Do you love gardening as much as you love cocker spaniels? So do many cockers… One of the most agricultural breeds out there. The only problem is that the dogs see the process in their own rather unique way. They love to prepare the soil, remove excess growth and replant things that look to enticing to them.
Oscar was the one who educated us on the subject of this special love. We puppy-proofed the garden before his arrival but obviously our efforts were based on a regular dog – not a cocker. As soon as Ozzy acclimatised and blossomed, he decided to apply his own gardening rules to the handkerchief space we created.
The pretty carnations and primroses were murdered on a cream sofa, the grass was pulled out seconds after my husband lovingly planted it and a few little trees had to be bandaged in a pathetic attempt to salvage them.
But I think the moment I’ll never forget was “the night of digging”.
One evening we started on a new flower bed, but had to stop as the rain approached. We run into the house only to see Oscar running in the opposite direction, sort of a slow motion moment from a horror movie that you can’t do much about. We froze as our little cocker jumped into the soil and started digging a massive hole in a manner of escapist finding his way to Australia… Moments later our golden spaniel was completely black.
The bath and blow dry took ages. I was relived to finally have my fluffy pup back before me and felt like having a cup of tea and relaxing. Unfortunately, Oscar had a plan of his own. As soon as he was near the garden door, the determined pup pushed it wide open and…jumped into the hole he made that was now filled with rain water and mud.
To keep the story short, he had another wash and blow dry – and we completely remodelled the garden the next morning feeling somewhat grateful that the space was rather small. The lesson was learnt.
As the spring is returning and we all end up spending more and more time outside, I wanted to put together a little guide about gardening with your cocker spaniel.
I have two reasons for it. Your sanity. And your dog’s safety. You need to be able to enjoy the outdoorsy life and the pup needs to be able to join you without potentially hurting himself by either eating a poisonous plant or swallowing a stick.
How do you ensure that your garden stays as beautiful as possible when you have a cocker spaniel?
Start before your puppy is even here by dog-proofing the garden. Lift pots, raise flower beds, remove potentially dangerous plants whenever possible, create temporary barriers to stop the puppy from getting too close and personal with the rest of the flora.
Introduce temporary “fence” to protect the plants and flower beds. We used panels for a modular puppy play pen: assemble them into a shape you need using provided pins and secure the “wall” to a few wooden stakes.
Do not leave your puppy unattended.
Teach your cocker to “leave” and “spit”
Use the garden as a play spot. Make the little spaniel focus on your and the toys until he becomes completely indifferent to the plants.
Give your dog plenty of toys and chews to focus on.
Make sure that he gets enough exercise and mental stimulation to keep him happy and prevent zoomies as he is most likely to dig the garden when he’s overaroused, under-exercised or anxious.
Provide shelter during hot weather because some dogs would dig a hole to create a cool down spot.
Keep rodents out because a cocker can sniff them and start digging as a results. Use ultrasound deterrents and patch the holes – avoid poisons as it is both inhumane and can be life-threatening for your dog.
Do not plant or prepare the ground in front of your puppy. He will do his best to investigate everything you’ve done as soon as possible!
Personally I have no problems with my pups eating the grass, but I taught mine to go and search for the types they liked the most. For example, Fred and I go to “find a dandelion”. It creates a bit of fun for both of us and he somehow focuses on this game and the plant, and leaves the rest alone.
And whatever happens, please do not ever punish your dog by shouting at him (or worse). Do not use chemical solutions, water sprinkles or any “scarecrow”-like objects to frighten him either.
Remember that in most cases this is just a stage of puppyhood and your little cocker is simply exploring his surroundings to learn the ropes of life. As he gets older, the spaniel will no longer perceive the garden as a place to explore but will appreciate it as a spot to relax and watch the world go by.
You may also be interested in a post about things that can be potentially dangerous for a dog in spring and summer. And for more tips about puppy-proofing, garden hazards, and raising and training a puppy, get a copy of Perfect cocker spaniel guide.
Photo credit: Fred and Cooper photographed by me, other images via Pixabay