Choosing a dog is a big decision. If you don't do a little 'leg work' first, it may end in disaster, and you'll have to live with the consequences for a long time. Understand the key points to consider before choosing your pet to be sure to get the right dog breed for you!
It really is a big decision to bring a dog into your home, so it's something that needs a great deal of forethought.
Just think about the consequences of getting it wrong...you and your family will have to live with that mistake for a long time, between 10 and 15 years!
When choosing a dog breed, there are a few key points you might like to consider, so I've set out some of the main points below to help you to narrow your search.
If you've already decided that the Cocker Spaniel is the breed for you (and who wouldn't?), you're on the wrong page; you can skip directly to choosing your Cocker Spaniel puppy.
What is it that's motivating you to get a dog?
Do you want it to work for you, for example, guard your home, or are you looking for a hunter or a retriever?
Do you plan to show your dog or simply want a companion or family pet?
Is having a friendly animal with a good temperament important to you?
For example, Cocker Spaniels and Labradors are typically classed as 'family dogs' because they've a good temperament, are very playful, and are willing to please.
Considering the above questions can help you eliminate certain breeds, narrowing your choice to help make choosing a dog breed that little bit easier for you.
Owning a dog can be expensive! My goodness, that's an understatement if ever there was one!
So, before choosing a dog breed, be sure you understand what associated costs may be involved, for example:
What size of pet are you considering: large, standard, small, miniature?
If you've only a tiny garden or live in an apartment, it might be wise to consider one of the smaller to medium dog breeds.
But if you own a house with a garden, your options are increased.
Will you need to make any alterations to your home or garden to accommodate your new pet; how much work would be involved in making your premises dog and puppy proof? And can you really afford the costs involved?
To begin with, all puppies are small, so it's essential to appreciate just how large your chosen breed will become when he reaches adulthood.
The size of your home may automatically eliminate some breeds, thus making the task of choosing a dog that little bit easier.
When choosing a dog, you'll need to be realistic about how much daily exercise each particular breed requires. Some dog breeds need quite a lot of activity, whereas others don't need so much.
With Cocker Spaniels, exercise is essential. Under-exercised dogs can develop behavioural problems and become very high maintenance; barking, chewing, attention-seeking.
All dogs should be walked every day, come rain or shine! Cockers need a minimum walk lasting at least one hour each day.
Think about it, how much daily walking are you prepared to do?
Do you have the time and the inclination to exercise a dog well?
Are you fit enough to exercise a dog?
Don't forget, you'll be committing to these walks for at least 10 years!
When you're choosing a dog breed, I recommend ensuring the right 'fit' for the family.
For example, a Chihuahua or similar small dog breed probably wouldn't be suitable for a family with young children as it could easily become injured by boisterous or over-excited children.
It's common knowledge that Cocker Spaniels make good family dogs, but no matter which breed you decide on, children need to learn how to behave around a young puppy and need supervision until you are confident that they could be trusted with a dog.
A Labrador, for example, would be a good choice for families with young children as this breed could probably manage a bit of rough play from the kids!
A small or miniature breed may be better suited to an elderly couple or an 'apartment' or 'lap' dog.
When choosing a dog breed, give a bit of thought to where you live - suburbs, rural, town, or the city; not all environments are suitable for all dog breeds.
If you're going to bring a puppy into the family, it's essential to consider other household pets before choosing your breed.
A hunting dog may be unable to tolerate living around a pet rabbit or guinea pig; small animals such as these may bring out the hunting instincts in, say, a Lurcher or a Greyhound.
Max, my Cocker, has a high prey drive and chases rabbits, cats, and lizards - in fact, anything that moves.
If you have a pet, make sure they're safely locked away. Imagine explaining to the kids that the dog has eaten their pet rabbit!
Choosing a dog breed needs a lot of thought, but once you've decided which breed best suits you and your family, the rest is plain sailing!
Some dogs are so easy to train; others can be rather strong-willed, making training difficult but never impossible.
A strong-willed breed will require constant ongoing training and reinforcement, especially if your chosen puppy also has a particularly dominant personality.
No matter which breed you eventually settle on, you will need to invest a lot of time and effort in learning how to train your puppy.
How much time are you prepared to devote to grooming your dog?
How much grooming a particular dog breed will need depends on the texture and length of the dog's coat. The longer the coat, the more likely it will become tangled and tatty and need lots of regular grooming.
The same goes for a curly, rough-textured coat.
Time spent on grooming can also depend on where you walk your dog.
For example, a Cocker Spaniel that enjoys walks in the countryside will probably need brushing every day (or every other day at the very least) to keep his coat free from burs, seeds, tangles and mats, and although grooming a spaniel can be pretty time consuming, it's well worth the effort!
But grooming isn't only about brushing your dog's coat; there are many more elements involved, such as bathing, keeping your dog's ears clean and healthy (particularly in dogs with pendulous ears, like the Cocker Spaniel), clipping nails, brushing teeth and much more.
Does anyone in your family suffer from allergies or asthma? If they do, choosing the right dog breed will be a priority for you.
Some breeds shed profusely and may aggravate an existing condition, whereas other dog breeds don't shed at all.
If there are allergies or asthmatics in your family, you may be better suited to one of the hypoallergenic dog breeds, for example, the Bichon Frise, the Standard Schnauzer, the Poodle - there are more.
It's not good to leave a dog home alone all day, and puppies should never be left alone all day - they're simply too young!
If you have an adult dog and need to leave him for more than a few hours, make sure he's had a long walk first and arrange for a neighbour to look in on him a couple of times during the day to let him into the garden do his toilet and to keep him company for half an hour or so.
If you could afford it, you could arrange for him to go into a kennel for the day. At least that way, he'll have the company of other dogs, and he'll be able to play.
If you're unable to be home for most of the day, I recommend you re-consider owning a dog until you have more time on your hands; otherwise, you may be heading for problems.
Whether you want a pure breed or a mongrel is purely a matter of choice.
With a pure breed, you can be reasonably sure of what you're getting; characteristics, temperament and health problems. Whereas a mongrel's traits and character may be uncertain, especially if you don't know the parents or even the breed(s) of the parents.
Having said that, a pedigree dog is not necessarily a better dog simply because it comes from 'good stock' and costs more; there are many mongrels with a gentle, loving nature whose families wouldn't dream of parting with them!
Do you want a boy or a girl?
Some owners prefer bitches because they claim they're quieter and easier to train.
Others prefer male dogs because they believe boys can be more affectionate and faithful than a bitch.
Bitches come into season every 6 months or so, and during that time, you'll need to guard her fiercely as all-male dogs will try to mate with her - a dog can smell a bitch in heat from a surprisingly long distance!
The bitch will bleed during her season, which will mean your carpets or soft furnishings may need to be cleaned more often.
Males tend to be slightly bigger and stronger than the bitches and can become a bit of a handful when they reach two years old - they're full of their own self-importance - and may need firmer handling.
As there's not too much difference in temperament between the two sexes, I believe it's simply a matter of personal choice!
You'll need to decide whether you want a puppy or an adult dog.
A puppy will need to be vaccinated, trained to use his crate and potty-trained, and given puppy obedience training to help him grow into a well-mannered adult dog.
A puppy will also need to be socialised, trained to walk on a lead, to walk to heel, and you'll probably need to acclimatise the puppy to being groomed.
On the other hand, an adult pet is more likely to be 'the finished article'.
Although puppies are adorable, they're hard work. You may decide to choose an adult dog because there's less work to do - in which case, why not consider a rescue dog?
Thousands of pets end up in rescue centres every year, mostly because their owners find they can't cope with the care their chosen breed needs or because they've underestimated the cost of owning a dog or the time involved.
Unfortunately, many such rescues are put to sleep long before new homes can be found for them, so choosing a dog breed should never be taken lightly!
If you decide to go for an older pet instead of a puppy, why not visit your local Cocker Spaniel rescue centre?
Be sure to ask what (if any) behavioural problems the dog may have and seek professional advice to help you overcome them.
It's essential to recognize that not all rescue dogs have behavioural problems. Some end up in rescue centres simply because their owner's circumstances have changed (e.g., moving abroad or ill health), and they can no longer look after their pets.
Well, that's just about it for this article on choosing a dog breed. I hope you've enjoyed reading it and that it helps you find the perfect dog for you and your family!
Once you've chosen your ideal dog breed, you might find our page covering how to select the perfect puppy for you and your family very useful.
And when you've found one, don't forget to visit my page on caring for your puppy to help you give your puppy the best start in life.