how to choose best natural treats and training treats for puppies and dogs / puppy tips and advice / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Your cocker will love these good-for-him treats

“What do you feed your dogs with?” is one of the questions I’m asked at least once a day. I don’t usually advise on the choice of dog food because I believe in individuality and the choice of dog food should depend on your dog, his health, age, gender, activity and preferences, and discussed with a knowledgable vet (though I’m more than happy to chat about different brands, ingredients and types of diets)

Treats are a bit different. They are something I give to my boys in addition to their meals – because if I don’t, they will queue in the kitchen forever…  I thought I’d put all our favourites in one post in case you’ve been curious but felt a bit shy to ask.

Remember that any new food must be introduced gradually, these foods below are suitable for healthy active dogs without any diagnosed health problems, any health issues you’re aware of or dogs who take any form of medicine, prescribed drugs or supplements. If you’re in doubt, always check with your vet!

The list below is condensed, but I’ve put a lot more info in my book Perfect cocker spaniel.

DAILY my boys have…
… home-made biscuits;
… natural yoghurt / kefir (they love the taste, plus it’s a tiny dose of some B vits, calcium, magnesium, and good bacteria);
… raw manuka honey (not suitable for dogs under 12 months of age. Full of minerals, antibacterial agents and yummy taste);
… raw organic virgin coconut oil (for fab fatty acids and antibacterial properties);
… raw dried sweet potato (makes a great chew, packed with beta-carotene, B vits, vit C, magnesium, calcium, iron & fiber;
… whatever is in season and always – organic. I limit the quantities to a couple of slices for cucumber/carrot, 1-2 strawberries or 4-5 berries like blueberries. Boys have one option per day, not a salad!

ONCE A WEEK pups also have…
…. a hard boiled egg, usually we use it for training;
… cooked plain chicken or turkey, again it’s a high value training treat;
… salmon (two very small pieces, just as a little treat);
… passata (2tsp, plain passata free from salt, herbs or any other flavorings. It’s not so much for the vitamin value but to keep the plaque away)

What is your dog’s favourite treat?

Photo source: image by katerinavulcova from Pixabay

Fred, 2 months old chocolate and tan english cocker spaniel puppy / how to help puppy settle in new home / first puppy tips and advice / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Q&A | How to help a puppy settle in his new home?

I may be rubbish at many things but helping my new pups feel happy at their new home is something I’ve never had problems with.

As a list-obsessed person I’ve come up with a set of my own rules. Tick-done-tick-done. Works every time. There are no crying puppies in this house.

And here it is…

… create a calm and cosy house to come to;
… get a toy or puppy blanket from the breeder with the scent of mum & litter mates;
… get a safe & snuggly cleanable bed that pup can’t destroy (plastic ones are best, use VetBed & puppy blankets to make them warm & comfy);
… allow the pup plenty of time to sleep & relax;
… use the food & feeding schedule given by the breeder;
… share the room/bedroom with the pup to start with;
… allow puppy to explore his new home, but limit him to 1-2 rooms for the first few weeks;
… explain puppy do’s & don’t’s to the kids;
… don’t invite visitors for the first few days (even better, wait until the quarantine is over);
… don’t hesitate to phone the breeder for help & advice.

Got any puppy questions? Just ask!

Photo source: Fred, photographed by me


How to find English cocker spaniel puppy adverts online, buy cocker spaniel puppy online / how to find good cocker spaniel breeder / how to avoid puppy farms / first puppy tips and advice / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

Q&A | How to find a cocker spaniel puppy online & avoid puppy mills & puppy farms

Lets be honest, even if I tell you 100 times to look for a pup through the Kennel Club, most of you (myself included) are still going to do an online search. It’s quite normal. Internet is brilliant for finding anything. And I’m pretty sure, once you start you will end up on a popular site full of puppy ads. I did once. And I found one of my boys (and one of most wonderful breeders) there. I also came across dozens and dozens of ads that must be avoided at all costs.

The biggest problem with an ad is the fact that once you see photos, you fall in love. And once you’re in love, you cannot think straight.

This is when many people choose puppies who come without pedigrees, from non-tested parents, from parents one of which may not be a cocker, and even pups from puppy farms or stolen litters.

To help you out, I picked an ad you can trust and the one you must avoid (you can zoom on both)

How to find reputable registered breeder cocker spaniel puppy for sale online ad / how to avoid puppy farmers / good puppy advert and puppy breeders to avoid and how to spot them / puppy advice and tips / first published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog (C)

YES advert is by a kind of breeder I’d happily get a puppy from. It’s perfect in every way & gives you a peace of mind when it comes to puppy’s breeding history and health. I have included the text to give you an idea what a safe & professional ad should look like.

AVOID any ads that look like this & are from private seller, not licensed by council (current rule is that anyone producing at least one puppy for sale must obtain a license); pups are not KC registered, only one of the parents is health tested CLEAR or neither of the dogs are tested at all; dogs are described as “family pets” as the main reason to breed from them “just once”; breeder offers pedigree certificates even though pups are not KC reg; price for the pups is too low (usual cost is around £1000); dad is nowhere to be seen.

Unfortunately, the AVOID ads take about 2/3 of the site space. Be careful and think with your head when making a choice.

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, 3 months old red gold sable english cocker spaniel puppy, good reasons to have a puppy / first published on perfect cocker spaniel blog / story and photo (c) Natalia Ashton

5 good reasons to have a puppy

Why did you decide to have a puppy?

Last night I was lying in bed – Netflix on, boys piled up next to me, dreaming of something… possibly their favourite walk and biscuits… who knows… It was a moment of pure bliss. A kind of moment that makes every effort that goes into raising a pup totally worthwhile.

It got me thinking… Why do we decide to have a puppy in the first place? What are the best things about having a dog – and cocker, in particular?

Here are my personal top 5:

1. Puppies make us happy. Cuddling them triggers release of oxytocin – the “love hormone”. Newborn babies have the same effect on their mums to create a bond between them.

2. Puppies make us active and fit. Running after a little cocker is way harder than having a workout in the gym. Plus, you use your entire body (and feel like a corpse by 9pm…)

3. Puppies are the best weight watchers! Remember that cup of coffee you made in the morning? You were hoping to drink it before the pup is awake… Well, it’s lunch time now – and that coffee is still there waiting for you. Food? Don’t even think about it! Pointless!

4. Puppies make us feel young again. You cannot build a real bond with a pup unless you let yourself be YOURSELF! Run, play, roll in a grass together, laugh, cuddle, act like a kid!

5. Puppies improve our social life & skills. Just think how many people you suddenly get to chat with during your walks! The only problem is most of them will never recognise you without your dog or remember your name (you are destined to be known as “[insert your dog’s name here] mum/dad”


Photo source: Cooper photographed by me


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


Avocado toxic or not for dogs and why, avocado in dog diet safety concerns / First published on Perfect cocker spaniel blog / Image by sandid from Pixabay

Q&A | Avocado: yes or no?

I receive so many questions about avocado in dog’s diet, so I thought I’d share it here since yesterday was a #nationalavocadoday.

Lately avocado was said to be safe for dogs. However before you go head think of the following…

… avocado contains persin, a toxic substance found in the skin, right under the skin, in the stone and the bark of avocado;
… the LIGHT green flesh of the fruit is low in persin, however it is difficult to ensure that the light green won’t be mixed with the DARK green flesh found under the skin of the fruit, thus increasing the risk of poisoning;
… if a dog has avocado he’s likely to have upset stomach or vomiting;
… in addition the stone can not only be more toxic if crushed by a dog, but also get stuck in the throat or digestive tract, which can be fatal;
…high fat content of avocado can increase risk of pancreatitis.

Personally, I would not risk it. I also do not believe that something that was once deemed very toxic for pooched was suddenly given a green light. It feels more like a trend, not something supported by research.

Photo source: image by sandid from Pixabay