Some time ago I wrote an enthusiastic post about wockers and why everybody should get one. Since the popularity of the breed in agility seems to be on the rise, I feel like I need to expand a little bit.
I still am totally in love with my own working cocker and still think that generally speaking the breed is a joy to live and to train with. However, before you jump into buying a working cocker (or any other breed for that matter), stop for a while.
First of all, well, that might sound obvious, but think if you actually like the breed for what it is for 24 hrs a day. Agility or any other performance sport is just a little part of your journey together and for the rest of the time you'll have to live with a breed with strong hunting instinct, high energy and excitability and yet tendency to be rather soft and shutting down under pressure. Best if you like the looks, the size and the character of the breed, especially that well, we might plan all we want, yet sometimes things go their own way. I admire some border collies in agility - with the right handler and trainer they come to the absolute top of the discipline and are as close to perfection as possible. Yet having met many BCs I know it's not a breed for me, not a breed that I would enjoy on everyday basis, not a breed that would pull on my heart strings. As hard as it is for me to understand, you might be a person that doesn't feel any particular personal sympathy for wockers or Pyrsheps, even though I couldn't imagine my life without them.
Second of all, find a reputable breeder. Whenever a breed becomes popular, some people think it's an easy money and would breed without proper respect to the dogs and breed's welfare in mind. Don't choose a breeder solely on basis that this or that animal that comes from this kennel is succesful in agility, as this stems from many factors.
What a breeder can (and should) do:
- answer questions about dog's lines and pedigrees, provide factual information concerning those matters,
- show you the health results of the parents. In working cockers, genetic tests are available for several serious conditions, including prcdPRA, FN, AMS. In addition, it is recommended that the parents are also tested for slipping patellas, ED and HD as well as eye diseases (ECVO certificate) and heart conditions
- answer honestly questions about breed's characteristics, including problems that might occur,
- welcome you into their home, showing where and in what conditions all their dogs live and how their puppies are raised. Of course, it you're buying puppy from abroad, you might not be able to visit, but it shouldn't be a problem for the breeder nowadays to send you pictures and videos regularly,
- discuss with you openly and upfront the legal agreements concerning your puppy. Things like price, details of purchase contract, co-ownership etc. should be discussed before you pay any kind of advance and should never change later,
- give you full documentation of all the above (health checks, pedigree, contract in writing etc.).
What a breeder shouldn't do (or can't possibly) do:
- guarantee 100% that the puppy will remain competely healthy and of sound temperament. Genetics is a bitch and you need not only knowledge but also huge amount of luck, especially that while we know some things are hereditary, we don't really know how they are inherited. If the breeder claims they have never bred an animal with health or temperament issues, they are either not breeding for a long time or lying. This is not to say the breeder should "wash their hands" from any responsibility, health testing of the parents and proper way of rising the puppies go a long way to ensure healthy dogs, but noone can control everything.
- ensure the size of the puppy as an adult. Working cockers are usually medium for agility, sometimes they happen to be in small, but this is not a rule, and while there are smaller lines, noone can predict the exact size of the adult dog (same as with Pyrsheps by the way). You get small wockers out of medium parents and vice versa. Find out the healthy range of height and weight in puppies of certain age, having in mind that it can vary a lot - still, a puppy wocker should not be the size of puppy Great Dane or a chihuahua. For instance, Mojo was over 3 kg and 22 cm as a healthy, happy and plump 8 weeks old puppy and she is just over 8 kg and 34 cm as an adult, being on the smaller side of the breed. Also, size should never be the main objective of the breeding and should never come before health, good structure and sound temperament.
- the breeder cannot sell legally puppies less than 8 weeks of age by rules of most national cynological organisations,
- the breeder cannot guarantee that the puppy will become succesful agility dog. That again depends on many conditions and mainly, but not solely, you.
What you as a buyer should do:
- ask questions. Reputable breeder has nothing to hide and will answer.
- educate yourself. Thanks to the internet and social media it's easy nowadays to find owners of particular breed, ask their opinion, ask them to tell you about their dog, ask if they would recommend the breeder of that dog (and WHY). Of course, noone is liked by everybody, and what suits one individual, doesn't necessarily suit another. Hence, don't stop on just one opinion, whether enthusiastic or otherwise, but try to find more.
- don't rush into any decisions. Take your time. Think. Sleep on it. Be critical.
Picture of Mojo, because she is perfect 💚💙💛💜💗.