I waited years to find the perfect match in Cooper, who I adopted through a breeder. I know that’s not the decision everyone would make, but it’s always how I’ve gotten my dogs, and there are many reasons why it’s been the right choice for me.
Cooper was born on April 4, 2018, and I got him in July 2018. He’s an English Cocker Spaniel, a breed that for my family dates back to my grandmother, who had them. I grew up with them, so I have a particular affinity for them. I had one of my own previously, but he died about five years ago. I wanted to get another one, but I wanted a different color this time. The first dog was red, and Cooper is a tricolor, so I already had something specific in mind.
It’s not that easy to find an English Cocker Spaniel. They aren’t widely bred in the United States, which is why I flew across the country from California to Maryland to meet and adopt Cooper. I also traveled a long distance for Bailey, my previous dog, for the same reason.
What I wanted in a dog
Courtesy Susan Wesley
Aside from wanting a certain appearance, I also had specific criteria for a dog’s temperament. I wanted a calm dog—you know, kind of like a stoner dog. And that’s exactly what I got. People can walk up to Cooper and he doesn’t shy away. If somebody comes to the door, he doesn’t bark; he just looks at them, like, “OK.” If he knows them, though, he goes nuts—in a good way—because he loves people. He’s just a well-adjusted dog. He doesn’t freak out. He doesn’t whine or cry, and he’s also crate trained. The breeder crate-trained him, actually.
The reason I would never get a shelter dog is that I would never get a dog that I hadn’t trained from a puppy, because people screw them up. A lot of times you don’t know for a little while if something is wrong with them because they kind of mask it, but eventually it all starts coming out.
The vetting process
Courtesy Susan Wesley
My breeder was recommended to me by another trusted breeder. I also went to dog shows and hung around other people who were showing this breed. I talked to as many people as possible, and I did that for a year and a half. I wasn’t in a big hurry to get a dog, like, “Oh, I’ve got to get a dog now!” I just wanted to get the right dog with the right temperament. To do that, you really have to be around the breeders and around the people who show and ask if they know the parents of this litter that’s coming up and ask what they are like. It’s really important to vet the parents of the litter because some of those traits carry on.
I didn’t particularly want a dog that was a big barker. My last one barked at all kinds of stupid things, and it drove me nuts. I couldn’t relax and sit out in the yard because he’d be barking at everything that went by, so that was one of the things I asked: How are the parents—are they bark-y?
For those who choose not to go through a breeder, be aware of the 13 biggest mistakes people make when adopting a shelter dog.
Making sure I’d be a good pet parent, too
Once I decided on the breeder, she had quite an application for me to fill out. I would say it was probably three pages long! I filled out all of the questions, and she proceeded to call friends about me and talk to the other breeder before she would allow me to have this dog.
In the application, the breeder wanted to know the following: if there was another dog in the house, who lived in the household (including children), list any other animals at the residence, and other details. She wanted to know how much attention the little dog was going to get, what my schedule was like, how I’d deal with the dog when I was gone, and how much I exercised. I appreciated the thoroughness and her making sure the dog would be going to a good home.
Courtesy Susan Wesley
The final part of this whole process entailed flying to Maryland from California to meet the breeder and, of course, to meet Cooper. She even came and picked me up at the airport, despite the fact that I didn’t know her at all. I also stayed one night with her. When she picked me up, we instantly got along, and I knew it was going to be just great.
When considering your options, learn the 14 red flags that show when a breeder isn’t trustworthy.
Good breeders stay in touch
When you work with a respectable and responsible breeder, the relationship doesn’t end once you’ve gotten your dog. My breeder wants her dogs’ owners to send her pictures throughout their lives. She genuinely wants to know how they’re doing. Plus, if at any time you can’t keep that puppy for any reason, she’ll take it back. Even if it’s ten years old, she’ll take it back. If something happens, for example if you die, she’ll take the dog back. I think that’s amazing, and it also helps people have peace of mind.
Great advice, whenever I need it
Courtesy Susan Wesley
Having that open line of communication with a breeder is important because there are things that come up, such as: Does he really need all of these vaccines? Should I get this one? Should I not get that one? Sometimes you have a choice and sometimes you don’t, but she would say, “Get a rabies vaccine, but that should be the only vaccine you get that day—don’t pile up a couple of them at one time. And make sure that you give him vitamin C the week before and boost him up before he gets that big vaccine.”
When I came home with Cooper, I had a big three-ring binder with all kinds of health things, like when he should have his shots. It was beautiful the way she was so organized. It was all very well laid out, and she encouraged me to call for anything—and I did! Actually, we’ve become friends, which is really great.
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How it all turned out
Cooper is a love. He’s a really good dog, and he definitely has a personality. He likes to sniff everything and that could be a breed thing. I take him to the park, bring a ball, and put him on one of those retractable leads and he’d rather sniff than play with the ball. He’s a fun companion who studies everything I do. He also likes to watch TV! He’s enamored with anything that has a green background, like golf or football. He finds any living animal on TV quite interesting—especially, if the animal starts barking or gets excited.
Cooper has just been a joy. He’s a very sweet boy, and these types of dogs are very easy to train. He’s so good, and he tries very hard to understand. He is definitely the right dog for me.
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