How To Be A Responsible
Cocker Spaniel Breeder

A few things we've learned
about breeding Cocker Spaniel Puppies

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Here's what we've learned about how to be a responsible and successful breeder of American Cocker Spaniel puppies.

Before going ahead and breeding a dog, there are some things that you need to do first.  Taking the time and effort to do these things is what separates the good breeders from the bad...  and can be the difference between a world full of unhealthy Cocker Spaniels and a world full of the kind of Cockers we all dream of.

Anybody can breed a litter...  it just takes two fertile dogs, and those are easy to come by.  The trick is to breed a litter that meets the breed standard, and that isn't plagued by health problems during the lifetime of the dogs.  Also, if you do things right, you can create puppies that are well socialized and you can also make puppies that will be easier to potty train than the average pet-store puppy is.

So, here's an overview of how a responsible breeder operates:

  1. Both the male and the female should be healthy, and should be at least two years old before breeding.

    A big part of being a responsible breeder involves making an effort to ensure that the puppies you create will be healthy.  The last thing a responsible breeder wants to do is to create puppies with health issues.  Not only is it cruel to the puppies, but it inflicts a large financial burden on the owners of the puppies.  The first step towards ensuring your puppies will be healthy is to only use healthy adult dogs for breeding.  Any dog with health issues should be spayed or neutered so that those health issues are not passed along to a new generation of dogs.  The only dogs that should be bred are dogs that have always been free of health issues.

    To make sure that the dogs in your breeding program are free of health issues, it's important to wait long enough for health issues to crop up before you start using the dog for breeding.  You need to wait until the dog is at least two years old before you use that dog for breeding...  and that goes for both males and females.  This gives enough time for health issues to surface.
     

  2. Both the male and the female should meet the breed standard for the American Cocker Spaniel.  The whole point of breeding purebred dogs is consistency.  Every new generation needs meet the standard.  It won't happen if you are using adult dogs in your breeding program who do not meet the breed standard themselves.  So, be sure to read the breed standard and make sure your dogs meet it.  If you don't understand the breed standard, show you dog to an experienced Cocker Spaniel breeder and ask them if they think your dog meets the breed standard.
     

  3. Partis should only be bred to partis, and solids should only be bred to solids.  If you breed a solid to a parti, you will very likely make a bunch of mismarked pups that don't meet the breed standard.
     

  4. Testing should be done on both the male and female to make sure they are free of genetic eye defects.  This must be performed by a Veterinary Ophthalmologist, not by your regular Vet.  The test is known as a CERF test, as the results are usually registered with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.  Read more about this here.
     

  5. Testing should be done on both the male and female to make sure they are free of genetic hip defects.  The basic hip x-ray can be done by your regular Veterinarian, but needs to be reviewed and certified by a hip expert at the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals.  This is known as an OFA test for hip dysplasia.  Learn more about hip dysplasia and OFA tests here.
     

  6. Compare the pedigrees of the male and the female and make sure that they don't share any relatives.  The last thing this breed needs is any more inbred puppies.
     

  7. Thought should be given to how you will locate good homes for the puppies.  It's easy to make a litter of puppies, but quite another thing to find good homes for them.
     

  8. Socialize the puppies, so they make good pets.
     

  9. You have to be prepared for the possibility that a litter of puppies could cost you an awful lot of money.  Veterinary costs can be absolutely shocking if you end up with a litter of puppies with medical problems.
     

  10. Always skip a heat cycle after each litter.  Allow about a year (or more) in between litters.
     

  11. Know when not to breed a dog again.  If everything goes well, three or four litters is about all you should try to get from one female in her lifetime.  If things do not go well, spay or neuter the dog.  A fool is someone who does the exact same thing again and expects different results.
     

  12. Only keep the number of dogs you can properly manage and care for.  You've seen those stories on the news about old people with 100 cats inside their apartment.  Think of how they got that way...  every one of them started out with good intentions.  Do not become the Cocker version of that person.
     

  13. Be open to the advice and suggestions of those who have been in your shoes.  Share your knowledge with those that will follow your footsteps.


Have a litter of puppies on the way?  Read my tips on whelping a litter of pups and take a look at the Cocker Coat Color Inheritance Chart in order to predict what coat colors you'll have in your litter.

What else have I learned as a breeder of Cocker puppies?  Read my tips on buying a Cocker Spaniel puppy, my tips on raising a Cocker puppy, and my tips on potty training a Cocker puppy.  You'll also find some useful information in my list of frequently asked questions.


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