Reputable Cocker Spaniel breeders expect to be asked lots of questions by potential new puppy owners.
If you're not sure what kind of questions you should be asking, don't worry.
We'll give you all the right questions to ask potential breeders and help you to sift out the puppy farmers and other less discriminating sources of puppies.
We recommend you list your questions in advance.
Not only will you sound knowledgeable about the breed, you'll no doubt reassure the breeder that you can offer a loving, caring home to one of their puppies.
And that is very important - as breeders won't give their puppies to just anyone!
Let's assume you've a short-list of American or English Cocker Spaniel breeders, or you've seen an advert for puppies that you'd like to answer.
You're about to make contact, but you're not sure what to ask.
Before you pick up the telephone, read the advice that follows and then make a list of the relevant points you'd like to cover early on in the conversation.
You can ask further, more detailed questions as they become relevant.
Use your own judgement about what questions to ask, and at what stages, as your relationship with the breeder develops.
Bear in mind Cocker breeders who truly care about their dogs won't breed from them too often.
When they do, they'll probably have prospective buyers on a waiting list so you may need to be patient, in fact, you should be prepared to wait.
Ask if they have any Cocker Spaniel puppies available now. If they don't, ask if they're expecting or planning a litter soon.
Ask if there's a waiting list, and if there is, check how many names are on it.
If there aren't puppies available, or their waiting list is too long, ask if they can recommend an alternative Cocker breeder.
If you've decided you want a golden bitch puppy for example, and you are definite about your choice, ask at the outset if they have one available - this way, you won't be wasting your time or theirs.
To find out how much the breeders know about Cocker Spaniels, ask how many years' experience they have.
Ideally, they should have at least a couple of years' experience of breeding Cockers.
The above are important questions to ask as the answers will confirm just how experienced they really are.
When buying a puppy, it's best to find out if it's been raised in kennels, or in the family home.
It's preferable for puppies to be raised in the home as contact with humans - particularly children - helps greatly with socializing the puppy.
Sometimes, if there's insufficient space for puppies to be reared inside the home, it's acceptable to have the whelping box in a heated outhouse or shed close to the family home where they can be checked on regularly.
Having a whelping box separate from the house may have the added advantage of allowing the dam somewhere private to give birth and to look after her puppies in peace.
The puppies must, however, be brought inside the home regularly, and be given lots of gentle handling and cuddles to ensure they're not under-socialized.
When speaking to Cocker Spaniel breeders, and before you visit, it's advisable to ask whether or not you'll be able to see the puppies' parents. It's unusual for both parents (sire and dam) to be available for you to meet as the sire is usually owned by another family or kennel.
However, they may have a photograph of the sire and should be able to give you some background information on him, for example, health, testing, height, weight, awards won, etc.
Be very suspicious if there is little or no information on the sire, or if the dam is not available for viewing; it could be that the puppies are being sold on behalf of an unscrupulous breeder, or a puppy farmer.
Check with the breeder that it will be possible to see the rest of the litter.
Ask why they chose the sire. The answer should reflect careful choice, giving particular consideration to the sire's history and testing.
Ask for references; Cocker Spaniel breeders should be happy to provide names and telephone numbers of people who have bought puppies from them in the past.
The Kennel Club allows kennels to register one litter of puppies each year, per bitch, and doesn't allow breeding from bitches over 8 years old.
Ask how old the mother is and how many previous litters she's had. It should be no more than four or five, although in some circumstances the Kennel Club may allow a bitch to have six registered litters.
If you're looking for a show dog, ask whether or not a 4-5 generation pedigree can be provided. Also ask for confirmation that the Cocker Spaniel puppies have been, or soon will be, registered with the Kennel Club.
Choose Cocker Spaniel breeders who know the history of the sire and the dam, and can explain their pedigree.
The breeders shouldn't be afraid or reluctant to discuss and offer information, not only on the good points of their Cocker Spaniel puppies, but on problems associated with the breed.
Ask if there are any health issues in the parents, or their puppies, that you need to be aware of.
Ask if both parents have been tested and cleared for hip scores by the British Veterinary Association; responsible Cocker Spaniel breeders will do this prior to mating their dogs.
Check that both parents are clear of eye problems, and have been formally tested by a suitably authorized vet.
Cocker Spaniel breeders should be happy to show you the relevant certificates.
Ask whether or not the puppies have been wormed, and if so, how many times. Puppies are usually wormed at around 2 weeks old, and every 10-14 days thereafter. Your breeder will advise what has been used and how and when to continue with worming your puppy.
Puppies shouldn't be treated for fleas until they're around 7 or 8 weeks old as certain chemicals in the treatment may be too harsh for them. However, you should still check with your breeder what treatment, if any, has been administered, and when.
Your veterinary will subsequently advise you what treatment to use, and when to use it.
It's unlikely that puppies under eight weeks will have been fully vaccinated. However, some may have their puppies part vaccinated before they leave the litter, sometimes as early as 7 weeks.
Opinion seems divided; some vets feel this is too early to vaccinate, others are happy to do so. You'll need to check with your Cocker Spaniel breeders (and vet), and make your own judgement.
Learn more about Cocker Spaniel health problems.
Probably one of the most important questions to ask Cocker Spaniel breeders is, 'Do they provide a contract?' If they are professional, they should. It's important for you to find out what is included.
Ask what guarantees, if any, they offer under the contract. Some guarantee a replacement puppy, should there be any problems with congenital health or temperament. You may also be offered a full refund as an alternative.
The puppies should already have pet health insurance, arranged and paid for by the breeder, before they leave to go to a new home - you'll need to check this. The cover is usually for around 6 weeks.
Professional Cocker Spaniel breeders should be willing to provide you with a copy of the contract they normally use.
Many Cocker Spaniel breeders have a system for reserving puppies, and ask for a non-refundable deposit. You'll need to ask the breeder what their reservation policy is.
Ask what training the puppies will have had, and check whether they will be fully or partly house-trained.
Ask what they have done (or are doing) to socialize their Cocker Spaniel puppies.
They'll need to be handled, gently, as early as possible and meet as many humans as possible - postman in uniform, children, delivery man with beard, old people.
The puppies should also experience many different everyday household objects, such as umbrellas, washing machines, vacuums, brooms, washing blowing on the line, balloons, sirens, etc. The list is almost endless!
Socializing a puppy should become a very important part of his routine. A puppy who hasn't been properly socialized may develop behavioral problems later in life.
Ask how old the puppy will be when you can take it home.
Puppies are usually weaned from the mother by the time they've reached 5 or 6 weeks of age, but at this age they're still too young to leave the mother and litter mates. Puppies aged between 7-8 weeks are just about ready to leave for their new home.
If you don't already know the price, ask.
Don't insult Cocker Spaniel
breeders by trying to negotiate the asking price for their puppies.
You could ask the breeder how they differentiate between pet and show quality puppies, and ask if their charges differ between the two.
Do they seem easy to talk to; does he or she make you feel comfortable? Many breeders like to know how their puppies are getting on, and often stay in touch with their buyers. Do you feel that you could form a long-lasting relationship with the breeder?
At some point you'll need their name, address and telephone number.
It may be better to leave this question until towards the end of the conversation, when you'll have a better idea of whether or not this is the right breeder for you.
We hope the above has given you enough information to enable you to feel confident enough to make contact with a selection of Cocker Spaniel breeders.
When all your questions have been answered, all that will be left to do will be to make arrangements to meet, view the puppies, and then pick your Cocker Spaniel puppy, however, don't leave choosing your puppy for too long as good puppies sell quickly.
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order of viewing:
1. Seastudio at http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-10648298-seven-puppies.php
2. Liliya Kulianionak at http//www.dreamstime.com/Lilun_info
3. Uciekinier at http://www.dreamstime.com/cocker-spaniel-puppy-image5257081
4. Juan de Dios Santander Vela at Flickr.com
5. Cynoclub at http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-puppy-cocker-spaniel-image13830379
6. Yoko at Flickr.com