Adopting A Cocker Spaniel - Pros and Cons?

There are many advantages to adopting a cocker spaniel rather than buying a puppy. We all agree that puppies are cute and adorable, so it's no wonder that once you've made the decision to get a dog, your first thought is of getting a puppy. However, an adult cocker spaniel has such a lot to offer, especially in terms of love and affection. In fact, there are many advantages of adopting an older dog.

Adopting A Cocker Spaniel Means Trouble, Doesn't It?

I'm often asked for advice on adopting a Cocker Spaniel so I thought I'd write about it here. 

Golden cocker spaniel adult dog sitting against a white background, pink tongue showing.How could you resist adopting a Cocker Spaniel as cute as me?

(The original question which prompted this article, and my reply, can be found here.)

Adopting an older dog doesn't necessarily mean that you're getting a dog with 'extra baggage', but unfortunately, there is a common but mistaken belief that dogs end up in a rescue centre because of behavioural problems.

Some do, but there are many circumstances where dog owners are forced, reluctantly, into giving their dog to a rehoming centre.

There are many good reasons for this, some of which are explained below.

Why Older Dogs Sometimes End Up In Rescue Centres

There are many reasons why adult cocker spaniels could end up in a rescue centre, and they're not all the fault of the dog.

If you're planning on adopting a Cocker Spaniel, it's a good idea to ask the rescue centre the reason for rehoming the dog. It would also be helpful to known how long he's been in the centre.

For example, if the previous owner was elderly and has sadly passed away, there is a good chance that the dog will have been well-socialized, fully house-trained, with no, or very few, problems. 

A cute golden cocker spaniel wearing a winter coat, standing in the snow.This gorgeous cocker spaniel is modelling her new winter coat - isn't she cute?

Another plausible reason for being in the rescue centre would be where the family had moved abroad but couldn't take their pet with them.

The staff should be able to give you a short history and should be able to confirm whether the dog is well-trained, whether he's housebroken, and whether he has any unusual behavioural traits.

Unfortunately, if the dog arrived as a stray, the centre won't know much about the dog's background. They will, however, be able to assess the dog's health and temperament.

If the rescue dog has been with many different owners and is up for adoption once again, you may find that the dog has some behavioural problems. 

In this case, you would need to find out more and consider whether or not you could manage such a dog. Alternatively, you could ask the rescue centre for help with finding an animal behaviourist or dog trainer, depending on the severity of the problem. 

You may find that all the dog needs are firm guidance, lots of loving and plenty of cuddles. 

Read about more reasons why dogs end up in rescue centres to understand that not all rescue dogs are problem dogs.

The Benefits of Adopting A Cocker Spaniel

There are many benefits attached to adopting a cocker spaniel dog rather than a puppy, including:

  • An adult cocker spaniel from a rescue home will be fully vaccinated and perhaps even microchipped.
  • Your adult cocker spaniel will be fully grown, so what you see is what you get in terms of size, colouring, and temperament. With a puppy, he's not the finished article, and his appearance is likely to change over time.
  • An older dog arrives 'ready trained' and is more likely to know how to behave well in our human world. The dog will have already been socialized and will be used to handling lots of different situations. They will be confident around people (including children), other dogs and will be used to loud noises and many other stressful situations.
  • They've been through the 'puppy stages', so you will avoid the stresses (yours!) of the puppy biting and chewing stage, meaning your new slippers will be safe! 
  • Older dogs are more likely to be housetrained. Need I say more?
  • Adult Cocker Spaniels are more sedate and quieter than young puppies. They don't need so much exercise as they grow older, but they will still enjoy a stroll in the park and a few short walks.
  • For some senior or more mature owners, a puppy may prove too much to handle. For those owners, adopting a cocker spaniel adult would perhaps be an ideal option.

  • An 0lder rescue dog tends to be more loving and more likely to develop a strong bond with its new owner. Perhaps the reason for this is that they crave the security and love of a forever home and appreciate the love you offer them. 

Potential Negative Points of Adopting A Cocker Spaniel

If you're adopting a Cocker Spaniel and it turns out that he has some bad habits, it could take a bit of time re-train him, however, it will be possible.

Headshot of a Buff coloured cocker spaniel with his pink tongue showing.Adopting a Cocker Spaniel keeps dogs like me out of rescue centres!

Annoying habits such as peeing or pooping in the house, excessive barking, digging holes in your prized flower bed, or resource-guarding can be very stressful and often difficult to remedy without resorting to a qualified animal behaviourist or dog trainer. 

The dog may be so traumatized that he no longer trusts humans and, as a result, he may have become unfriendly, even aggressive.

The dog may not have been socialized enough as a puppy and is either aggressive or scared of his own shadow. 

When adopting a Cocker Spaniel adult dog, there are likely to be more trips to the vet because, as your dog's years increase, so do the vet bills.

The reason for this is because an older dog, at some point, may develop, for example, arthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis, which will need the care and attention of a vet more frequently.

However, we shouldn't overlook the fact that you will eventually have these costs when your puppy finally reaches his older years.

BEFORE Adopting A Cocker Spaniel...

Before adopting a Cocker Spaniel, it's a good idea to stop and give a little consideration to what will work best for you, for example: 

  • What size dog will better suit your needs?
  • Would you prefer a male or a female dog, or doesn't it matter to you?
  • Are there any other dogs/pets in your home that you would need to take into account?
  • Can you handle a dog that barks quite a lot? Would it bother you or your neighbours? Would you know what you could do to teach your new dog to stop barking excessively? If you don't want a dog that barks a lot, make sure you put that on your list of questions to ask the rescue centre.
  • How much time do you have to devote to your dog?
  • Do you have any physical limitations? Are you fit enough to take care of an adult cocker spaniel? 
  • And last but not least, can you afford to take on all the costs associated with a dog? On top of all that you'll need to buy for your dog, the fees for adopting a cocker spaniel can be very high. Make sure you understand all the costs involved.

How Might Your Rescue Dog Be Feeling?

When adopting an older dog, once you've got him home, take a moment to consider things from his point of view, for example:

  • Your newly adopted dog will suddenly find himself in a strange and unfamiliar environment, and he might be feeling quite nervous, possibly even scared.
  • For the first few days, he may be missing his previous owner and any other family members.
  • He may have had a traumatic time before he arrived at the centre.

Situations such as those listed above will create stress and anxiety for the dog, so we should be aware of them and try to help him settle in quickly and without stress. 

When Adopting A Cocker Spaniel, Preparation Is Key

Prepare the house for when you bring your cocker spaniel home:

  • Decide on where you'd like him to sleep and place his bed there;
  • Set out his food and water bowl (away from the bed);
  • Decide on where you prefer him to do his toilet in your yard or garden;
  • Make sure you've got the basics, such as food, a lead and collar, a small selection of toys, a bed or a crate (if you're going to crate him) and an identity tag. Ask the rescue centre what type of food he's currently on and buy the same so he doesn't get an upset tummy;
  • It's best to register with a vet before you bring him home so that if you have an emergency, for whatever reason, you'll be able to jump into action and not run around like a headless chicken!

Helping Your Adopted Cocker Spaniel Settle In

We can remove some of this stress by keeping the house quiet and bonding with him as quickly as possible.

There are a lot of things that you can do BEFORE you collect your adopted dog to make sure things go smoothly, and to help him settle in quickly when you bring him home.

Keep His First Few Days Quiet And Calm

There are a few things you can do to help him get used to his new home and family: 

  • Keep the house quiet and calm and let him settle in gently. 
  • Show him his new bed and his crate if he has one. (If he cries during the night, you might like to let him sleep in your bedroom (in his bed) for the first few nights, but try to get him used to sleeping in his own area as soon as possible).
  • Show him the spot in the garden that you've chosen for his toilet and encourage him to do his business (use whatever words you prefer). If you do this every hour or so for the first few days, it won't be long before he understands what you want from him. 
  • Introduce him to his food and water bowls and his bed. Let him wander around, sniffing where he pleases, and allow him to get used to his new home.
  • Take him for a short walk around the neighbourhood to help him get his bearings and perhaps meet some of the local dogs, but don't go out of your way to do the latter, not just yet.
  • When you're back home, let him settle down beside you for a while and sit with him. Stroke him and talk to him quietly to help relax and reassure him. It will also help you both bond more quickly.
  • If you have children, try to stop them from getting too excited (I know, it's easier said than done!), but ask them to be gentle with him. Give them some ground rules.

If all goes well, you should see your new Cocker Spaniel settled in nicely by the end of his first week.

Tips on Caring for an Older Dog

A Cocker spaniel's lifespan is between ten and thirteen years, but many dogs live much longer (my Cocker is now 14 years old and (almost) still going strong).

In the doggie world, if you're seven or eight years old, you're considered to be a senior dog! 

As our Cocker Spaniels age, they will gradually begin to have health problems, which usually starts with their sight and hearing. However, an older dog may face other health problems, so it's a good idea that you make regular trips to the vet. I recommend twice a year. 

It's better to give your ageing Cocker a few short walks rather than one long one. Keep a watchful eye out for stiffness in his legs or joints or a reluctance to go for a walk or climb the stairs (often a sign of joint pain). If you think your dog may have pain on movement, your vet will prescribe something to ease his stiffness or pain.

An ageing dog is also less likely to need the same amount of food to fuel his ageing body (although they will still hound you every time you wander into the kitchen!). 

Cocker Spaniels are known for their tendency to become 'chubby' in their older years. As their lifestyle begins to slow, they don't need the calories they are used to having,  and because the dog is exercising less, they pile on the pounds, which is why it's advisable to change an older dog's diet. 

Many dog food manufacturers cater for senior dogs with kibble that is low in fat and less protein but with all the nutrients for the older dog.

Summary: Adopting A Cocker Spaniel

Many senior dogs may suddenly find themselves confused and alone in a rescue centre in their later years, usually through no fault of their own.

To make it worse, they often get bypassed in favour of a younger dog or a puppy. 

However, there are many benefits of adopting a cocker spaniel from a rescue centre, and you'll be giving an older dog the chance to enjoy his golden years in a happy, warm and loving environment.   

Please, please, please, consider adopting a Cocker Spaniel rather than buying a puppy

He will love you all the more for having rescued him from an unhappy end to his years. The love and bond that passes between a rescue dog and his rescuer are strong and very special. 

So go on, add some happiness and sunshine to an adult cocker spaniel's life. There's one waiting just for you!  

Visitor Question: Adopting An Older Dog

I mentioned earlier on this page that I often receive questions regarding adopting a cocker spaniel, and it was questions such as these that had prompted me to write this page.

As promised, here is my visitor's question and my subsequent answer.

Visitor Question:
From Ann,
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

We are considering adopting an old dog, a 10-year-old Cocker Spaniel. What issues could we expect to encounter? How can we make it a smooth transition? 

The current owners are getting rid of her because they say she wants more attention as she gets older and that when they leave her alone for more than 10 hours, she acts out by pooping.

Adopting An Older Dog
By: Pauline, Site Owner

Hello Ann, 

You're adopting an adult Cocker Spaniel rather than a puppy? Well, good for you! That's one less homeless Cocker to worry about being left in a rescue centre. 

Whilst I believe all dogs should get used to being on their own for a while, I think that leaving her alone for 10 hours at a time (as her previous owners did) is far too long.

So I'm not surprised she's pooping indoors and attention-seeking! Poor mite.

As for the problems or issues you may encounter if you adopt a cocker spaniel, I recommend that you speak to the adoption centre to get their opinion on the dog's history and temperament. 

The staff should be aware of the dog's background and will be able to predict any behavioural issues you may face with the dog.

They'll also be able to offer you some good advice on managing behavioural problems the dog may have.

From what the adoption centre has said, it sounds like you don't have much to worry about, especially if you have plenty of time to devote to her.

If you follow my advice, it will help her to settle in quickly and bond with you. Give her the attention she needs (on your terms, of course) and don't leave her alone for too long. I think you'll see her toilet habits improve almost immediately. 

I don't think you'll have any problems and I think she'll settle down nicely.

Ann, I hope my article has helped answer your questions and has given you some pointers to help you get your new Cocker Spaniel settled into her new home quickly and smoothly. 

I wish you and your cocker spaniel the very best for the future!

Visitor Comments: Adopting A Cocker Spaniel

Leaving A Dog Alone
By: Joseph 

If you're thinking of adopting a Cocker Spaniel, I recommend you have lots of time to devote to her. The writer of this article (Pauline) is right when she says that 10 hours is far too long to leave a dog alone.

And when you do need to go out, if you can't take her with you, it's best if she's exercised first so that she can do her 'business' and will be relaxed while you're gone and will probably sleep most of the time.

Leave her some toys, some water, and maybe a radio playing, so she feels she's got company.

If you need to be out all day, Pauline recommends asking a neighbour to pop in and walk the dog or play with it for a few minutes.

I hope I've helped.

Cocker Spaniel Pooping
By: Anonymous 

If that's all she's doing, I don't think she's acting out at all, poor thing. Of course, she's going to poop or pee if left alone for that length of time, especially as her 'plumbing' is 10-years old.

I think leaving any dog alone for 10 hours is cruel. Imagine being alone every day for that length of time. It must be terrible for her.

As for wanting more attention as she gets older, why not? What's wrong with wanting a cuddle?

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