All breeders of cocker spaniels should feel a responsibility for the future of the breed that they have chosen to use for their own enjoyment. One of their obvious goals is not only to improve their stock’s performance in conformation, obedience, or field endeavors but to improve the quality of their pet puppies. Too often little or no attention is paid to the elimination of hereditary defects, although this is changing in a positive manner.
As responsible breeders and members of the American Spaniel Club, we owe it to the cocker spaniel to make a serious effort to reduce the incidence of hereditary defects. We need to be aware of all the health problems within our breed. These guidelines cover only a few of the more common and more serous faults. At this time our Health Registry lists all flushing spaniels that are submitted and free of defects that we are able to validate by standardized testing. When planning a breeding we need to evaluate our stock not only for conformation, type, attitude, and temperament but also for health defects. Cockers with genetic traits, those that are painful or those that require lifelong treatment or surgery for survival, should not be bred. When considering breeding cockers with lesser faults, we need to give thought to what the dog can contribute to the breed. Are there enough assets to overcome the deficits?
One of the important contributions we can all make is to communicate honestly with one another. If a dog develops a defect, all purchasers of offspring that might be used for breeding, and, in the case of a stud dog, the owners of bitches bred to him should be notified. In so doing, other breeders are provided with the information they must have for their breeding programs. In this way, a major contribution towards the future of the breed will be made.
Finally, some may feel that the recommendations presented here are too restrictive. However, the incidence of hereditary defects has reached such proportions in cocker spaniels that only strict adherence to proven principles of genetic selection will reduce their frequency. By following these guidelines, increasing honest communications between breeders, and educating and guiding new breeders, we can reduce the incidence of these defects that threaten the future of the cocker spaniel.