Your average English cocker is but as even tempered, amiable, affectionate, loyal and loving as you can ever hope it would be. The ideal cuddle machine, a cocker is most pleased when it is engaged in the act of pleasing you. Never will you get another living thing as devoted to the cause of making you happy as a cocker spaniel, no matter how harshly you treat it, although aggression stemming from such harsh treatment might find a way of showing itself in its manners in other ways. It goes without saying that in a world where the subtler emotions of life are beginning to get lesser and lesser importance by the day, such unconditional love is a thing to be prized by most people.
If you get yourself the pet when it is over one year old, that is, after it has already spent some time with an owner, you need to be careful the first couple of weeks as the dog remains miserable and might show aggression by chewing up everything within reach at having been separated from its previous owner. You need to be patient with it, show it that you will take care of it just well much as its previous owner and thereby gain its trust. This phase of adjustment lasts for only a few weeks if treated properly after which the dog learns to redirect its affections towards you, although its love for its first master never really fades away.
Young cockers are playful, and are wonderful companions for kids in the house. They are trainable, and love to chase balls and sticks around the place and bring them back to you. Toilet training takes some time and some amount of harshness is necessary to make the dog understand the difference between right and wrong. This can be done through the process of classical conditioning, where the dog is rewarded with a treat for doing the right thing and punished for getting it wrong. They easily blend into your family and are affectionate to everyone. However, they reserve their best behavior and harbor the most fondness for the principal care-giver, that is, the person who feeds and grooms it. They like being pampered and you wouldn’t be surprised to wake up in the morning and find your dog sleeping peacefully and snugly beside you on your pillow.
Cockers have a lovely coat of long, shiny fur which needs to be brushed and combed regularly to keep it free from tangles and dirt. As its ears hang down like two ponytails on either side of its head, the inner ear gets very little ventilation and hence, it is necessary to clean it with spirits and ointments(as prescribed by the vet)at least twice a week. Failing this, they incur infections which later may lead to loss of hearing or prove fatal to their health. Cockers are also prone to eye infections and cataract formations. The eyes should be daily cleansed of mucus with a piece of moist cotton wool to prevent this from happening. Cataract operations are risky at older ages and should be undertaken if and only if the vet is a certified expert in this field.
Female dogs require more attention with respect to health, especially during their mating season. During this time, they remain irritable and a bit aggressive. Instead of losing patience and getting angry at the mess they create, it helps to find them a proper mate and keeping the house as clean as possible until the mating season is over. If your cocker gets pregnant, take extra care to keep her out of harm’s way. The gestation period lasts for about two months on an average at the end of which she should be kept under the supervision of an experienced vet. A cocker’s litter comprises 6 puppies on an average. The mother is, not surprisingly, very protective of her children, especially if any of them happens to die during the process of her giving birth. The mother may even try to take her children away and hide them from her owner in trying to protect them from further harm. It is very important to keep the kennel clean and hygienic during this time to prevent the puppies from attracting germs and infections. Also, they should be fed on the mother’s breast milk for at least 2 to 2 and a half months after which they may move on to cereals.
Cockers are native to colder, temperate countries and hence, while bringing them up in tropical regions, it should be kept in mind that they need to release as much heat as possible from their system. Their diet should be light, rich in protein and low on fat as they gain weight easily. Biscuits in the morning and a heavy lunch comprising boiled chicken and rice works fine in the Indian climate. At night it can be given a couple of chapattis for dinner. Care should be taken, however, to prevent it from eating anything harmful, especially chocolates, even if it seems to enjoy them. This sometimes becomes difficult as cockers seem overly enthusiastic in tasting everything their owners eat and proper training needs to be imparted to rid them of this bad habit.
A cocker is a joy to its owner in more than one way, but one cannot expect to reap such joy out of nothing. So, take care, keep loving and being loved!