Acquired: Other (stray, given dog by friend etc.)
Training: Previous owner, Attended conferences / shows, Books
Illinois, United States
Posted April 24, 2012
The cocker spaniel is, unfortunately, one of the most popular breeds of dog, and has been for quite some time. This is one reason that I give this dog low marks, because a vast majority of these dogs have come from poor breeding lines and so have underlying health or temperament issues that are not ACTUALLY very common in cockers.
My review on this dog is actually based on many more than 2 individuals of this species, but I have had very close experiences with two, and all others I have merely worked with.
When I was looking to adopt a second dog, my childhood fantasy of a Cocker came true. I heard of a woman who was giving hers away, for free, to good home. I knew the breeder and contacted her first, confirming good health and temperament on the dog's line. So I went and met Dash, and got to hear his story.
Dash was 18 months old, he knew only the commands "be quiet" and "on your rug." His owners were elderly, and unable to handle his unharnessed energy and his excitable pee accidents. But I saw potential in him, and wanted him right away.
It's very common for Cockers, both male and female, to develop an excitable or submissive urination. Dash does not do it at home anymore, that went away in a couple weeks, unless you yell at him or get him VERY worked up about going outside. In his line, it is much more common for males to excitedly urinate than females, with his father and two of his brothers having inherited. it.
When I took Dash to the vet for the first time, I was thrilled because I had a beautiful dog with a winning, love-all-people, personality. However, the vet felt that she had to tell me that the Cocker Spaniel is the #1 breed of dog to put children in the hospital annually, according to the CDC. Now, this does not happen because of MY sweet, well socialized Dash. Cockers who are not socialized have a tendency to become nippy and be nervous, especially around children who do not respect them. In addition to this, they ARE a sporting dog, and so they are active, driven dogs. This means an untrained Cocker, even if not nippy, may accidentally injure a child by nipping or jumping simply because of his high drive.
Because of the high, sporting drive, they also have a tendency to develop barking habits from boredom. They are active dogs, but many people purchase them thinking they will be a small-sized lap dog. This simply isn't true. A bored dog WILL bark, and can become destructive. If properly entertained and trained, however, this can be harnessed into a wonderful ability to watch, and warn if they hear any noise.
While there are several health issues that run in the Cocker line, the most common are not life threatening. Ear infections, cherry eye, and glaucoma, while not fun, are less expensive and more cost-effective to care for than many other breeds. Ear infections can also be prevented, for the most part, by daily cleaning and shaving of the hair from the inner ear.
Daily upkeep of this dog is very important if kept in a skirt, as it must be brushed out daily to every other day, depending on its length. They MUST be clipped or professionally groomed every 4-6 weeks, but it is very important to brush to prevent mats in between.
Cockers are WONDERFUL dogs, bottom line, if you get them after having done your research and after knowing that they will fit your lifestyle. They are attentive and easy to train IF BRED PROPERLY... do NOT purchase from a pet store, this breed least of all, since they have been so popular for so long. Adopt an adult from a shelter, where you can see the temperament, or buy from a RESPONSIBLE hobby breeder whose dogs are on site, healthy, and well-behaved. Temperaments should be sweet, loving, and accepting.
Cockers should not be left untrained... their intelligence and energy needs to be harnessed. In addition, training a Cocker out of some of his wiggle (by giving him self control) can eliminate or greatly decrease excitable urination.