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

Fred, 7 week old chocolate and tan English cocker spaniel puppy / how to find a cocker spaniel puppy / cocker spaniel puppy ads / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog / (C) Natalia Ashton

Q&A | How to find a perfect English cocker spaniel puppy?

WHERE & HOW DO YOU NEED TO LOOK FOR THAT PERFECT COCKER SPANIEL PUPPY? I’ve talked about the subject a lot in my book Perfect cocker spaniel, but since the question is one I get asked a lot, I wanted to cover the basics here, too.

True, these days you can find puppies online easily enough. Social media and websites give you a quick access to dozens of puppy ads.  These, however, can bring a lot of problems, especially if you never had cockers before and this is your first ever experience of finding a pup.

The safest way I recommend is to look via the Kennel Club website. All good breeders & pure-line litters are registered there. If you like a certain breeder, but they don’t have litters at them moment, leave your details with them. Waiting lists are very common!

If you choose to look for a pup elsewhere, always remember a few simple rules.

Good breeder will…
… be KC listed + council licensed if they breed to sell or have more than 3 litters a year;
… have each litter KC registered (note: puppy farms can do it, too, so check for other signs & use common sense);
… ask you questions to ensure that you’re a suitable puppy parent;
… be knowledgeable about cockers;
… introduce you to puppy’s parents (I like to see BOTH dogs of I’ve never met a breeder before);
… have pedigree certificates for both parents;
… have valid health test certificate for both parents;
… take extra precautions when showing you the pup;
… will not let you see a pup in person before the pup is at least 5 weeks old (personally I feel it’s best to wait until a pup is 6-7 weeks old);
… have pups health-checked by a vet;
… never sell you a pup before he’s at least 8 weeks old;
… offer life-time support & advice.

Avoid breeders who…
… do not meet all of the above rules;
… offer pups at an oddly low price;
… have pups that look unwell;
… offer to meet half-way or bring a pup to you;
… sell puppies through shops;
… have too many dogs & breeds;
… have untidy & dirty premises;
… refuse to show you pups mum;
… don’t care about mixing working & show lines;
… sell pups that aren’t KC registered;
… breed from “a family pet” without pedigree or health certificates & are listed as “a private individual”, not a “breeder” or “business”.

Photo source: Fred at 7 weeks old, photographed by me


How and where to find cocker spaniel puppy / how to make your pet famous on instagram

Puppies & Instagram

I recently saw a report saying that most people spend more time deciding which pair of shoes to buy than getting a puppy. And, of course, I couldn’t help noticing how seeing pups on Instagram prompted people to run and get one there and then.

So if you are thinking about getting a dog, remember that love isn’t enough. You are going to be responsible for somebody who will be spending their whole life with you & rely on you in everything.

Research, learn, take your time & be realistic when you make a decision to have a dog. Never rush into it. Because once you have a dog, your life will change & you will have to be ready to accept it and become the most dedicated, caring and loving parent for your new baby.

Photo source: image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay

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

Q&A | What is a sable colour in English cocker spaniels?

To be honest, I’ve never chosen a puppy based on his colour. It has always been more about the face, personality & little features that made my heart beat faster.

I really don’t care if the sable dogs are “rare” or not allowed in a show ring. Personally I find them beautiful just like I find any cocker spaniel beautiful.

Sables vary in colour a lot. They can be black, chocolate, golden or silver-looking. Often the sable pups are very similar to “approved” colours and the coat changes happen gradually and after the pup is handstripped.

So if you are looking for a sable puppy specifically and not quite sure whether or not your future baby is sable, look at both his fur and eyes. The sables will always have dark hairs (black, chocolate or red depending on their coat) running through their coat. Many may also have a mask around their eyes and running down their nose.

And all sables will have what I call “the Cleopatra eyes” – a solid liner around their eyes.

One thing to bear in mind. Sable cockers can become rather fluffy by the time they are ready to be hand-strip, so their coat will need more time, efforts and attention, both on a daily basis and when groomed. Always have a look at your puppy’s parents – if one of them is not too fluffy, your baby may just grow into the smooth and beautiful cocker, too. If both parents have rich coats, you’ve just signed yourself for plenty of grooming fun.

Photo source: Cooper, photo taken 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

Perfect cocker spaniel, according to the Kennel Club breed standard

I thought it’s a good idea to share an official description of the English Cocker Spaniel not so much to help you find “the perfect cocker puppy” (because when you see the one you will know), but give you some useful information regarding the breed and make that puppy search as successful and stress-free as possible.

According to The Kennel Club “the Cocker is an active, happy, small dog who quickly adapts himself to surroundings. He is highly intelligent and affectionate, and in his element foraging around fields and hedges. He also employs retrieving instincts around the house, and can often be found with a toy or slipper in his mouth. They are easy to train and thrive on human companionship.” All true.

Cocker spaniels belong to a group of gun dogs, and are divided into two categories – show cockers and working cockers. Both are lovely, but the show type is chunkier, sturdy, more “teddy bear” like and really is what you picture when talking about an English cocker spaniel.

Working cockers have a “drier” constitution, slimmer, with a narrower-looking face. I don’t know if it’s a rule or typical of a working cocker, but I’ve never seen them with long hair.

From time to time breeders of the working cockers are legally allowed to dock pups’ tails, so unlike the show type that always have a long tail unless they were born before 2006 , the year when the tail-docking was banned, a working cocker may have a short one.

Height approximately: dogs: 39-41 cms (15.5-16 ins); bitches: 38-39 cms (15-15.5 ins). Weight approximately: 13-14.5 kgs (28-32 lbs).

Cockers are like a bag of M&Ms. They come in a variety of colours, which are often referred to as “solid” (gold, red, black chocolate) and “parti-coloured” (black & tan, black & white, black & white ticked, black, white & tan, blue roan, blue roan & tan, chocolate & tan, chocolate & white, chocolate roan, chocolate roan & tan, chocolate white & tan, lemon & white, lemon roan, liver & white, liver & white ticked, liver roan, liver roan & tan, liver white & tan, orange & white, orange & white ticked, orange roan and sable)

It is very important to bear in mind that any solid colour must be solid, “no white is allowed except for on the chest” and sable colour is not Kennel Club recognised.

Spaniel’s hair is glistening, silky, flat – never too wavy or curly. Requires daily grooming, plus regular trimming and hand-stripping.

Cocker spaniels are considered to be one of the strong and healthy breeds and live beyond 10 years, but when choosing a puppy ensure that BOTH his parents have been health screened and the breeder has official results for BVA/KC/ISDS Eye test, DNA test – prcd-PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy & Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy) & FN (Familial Nephropathy), plus BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia test and, ideally as it doesn’t need to be done annually, BVA/KC/ISDS Gonioscopy (Primary Glaucoma). If in double, you can always check the recommended tests by speaking to a vet and contacting The Kennel Club. While it may sound like hard work or too much information, these tests ensure that a) the breeder cares for his dogs and reputation b) you get a puppy who will not develop eye and bone problems typical of the breed.

Other health issues that are not tested for but known to affect English cockers are haemolytic anaemia, chronic pancreatitis, adult onset neuropathy, acral mutilaion syndrome (working lines), cataracts, pertistent pupillary membrane, extra eye lashes (distichiasis), entropion (ingrowing eyelids) and ectropion (sagging, loose eye lids).

To stay healthy, cockers need minimum an hour of exercise daily and good diet ideally chosen according to the breed needs.

So as long as you look after yours, they really are a breeze and, yes, you guessed it, most perfect little guys to hang with.