Finding a reputable Cocker Spaniel breeder can be challenging but not impossible. I am often asked where to find a Cocker Spaniel breeder who can be trusted. If all you do is a Google search, you might end up with a puppy mill or someone not qualified to breed Cocker puppies.
Talk to your dog’s veterinarian, trusted friends and family online and in person, and contact local breeding clubs. You can also visit professional dog shows to meet breeders in person and see their Cockers in action.
As a Cocker Spaniel mom of 30 years, I’ve met dozens of breeders and also encountered unscrupulous puppy millers. You absolutely must do your homework to weed out the bad apples from the good ones. Not everyone who says they love Cocker Spaniels means it – for some, the sad reality is puppies for profit, one litter after another.
A reputable Cocker breeder will not turn out litter after litter with zero regard for the unsprayed female dog producing puppies. Following our tips and insider information, we’ll help you with resources to unite you with the Cocker breeder of your dreams.
About Cocker Spaniel Breeding and Domestication
In the 19th century, people began keeping records of canine bloodlines to classify dogs into specific breeds. Dogs were first domesticated and began hanging out closer and closer with humans 14,000 to 17,000 years ago. Dog breeds, however, didn’t come around until the last few centuries.
It’s important to keep this fact in mind because breeding was born out of desire. For example, shepherds wanted a dog with superior herding ability for their livestock. Noblemen wanted a better retriever. The Cocker Spaniel has her origins in Spain, with mention as far back as the 1400s.
The first Cocker Spaniel came over on the Mayflower in 1620, but it was 1878 before the first Cocker Spaniel was registered with the American Kennel Club. The American Cocker Spaniel was officially registered in 1881. At that time, two types of Cockers emerged – the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel.
In the 1920s, the noticeable difference between the two Cockers was evident. In 1946, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the English Cocker Spaniel (ECS) as a separate breed. It would take until 1970 for the UK Kennel Club to recognize the ACS as separate from the ECS.
Fun fact: The American Cocker Spaniel is the smallest member of the sporting class.
The Cocker Spaniel isn’t for everyone. Find out if the Cocker Spaniel is the right dog for you.
Why Responsible Cocker Breeders Are Important
The right Cocker Spaniel breeder can make or break a litter of puppies but also the overall betterment of the breed at large.
A responsible breeder engages in selective breeding so conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies, epilepsy, and much more are not passed on. Additionally, a proper breeding improves temperaments and increases positive specific gene traits.
Cocker Spaniel breeders who truly care about the breed will:
- Study the pedigree of the dog
- Attend dog shows and likely partake in them
- Learn all about Cocker Spaniel health, temperament, and well-being
- Take knowledge from each litter and apply what they learned to the next litter to improve on the quality of the parents.
- Screen applicants thoroughly and ask for references
- Allow puppy buyers to return the puppy for any reason at any age if things aren’t working out
- Care about their puppies once they leave their home
- Will encourage puppy buyers to stay in touch with them, offer advice and support, and be able to answer questions the new pet parent may have
- Are selective about the parents they choose to be mated and have performed proper health and temperament screening
- Socialize the puppy properly in his first 9 weeks of week at a minimum, which is when most Cocker breeders allow you to take the puppy home
- Don’t have multiple litters going at one time. They work with one to two litters at most and allow the female dog to rest adequately between litters.
- Raise the puppies to be pets in a home environment. If they are going into the show ring, the pups are to have a good life outside of the show ring.
- Encourage potential pet parents to visit where the dogs are raised and bred, meet the litter, and meet at least one of the two parents
- Be willing to share the tail docking status of their puppies
- Provide health, vaccination, and pedigree information
- Provide an adoption and/or purchase contract outlining everything from breeder responsibilities to health guarantees and return policy, if any.
A good Cocker breeder will take their dogs back for life. All breeders are not created equal, which is why you must do your homework before making a commitment that will last 10 to 15 years or more.
Responsible breeders care about what happens to their puppies. They use waiting lists and don’t immediately give a puppy away on a whim. They sell their Cockers directly to prospective pet parents and want to get to know them.
Another term you may come across in your search for a Cocker Spaniel is preservation breeding. This is a relatively new term amongst dedicated fanciers (breeders) to produce dogs of quality as described by the breed standard.
Since COVID and because someone may live on one side of the country and want a Cocker puppy from the breeder who is thousands of miles away, there are a few credible websites available. Not all breeders on the lists are to be 100 percent trusted, but it’s a good start and a place to begin your screening process.
Read our intensive examination about why it’s okay to get a dog from a reputable breeder.
If you are looking for a reputable dog rescue, read our tips on the topic so you can tell a good rescue from a not-so-good one.
How To Find Cocker Spaniel Breeders Near Me
Reputable breeders perform due diligence and take a vested interest in each of the puppies bred.
Here’s how to find a Cocker Spaniel breeder near you:
- Decide if you want a breeder near you and/or if you are willing to drive or fly to a breeder.
- Ask fellow trusted Cocker Spaniel friends and family who they used and if they can refer you.
- Type ‘Cocker Spaniel breeder’ into Facebook search and check off ‘PAGES.’ This does not guarantee a reputable breeder, but gives you a jump start for ideas. You will also see rescue groups in this search as well. Start making a list and see if your Cocker Spaniel Facebook friends follow any of the breeders and can offer feedback.
- Visit the American Spaniel Club list of breeders. These breeders are in good standing with the American Spaniel Club. However, the Club does not guarantee the members’ services. Please read the information thoroughly on the webpage.
- Visit the AKC Marketplace, which lists puppies from AKC-registered litters. Perform due diligence on any of the breeders you select from this list. There are no guarantees, but you can search by breed and location.
- Check for Breeders of Merit on the AKC website. The breeder where I purchased my recent Cocker Spaniel puppy is a breeder of merit.
- Do not work with online puppy brokers, which are puppy mills in disguise. These websites look gorgeous and may entice you into thinking they are reputable breeders. Sadly, online puppy brokers place profit over puppies well-being.
- For those interested in English Cocker Spaniels, visit the official ECS website for more information.
Here’s a true story from a reputable Cocker Spaniel breeder, whose name is removed for privacy:
“I received a disturbing email from someone who purchased a Cocker Spaniel puppy over the holidays (not from me).
The puppy apparently has some “resource guarding” issues and sadly bit their toddler child in the face, just missing her eye. She wanted my advice on what to do. I told her she needed to reach out to her breeder.
She told me she did but that they have not returned her calls. She told me the “breeder’s” name (who I know is NOT a breeder but a clever online puppy broker). She said they researched Cocker Spaniels and thought after having another breed, this would be a good match.
I had to explain to her that her research on the breed wasn’t the problem, but her choice of going to a broker who hawks puppies with no regard for where they come from (puppy mills), how they are raised, not health tested, and no socialization, is the problem. I feel like a broken record sometimes.
P.S. I popped onto this broker’s website, and the cocker puppies are so sad-looking, they are the farthest from what a cocker should look like. Just makes me sad.”
Pro Tip: Get to know your breeder. Prior to bringing my third Cocker Spaniel into my life, I got to know the breeder. I talked to her, met her at a dog show, engaged with her on social media, and I felt really comfortable and excited to put in an application for a puppy. I had to wait a few months until a litter was available to see if I would get a puppy. THESE are all signs of a reputable, caring dog breeder.
Signs of A Good Dog Breeder
A good dog breeder will screen you as much as you screen them, maybe even more. A good dog breeder will welcome your questions and not take offense to things you ask.
- Does not have puppies available all the time. They will keep a list of potential adopters for future litters.
- The breeder will ask you a ton of questions and want references, too. They will want to meet you, if possible, and/or talk on the phone once or twice. (heads up: breeders look on social media, so remember your digital pawprint follows you everywhere).
- They won’t be breeding a ton of different dogs. Sometimes a reputable breeder may breed two types of dogs. However, they won’t have several breeds available at any given time.
- They won’t allow puppies to be released until at least nine weeks of age.
- They will provide you with complete health records.
- Keeps the dogs and puppies in a clean environment with plenty of room to walk, exercise, access to clean water, and interaction with a variety of stimulus.
- Allows you to meet the birth mother and will share the family line with you.
- Does health screening and shares those results.
- Will provide references from previous adopters.
- Gives you a contract that explains the adoption and the requirements of both parties.
- Does not sell dogs online to people they’ve never met/screened, to pet stores, or in any other unscrupulous manner.
- Allows you to visit your puppy several weeks after birth (with appointment) if possible.
- Provides guidance and answers your questions even after adoption.
- Does not require a certain veterinarian; they can recommend but not require.
- Does not require you to breed the dog. Run far away from this breeder if they put that in the contract. Quality dog breeders will adopt out puppies to pet homes while others will stay with them and/or be in the show ring.
- Most quality breeders require you to spay or neuter the puppy at the appropriate age.
- Will not guarantee perfect health. They are not psychics and cannot foresee the future. They should monitor their lines and genetic diseases.
- Will not guarantee show quality. A dog might have show potential and reputable breeders can spot this, but they cannot foresee the future.
- Will give you copies of vaccinations and veterinary visits prior to releasing the puppy to your care. Most good breeders require your own veterinarian examine the puppy within three to five days after adoption.
- A good Cocker breeder will help you choose the best puppy for you. This is based on personality, your lifestyle, and what pup is the best match.
Questions To Ask A Cocker Spaniel Breeder
When you reach out to a Cocker Spaniel breeder, be polite and respectful. Kindness will get you far. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Here are some things you should ask the breeder:
- Can I meet the parents?
- Have health test been performed on the parents and if so, which ones?
- How long have you been breeding and what is your experience with the breed?
- How do you socialize your puppies? Are they with the mom and littermates frequently?
- Will you provide a health guarantee and contract?
- If approved, when am I allowed to take the puppy home?
- Will the puppy see a veterinarian and have the first round of shots before I take him home?
- Can I choose if I want a female or male?
- Who will select the puppy I want? Can I have input as to which one?
- When will you tell me if I am approved for a puppy?
- Can I stay in touch and contact you after I take ownership of the puppy?
- What questions do you have for me?
- Do you have references/can I contact other pet parents you’ve adopted out to?
- What will the puppy be eating on release?
- In addition to the puppy, what else comes with the sale? (i.e. medical records, receipts, pedigree info, etc)
- Can I see the health records of the parents?
- Will you send me pictures after the puppy is born and/or do you have a webcam where I can watch the puppy?
BONUS: Here’s how to tell if a Cocker Spaniel For Sale site is a scam or legitimate.
Do Cocker Spaniel Breeders Sell Adult Dogs?
Sometimes, reputable breeders will have adult dogs for sale. A breeder may have a retired champion she would like to place or a female Cocker who had a litter or two and will no longer be bred.
I know many people who have adopted adult dogs from good breeders. Adult dogs are past the puppy stage and you will know their temperament and personality.
If an adult dog is something you are interested in, ask your Cocker Spaniel prospective breeder about this and if any older dogs are available.
What Are Cocker Spaniels Bred For?
Cockers were originally bred to hunt birds. It always helps to know what the function of a dog is before making a lifetime commitment. The bird they originally hunted is the woodcock, hence the name Cocker Spaniel.
The English Cocker Spaniel was bred to hunt, search, flush, and retrieve upland game birds.
Cockers are energetic, playful, spunky, but very sensitive. They are not a breed that takes well to being yelled at or scolded. They are a compact dog in a fluffy body who loves playing, walking, and bonding with their owners.
Cocker Spaniels thrive in an environment where they are not left alone for long periods of time. Sharing life with a Cocker Spaniel is a privilege, so be the best version of yourself. Provide her with love, companionship, veterinary care, a healthy diet, exercise, and training.
How To Decide If A Cocker Spaniel Is Best For You
A Cocker Spaniel is not a beginner breed. They require a lot of time, attention, grooming, and have their fair share of health issues.
To help you make a more informed decision, here are some of our articles to guide you: