Tips on raising a
Cocker Spaniel

A few things I've learned after
45+ years with Cocker Spaniels

Click here to go to our main Cocker Spaniel page

I'd like to share with you a question I received via email recently.  This is a real question from a real person, and my complete reply to her.  (Although I did edit her question down a bit since the original was quite lengthy.)  I think it's such a good question, and the response is so important, that I want to let you in on it...

Question We have a two-year-old female Cocker and an eleven-month-old male.  We have several friends and family members who are interested in a puppy.  My question is:  is our male dog old enough to breed?  I can't seem to find this information anywhere on the Internet.

Answer Your male dog is probably old enough that he could physically do the job of getting your female dog pregnant... but most good Cocker breeders do not breed a dog until he is much older. The good breeders usually wait until both dogs are at least two years old before breeding. There are two main reasons for this...

First, you want to allow some time for any major health problems to show up. You don't want to breed a dog with major health issues, and at your male dog's age you might not even realize it yet if he has any. For example, cataracts. They almost never show up at eleven months.

The bigger reason has to do with testing to determine if the dog is a carrier for genetic hip diseases. There is a very simple x-ray screening that you can do to determine if the dog has genetic hip dysplasia that might be passed along to the next generation. You have your vet take the x-ray, then you send it off to an organization called the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals and they have their panel of hip experts evaluate it. Again, it takes a while for hip disease to show up... so the OFFA will not do evaluations on any dog younger than two.

So, the way it works with most good breeders is that they wait for their dogs to turn two years old, then they have a Veterinary Ophthalmologist do an eye exam to check for any hereditary eye problems which might be passed along to puppies.  If the dog passes the eye test, the breeder has their vet do hip x-rays to look for hereditary hip defects.  The hip x-rays are sent to the OFFA, and if they get a good evaluation back (and if no other major health problems have cropped up) they then proceed with breeding the dog.

Of course, most backyard breeders do not do any of this... and no puppy mills do this... and this is why it is generally much safer to buy a dog from a reputable "hobby" breeder than from a backyard breeder or a pet store.

What else have I learned as a breeder of Cocker puppies?  Read my tips on buying a Cocker puppy and my tips on potty training a Cocker puppy.  You'll also find some useful information in my list of frequently asked questions.

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