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How to Train a Cocker Spaniel: 7 Tips & Tricks

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on May 25, 2024 by Dogster Team

Cocker Spaniel giving paw training

How to Train a Cocker Spaniel: 7 Tips & Tricks

Cocker Spaniels are easygoing, cheerful dogs that can make great pets. They’re relatively easy to train, though they may not be as intelligent as some other breeds. They benefit from training as early as 8 weeks, though you can easily train them when they’re older too.

You should ensure that your Cocker Spaniel is well socialized on top of being trained in basic obedience. Socialization involves introducing the dog to many different people and places, which prevents them from being fearful later.

While training a dog from scratch may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Here, we go through various tips and tricks that you should know. Successfully training a Cocker Spaniel is mostly about commitment.

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The 7 Tips How to Train a Cocker Spaniel

1. Start Young

You should start training your Cocker Spaniel as soon as you bring them home. Puppies can start training relatively early. Some breeders may even start training the puppies before they’re sent to their new homes.

Puppies are just starting to understand their world and environment. By introducing training at this early stage, you can help ensure that they learn how to behave before bad habits are formed.

There are few downsides to training your puppy early. It may take a bit longer than if you waited due to their short attention spans. However, this is preferable to your canine developing bad habits.


2. Have Patience

You should be patient with your Cocker Spaniel. They’re intelligent, but much of that intelligence isn’t aimed at obedience. They’re easily distracted and need to have short training sessions. Therefore, they may not learn things as fast as some other dogs. Don’t push a Cocker Spaniel that is tired and bored of training.

It’s best to integrate commands into daily life as quickly as possible. You want to use the commands when you actually need to use them, as this helps the Cocker Spaniel understand that the command is for everywhere.

cocker spaniel in grass field
Image by: Eudyptula, Shutterstock

3. Keep It Fun

You don’t want to make training a stressful time for your dog. If you do, there’s a good chance that your canine may just decide not to listen to you. You can’t force a dog to train—you have to bribe them with treats and fun. Most Cocker Spaniels want to please their owner through training. But if you make the sessions stressful, they may start running away at training time.

For this reason, it’s important to avoid harsh punishments and negative reinforcement. Instead, you want to focus on the positive aspects of training. Whenever your dog does something even slightly right, it’s important to praise and treat them.

In the beginning, you’ll be using treats frequently. New commands are hard to learn, and it’s important for dogs to be rewarded consistently. However, once your dog knows the command, you can start reducing the treats. Don’t forget about this stage of training, or you may find yourself overly reliant on treats.


4. Socialize Your Dog

On top of obedience training, you want to socialize your dog with other people and animals. Most aggression from dogs is the result of fear. The dog gets scared and tries to defend themselves, even if they really don’t mean to.

You can minimize fear (and therefore, aggression) by socializing your dog. Simply put, this involves introducing your dog to lots of new people, places, and animals at a young age. You can socialize an older dog, but it’s much easier to socialize a puppy, as they tend to be more fearless than adults.

You should take your puppy to as many places as possible so they can meet lots of new people and animals. If you want your dog to be used to a specific type of animal (such as cats or chickens), be sure they’re around them frequently when they are little.

Puppy group classes can be extremely helpful here, as they enable your puppy to interact with other dogs and people in a safe, controlled environment. However, you should socialize your dog outside of training class too.

mini cocker
Image by: Photosite_, Shutterstock

5. Crate Train Your Dog

You should crate train your dog, which involves getting them used to a crate. It should never be used as punishment, however. Instead, it should be a safe place where your dog can go to get away from anything that’s stressing them. When the dog can escape in this way, aggression due to overwhelm and fear are less common.

You should teach children not to interact with the dog when they’re in the crate. It should be big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around. However, you don’t want it too large, or it won’t have its “den-like” feel.

Start by confining your dog to the crate for short intervals regularly. You can give them special treats and chews to make this a good time—never use the crate as punishment.


6. Potty Train Early

One of the first things that you should teach your dog is where to use the bathroom. Cocker Spaniels are small dogs, so their bladders are small. This means they have to go outside more often, which can make potty training a bit challenging. Some owners find that teaching their dogs to use a pad or potty area inside first and then moving outside later is helpful.

Whatever you choose, start early and be consistent. The best way to housetrain a dog is to take them outside regularly. You want to encourage them to use the bathroom before they have an accident. Each accident puts them a step away from potty training, so being proactive and consistent is important here.

Every time the dog goes outside, praise them and reward them. If they have an accident inside, just clean up the spot well. Dogs won’t understand that going potty there is a problem, even if you show it to them. In fact, by reinforcing that they used the bathroom inside, you may make potty training more difficult.


7. Don’t Forget About Leash Training

While a small puppy is easy to pick up and carry around, you shouldn’t use this as the main means of transporting them. If you do, it can make the dog fearful of the outside world and unable to walk on a leash. You should treat the puppy just like you would an adult dog, leashing them up anytime they’re going into an open area.

Start by getting your dog used to the collar by simply putting it on them. Next, practice wearing the leash inside. Finally, you can walk your dog around outside. Your goal is to get your dog not to pull on the leash. To do so, you’ll need to stop whenever your dog pulls, which may be quite often at first. Expect walks to take a long time.

red cocker spaniel dog on leash
Image by: Tymoshenko Olga, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Cocker Spaniels are easier to train than many other breeds. However, you do still need to train them correctly and consistently to make progress. Training dogs isn’t that difficult once you know how to do it. Sadly, many people just do it “how their parents did,” which ignores the last 50 years of research in the field.

Hopefully, these tips can help you not make common mistakes.


Featured Image Credit: O_Lypa, Shutterstock

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