Our Ten Point Guide to Finding a Responsible Breeder

If you are interested in purchasing the working bred variety of cocker spaniel, here are a few pointers to help you in your search for a responsible breeder....


1. Sourcing Your Puppy

You can find reputable breeders by asking for referrals from your local vet, on the recommendation of other owners of the breed, or by contacting the Kennel Club, or Breed Clubs. Also, the internet is a useful resource, as many breeders these days have their own websites and you can often read about the breeder before you approach them.

Good breeders don't sell their puppies to the first person who shows up with cash in hand.  It is all too easy today for unsuspecting people to buy puppies from breeders who breed their dog to make a little money or simply because they have a dog "with papers". Too often, the result can be puppies in poor health or with temperament problems that may not be discovered right away.

It is very important when buying a pup to get it from a breeder (large or small) who is concerned with producing healthy, happy pups, that as adult dogs, will be capable of doing the job they were bred for. 

Your new pup will hopefully become your loyal companion for ten to fifteen years or more, and a little care at this stage can save a lot of heartache and trouble later on.


2. Questions You Need To Ask

Is the pup sold under contract, if so what are the terms of the contract?

What health testing has been completed for the parents? There are 5 health tests available for cocker spaniels. (Click on the tests to learn more about them)

There are not many breeders of the working bred cocker spaniel that carry out all the health tests, but ideally the very minimum you should look for,  is the Annual Eye Test and Glaucoma, or DNA tests for prcd-PRA. By conducting thorough genetic screening programs, and Health Testing, responsible breeders can greatly reduce their chances of producing an affected puppy. Irresponsible breeders can make no such claim.

3. First Phone Contact

Have your list of questions written down, this way you will not forget anything important. It is better to make contact with a breeder before any pups enter the equation. (A good breeder will probably have a waiting list anyway.) It is easier to make an objective choice about whether a breeder, and their dogs, are suitable,  without having to resist a bundle of puppies.

First impressions are important. Does the breeder seem happy to talk even if they have no pups available at the time? A breeder who genuinely cares about the breed will always take time to speak to potential owners, whether there is a sale in it for them or not. They should not shy away from talking about any hereditary problems either; rather than gloss over them or ignore them completely they will face up to them. Do not be afraid to ask about these problems and find out what steps the breeder takes to ensure that their pups are as free from them as possible.

4. Visit The Breeder Before The Pups Are Born

Most breeders will be happy for interested parties to visit their home and meet their dogs. If they seem reluctant for you to do this, then it is questionable whether they are a suitable source for a pup.

 During this visit any relevant documentation relating to the sire and dam should be carefully inspected if in doubt check any information out with the kennel club.

5. Things To Look Out For During The Visit
  • Are the breeder's dogs fit and healthy?
  • Do they move well and freely?
  • Are they good examples of the breed, in temperament and conformation?
  • Are the dogs kept in clean, comfortable surroundings?
  • Are the dogs confident and happy?
  • Does the breeder talk about the individual dogs and their personalities with  warmth and affection?
  • Can the breeder talk about pups they have sold in the past, and are they still in touch with people who have bought pups from them previously?
  • At what age do the pups go to their new homes? Seven to eight weeks is ideal, and a pup of younger than six weeks should not be away from its dam (mother) or litter mates.
  • How many breeds are in evidence? Good breeders do not usually breed more than three breeds of dog.
  • Tail docking and/or dewclaw removal: if this is to be done it should be carried out by a vet when the pups are about three days old. Different countries have different laws For example; docking is illegal for non-working dogs in the UK.
  • If the sire (father) of the prospective pups is a stud dog, rather than one owned by the breeder, where possible arrangements should be made to visit this dog as well.
  • Also ask to see any testimonials that previous customers have written.

6. What The Breeder Expects From You

Not only will the buyer be assessing the breeder, but vice versa as well! Breeders should be concerned that their pups are going to a good, permanent home. They will ask questions about the lifestyle of the potential owners, their experience with dogs and what type of accommodation they live in. What activities the potential owner intends to do with their puppy, how long the puppy will be left on it's own. They should also, advise on care and training, and be prepared for the responsible breeder to tell you, if they do not feel that the working bred cocker is the right breed for you. They are active, busy, gregarious characters and do not suit all people.  Also, the breeder will observe what the potential owners are like around their dogs. Potential owners should not be offended by this, as it shows that the breeder has a very genuine concern for the welfare of their pups.

7. When The Pups Are Born

Once the pups are born, the breeder should contact you and let you know what has been born in the litter, i.e. sexes and colours of pups, you should then be told your place in the picking order, and at what time you will be allowed to visit and view the pups.

8. When You Pick Your Puppy

Most breeders allow visits to the pups  when they are between 3 and 4 weeks old, and then at least once more before collection day (more frequently if you are buying from a local breeder).  By this time the buyer and breeder should have worked up a good rapport and the breeder will be able to help the buyer select the right pup for them. Try not to be colour biased when choosing a puppy, always go with the pup with the right temperament for you and your family. Trust your breeder, they have the experience and a good breeder will not sell you a pup that they feel will not be suitable for you.                     

9. What Will You Get With Your Puppy

You should get all the appropriate registration certificates. In the UK this will be Kennel Club registration papers. This document is different from a five generation pedigree, which is basically just a family tree. On the five generation pedigree FT CH champions will be shown in red.

The buyer should also have seen and be given copies of any pertinent documentation about the parents and other preceding generations if available. This includes all Certificates relating to the relevent health tests they have carried out.

Breeders should give a short period of free insurance with their pups, this can vary depending on the breeders preference of insurer, 4 - 6 weeks is the average.

You should expect to receive up to a week's supply of the pup's current diet and a diet sheet. All dietary requirements should have been discussed before the pup is collected so that the new owner can get the necessary supplies.

Some breeders will supply a goodie bag of a lead, food bowls, or favourite toys and blankets etc.,

The pups should have been to the vets for a vets health check, and in some cases will be given their first innoculation,  and have an identity chip installed. All certificates  should be passed on to the new owner. A full worming programme should have also been followed with  accompanying documentation.

A full Copy of the breeder’s sales contract.

Purchase receipts.

10. Back Up Service

All responsible breeders will offer a full back up service, and like to keep in contact with their puppy owners. Should you encounter any problems, they should be available by phone or email to offer advice and help and should endeavour to address any issues within a 48hr period.

Should you find at any time you cannot offer the pup /dog a home. A responsible breeder will help you find a new home or take the pup/dog back themselves.

We hope these pointers will help you in your search for a responsible breeder of the working bred cocker spaniel, but at the end of the day, so much is based on mutual trust. If you feel able to trust the person that you are dealing with that is a good place to start.