Cocker Spaniel breeders expect to be asked lots of questions about themselves and their dogs by potential new puppy owners before agreeing to part with one of their precious puppies. And quite right too! But do you know what kind of questions should you be asking?
If you're not sure what kind of questions you should be asking your shortlisted Cocker Spaniel breeders, don't worry.
Below, you'll find everything you need to help you sound knowledgeable when you're speaking to your potential breeder. It will also help you sift out the puppy farmers and other bad breeders from the good ones.
Let's assume you have your short-list of American or English Cocker Spaniel breeders, or you've seen an advert for puppies that you'd like to answer.
Before you pick up the telephone and make contact, read the advice that follows, making a list of the relevant points that 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 which questions to ask, and at what stages, as you begin to get to know the breeder.
Bear in mind Cocker Spaniel breeders who truly care about their dogs won't breed from them too often, and when they do, they'll probably already have prospective buyers on a waiting list so you may need to be patient.
In fact, you should be prepared to wait.
Apart from making you sound like you know what you're talking about, it will also help to reassure the breeder that you can offer a loving, caring home to one of their valuable puppies.
And that is very important. Responsible Cocker Spaniel breeders won't let their puppies go to just anyone!
Ask if they have any puppies available now. If they don't, ask if they're expecting or planning a litter soon.
Check to see if there's a waiting list and ask how many names are on it.
If there aren't puppies available, or their waiting list is too long, ask if they can recommend other alternative Cocker Spaniel breeders.
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, besides, it's only polite.
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 under their belt.
The above are important questions to ask because the answers will help you to understand how experienced they really are.
You can find a list of Kennel Club assured breeders here.
Find out if the puppies are raised in kennels, or in the family home. This is really important.
It's much better if the pups are raised in the home as contact with people, particularly children, helps greatly with socializing puppies.
Where there isn't enough 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 relative peace and quiet.
The breeder will probably bring the puppies into the house regularly, where they can be given lots of gentle handling and cuddles to make sure
they're not under-socialized.
When you first make contact with the Cocker Spaniel breeder, 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, unless of course the breeder owns both dogs.
Even so, they should be able to give you a photograph and some background information on the sire, 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 'Mom' isn't 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 and ask the following questions:
Stick with Cocker Spaniel breeders who know the history of the sire and the dam, and can explain their pedigree.
Reputable 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.
Learn more about Cocker Spaniel health problems here.
If your breeder is passionate about Cocker Spaniels, they will have CERF testing carried out on their breeding dogs.
CERF stands for Canine Eye Registration Foundation and is an annual eye examination and are given by a qualified veterinary ophthalmologist to determine and document the condition of your Cocker Spaniel's eyes.
The Foundation aims to eliminate eye disease in purebred dogs and puppies.
Depending on the results, this information will determine whether or not the breeder will use this particular dog for breeding.
When looking for your perfect breeder, make sure you ask whether the puppy's 'parents' have been CERF tested.
Ask if the breeder if they provide a contract.
This is one of the most important questions to ask. If they're professional breeders, they will provide one and it's essential that you find out exactly what's 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.
Some breeders have a system for reserving puppies, and ask for a non-refundable deposit so ask the breeder what their reservation policy is.
The puppies should already have pet health insurance, arranged and paid for by the breeder, before they leave to go to a new home, but I recommend you check this for yourself. This cover usually lasts for 6 weeks.
Don't get caught out by the small print!
Ask what training the puppies will have had by the time they're ready to collect, 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 to allow you to continue where they left off.
Pups need to be handled gently, as early as possible and should meet as many people as possible; men and women in uniform, children, deliverymen, men with beards, old people, etc.
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 behavioural problems in adult 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, but don't insult Cocker Spaniel breeders by trying to negotiate the asking price for their puppies.
You could ask them 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 full contact details. 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.
I hope I've given you enough information to help you feel more confident about contacting your 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 the breeder, 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.
Good luck and enjoy!