Cocker Spaniel puppies at 8 weeks of age are extremely cute and will drive you crazy! That sweet face, playful nature and puppy breath are irresistible. They alternate randomly between playing, eating, peeing, pooping, chewing and sleeping. Puppies will switch between these activities very suddenly and without warning. They will keep you on your toes!
What You Need to Begin
A small bag of national name brand, dry puppy food from the grocery store. Purina and Iams are good brands.
Small metal bowls for food and water. They don't need to be fancy because they will outgrow them. Any pet supply store will have them.
A plastic airline crate, approximately 28x21x21 inches. This is their place to sleep, at least in the beginning, and will help you with housebreaking. A raised wire floor is helpful.
A lightweight nylon leash. It's best to start early and they can't get away from you. Pet supply stores are good sources.
Paper towels. Stock up, because you're going to need them!
Vinegar and water mixed in a spray bottle to clean up. See paper towels ...
Plastic cleanup bags. Grocery bags and specialized bags from the pet supply store. See paper towels ...
A small bottle of puppy shampoo, a bath towel and a blow dryer. The shampoo is available at the grocery and pet supply stores.
Dog toys. Squeak toys, nylon bones and balls should be large enough that they can't swallow them. Pet supply stores will have lots of them.
Line up a veterinarian.
The First Few Weeks
You should take your puppy to your veterinarian as soon as possible. The first day is not too soon. Explain this is a new puppy and ask for a complete physical exam to determine if it has any evident health problems. Every minute you have that puppy, the more difficult it becomes to give it up in case there is a significant health problem.
Dogs thrive on a predictable routine. It is important to train your puppy on your normal routine, while accommodating their early physical limitations. They will try everything to make you adapt to their way. You need to be the adult and stand your ground, even when they try pitiful crying, woeful howling and annoying barking. Stand your ground or be prepared to suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives. YOU are the leader of the pack!
Feed your puppy twice a day, per the serving size recommendation on the food bag. Feed them after you get up in the morning and let them outside. Feed them again when you get home from work and let them outside. Make water available when they are outside of their crate. If your puppy is too messy with their food, you can feed them inside their crate and clean it up afterwards. They should be left alone to eat in peace.
Your puppy will likely need to relieve itself after eating, drinking and sleeping. Make it a habit to take them outside to a specific spot after they eat or drink or wake up to establish that spot as THE place to relieve themselves. Their bodies have very little capacity to "hold it". They have little to no control until they reach about 12 weeks of age. You should take them outside to their special spot at regular intervals to try to catch them as the need arises. Always praise them when they relieve themselves outside.
If you use puppy/pee pads inside, you are sending a message that it's okay to relieve yourself inside. Think long and hard about whether or not this is how you want your puppy to relieve itself for the next 10+ years.
They will have the need to relieve themselves in the middle of the night and while you are away and they are in their crate. If they cry in the middle of the night, take them outside but do not talk to or play with them. Otherwise, you are sending the message they can get attention by crying.
It's never too early to begin teaching your dog how you communicate. The most basic communications have to do with the difference between good behavior you want to encourage and bad behavior you want to discourage. Start with two phrases with a unique tone of voice for each one. Say something like "Good Dog, Fluffy" in a high-pitched voice and "Bad Dog, Fluffy" in a low-pitched voice. Reinforce the good dog message with lots of petting and hugging. Withhold touching immediately after the bad dog message. The pitch of your voice and the number of syllables is more important than the words. You want to make it easy for the dog to understand when they have done something good or something bad. Then you have to repeat it and be consistent. If chewing on the couch is bad then you have to give the bad dog message every time they do it. Otherwise, the dog will never learn if it's good or bad. Owners fail their dogs more often than dogs fail their owners.
Be clear about good versus bad.
Be firm and consistent.
Lavish praise when they do well.
Be patient while they learn.
The next level of training can be found at your local obedience club. They will teach you how to teach your dog, including some basic routines like sitting and heeling. You and your puppy would benefit from beginning puppy, Canine Good Citizen and Obedience classes. Not only will your dog behave better, you will get along better and develop a tremendous bond. It's one of the best things you can do with your dog!
An important part of a puppy's development is exposure to new people, places and situations. If they don't become accustomed to it at an early age, it is very difficult to fix it later. Invite people to visit and meet your puppy. Take your puppy to visit friends, providing they are okay with the possibility of your puppy having an accident on their floor. Take your puppy on walks where you will pass other people and dogs. Take your puppy for rides in the car. Go through a fast food drive thru. Take your puppy to a local obedience club and sign up for a puppy class.
Find a Groomer
Once you make it through the first week or two, it's time to think about grooming for your newest family member. It is important to start grooming early and stay on a regular schedule. Unless you have groomed Cockers before, you will probably start by using a professional groomer. We are fortunate to have an article, written by a world-renown authority on grooming Cockers, that describes how to find a good groomer for your Cocker.