There are many advantages to adopting a cocker spaniel rather than buying a puppy. We all agree that puppies are adorable, so it's no wonder that once you've made the decision to get a dog, your first thought is to get a puppy. However, an adult Cocker Spaniel has much to offer, especially in terms of love and affection. In fact, there are many advantages of adopting an older dog.
I'm often asked for advice on adopting a Cocker Spaniel, so I'm writing about it here.
(The original question that 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 reluctantly forced to give their beloved dogs to a rehoming centre.
There are many good reasons for this, some of which are explained below.
There are many reasons adult cocker spaniels could end up in a rescue centre, and they're not all the dog's fault.
If you plan on adopting a Cocker Spaniel, it's a good idea to ask the rescue centre why the dog was submitted for rehoming.
Knowing how long he's been in the centre would also be helpful.
For example, if the previous owner was elderly and has sadly passed away, you can rest assured that the dog probably wasn't submitted for rehoming because of behavioural issues.
The dog will likely have been well-socialized, fully house-trained, with no, or very few, problems.
Another plausible reason for being in the rescue centre would be that the family had moved abroad but couldn't take their pet.
The staff should give you a short history and 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 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 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 more reasons why dogs end up in rescue centres to understand that not all rescue dogs are problem dogs.
There are many benefits attached to adopting a cocker spaniel dog rather than a puppy, including:
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.
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 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 that an older dog, at some point, may develop, for example, arthritis, diabetes, or pancreatitis, which will need the care and attention of a vet more frequently.
However, we should recognize that you will eventually have these costs when your puppy finally reaches his senior years.
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:
When adopting an older dog, once you've got him home, take a moment to consider things from his point of view, for example:
Situations like those 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.
Prepare the house for when you bring your cocker spaniel home:
We can remove some of this stress by keeping the house quiet and bonding with him as quickly as possible.
You can do many things BEFORE you collect your adopted dog to ensure things go smoothly and help him settle in quickly when you bring him home.
There are a few things you can do to help him get used to his new home and family:
If all goes well, you should see your new Cocker Spaniel settled in nicely by the end of his first week.
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 a senior dog!
As our Cocker Spaniels age, they will gradually begin to have health problems, usually 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 a minimum of twice a year.
Giving your ageing Cocker a few short walks rather than one long one is better. Keep a watchful eye out for stiffness in his legs or joints or a reluctance to walk or climb stairs (often a sign of joint pain).
If you think your dog may have pain caused by 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 whenever 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 also, because the dog is exercising less, they pile on the pounds, which is why changing an older dog's diet is advisable.
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.
Many senior dogs may suddenly find themselves confused and alone in a rescue centre in their latter 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 a chance to enjoy his golden years in a happy, warm and loving environment.
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 ahead, add some happiness and sunshine to an adult cocker spaniel's life.
There may be one waiting just for you!