Thursday, June 26, 2008

Breed Type

I have been re-reading the book Solving The Mysteries of Breed Type by Richard Beauchamp this last couple of weeks. This is a wonderful book which I really recommend to any serious breeder or person interested in breeding or judging in any breed. This book has really made me think in detail about breed type, especially what and why it is in English Cockers in particular. One main point in the book is that you must know the origins of a breed in order to really understand what and why the standard, which is the blueprint for breed type, was written the way it was. This has, of course, made me dig out my English Cocker jubilee books, which are a history of the English Cocker Spaniel in the US. I bought these books before I bred my first English Cocker litter and read them then, but I have been re-reading them now in a more thoughtful manner after reading Richard Beauchamp's book. I think, based on my reading, that many of the original English Cocker fanciers in the US would be pleased with many things about the breed in the US today and less pleased with other things such as the tremendous amount of coat that we grow on our show bred ECS now. I think that the essence of an English Cocker is found in these things: 1. Headpiece. 2. Short loin with good spring of rib. 3. As much bone as possible without being coarse. 4. Muscular body with sound movement and excellent reach and drive. 5. Cheerful, merry, tail-wagging temperament. There is much more written in our standard, of course, but it seems to me that this is what early breeders focused on and what must be focused on even now in order to get a truly good English Cocker. If you do not like to read you might enjoy attending one of our breed seminars. I have attended a couple of them and enjoyed them thoroughly. The ECSCA holds one at our National Specialty each year and generally at other shows as well. If you would like to attend one of these educational seminars, you might try contacting someone at www.ecsca.org to find out if one will be held near you. You can also order the Jubilee books and other good books through the ECSCA.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Tennis Ball Is Stuck In The Tree???

I thought this was so funny, I had to share with you. I threw the tennis ball in the yard yesterday and my dogs went running after it. When they got there, they could not find the ball.


They searched everywhere and Taffy and Jasmine decided the ball must have landed in the tree. I had plenty of time to run in to get the camera and they were still searching trying to find that ball when I came out.


The ball had not landed in the tree. It landed a foot away from my little Lexi-Lou who grabbed it and ran away as fast as she could (-:
Here is an article some of you may enjoy reading:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Choosing A Breed, Breeder and a Puppy

If you are looking for a puppy, whether for pet, show, or for performance, it can be a daunting process. There are so many things to think of. What breed should I choose? Which breeder? What color/sex? I find that many people look at one aspect of finding the right puppy, but do not consider everything they need to think about.

By far the most important step is choosing the right breed of dog for your lifestyle or family. English Cockers, and spaniels in general, are unique in their joy for life. They have certain things in common such as their need for grooming and their need to be with their owners as much of the time as possible. They are not a good choice for a family not willing to do some grooming. You can keep spaniel feathering quite short or keep it long, but either way will require regular grooming. English Cockers are not a good choice for a family looking for a low maintenance "backyard" dog that does not need a lot of attention. English Cockers love their families and want to be as close to you as possible, preferably in your lap! Most people look first for a breed that they find physically appealing, and that is a necessity as well, but after choosing some breeds you would consider, narrow your choices down by finding the breed or breeds that will be a good match in grooming requirements, personality, energy level, friendliness, etc. The dog that is a perfect match for you will not be the perfect match for everyone. English Cockers are the perfect match for Neil and I, but Neil's mom has Flat-Coated Retrievers, which we do not find especially appealing. Each person likes a different breed and that is okay!!

Once you have chosen the right breed of dog for your family, you will want to look for a breeder that is a good match for your family. You should, obviously, first look for a responsible breeder who is involved in the dog community. A responsible breeder will do health testing on their dogs, have a good understanding of the pedigrees of his/her dogs and will be involved in some type of dog activity. Breeders learn from each other, so if a breeder is not actively involved in the dog community, that breeder is not actively learning. Responsible breeders are working to preserve and improve their breed of dog, so they are always trying to learn more. Dog shows and dog activities are not only a place to exhibit your dogs, but they are also a place to meet with breeders, socialize, talk about pedigrees, see other dogs, and learn from each other!

Once you have found a few breeders within your breed that you feel are responsible, look for a particular breeder that is a good match for you and whose dogs are a good match for you. Some breeders will produce more laid back dogs, other more active dogs, some more intelligent, some easier to train, etc. Some breeders will worry more about how often you are in contact with them and others will not. I, personally, do not have the most laid back dogs within this breed as I want a sporty little spaniel that wants to do sporting dog things such as play fetch, swim, etc. I have the occasional couch potato, but most of my dogs are quite active while young. I also expect owners to stay in contact with me on at least a yearly basis. Obedience training is also important to me, as my cockers are quite intelligent and love to use their little brains. I love to see my pet owners teach their dogs tricks and take them to classes as it is a bonding experience between owner and dog. If you are a person looking for an intelligent puppy that you are willing to spend a lot of individual time with, then one of my puppies may be a good match for you. If not, you might be better off looking for a breeder who likes homes where their puppy gets to be a couch potato.

Once you have chosen a breeder, you are usually going to have a preference for a certain color or sex within your chosen breed. In English Cockers, there is an extremely wide variety of colors, so there are a lot of choices. Unfortunately, not every litter contains every color and the puppies available for pets may or may not be of the color or sex you would like. Even more than that, the puppy that is the color or sex you prefer, may not be a good match for what you would like in a puppy! In most litters, there are puppies that are more outgoing and less outgoing, more intelligent and less intelligent, more playful and less playful, higher and lower energy levels, etc. It is very important to realize that finding the right breeder and finding the right puppy for you should be more important than sex and color, unless you are willing to wait until the puppy with the right sex/color/personality becomes available. If you are very particular about finding a certain color/sex, it may take you longer to find a puppy that is a good match for your family. There is nothing wrong with being set on a particular sex/color if you are willing to take the time to find that puppy without settling for a less than responsible breeder.

If the breeder you are looking for a puppy from does not discuss your puppy as an individual with you before you take him/her home, I would be surprised. In my own puppies, I start to see distinct personality at around 6 weeks of age. I spend between the ages of 7-8 weeks choosing which puppies are show prospects and which puppies will go to pet homes. I also spend that week matching personality and activity levels of pet puppies with the right pet homes for them. Most responsible breeders do not tell a family which particular puppy they are getting from a litter until close to eight weeks of age, as most breeders are still not sure exactly which puppy they are keeping for themselves until then. If there are several blue roan boys or several red girls, etc, they may be able to tell you the color and sex, but not which exact puppy. If a breeder is letting you pick out a puppy from a photo at a few days of age, double check to make sure this breeder is a responsible breeder!!

When thinking about sex, make sure to consider personality of the particular puppy first. In English Cockers, males are generally sweeter and more loving than females, but I do think girls are smarter and easier to train in general. However, this DOES NOT hold true all the time. I have had some super smart male puppies that were extremely easy to train and I could see this at 8 weeks of age. I have also had some very sweet and loving girls that I felt were a perfect match for a family that I would previously have chosen to send a male puppy. I find that most families have a specific sex of puppy that they are looking for, but I personally would look for personality first and sex second.

Once you have chosen a breeder, be sure to take the time to visit the breeder and meet his/her dogs. Most breeders have a "family" of dogs and will have not only the dam, but some of her relatives so that you can get an idea of what the personalities of the puppies will be like. You should also see where the puppies will be raised and discuss how they will be socialized. Puppies should be raised in the hub of activity, not in a separate building. They need to be around household noises and be handled from an early age. I believe Birth-Sixteen weeks is a critical age for puppy development. The breeder will have your puppy for at least 8 of those weeks. If the breeder is willing to place a puppy with you at an age younger than eight weeks, be very careful as most responsible breeders do not send puppies home at younger than eight weeks of age.

I hope this helps you on your search for a canine member for your family! This is all just my opinion, of course, but that is what a blog is for!

Warmly,

Kelly