West of England Cocker Club

How To Find A Reputable Breeder

It can be very difficult for people looking to buy a Cocker puppy to know where to find a reputable breeder. Cockers are hugely popular which has meant there are many breeders who produce puppies purely for financial gain – they have little interest in the health & temperament of their puppies & will not be willing or able to provide any after sales help or advice. Distinguishing this type of breeder from the caring, responsible breeder who does everything possible to breed happy, healthy puppies is not always easy. Here are a few pointers which will hopefully help would-be buyers avoid the common pitfalls:

Reputable Breeders Do…

  • Have a longstanding, serious interest in Cocker Spaniels - they often take part in activities with their dogs such as showing, field trials (in the case of Working Cockers), agility, obedience training etc. Most reputable breeders will be a member of a least one Breed Club, such as The Cocker Spaniel Club (the parent Club for Cocker Spaniels) as well as other regional Breed Clubs.
  • Try to ensure that any puppies they breed go only to the most suitable homes. They will ask as many questions of you as you should be asking of them. If a breeder does not ask you any questions at all, ask yourself why they apparently don't care what sort of homes their puppies go to? Commonly asked questions relate to how long a puppy would be left alone during the day, whether the would-be buyer has children & how old they are, what sort of home & garden the buyer has etc.
  • Understand that breeding & rearing a litter of puppies with care takes enormous effort & commitment & therefore only have a few litters a year which will be carefully planned with health & temperament as top priorities. They will make every effort to ensure that puppies are well socialised before they leave for new homes (something that is impossible to do if the breeder has numerous litters at the same time)
  • Willingly offer advice on the breed to potential buyers (even if they do not have a litter) & will honestly discuss the breed's requirements (e.g. grooming) & the few hereditary problems that are known to occasionally occur in the breed (e.g. the eye condition, GPRA & the fatal kidney disease, Familial Nephropathy) They will explain what steps they take to avoid these hereditary problems e.g. annual eye-testing and DNA gene testing of dogs used for breeding and will also be able to show buyers certificates as proof of their health testing program. Please note that basic health checks by an ordinary vet in general practice are NOT what is meant by heath testing for hereditary conditions. Check out www.thecockerspanielclub.co.uk/health.htm for more information on known hereditary problems and the tests currently available to breeders.
  • Provide back-up help & advice on a long-term basis to their puppy buyers. They will also make clear that if the owner of one of their puppies is unable to keep the dog for any reason, then they will take back that dog & find it a new home where possible.
  • Provide puppy buyers with all the necessary paperwork at the time the puppy is collected. This will include a copy of the pedigree, a diet sheet, worming certificate & the Kennel Club Registration Certificate. Many will also provide comprehensive information on grooming, training etc. It is also common practice to provide free insurance for the puppy for a minimum period of 6 weeks (depending on the insurance company preferred by the breeder)
  • Encourage potential puppy buyers to meet their dogs, including "Mum", all the puppies in the litter & possibly other relatives too. If all the breeders' dogs seem happy & pleased to "meet & greet" visitors, then this is a good indication that a puppy from this breeder will have a happy, outgoing temperament.

Reputable Breeders Do Not......

  • Sell puppies under the age of 8 weeks. NB: Selling puppies before this age is actually against the law if the breeder is licenced (ie breeds commercially).
  • Breed puppies purely for financial gain as a business
  • Sell to agents/dealers/pet shops or sell to buyers they have not met personally and screened for suitability
  • Have more than one or two litters at the same time or advertise multiple litters from a wide variety of popular breeds (those who do are clearly commercial breeders or dealers)
  • Offer to deliver puppies to buyers (unless in exceptional circumstances) or offer to meet potential buyers in locations such as motorway service stations. Puppy farmers often use these tactics to prevent buyers from seeing the conditions in which puppies have been born
  • Charge buyers extra if they want a puppy with KC registration
  • Sell puppies without KC Registration unless this is clearly explained to the buyer at the time of sale
  • Register puppies with commercial registries such as The Dog Lovers Registration Club (DLRC) which sell registration certificates based solely on information supplied by the breeder/owner. DLRC papers are considered to be worthless by many as there is no verification of pedigree information supplied by breeders. It is perfectly possible for someone to register a litter of cross-breeds as "Cocker Spaniels" with the DLRC, using a completely fictitious "pedigree".
  • Claim the breed has no hereditary problems - every breed generally has at least one or two. Good breeders also will not say they don't need to test their dogs for hereditary problems because they know their dogs are all problem free - no breeder can ever claim that!
  • Go for the "hard sell" approach & try to persuade enquirers to buy one of their puppies as quickly as possible, "before they all go!"
  • Advertise puppies in free-ad papers/publications or on their equivalent websites. Puppy farmers/dealers frequently advertise in such papers whereas reputable breeders rely more on word of mouth & recommendations from other breeders or Breed Clubs

What is a Puppy Farmer?
“Puppy Farmer” is a derogatory term used to describe breeders who produce large numbers of puppies purely for commercial gain - such breeders pay little regard to the health or temperament of their puppies & they will sell a pup to whoever wants one, no questions asked. Many of these pups are taken away from their mothers at an early age & are transported long distances to be placed on sale in pet shops & puppy supermarkets - these pups often have health problems & sadly may have poor temperaments due to bad breeding and/or lack of socialisation Some of these breeders operate outside the law & keep their dogs in appalling conditions, breeding from bitches every season until they are worn out & then discarding them. Other large-scale commercial breeders operate from reasonably clean conditions, are licensed by their local authority & register their pups with the Kennel Club but can still be classed as “puppy farmers” as the aim is still to mass produce puppies for profit – there will be no health-screening for hereditary problems, puppies will be inadequately socialised & bitches will still be over-bred.

What is a Backyard Breeder?
This term covers those breeders with no serious interest in or knowledge of Cockers but who may own a bitch & decide that it would be nice to have a litter on the basis that it would be educational for the children or will help pay for the family holiday! If they happen to own a dog themselves, they will use him and if not, they will use the nearest, available dog. Often no research will have been carried out into whether the dogs’ pedigrees are compatible & there will be no knowledge of possible hereditary problems & very little awareness of how to rear puppies successfully. This can result in a nice, healthy litter (more by luck than good judgment!) but can also result in puppies with health/temperament problems. Sadly such breeders will lack the knowledge/experience to provide any after-sales help to their buyers.

General Guidelines

Remember that price is not everything. Puppies are not like household commodities where you can shop around for the "best deal". Reputable breeders do not sell their puppies cheaply & whilst it might be tempting to respond to an advert offering puppies at less than the "going rate", the puppy may not be such a bargain in the long run. On the other hand, a high asking price is not necessarily a guarantee of quality either!

Be patient. Reputable breeders do not have a constant supply of puppies & it may be that potential buyers will have to wait weeks, perhaps months for a suitable litter to be born. Mistakes are often made by buyers who will not wait … they want a puppy NOW & so will often rush out & buy in haste (perhaps ignoring the warning signs that the breeder is not reputable). Remember, you will hopefully have your Cocker for 10-15 years - what is a wait of a few months for the "right" puppy compared to this?

Never buy a puppy because you feel sorry for it, either because it appears shy & fearful or because you are unhappy with the conditions it is being reared in. This is a recipe for disaster - you could end up with a puppy with severe health & temperament problems (& you will be helping less reputable breeders stay in business)

How do I find a reputable breeder?

Cocker Breed Clubs such as the West of England Cocker Spaniel Club are often good places to start your search. The Secretaries of each Club should be able to recommend breeders who maybe have puppies available or who are expecting a litter. Contact details for all the regional Cocker Clubs can be found HERE

The Kennel Club has a Puppy Sales List, which is sent to enquirers & also appears on the Kennel Club website at http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk. This list contains details of breeders who have registered puppies recently. Please note that the KC does not vet breeders or guarantee that those who advertise on on this list are reputable - potential buyers should never assume a breeder is reputable without making their own checks.

NB: If you are interested in a unusual or "rare" colour, please read this leaflet from the Kennel Club first: Unusual Colours