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Choosing a spaniel puppy. Things to look for.

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If you are looking to get a spaniel puppy then you are not alone. Spaniels, particularly Cocker spaniels, are one of the most popular spaniel breeds in the UK and rightly so. 

Their temperament and lively behaviour make this breed an ideal choice for an active family.

Spaniel puppies are wonderful, excitable bundles of fur that are great fun and playful. They grow into active, energetic adults who need lots of exercise and stimulation.

Choosing a spaniel puppy for your family or as a working companion is something that you should take time to do properly. Always choose from a reputable breeder and never from an advert that you find online or elsewhere. Take your time to do some homework about the breed and don’t be afraid to ask questions and walk away if you are in any doubt.

Where to get a spaniel puppy

When you are choosing a spaniel puppy then, unless there is a genuine and specific reason not to, you should always get a puppy and avoid an older dog.

A puppy should be obtained directly from the breeder and never from a ‘middleman’ such as a petshop.

Pet shops and similar should be avoided like the plague. 

Never, ever get a puppy from a pet shop, no matter how sorry you feel for the animals that are on display.

In some countries it is impossible to get a dog this way, but are many where you can still buy puppies via this awful method.

choosing a spaniel puppy

Puppies sold from pet shops have been stripped away from their mothers and often littermates, they are generally living in poor conditions, in cages, with very little human interaction which leads to psychological and social isolation and deprivation of the puppy.

Find a reputable breeder and avoid anything that resembles or that you feel has a commercial aspect. Good puppy breeders will always appreciate your efforts to establish their worthiness.

It is always important when choosing a spaniel puppy, or any other puppy for that matter, that you get to see the puppy’s mother and the surroundings where the puppy has been raised in the early stages of his life.

Breeders of spaniel puppies

The prospective spaniel puppy owner should choose a breeder carefully. 

Remember that this little dog will spend the rest of his life with you and you will want to make sure that he is the right fit for you and a responsible breeder will also wish for this to be the case.

When choosing a breeder try to look for referrals or recommendations from people that you know who may already have a spaniel or who know someone that has.

Do some homework

Do as much homework as you feel is necessary to find a good, responsible breeder.

Look at some of the publications that feature spaniel competitions.

Find out who the successful competitors are, drop them a line or give them a call.

Let them know that you are new to spaniels ( or old ) depending on how you are, and that you are looking for a puppy.

National Kennel Clubs and breed societies can also be useful sources of information to find and locate good spaniel breeders and you can check with them for advice.

Often they will be able to refer you to a breeder that they know and trust.

choosing a spaniel puppy

Points on how to choose a healthy spaniel puppy

Visit the breeder and check out any puppy with your own eyes.

Make sure all the puppies are happy, healthy and active.

Ask about their worming schedule and vaccinations, they should be up to date.

If a breeder doesn’t let you see where a pup was born then walk away as it’s probably not the best place to get a healthy puppy from.

Ask your breeder any questions you have about spaniels, breeders should be happy to share their knowledge with you.

Request to see where the puppies are living before you buy them or if they are in a separate area, ask for health certificates so you can see that they are healthy.

If you are buying a spaniel puppy then make sure that the breeder will provide you with all relevant information about their parents (height, weight etc.)

Make sure to ask what work the puppies parents have been bred for, this is good evidence of how active they are likely to be.

You must find a good breeder

Do not buy a spaniel puppy from a backyard breeder, these are people who breed random litters in their homes and often have poorly bred dogs. 

They may be cute but they can also be more susceptible to health issues. You should contact the Kennel Club if you suspect that this is happening.

A good breeder should sell you the puppy on a contract and be able to answer any questions about the spaniel as this will help guide you as your new dog grows.

Once you have chosen your spaniel pup, make sure to go home and do some research on things such as equipment, food, care and training so that you are fully prepared.

When choosing a puppy check that:

  1. The puppy’s surroundings are clean and well maintained.
  2. The puppy and it’s peers are active and look clean and healthy.
  3. The puppy’s mother looks well cared for and is clean.
  4. The breeder seems genuine and is only interested in the welfare of the dogs.
  5. That the puppy is registered with the Kennel Club.
  6. The puppy has had it’s first round of vaccinations and has been wormed.
  7. That the breeder seems keen to ‘check’ that you are capable of looking after a puppy and is prepared to be available for advice.

Ask around when you are looking for a dog

My latest Cocker spaniel puppy, Nimrod, who’ll you see on the Youtube videos and is pictured in this post, was found this way.

choosing a spaniel puppy

My niece breeds Labradors and she is actively involved in the working dog circuit.

A phone call to her put us in touch with a well known and respected breeder of Cocker Spaniels located a few hours drive from home.

It is worth taking the time to find a good and responsible breeder.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

When speaking to a spaniel breeder, you should be thinking of asking questions such as….

“How many litters do you have every year?” and “Where do you keep the puppies?” also questions such as ” What are you feeding them?”, “Have they been vaccinated?”, “Who are the puppy’s parents?”.  

You need to get a ‘feel’ for the breeder and a responsible breeder will not mind such questioning, indeed it’s likely that they will also have several questions for you as they’ll want their dogs to goto good homes.

If a breeder shows annoyance or gives you the impression that they are doing you a favour then I’d recommend that you move on. Thankfully there are fewer and fewer of these types, but they still exist.

Read about the breed

Deciding which puppy to get

Once you’ve done your research and have located a potentially suitable litter of spaniels (whether they be Cocker, Springer or other breeds the thinking is the same), you should make arrangements to visit them.

Normally you would seek to do this when the puppies are around eight weeks old but, in some cases, a good breeder will let you visit when the puppies are younger ( although you won’t be able to take a puppy until he is at least eight weeks).

There are several things that you should consider when visiting the breeder:

Do you like the look of the breeder? No, I don’t mean do you find them attractive..!

I mean do they seem trustworthy? What’s your ‘gut’ instinct, are they ‘shady’, ‘wideboy’ or do you think they’re okay?

What are the puppy’s surroundings like? Are they clean?

If the breeder couldn’t be bothered to clean up when they knew that you were coming then what sort of upbringing have the puppies had?

Do the puppies look healthy?

Are they lively? – If they’ve just been fed then chances are they’ll be asleep.

choosing a spaniel puppy
Bundles of fun but are you ready for a spaniel puppy?

What to look for and what to ask

If possible and the puppies are old enough, then try to see the puppies outside and watch their reactions to the surroundings.

How do the puppies behave around you?

Watch out for the puppy that bustles around, plays with the others, he could be wrestling with the other pups, instigating play or generally be involved in whatever game or adventure that the puppies are involved with.

Take note of the puppy that comes up to you of his own accord, sniffs your hand or leg or tries to climb up your trousers.

You should try to find the puppy that shows little nerves and is not afraid of playing and exploring.

Take your time, choose with care. Ask the breeder which one he or she would keep if they got the chance.

You also need to like the look of the puppy. Does he have a kind, soft eye. Does he look intelligent?

I know this is a bit of a daft question but, your instinct can play a big part too.

You need to like the look of a puppy as well, otherwise you might not get on as well as you’d like to.

Buying a spaniel puppy.

Once you have decided on which puppy you would like the next best thing to do is…nothing.

Spend a little time with the breeder, let them know that you are interested in the dog and then take some time to breath deeply and sleep on the decision.

Don’t be hasty. Take some time to think about whether you can look after a puppy which will grow into an adult dog and which will be with you for many years.

A good breeder will understand and will accommodate you as long as you don’t keep them waiting too long for confirmation.

This is one advantage of seeing the puppies when they are younger, a few weeks before they are ready. 

Stay in contact with the breeder and get to know them better. 

You should ask further questions about feeding, general care such as innoculations, housing, walking, training etc.

Once you are fully decided about the puppy ( and you should not wait too long for a good litter will sell quickly) then you should confirm with the breeder.

Most breeders nowadays will ask for a deposit, this will normally be in the region of several hundred dollars/pounds, the current price for a good working Cocker spaniel puppy being in the region of $1200 or £900 to £1000, on average.

Speak to the breeder about making the puppy’s transition to it’s new home as easy as possible.

An experienced breeder will have several techniques to help the puppy settle into his new home.

It can be a trauma for a young puppy leaving his mother and kennel mates and if you can maintain his routine as much as possible then this will help him to settle in.

Collecting your spaniel puppy

The day has come when it is time for you to collect your spaniel puppy from the breeder.

Although you’ll be excited and, if children are involved then levels could be off the richter scale, it is important to try and temper this and stay in control.

The breeder will probably give you something from the puppy’s kennel, this could be a teddy bear, soft toy or piece of bedding.

This is really important as it carries the smell of the puppy’s surroundings and you should treat it as a very special item for the puppy.

It will help to reassure him and will be his ‘comfort blanket/item’ for a while.

Let him have it in his bed, let him carry it around. It will be very special to him.

Make sure that you have somewhere safe and comfortable for him in the car, where he will not be thrown around.

It’s likely that he won’t have travelled before so we need to keep him nice and safe and calm.

Your puppy’s new home

You should also have all of his sleeping arrangements ready at his new home.

He should have his own place, bed where he can retire and feel safe and secure.

We look at some great indoor kennels in this article.

The breeder will provide you with all of the paperwork and any registration documents for your area and any documents for vaccinations that the puppy may have had to date.

The puppy should have been wormed once or twice and this is something that you will need to continue, in line with your vet’s recommendations.

Puppies and older dogs can contract serious illnesses if not vaccinated regularly.

This is something that you must do to prevent your spaniel puppy from becoming ill – some illnesses can be fatal to dogs and it’s really important to vaccinate.

Speak to your vet who will advise on this as, depending on where you live requirements will differ but usual illnesses that require vaccinations are distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvo virus – all very nasty and not something that you want your puppy to have to deal with.

It’s a good idea to make an appointment to take your puppy to your vet a short time after he arrives at your home – for a check up, registration and vaccinations.

Get your puppy some toys

All dogs like to play and dog toys are a great way for your puppy to learn and to burn off excess energy.

Aim to get toys that are tough and that will resist those sharp puppy teeth and always make sure that they are safe for dogs to have.

choosing a spaniel puppy

There are simply masses of puppy toys available and we’ve found some great ones on Amazon which you’ll find here.

A note on dog theft and organised crime

In the UK, dog theft, particularly that of gundogs, such as spaniels, has increased massively during the last 12 months ( 2020 onwards)

Many of these stolen dogs are used by organised criminal gangs for mass breeding, where the health and welfare of the dogs, and their puppies is of no concern and the conditions that the animals are often kept in are dreadful.

The popularity of certain breeds and the ongoing desire for fancy named mongrels, has driven prices up and, for these gangs, stealing dogs for breeding is a profitable activity.

Always be careful when looking for puppies.

These gangs often use social media and pet websites to advertise, often at ridiculous prices.

Don’t be tempted or intimidated to buy from these sources, if you do then you are fuelling illegal activities.

Final Words

When you are looking for a dog don’t be hasty.

You really need to be sure that you can provide a caring home for a spaniel before you commit.

Puppies are great fun but they are baby dogs and not toys. 

You’ll need to provide, food, shelter, healthcare, exercise, love, training and a lot more for many years.

Our articles can help you with all of these things and you might want to read more before you choose a puppy.

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