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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok, here's the story. I have a husband and 2 kids ages 13 and 5. We just got our puppy last Wednesday. His name is Riley, he's 12 weeks old and he's a Cocker Spaniel. He is our first dog as adults. Neither my husband nor I have ever trained a dog before. I had no intention of getting a Cocker, but my husband found and fell in love with this dog and I was overruled. In the past week I have been the primary caretaker/trainer for this puppy and he has certainly wiggled his way into my heart.

Last night we took him to the vet for the first time and I don't think the woman had one good thing to say about him. Starting with, "this isn't the breed I would've chosen for a first time dog owner" and ending with "these dogs are notoriously difficult to train and are inclined to aggression." I was talking to my friend today who has a friend who is a trainer and she had much the same things to say about Cockers. Now I'm feeling very discouraged and scared that this dog is going to turn crazy and hurt somebody, but the thought of "giving" up on him and giving him to someone more experienced with dogs breaks my heart, not to mention what it would do to my kids.

I'm wondering if anyone can give me any advice or encouragement and maybe a happy Cocker story or two, I would so greatly appreciate it.
 

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I don't have any happy stories because I don't know much about Cockers firsthand, but in general I've heard the opposite from what you're hearing. That Cockers are good family dogs. Not really sure about the whole training thing but they are spaniels, bred to work in the field, so they will need a decent amount of exercise.

ANY dog can go bad - and it has to do with a combination of genetics and environment. Give your puppy the best possible chance to live a balanced life by socializing him out the wazoo, taking him to puppy classes, and just, in general, getting him used to the world around him. You've got the pup already, so to me, there's no going back. Go out and prove all the naysayers wrong. I bet you'll be just fine. :)

Out of curiosity - where did you get him?
 

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I'm sorry they said that to you. I have no knowledge about Cockers, but I have a Pug. Everyone and everything said they are the worst at housetraining, stubborn and difficult to train - even out trainer said this to my face!! The first vet I went to knew nothing about pugs and had some borderline nasty things to say about them. Never went back to him.

I had Chloe potty trained in a month (by 5 / 6 months old) and she did tricks in puppy class that no other breed could (even the notoriously "brilliant" lab puppy).

It's hard to train a puppy no matter what breed! I'll be completely honest and say I almost went insane doing it. But practicing the training daily and repeating it over and over worked for us. Not to mention yummy treats.

I guess my point is don't always believe what you read / hear. I was prepared for a year long potty training battle but once we got into a groove it was almost easy.

Good luck.:eek:
 

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I know many great cockers. A lot of it is how they are raised. Most of the "problem" ones are dogs who were raised by people who assumed cocker spaniels are easy dogs who need no training or socialization, that they just come nice. Get your pup into some good puppy classes, get him well socialized with people and treat him like a dog and you should be fine. One thing to be aware of is that they can have a seizure disorder sometimes called "spaniel rage". If the dog every randomly lashes out at you and seems disoriented take it to the vet, its a medical condition that can be controlled with seizure medications. They tend to respond well to clicker training and more positive training. The ones I have met would basically give their owner the middle finger when given a leash correction but were more than happy to work for them with more positive focused training.

For socialization you can take the pup to pet stores during slow times and bring a bag of treats. Just ask people to feed him a treat and move on. You don't want them to smother him as they may scare him and defeat what you are trying to accomplish. If he hasn't had his second set of shots yet keep him in a shopping cart, not walking around. When he is eagerly looking at new people and happy to see them (shouldn't take long) you can then let people give him a stroking or two on the head as they feed him treats (should be simultaneous treat giving and petting). Watch him for any signs of stress and if he is stressed go back to having people just feed him. Once he has had his second set of shots and can walk around do the same, but ask people to only do so if he is sitting or laying down, if he is jumping they should ignore him and walk away.

At home practice Nothing In Life Is Free. www.ddfl.org/behavior/nilif.pdf
Set boundaries and stick to them. If you are not in the mood to enforce your rules and/or make him work for what he wants then put him in a crate to give you some peace. If you want to pet him, or he wants to be petted, he must earn it by following a command (sit or down or roll over . . what ever you choose). To go outside he must do a command, before eating he must follow a command and wait until you tell him he can eat. If you allow him on furniture, he should only go up when given permission and after following a command. Sounds difficult but you get in the habit of asking for a sit or down or eye contact before doing things and it becomes second nature:)

basically, raise your spaniel like a dog, train him and socialize him and he will be a good pet.
 

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I have met my share of nasty Cockers but training is everything. no they are not the most "willing to please" breed but yes they can be trained. they are by no means one of the hardest breeds to train, I'd say they fall somewhere in the middle.

Enter this dog in some obedience classes and follow though with your training. Obedience training is the best way to avoid agression in a dog (second of course to it's breeding)
 

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It doesn't sound like you've had any bad experiances w/ him yet, just what others have said?

Who cares what they say or think, instead focus on what you know which is based on your time with your new puppy. Dogs are individuals and your dog will turn out as well as you allow him to.

We just adopted a Staffordshire Terrier mix because I saw him and immediately fell in love with him. If I were to listen to what everyone says about vicious "bully" breeds than I certainly couldn't trust him w/ our 3 year old. Fortunately for me, most people know less than they think and my bully is about a good of a dog as you could ask for.
 

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I agree with melgrj7. I have know both wonderful cocker spaniels and cocker spaniels that are not so great. We had a really great cocker that use to come in to the clinic. Everyone just loved "Oliver" he was sweet and gentle. We could do just about anything with him and he would just sit there. Others that were not socialized and allowed to "rule the house" were just terrible to work with. But that is with any breed of dog. Here's a link to a forum strictly for cocker spaniel lovers.
http://www.zimfamilycockers.com/Forums/
 

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American Cocker Spaniels were as common as dog fleas when I was growing up. I am not a big fan of the breed, but I have met a few that were pretty cool dogs. There has been a lot of bad breeding over the years, but I don't know whether obnoxious ACSs are mainly the result of bad breeding, or poor socialization/non-existent training.

You love the puppy so operate on the assumption that the breed just needs more socialization and training than most others. A bad breed rep is not a guarantee of failure.
 

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Well I have no factual evidence though I agree with the previous posters. But anecdotally I stayed with a family last summer who had a Cocker Spaniel and she was a delightful little dog. Very sweet, friendly and just generally good-natured. I think your dog will be fine with normal obedience training and I think your vet and trainer are jerks for saying that kind of stuff to you. I hope you keep your puppy and everything works out well. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I don't have any happy stories because I don't know much about Cockers firsthand, but in general I've heard the opposite from what you're hearing. That Cockers are good family dogs. Not really sure about the whole training thing but they are spaniels, bred to work in the field, so they will need a decent amount of exercise.

ANY dog can go bad - and it has to do with a combination of genetics and environment. Give your puppy the best possible chance to live a balanced life by socializing him out the wazoo, taking him to puppy classes, and just, in general, getting him used to the world around him. You've got the pup already, so to me, there's no going back. Go out and prove all the naysayers wrong. I bet you'll be just fine. :)

Out of curiosity - where did you get him?
He is very sweet most of the time, but he has a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. All day long he is a lovey and cuddly ball of fur, but when my son (5yo) gets home from school he tends to get a little hyper and nippy. I think it may be a dominance thing because James is the smallest and the closest to the size of the puppy. I'm trying to teach BOTH of them to play nice because I don't want James to think it's ok to be rough with him. That, I think, is just a dog bite waiting to happen. When he's nippy we do the "ow" thing and then ignore him and not play with him. It hasn't been long, so whether or not that is going to work is still up in the air.

I just feel very overwhelmed at this point between trying to housebreak him and "train" both him and my son at the same time, and these not so kind words from the vet didn't help AT ALL.

We got him from a family who's dog is Riley's momma. They had posters up to get rid of them, my sister in law and husband saw the posters and the rest as they say is history. :)
 

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I adopted a 10 year old cocker a few years ago and had her for two years. She was the sweetest little dog with a heart of gold. She had not been raised with children but was very good with m grand kids and my cats and other dogs.I would get another one in a heartbeat.
 

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I own a cocker spaniel and grew up with a cocker mix so I have some experience with them. At one time they were #1 on the list of most owned breeds (they've since been passed by the lab and several others). They're not known to be an aggressive breed to my knowledge. They're gun dogs so they're instincts lead them toward flushing and retrieving. Neither of these characteristics lend themselves towards dog aggression or animal aggression IMO. My cocker loves to chase cats, but he's hardly the only dog guilty of this and I don't think he's trying to attack the cat. I think if the cat stood it's ground and swatted him that he would never chase them again.

In my experience cocker spaniels make the worst guard dogs on the planet because they think everyone is their friend and that everyone lives just to scratch their ears. I have had Zero (my cocker spaniel who's a year and a half) growl at a crazy guy who was off his meds and screaming profanities in the street. Our dog we had when I was kid once bit the meter lady because she dared to come into the fence when we kids were outside. Aside from this, I've never seen either of them exhibit anything but affection towards people.

As for training, I've found them to be very trainable dogs. Remember that cockers are gun dogs. A well bred cocker is bred to work with humans and follow their cues and commands (unlike other breeds like hounds or even some herding dogs). I'm told that cockers exposed to harsh methods tend to shut down. I wouldn't know that from experience as I try to use the least harsh methods first and have never had to use harsh methods on Zero.

He is very sweet most of the time, but he has a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. All day long he is a lovey and cuddly ball of fur, but when my son (5yo) gets home from school he tends to get a little hyper and nippy. I think it may be a dominance thing because James is the smallest and the closest to the size of the puppy. I'm trying to teach BOTH of them to play nice because I don't want James to think it's ok to be rough with him. That, I think, is just a dog bite waiting to happen. When he's nippy we do the "ow" thing and then ignore him and not play with him. It hasn't been long, so whether or not that is going to work is still up in the air.
The whole dominance thing is so overplayed it's ridiculous. I would guess that 99% of the people who attribute a problem to dominance don't have a dominance issue at all. Cockers can be a high energy breed and there's no such thing as a low energy puppy. He's just playing and virtually all pups are nippy until they're taught otherwise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
One thing to be aware of is that they can have a seizure disorder sometimes called "spaniel rage".

I have read about this and the thought is frightening, but at the same time I have such a hard time imagining this sweet little puppy turning on me.

If you want to pet him, or he wants to be petted, he must earn it by following a command (sit or down or roll over . . what ever you choose). To go outside he must do a command, before eating he must follow a command and wait until you tell him he can eat. If you allow him on furniture, he should only go up when given permission and after following a command. Sounds difficult but you get in the habit of asking for a sit or down or eye contact before doing things and it becomes second nature:)

I actually do this already. I make him sit (as that's the only thing he will do consistantly when I tell him to at this point) before I put his leash on or take it off and before I put his food bowl down. I didn't know I was supposed to, I just thought it was a good idea.

basically, raise your spaniel like a dog, train him and socialize him and he will be a good pet.
Thank you!
 

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1. Get a different vet!

2. Get a different trainer!!!!

Your pup is 12 weeks old, get it into a god Puppy K, it will make all the difference in the world in how the dog behaves along with socialization (exposed to 100 things in a hundred days)

Start teaching manners with these exercises remember, short (5-10 minute) frequent (4-5 times a day) sessions and keep it fun, pups learn best when it's a game.
Rev Up/Cool Down
The Bite Stops Here
Doggy Zen
Targeting AKA "Touch"
Greeting Politely at the door
NILIF (nothing in life is free)
Loose Leash Walking Using Positive Reinforcers
 

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i'm sorry to say that i have known 4 Cockers in my life....3 of them were quite nasty (the 4th was mine after 6 mo)....that being said, however, the families of the 3 were probably the worst people to even own a stuffed dog let alone a real one....the one i owned was headed down the same road till i got her....that ended real quick, and she became a sweetheart, even w/ my son.....

all i can say is TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN the way you want this pup to be, but make it positive and fun......
 

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I would disregard what these people have said to you, get a new vet, and try not to worry. Get your pup enrolled in a training class and remember that hyperness and nippiness is a common puppy thing and not a sign that your dog is going to have any issues later in life. I personally like cockers alot, my previous dog was a spaniel mix and was great with kids, and I love the breed. I have heard stories about nasty cockers, but they were a hugely popular breed at a point in time...70's??, 80's???...and suffered from bad breeding, like alot of popular breeds do. As far as the rage syndrome, I was under the impression that that was strictly a springer spaniel thing??
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The whole dominance thing is so overplayed it's ridiculous. I would guess that 99% of the people who attribute a problem to dominance don't have a dominance issue at all. Cockers can be a high energy breed and there's no such thing as a low energy puppy. He's just playing and virtually all pups are nippy until they're taught otherwise.
I will have to defer to your experience on that one because, as I have said, I have none. However, James is the only person he has attempted to mount also.

Please understand, I have been online for what seems like 8 straight days researching Cocker Spaniels and housebreaking and dog training and vets and grooming and obedience classes and so on and so on and so on. As I'm sure you know, there are about 234,456,234,3254,567,345 differing opinions about EVERYTHING available at the click of the mouse. My head is practically spinning trying to decipher all the information that has been soaked into in the the last week or so. I'm just trying to take what seems to make sense to me and work with it.

Thank you for sharing your experience by the way. I, as foolish as it may seem, have been in tears worrying over this. I feel like a nervous new mother who has no idea what to do with her newborn baby.
 

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I found a stray Cocker a few years ago. He was a neat little dog. He knew basic obedience and was just a fun little dog to be around.

However, he was EXTREMELY aggressive toward strangers. I never attributed that to his breed however but probably it was how he was raised. I wouldn't hesitate to bring one home that's for sure. I think that they are pretty cool dogs.

Really as with any breed they need to be socialized heavily. I'd work on that first and foremost and look into the links that Carla posted.

It sounds like what your feeling is pretty normal. Many people get a little overwhelmed when they bring their puppies home. Really its all about common sense. The most important things you need to worry about are socialization, NILIF and starting to teach basic commands. Everything else will fall into place with those building blocks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
i'm sorry to say that i have known 4 Cockers in my life....3 of them were quite nasty (the 4th was mine after 6 mo)....that being said, however, the families of the 3 were probably the worst people to even own a stuffed dog let alone a real one....the one i owned was headed down the same road till i got her....that ended real quick, and she became a sweetheart, even w/ my son.....

all i can say is TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN the way you want this pup to be, but make it positive and fun......
Thank you. Admittedly, it's not what I wanted to hear, but probably something I needed to hear. I don't want to have my head in the clouds and think everything's gonna be okay and go merrily on my way. I really do want to do right by the puppy, and knowing what could happen is important in knowing what I need to do.

I fully intend to send him to obedience class, but the vet also said he was still a little young. Is that true, or should I enroll him ASAP?
 

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I'm sorry that this was an all of a sudden thing and that it wasnt a decision that the WHOLE family agreed on... the way it should be. But whats done is done and now it is up to you to train this puppy to the fullest to be all that it can be.

Consistency and persistence is always key with training any puppy or dog.

As for my experience with Cocker Spaniels, I have never met a sound wonderful Cocker in my life. I've had a bad experience with one first hand, and my boyfriend has a nice sized scar on his face because of a childhood Cocker Spaniel. So I'm sorry that I cannot give any good experiences.

But I also havent met a sound Golden Retriever, or Lab, or many other "Loved popular breeds"... why? Because ALOT of people cannot handle the training and energy that most popular breeds have... and that energy turns into behavior that is very unwanted. Bad breeding and over breeding of those breeds also have alot to do with it.

So all I can say is, get a better trainer... and Vet... the way CShellenberger stated and it is up to you and your family to work hard and be consistent with training this puppy. Whats done is done... and you will get alot of good advice and help on this forum too.

As for him being young... start training at home... basic commands, sit, stay, lie down... and so on. He needs to have all his puppy shots before he can get into training classes.

Good Luck!
Nessa
 
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