According to the American Kennel Club's website, cocker spaniels are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. They're intelligent and make great family pets. Overall, the breed is active, yet gentle. Although most cocker spaniels tend to share the same temperament, individual dogs' personalities vary, so it's important to learn how to pick the cocker spaniel that is right for you. There are several important steps to take to find the cocker spaniel that will eventually join your family.
List the qualities you want in your cocker spaniel. Decide if you want a calm dog that enjoys snuggling or a dog with boundless energy. Once you've decided what type of dog best suits your family, you're ready to begin your search.2
Find a reputable cocker spaniel breeder or rescue organization. You can visit the American Kennel Club's website to find a list of responsible breeders in your area. Rescue organizations also offer cocker spaniel adoptions. Adoption through a rescue organization is usually much less expensive than buying a dog from a breeder. However, many rescued dogs are fully grown, so if you're looking to adopt a puppy it may be difficult to find one through a rescue organization.3
Observe the litter of puppies. Watch each puppy to see how it behaves and interacts with its litter mates. According to The University of Perdue's Extension Service, you want to "observe its behavior and avoid extremes. Desirable characteristics include curiosity, playfulness and confidence. Undesirable characteristics include dominance, bullying, apathy, excessive barking and biting, and submissive urination." Careful observation will help you decide which puppy best fits the list of qualities you desire in a dog.4
Perform tests to assess the dog's personality. Purdue's Extension Service advises prospective owners to perform a few tests and observe how the puppy reacts, to help determine how it will behave as it ages. For example, The Extension Service recommends holding the puppy on its back in your lap while stroking its belly and talking to it. A normal dog will struggle at first and then become calmer, whereas a dominant dog will bark and bite, and a submissive dog will panic. Another test the Extension Service suggests is to hold the dog a few inches off the floor. A normal dog will struggle and then become calm, whereas a dominant dog will bite and bark, and a submissive dog will simply dangle.5
Buy food, toys, bowls, bedding, grooming supplies and bones to prepare for your new cocker spaniel. Thorough preparation enables you to enjoy your dog more, once you bring it home.