How to train your dog positively, study research, tips / perfect cocker spaniel / english cocker spaniel training, grooming, advice, puppy / world kindness day blog post / (C) Natalia Ashton / dog paw in human hand photo

Having a dog without regrets

What do you write about after sharing a post dedicated to the dog you miss so very much? Honestly, I tried to sit down and string a few words together, but it simply did not work…

Then, a few days ago I came across a survey done by Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance. According to the findings over 50 per cent of Southern dog (and cat) parents did not research the breed of their puppy before getting one, and only 21 per cent spent more than a week (a week, seriously?!) to find “the right breed for their lifestyle”. Worse, every sixth pet parent had regrets of getting a dog of that specific breed.

Think how many dogs you would normally meet during a walk with your pooch? Now imagine that every sixth dog is actually a burden to the person who walks him at that very moment – and try not bleed inside your heart.

For me, my dogs are my life. And I admit, I am, by my own admission, really is all about my dogs. I live and breathe for the happiness of my boys and feel terrible if I believe they didn’t have a good enough day (by my standards). I am not perfect at all, but I do everything I can – and a little bit more. No matter what.

As somebody who spent years researching dog breeds, reading books and attending courses to learn about taking care of a puppy, I simply cannot fathom how it is even possible to decide that one is ready for a dog and knows enough about a dog after a week of “research”… And then proceed by getting a puppy – not a fluffy toy, but an actual living being who needs his human mum to help him live, learn and thrive!

I’ve seen those people. I did. And I helped a few, too. Not because I cared much for them, but because I cared too much for the little pup who ended up in a household that was totally unprepared for him or her.

Do you ever wonder why we still have the heartbreaking reality of puppy farms? This is a good example how and why these disgusting businesses flourish. Every day they offer pups to these “owners” (because I cannot even refer to these people as “parents”) who visit them to get a dog without knowing much simply because they felt like having a puppy here and now, or choose to buy a puppy in a pet shop while stoping for coffee!

These are the people who end up with a dog suffering from illnesses or psychological problems. These are the people who had every chance of giving that puppy a wonderful  life, but instead give him up as an unwanted regret.

I tried to stay “cool and content” and find reasons to justify these people’s actions. I went online looking for opinions on forums and social media looking for solid reasons of regret… The truth was painful to learn:

“I didn’t realise dogs are such a hard work…”

“I am so annoyed because I cannot travel now like I used to…”

“He is such an inconvenience…”

“He chewed my furniture and went to pee all over the house…”

“He pulls the lead so hard, I can’t walk him, so I decided to rheum…”

“Having a dog is so expensive!”

“I only realised this breed wasn’t for me after I got a puppy…”

“I live in a cream house but this dog makes it dirty and leaves hair everywhere…”

“I can’t sleep at night because he keeps crying in the other room…”

“I feel stuck with him for years now…”

There were very, very few exceptions who had regrets because they were seriously ill, injured or suffered from severe allergy. Ironically, this group of people actually did their very best to try and keep the dog no matter what.

How can I possibly stay indifferent to this situation if it shows that the nation of dog lovers is clearly lacking the three fundamental pillars of dog parenthood: knowledge, commitment and responsibility? And worse, do very little to improve on any of these?

You may notice I did not mention love… I believe it’s important but love is nothing if it does not inspire you to become a better person, a better pup parent – and learn, learn everything you can before and during your life with one of the most wonderful beings we ever managed to tame… yet forgot the obvious “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed…” from the Little Prince. But then how many of those people would even read Exupéry?

And since this wonderful author also said that “a goal without a plan is just a wish”, here are a few things everyone who dreams of having a cocker spaniel puppy should read as the essential minimum before they even launch their search for the dream dog… As the very first step to make sure that every dog is wanted… now – and forever, for the rest of his life and beyond.

Misleading facts about English cocker spaniels you need to know

How to find a perfect cocker spaniel puppy

How to find a cocker spaniel puppy online and avoid puppy farms

Why is it so important to ask a breeder about health tests before choosing a puppy?

5 good reasons to have a cocker spaniel puppy

Perfect cocker spaniel: the ultimate guide to the breed including puppy guide, tips on grooming, diet, health, training and more

Natalia, Cooper & Fred, two english cocker spaniels / lessons our dogs could teach us / all about English cocker spaniels / puppy tips (c) Perfect cocker spaniel / photo by Elizabeth Clark Pinkfeet photography

Cocker spaniel habits we should adopt

I am grateful to my dogs for many things in life. I feel like they taught me a lot, helped me find my true self and even inspired my book. My spaniels are my life and I adore watching the boys every day, sharing their discoveries, little joys and moments of happy madness. Dogs have their ways of being here, creating their own world and travelling through it next to their beloved companions – us. And I think we can pick up a few habits from our beautiful cocker spaniels because it can transform our life – and the future as the time goes by, too…

Wake up with a smile. Because good vibes start with a simple stretch of a few facial muscles.

Kiss often! Kissing boosts dopamine and endorphins (for happiness), oxytocin (for emotional attachment), reduces levels of cortisol (the stress hormones), cholesterol and blood pressure, and strengthens the immune system.

Be outdoorsy! Get out early, breathe in fresh air, dip your paws feet into the morning dew and run away from hustle and bustle of reality, mobile devices and city noise. “Walking is the man’s best medicine” – sharing it with the man’s best friend is as perfect as it can get.

Eat at set times and never skip meals. It’s good for your body and your mind. Your cocker eats “on the dot”? Join his schedule and you are likely to trim your waste line, reduce blood pressure and improve blood sugar levels.

Appreciate the power of quality sleep. You may be tempted to stay up till midnight and maintain your energy levels with so much caffeine it can easily replace your blood, but deep inside you know it’s not brilliant. Look at your cocker – he gets up early, goes to bed on time and never says ‘no’ to daily naps. This is what makes them more productive, ready to embrace every day, process information much better, and look beautiful.

Don’t judge people – love them unconditionally regardless of their status or appearance.

Don’t be afraid to love with passion – “there is always some madness in love, but there is always some reason in madness…”

Life is all about simple things. Happiness is not about having an expensive collar with a gold tag, a huge pile of toys or a palace to live in. Don’t overcomplicate – instead enjoy living the life you’ve got and make the most of it.

Photo source: me and the boys photographed by wonderful Elizabeth Clark / Pink feet photography


Golden english cocker spaniel puppy / facts about english cocker spaniels / grooming, ear problems, cockers shed, cocker spaniel smell / puppy advice and tips / first puppy / how to find a cocker spaniel puppy / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Misleading facts about English cocker spaniels you need to know

Confession.  I can’t imagine my life without the internet. But the internet is only good if you either know what to look for or use a source created by educated professionals. Otherwise you end up reading all kinds of nonsense including the “facts” about cockers I’ve come across on several “expert websites” & social media.

Allow me to show you why the statements below are so misleading.

Cockers are bred from Springer spaniels. No. Cockers were originally bred from Field spaniels, the all-black short legged breed that is practically extinct. Springers were sometimes introduced to improve the working qualities of cockers, but they weren’t the only breed used in developing an English cocker spaniel.

Cockers come in all shapes and sizes. No. There’s a breed standard and an English cocker should fit its description. A typical cocker will be a small dog about 38-42 cm in withers and weight 12-15kg depending on gender & height (slight variation in height is possible)

Cockers are one if the breeds with a long list of health issues. Wrong again! Cockers are genetically predisposed to a few illnesses (see previous post), but most can be avoided through DNA testing of dogs used for breeding. Risk of haemolytic anaemia may be potentially reduced through choice of daily diet & correct vaccination programme.

Cockers suffer from ear problems. No. Just like any breed with long floppy ears, cockers can develop ear infections, but the issue can be completely avoided with proper grooming routine & appropriate preventatives.

Cockers smell. Yes & No. All my boys have a wonderful light scent that feels very comforting. But No, they don’t smell unpleasant even when they are wet after a rainy walk. Any dog can develop an unpleasant odour if he’s groomed incorrectly, neutered, suffers from yeast infections, unwell or, truth of life, rolls in something stinky.

Cockers shed a lot. Again, that’s wrong. As a silky double-coated breed, cockers do not really shed. However the silky strands can break and fall off at times. Cockers can leave some hairs here and there, but they will not be dropping piles of hair all over the house. The secret lies in proper diet, grooming and coat maintenance.

Cockers require little grooming & need only be brushed 2-3 times a week. One of the biggest mistakes is to follow this advice! Cockers are high maintenance dogs. They need daily brushing & regular grooming sessions.

Cockers are one of the most aggressive breeds. No. Cockers have been bred to be happy, friendly and mellowy-soft. Just like ANY dog, some CAN BECOME aggressive, but there’s always an underlying reason for it. Poor breeding, unbalanced diet, lack of exercise & mental enrichment, neutering, psychological issues, illness are just a few reasons that can make a cocker “show his teeth”.

What do you think? Is there anything else you’d like to learn about English cocker spaniels? 

Photo source: image by Katrina_S from Pixabay


Questions to ask the breeder before getting a cocker spaniel puppy / how to avoid puppy farms / how to find a cocker spaniel reputable breeder / health tests for English cocker spaniel / puppy advice and tips / via Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Q&A | Why is it important to ask a breeder about health tests before getting a puppy?

Lets get straight to the point… A “YES” or “NO” answer to these questions can map the entire course of life with your cocker spaniel. And these are the questions you really need to ask the breeder even before you meet a puppy. Because once you see him, the answer may not seem important anymore.

So if you come across an ad for a litter and are eager to run and choose a puppy, ask the breeder if BOTH PUPPY PARENTS ARE HEALTH TESTED.

Health testing doesn’t simply mean that the dam and sire saw a vet for vaccinations & health check. Any dog used for breeding must also undergo specific tests to determine whether or not they carry genes for certain conditions that can affect English cockers.

The mandatory list includes…

…PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), a condition that leads to blindness if the dog carries a defective gene;

…FN (Familial Nephropathy), a disease that affects structure of the kidneys and causes kidney failure;

Plus four more conditions that breeders can test for are…

… AMS (Acral Mutilation Syndrome) characterised to localised insensitivity to pain, which causes dog lick or bite his legs and paws until lesions and ulcers appear. Amputation is the outcome;

… AON (Adult Onset Neuropathy), a neurological disease that causes inability to control limbs movement resulting in full disability by the age of 7.5-9.

… Hip Dysplasia, an abnormal development of the hip socket;

… Gonioscopy to screen for glaucoma.

According to test results, the dogs can be “clear”, “carrier”, or “affected”. The affected dogs must not be bred for. The carrier mixed with a clear dog will not develop a disease, but will pass an affected gene to half of the puppies.

Personally, I prefer parents who are both tested “clear”. Unless a breeder can confirm that his puppies are from tested dogs AND show you original certificates as a proof, do not commit to getting a pup from him. You may be lucky and the puppy will live a long happy life, but you’re running a risk of heart aches, seeing your dog deteriorating, and paying out huge sums to cover vet bills.

Ask for certificates, check the record against the Mate Select register available via The Kennel Club, and if everything is good, get ready to meet that scrumptious puppy!

Photo source: image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Cooper, my sable English cocker spaniel puppy (C) Natalia Ashton, Perfect cocker spaniel

Q&A | What is the difference between working and show cocker spaniel?

I’m often asked about the difference between show and working type cocker pups, so here’s how I explain it to the first time puppy parents.

The show type cockers have a richer coat, more feathering (long layers of fur) on their legs and body. Their faces are more Teddy bear like and both pups and grown ups are chunkier somewhat.

The working type is slender, with much less feathering, shorter and higher set ears. Their face reminds me of a fox – it’s slimmer than the show type and the muzzle is more “pointy”.

Energy-wise, workers tend to be more energetic, but it will depend on your pups personality. I have known very mellow workers and pretty unstoppable show dogs.

Photo source: Cooper, photo by me

Fred, chocolate and tan English cocker spaniel puppy, 2.5 months old (C) Natalia Ashton, Perfect cocker spaniel

Q&A | What are the colours of English cocker spaniels?

Cockers are like confetti… or a bag of M&Ms: very colourful! The first cockers were solid black and blue roan, but in time the breed became one of the most colourful out there.

Cockers come in solid gold, red (very deep shade of gold, very similar to chestnut), black and chocolate (also known as less-poetic sounding liver); blue, orange, lemon and chocolate roan; black & white, black & tan, chocolate & tan, chocolate & white, orange & white; chocolate white & tan, black white & tan, liver white & tan.

The parti-coloured coats can also be ticked – have spots of colour on white areas (in roans the spots are more “blurred”) Solid cockers should have no white spots, though a white mark on the chest is acceptable.

Sable cocker spaniels, as gorgeous as the can be, are no accepted by the Kennel Club as one of the “official colours”. Bear this in mind if you want to show your pup in the future.

Photo source: Fred photographed by me

Ted Obo, black English cocker spaniel, the father of modern English cocker spaniels, bred by James Farrow | Photo from Illustrations du Journal L'Acclimatation (C) Mary Evans Picture Library

Q&A | Who was the father of all modern English cocker spaniels?

Do you know the cocker who started it all? His name was Obo. He was bred by James Farrow in 1879 and won the highest possible honours at shows. Obo is considered to be the father of all the best black and parti-coloured lines of cocker spaniels.

Photo source: (C) Mary Evans Picture Library