was our cat Midnight. Bathing Rennie was a nightmare!! He HATED baths and had to be muzzled. After getting bathed, he would roll in the filthiest and most disgusting thing he could find in the yard.
After working as a vet tech, I have encountered puppies similar to Rennie's behavior, but very few. With that being said, if anyone is looking to have a Cocker Spaniel, there are a few behavioral and health issues that they need to be aware of.
First, Cocker Spaniels need to be groomed regularly. They need a great deal of brushing, combing, and clipping. They shed a lot and often have a distinctive doggy odor in their skin and long ears. If their skin and ears are not kept clean on a regular basis, they can be prone to developing chronic ear infections and skin problems such as seborrhea.
Cocker Spaniels are very sensitive; meaning they can either be very submissive and hypersensitive or very aggressive. They do not respond well to harsh treatment and will bite and snap if they are in pain or are afraid as well as develop submissive urination (a behavior disorder where the pet urinates out of being afraid or is excited). Cocker Spaniels are also hyperactive and need lots and lots of playtime and exercise. As with any breed, proper selection is a must, but with gentle handling, proper socialization and obedience training, they can be a very fun and loving addition to any family.
Cocker Spaniel can develop numerous health issues. They are notorious for having really bad allergies that can affect their eyes, ears and skin. They can also develop eye conditions such as retinal atrophy, cataracts, and glaucoma. Hypothyroidism is another disorder that may cause the development of conditions such as epilepsy, hair loss, obesity, lethargy, dark patches on the skin, and other skin issues. It can be treated with medication and diet.
In regards to weight, Cocker Spaniels (especially those that are spayed/neutered) can become obese if allowed to overeat (they are natural con artists--who can resist those big brown eyes! Overall, they are just too cute to resist!), which can cause hip dysplasia and patellar luxation . With proper nutrition and exercise this can possibly be avoided unless there has been a lot of inbreeding that can genetically predispose them to these disorders.
My recommendation is to thoroughly research this breed. I do not recommend purchasing or adopting a Cocker Spaniel if you aren't prepared emotionally and the financial responsibility if any of the health or behavioral issues I listed occurs. I can't emphasize enough the importance of obedience training, proper selection and preventative medicine.