Photo by JusWright Cockers

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The American Cocker has been one of the most popular of all AKC recognized breeds for many years. Due to that popularity, there have been many people who have chosen to breed them ignorantly just to make a profit. Breeding dogs is a HUGE responsibility. When it is done responsibly, there will not be any profit made. Most breeders will actually spend hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars in an attempt to produce a litter of quality, healthy puppies.

It takes many years of research, and the help of at least one good, experienced mentor to learn enough about a breed to become a knowledgeable breeder. This page is lengthy, but full of helpful information. You may print it out if you wish. You may also go to: http://www.asc-cockerspaniel.org/breedguide.htm

Before you decide to breed a litter, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why did I choose this breed? Because I want to improve it, or because I can sell lots of puppies? (your answer should NOT be the latter!)

2. How much do I know about this breed?

In order to be a good breeder, you must first gain knowledge of the breed! This is done through years of experience owning a cocker as a pet, through studying good books written by accomplished fanciers, and with the help of a good mentor.

3. Do I know the AKC breed standard for this breed? (Do I know what a good representative of this breed looks like?) The cocker standard can be seen on the American Kennel Club Website. Knowledge and understanding of the standard is vital in a breeding program. This should be your goal in producing a correct cocker.

4. Am I aware of the health issues of this breed? Do I know what testing I need to do on my breeding stock? Can I afford these tests? Do I know what to do if one of my dogs is affected by a genetic disorder? Cockers can have many genetic disorders, (see our Cocker Health page) and even dogs who are not affected by these disorders can still be carriers. (meaning they will produce the problem in their offspring) Necessary testing includes CERF eye exams, which can only be done by a board certified veterinary opthomologist, (cost is anywhere from $15- $35) OFA or Penn Hip hip X rays to detect hip dysplasia, (cost is about $100-$175) and thyroid panels. (varies according to vet clinic)

5. Do I have enough room to house and raise my dogs and puppies? Do I know what kind of whelping box I need?

Cockers must be kept as indoor pets. They are extremely people-oriented and do not do well when they are left outside alone. Newborn puppies must also be whelped inside. The temperature must be regulated for the puppies with a heating pad in the whelping box, as they do not have the ability to keep themselves warm when they are born. Keeping them inside also helps keep them clean, and allows the breeder to watch them more closely. They will also be better socialized when raised in the house around people.

You must have a whelping box that is easy to clean, has a rail around the edges, and is warm and comfortable. It must also be big enough to accommodate the dam and her puppies until they are several weeks old.

6. Would I know the signs of a problem pregnancy or delivery? Would I know when to take my bitch to the vet for a C- Section?

All good breeders need to have a good relationship with their veterinarian. You should be able to get in touch with them at any time. If he or she is not available after clinic hours, you should have an alternate plan. (an emergency number, or the number of a 24 hour emergency clinic. You should call your vet if you notice the following:

Dark green, black, or bright red vaginal discharge.

If your bitch is acting weak or sick

Normally, 12-24 hours prior to whelping, a bitch's temperature will drop from a range of 101.0 - 102.5 to a range of 97.5 - 99.0. However, if there is a temperature drop followed by a temperature rise a day or two later with no signs of labor, this may be an indication that a uterine problem (inertia or an infection) is present.

If the bitch has been actively pushing for longer than 60 minutes without delivering the first puppy.

If it has been more than one hour between puppies.

7. Do I have emergency money saved up in the event of complications? A C- Section can cost approximately $1500 or more, and they are more common than many people realize.

8. Do I know what my veterinary expenses will be?

Veterinary costs vary. You will need to take the dam (mother dog) to the vet during pregnancy, and a few times afterwards. She may also develop mastitis, or any number of other problems requiring veterinary care. The puppies will also need to visit the vet several times before they are ready for new homes. A few things you will need to plan for are: tail docking, dew claw removal, check up for the dam and new litter, a few series of shots, and possible health certificates. If you encounter emergencies, these costs will be significantly higher.

9. Do I know how to tell if my puppies are nursing well?

It is critical that new puppies nurse right after they are born in order to get the colostrum they need. You should see the puppies actively nursing at least every two hours. To check for hydration, gently lift the skin on the back of the puppy's neck. It should spring right back. If it stays up, the puppy could be dehydrated, and you should call your vet.

10. Do I know when to have my puppies' tails docked?

This should be done at age 3 days. It should be done by a veterinarian who knows the correct length. This is generally determined by the following: Wrap your thumb, index finger and middle finger around the base of the puppy's tail. Move your fingers down the tail, towards the tip. The tail is usually docked where the tail begins to taper, or "thin out". Care should be taken to not dock the tail too short.

11. Do I know when to wean my puppies, and what foods to use when weaning?

You should begin to introduce solid foods at age 3 weeks. This can be Gerber Baby food (the small jars of beef or chicken) or you can put dry puppy food in a blender with water, and blend it to the consistency of oatmeal. Put it on the floor in a pie plate, and usually the puppies will figure it out on their own. If not, you can put a small amount on the puppies' tongue and that will be all it takes. When the dam no longer wants to nurse the puppies, she will stand up when they attempt to nurse.

12. Do I know how to groom this breed? Can I afford grooming equipment? Do I know when I should groom my puppies for the first time?

You will need to learn how to groom your dogs and have your own equipment, so you can begin grooming your puppies, and so you can show your new owners. Equipment (grooming table, electric clippers with 2 blades, slicker brush, pin brush, comb, thinning shears, scissors, stripping blade, toenail clippers, and a hair dryer) will cost approximately $600.

Puppies should be bathed by age 3 weeks, and should be groomed at age 4 weeks, and every week afterwards to help them get accustomed to it.

13. Will I have time to properly raise, train, and socialize a litter?

New puppies take a great deal of time. You will have to plan to take a few weeks off of work to supervise and care for a new litter. They will need to be socialized, and you should begin housebreaking, and basic commands (sit, come, and NO) at age 6 weeks.

14. Do I know how to properly screen puppy buyers? Am I willing to sell my puppies on limited registration, with spay/neuter contracts?

It is the breeder's responsibility to be sure they are placing their puppies in only the best homes. You should require your buyers to keep the puppy as an indoor pet only, require spay/neuter, (get this in writing and check the limited registration box on the AKC papers) and interview them thoroughly before agreeing to sell them one of your puppies. You should also require them to have references from a vet and a neighbor, and be sure to check those references. This will help protect your puppy from ending up in a shelter, cocker rescue, or a victim of a puppy mill.

15. Am I aware of the laws regarding the selling of puppies? Am I aware of the licensing/permit laws in my state or city? Many states have "puppy lemon laws" which were made to protect the buyer. This usually means that if you sell a puppy that develops a genetic disorder you can be sued by the buyer. Also, many cities and states have laws governing the breeding and selling of dogs. Some of those laws require breeders to obtain kennel and breeding licenses, regardless of how many dogs are owned.

16. Am I willing to take back any puppy I sell, at anytime should the new owner be unable to keep it? Could I afford to refund the purchase price?

Responsible breeders care about what happens to their puppies, and should always agree to take back puppies at any time. This will insure that these dogs do not end up in an animal shelter or cocker rescue. Be sure that you are able to refund the purchase price if necessary.

17. Do I know the AKC record keeping requirements?

The American Kennel Club requires that breeders keep a complete record of  all dogs they own. This includes every breeding done, the sale of, death of, stud use of, litter produced by, or transfer of, every dog. The AKC can inspect your home at any time, and if so, will ask to see these records. If the records are not in order, you could be suspended by the AKC for record-keeping violations.

These are just a few of the many things to consider. If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, perhaps you are not ready to be a responsible breeder.

If you have further questions or concerns, please E Mail the webmaster. (link in the site menu)