How To Train Your Cocker Spaniel Puppy
If you’ve made your way to this article, you’re no doubt looking for advice and tips regarding training your Cocker Spaniel puppy. Well, you’ve certainly come to the right place. With over thirty years of dog and puppy training experience, we know a thing or two about training canines young and old, and we’d love to share everything we know with you!
Let us first begin by saying that – in most cases – training a puppy isn’t actually that difficult a task; it just requires lots of patience and consistency. So, if you’re able to dedicate time every day to train your Cocker Spaniel and have a patience attitude when doing so, you’re already halfway there. Of course, there will be times when you’re going to get frustrated and want to pull your hair out, but this is completely natural and part of the natural puppy training process, so don’t worry if you find yourself getting annoyed – we’ve all been there!
The question on most new Cocker Spaniel puppy owner’s lips when they first get their puppy is ‘Where do I start?’.
With so many different techniques, methods, strategies, and things to teach your puppy to ensure they become a well-behaved and obedient dog, it is often a little confusing knowing when to start, what to begin with, and how to guide your puppy through each stage of training. With so much to teach your new four-legged friend, things can become overwhelming, which is why we’ve put together this concise article to help you learn everything you need to know about training your Cocker Spaniel puppy.
To do this, we’ve split this guide into six sections that cover all the basics and will help to steer you in the right direction when you and your puppy begin your training journey. These are as follows:
– Crate training.
– Toilet training.
– Lead training.
– Obedience training.
– Basic commands.
Master all of the above, and your dog will be an A grade student! So, without further ado, let’s begin.
The Complete Guide To Training Your Cocker Spaniel Puppy
Our first port of call is crate training, which, in our opinion, is the lynchpin of any successful puppy training endeavour. You wouldn’t build a house without foundations, so you certainly shouldn’t train your puppy without the use of a crate!
Here’s what you need to know about crate training your Cocker Spaniel puppy:
Crate Training Your Cocker Puppy
In this section, we’re going to primarily focus on how to crate train your Cocker Spaniel puppy. Crate training is an essential component of initial puppy training; therefore, it’s vital to get this right. But don’t worry, it’s not that difficult, and within a matter of weeks, your puppy will know what’s what and understand the role of his or her crate.
Crate training is a way of training your new Cocker Spaniel pup – or any puppy (or adult dog) for that matter. The aim of the crate is to keep your puppy safe and confined when you’re unable to supervise them. Given that most puppies won’t go to the toilet in the same place in which they rest and sleep, they’ll most likely hold it in (which is why taking them outside to go to the toilet every few hours is essential! More on toilet training later on!).
When used the right way, a crate stops your puppy from getting into the habit of going to the toilet inside your home; plus, it gives them a ‘safe haven’ in which they can fully relax and feel 100% safe and secure.
How To Choose a Crate For Your Puppy
If you’ve browsed online stores for a crate, it’s likely that you’ve come across a mountain of options and aren’t exactly sure which one to choose! If you feel like that, don’t worry – we’re here to help!
In short, there are three main types of crate: wire, plastic, and canvas/nylon (soft-sided), so let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
Wire crates are the most common type of dog crate. They allow your Cocker Spaniel puppy to see what’s going on around them and may also have an additional panel to enable you to make the crate smaller or bigger depending on how big your puppy is. Wire crates are easily collapsible and commonly have a sliding tray as a floor, making it super easy to clean. The divider often supplied with wire crates.
Plastic pet carriers are also a fantastic option for crate training (as well, er, carrying your puppy around!) – the type of crate/carrier that you will most commonly see used for air travel. The downside of pet carriers is that they are enclosed on three sides and don’t allow in as much light as wire crates, plus they’re a little more difficult to clean.
Soft-sided crates – often made from canvas or nylon – are the most lightweight type of dog crate; therefore, they’re perfect for when you’re travelling around with your puppy. The biggest downside to canvas crates is that puppies who have a penchant for chewing and scratching (which, let’s face it, is 99% of puppies!) may break through them with relative ease.
Regardless of which type of crate you opt for, size is essential. Your puppy’s crate should not be too large; however, it should give them enough space to turn around, bed themselves down, and be comfortable. If the crate is too big, your puppy may use one area to sleep and another area to go to the toilet – something you definitely want to avoid!
Introducing the Crate
Introducing the crate to your Cocker Spaniel puppy should be a wholly positive experience. Begin by slowly introducing your puppy to the crate, being sure to place something soft, like a blanket, and some of their toys in there to coax them in and show them it’s not only their space, but it’s safe too. Allow your puppy to explore the crate at their own pace.
When your puppy enters the crate all by itself, heap praise on them and reward them with treats. Until you feel your four-legged friend is 100% comfortable in their new crate, keep the door open and allow them to roam in and out as they please.
Confining Your Puppy to the Crate
Like wolves, dogs are ‘den’ animals, and therefore they love having a safe haven that they can call their own. If crate training is done properly, your dog’s crate will be their ‘safe haven’, which will help to give you complete peace of mind when you’re away from home.
Whether or not your puppy will continue to seek out their crate once they are trained will depend upon their breed and temperament; some dogs will always seek out their crate and are happy to be left alone for hours, whereas others will be the complete opposite. If your puppy is in the former category, it’s essential to keep your crate, whereas if they fall into the latter category, it might be wise to transition from a crate to a traditional dog bed.
Here are a few tips to help your Cocker Spaniel puppy get used to confinement in their crate:
1) Once your puppy is comfortable going in and out of their crate, it’s at this point you should begin the process of getting them used to confinement.
2) Put treats into the crate, and once your puppy is inside, close the door gently.
3) Wait around 60-90 seconds, and, provided your puppy stays quiet, let them out of the crate.
4) Continue this process, gradually extending the amount of time your leave your puppy in the crate while you’re at home. Do this until your puppy is completely comfortable being in the crate for an hour or more.
5) Once your puppy is completely fine being confined to their crate when you’re at home, it’s time to begin getting them used to it when they’re alone.
6) Once your puppy is relaxed and calm when confined in the crate, leave the room, then come back in a few minutes later.
7) Keep doing this until your puppy is entirely comfortable being left by themselves for an hour plus.
Cocker Puppy Crate Training Tips
Here are a few extra puppy crate training tips we think are useful:
– Under no circumstances should you use your puppy’s crate to punish them. Your puppy must consider their crate to be their happy and safe place. If you use it to punish them, they’ll likely become fearful or anxious when in or around it.
– Never let your puppy out of their crate when they whine or bark (unless it’s because they need the toilet). Always ensure your Cocker Spaniel puppy is 100% calm and relaxed before releasing them from their crate. We know it’s difficult to resist opening the crate if your new puppy is whining or crying, but it’s crucial to not give in – for your sake and theirs!
– Never leave your puppy in their crate for longer than they’re able to hold their bladder for, which for puppies is typically no longer than three or four hours.
Toilet Training Your Cocker Puppy
Alongside crate training, toilet training your Cocker Spaniel puppy is one of the most critical aspects of other puppy training; after all, you don’t want your new four-legged friend doing his or her business all over your house, do you?!
Housetraining is one of the first aspects of puppy training and should start when you arrive home with your new four-legged friend. And, as is the case with all other facets of puppy training, potty training your Cocker Spaniel puppy requires a lot of patience, given that puppies aren’t able to control their bladders until they reach around three months of age.
Here a few essential points to remember:
– When your puppy behaves well, give them lots of praise!
– Stick to a consistent routine.
– Never punish your puppy if they have an accident.
– Don’t correct your puppy unless you catch them in the act.
Create a Schedule
Consistency should be your primary watchword when house training your new Cocker Spaniel puppy. Try to wake up at the same time every day, and be sure to take your puppy out to the toilet straight away. Furthermore, feeding your puppy at the same time every day and taking them outside to the toilet once they have eaten is a great habit to get into.
Keep an Eye Out for Signs
Always be on the lookout for signs that your puppy needs the toilet. In most instances, this will involve sniffing, pacing, and circling, so if you see your four-legged friend do any of these, it’s probably toilet time. If you happen to catch your puppy in the middle of an ‘accident’, say the word “no” firmly, then take them outside to finish the job (praise them when they do).
You should never punish a puppy by pushing their nose in their mess as this will only lead to fear, which is the worst emotion you can instil on your new four-legged family member.
If your puppy has had an accident in the house, but you didn’t catch them in the act, don’t bother to punish them as they will not associate their accident with the punishment and, therefore, won’t learn anything.
Choose a Command Word
Choosing a command word like “toilet” or “outside” and using it consistently can help your puppy to learn it as a command word. To help reinforce this even further, always take your puppy to the same spot when toilet training. The odours they leave in this spot will help to encourage them to ‘go potty in the same spot each time. And, when your pup does do his or her business, don’t hold back on the praise!
Use a Crate
When you’re not at home, your Cocker Spaniel puppy should stay in a crate. Although a puppy will not want to soil it’s living area, i.e. the crate, it will do if necessary, so leaving your puppy alone and unattended for more than three or four hours is never a good idea. If you’re unable to let your pup out during the day, always arrange for someone else to do it.
If you’re not a fan of crate-based training, place your puppy in a room with a non-absorbent floor, i.e. one that can be cleaned quickly and efficiently. However, most puppies will prefer to do their business on something absorbent, so placing training pads around the room is undoubtedly a wise idea.
I’m sure that the word patience has featured extensively throughout this article, but it really is so important. Toilet training a puppy will typically take between three and five months, so be patient and persevere; your little four-legged friend will get there eventually!
Cocker Puppy Toilet Training Tips
Here are a few extra puppy toilet training tips we think are useful:
– If your puppy has an ‘accident’ in your house, always use a cleaner that eradicates the odour; otherwise, they may pick up the scent and think it’s ok to go to the toilet in that area again.
– Changes to your life (such as a new baby or moving to a new home) or illness may cause regression, so be prepared for this if your regular routine is adversely impacted.
– If your puppy has previously been housetrained and they’re still having accidents, it’s highly likely that they have an underlying health condition. If you suspect this is the case, take them to the vet straight away.
Lead Training Your Cocker Puppy
Ok, so now we’ve discussed how training takes place inside the confines of your house; let’s go out into the big, wide world (that’s undoubtedly how your puppy will view it!) and take a look at lead training your Cocker Spaniel puppy.
Lead training is another crucial element of training your puppy; without it, they’ll likely pull on the lead, never walk to heel, and give you endless headaches when you take them out for walkies – three things you really want to avoid! Plus, the Cocker Spaniel breed is known for being a fair, strong and powerful dog, so your walks might end up with you being walked if you don’t lead train your puppy correctly.
Puppies have absolutely no idea how to walk on a lead. For example, when you pull the lead, your puppy’s natural instinct will be to pull back, and if you allow them to do so without correct this behaviour, it will make it far harder to correct their urge to do it.
It is far, far easier to teach your puppy when it is small; therefore, starting lead training very early on is a wise idea.
Begin with a Collar
Before you can begin lead training your puppy, it’s important to introduce them to a collar first. If you strap a collar on your puppy and start lead training straight away, it may be too much, too soon and may impede future training. Therefore, allowing your new four-legged friend to get used to a collar for a week or two is definitely the suggested course of action prior to lead training.
Choose the Right Lead
Choosing a lead isn’t as simple as picking the first one you see or the nearest on the shelf – a little more thought is required, and what type of lead you buy will depend on the breed. If your puppy is a small breed, a lightweight nylon lead is a fantastic choice; however, if your dog is a larger breed, a more heavy-duty lead will be a better choice. Look for a lead that’s around five to six feet as this provides the best balance between (you having) control and (your puppy having) freedom.
Tip: Never buy a retractable lead. They teach puppies how to pull (because they reward jumping up), which is the last things you want.
Before attaching a lead to your puppy’s collar for the first time, allow them to sniff it. This is the best way to introduce them to it as dog’s use their sense of smell to communicate, so by allowing your puppy to sniff it, they will understand that it is nothing to be scared of. However, it is important not to allow your puppy to chew the lead or view it as a toy.
Once your puppy is familiar with the lead, it’s time to clip it onto their collar and take your first walk. On your first walk, your aim should be to simply not allow your puppy to surge off ahead, pull, or drag. However, it’s important not to keep the lead too tight, or your puppy’s natural instinct to pull will rear its ugly head. Keep a balance between allowing freedom yet retaining control.
Reward and Praise Good Behaviour
When training your puppy to walk on a lead, always have plenty of rewards on hand and be sure to smoother them in praise. You can also integrate clicker training into your lead training routine as this will really help to reinforce good behaviour.
Start by showing your puppy a treat while they sit by your side and wait until they’re 100% focused on the treat. At this point, give a verbal cue (“let’s go!”, for example) and hold the treat in front of their nose as you walk, luring them to walk at the same pace as you.
Once your puppy is au fait with the concept of loose-lead walking and is able to sit on command, your next step is to pick the speed up. Whether you’re walking, jogging, or running, you want your puppy to maintain the same pace. Once you’ve mastered that, practise changing direction, not forgetting to use treats and praise to let your puppy know they’ve done well!
Cocker Puppy Lead Training Tips
Here are a few extra puppy lead training tips we think are useful:
– To reinforce good on-lead behaviour, it’s important to practise over and over even if you think your puppy has mastered on-lead walking. Add in distractions to test how they react (or, hopefully, don’t react!) to external factors. The more scenarios your puppy is put into, the more comfortable they will be and the better behaved they’ll be on-lead.
– As your puppy develops more on-lead obedience and skills, you can introduce “heel”. The “heel” position, if you weren’t aware, is when your puppy walks alongside you on the left and stops and starts when you do.
– If your puppy jumps for their treats, lower them to nose height. Alternatively, ask your puppy to sit before giving them the treat.
– If your puppy rushes ahead or consistently tugs on the lead, use a lure, i.e. a treat. Every few steps, stop and ask your puppy to sit or lie, then reward them with a treat.
– If your puppy only behaves correctly when a treat is given, don’t reward every time; instead, offer a reward every third or fourth time. This will help to teach your Cocker Spaniel puppy to obey all the time rather than only when they know a treat is coming.
Socialising Your Cocker Puppy
Once your Cocker Spaniel puppy is out in the big, wide world, taking walks and going on adventures, it’s imperative that you socialise them properly. Why? Because it helps them to become feel more secure in the world around them and ensure the vast majority of their experiences with other dogs, humans, and other objects are as positive as possible. So, without further ado, let’s look at the best ways to socialise your Cocker Spaniel puppy.
Start Socialisation Early
By the age of around four months, your Cocker Spaniel puppy should be comfortable meeting other dogs, being handled by a dog groomer and vet, and meeting strangers; therefore, socialisation should begin very early on in their life, i.e. from two months onwards. Of course, at two months of age, your puppy will not have received all of their vaccinations, so it’s important to speak to your vet about and what your puppy is allowed to do and build your ‘socialisation schedule’ around this.
Socialising your new puppy isn’t solely about introducing them to new dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds; it’s about introducing them to a wide array of dogs, situations, and people. So, when your puppy starts their socialisation journey, be sure to introduce them to different types of people – men, women, young people, older people etc. In fact, introducing your puppy to clothing and items people use wear or have with them, such as hats or umbrellas, is also a wise idea. Before your new four-legged friend has had their vaccinations, invite people over to meet them.
Experiencing loud noises is also an essential part of socialisation; therefore, exposing your puppy to loud noises such as lorries, cars, and the like is important. When doing so, always remain calm and be sure to reward your pup and give them lots of praise. However, there is a fine between ‘loud noises’ and scary situations, fireworks being one example. Oh, and don’t forget to take them in the car to get them used to taking road trips!
Throughout your puppy’s life, it will be handled in many different ways by lots of different people; therefore, it is important to prepare your puppy for this. Think about how a child may play with your puppy or how a vet may need to restrain them to clips their nails. If you get your puppy used to lots of different potential situations, you put them in a far better position to deal with anything that is thrown their way successfully. Handling is a key component of this.
Cocker Puppy Socialisation Tips
Here are a few extra puppy socialisation tips we think are useful:
– Always keep socialisation 100% positive and allow your puppy to go at their own pace and explore life at their own pace.
– Use treats to encourage your puppy if they seem apprehensive or hesitant, but never push them past their comfort level. Socialisation is a gradual process.
– Don’t visit parks (or other areas that will have dogs on them) too early. Why? Because they can be overwhelming for a young puppy. Rather than introducing your pup to lots of dogs once, begin with one dog at a time.
– Large crowd and small puppies don’t mix, so try to avoid large crowds when your puppy is very young. Instead, start with smaller crowds such as an outdoor café or a friend’s garden.
– Always make an escape plan. Just like humans, puppies can find new experiences overwhelming; therefore, it’s crucial to have an escape route should things not go to plan.
Obedience Training Your Cocker Puppy
Obedience is the cornerstone of all dog training; without it, your new puppy simply won’t learn which behaviours are correct and incorrect, which may lead to a plethora of issues down the line. So, let’s take a look at how you can train your Cocker Spaniel puppy to be more obedient.
In order to train your dog, it’s essential to have a plan – a plan that will involve equipment, a schedule, and educating yourself on puppy training.
Obedience training your puppy does not require an extensive selection of equipment, but there are bits of basic kit that will make training easier and more convenient. These include: a suitable collar, a suitable lead, a clicker (if you’re doing clicker training), and some treats (small pieces of cooked meat are the best, in our opinion).
Choose Your Training Method
Before you can begin your obedience training, you must choose which training method you want to use. Training styles do vary, but most puppy trainers will agree that positive reinforcement, i.e. the use of praise and treats, is best. Clicker training is, in our opinion, the best form of obedience training and given that it requires a clicker and some treats, it’s affordable and accessible to all!
Start Your Sessions
Puppy training is best done in small sessions, typically 10 to 15 minutes in length two or three times each day. Puppies have very short attention spans, so it’s important to keep sessions under 15 minutes; otherwise, they may become bored and distracted. Begin with basic commands (see below for more information on basic commands) and stick to one command or action per session to avoid your Cocker Spaniel puppy becoming confused.
Cocker Puppy Obedience Training Tips
Here are a few extra puppy obedience training tips we think are useful:
– Puppy obedience training takes time; therefore, be prepared for ups and downs, stubbornness, and things taking a little longer than you expected!
– If you experience common behavioural problems when obedience training your puppy, such as barking, jumping up, or aggression, the best way to correct said behaviours is to interrupt them and shift their focus elsewhere.
– Always stay calm and be clear and confident with your commands.
– Positive reinforcement is the key to successful puppy training. Often people training their puppy will punish their dog when they do something wrong; however, this will not cause confusion but also may scare the puppy.
Basic Commands Every Cocker Spaniel Puppy Should Know
There are several basic commands that every puppy should be taught. These commands are essential to everyday obedience and, ultimately, a well-behaved, happy, and healthy do. Let’s take a look at the basic commands every Cocker Spaniel puppy should know.
Look: This command ensures that your puppy’s focus is on you and only on you. Without it, other commands will be hard to implement.
Emergency Recall/Come: This command ensures your puppy comes back to you every time to call them – no matter what the situation or place.
With Me: This command is used to stop your puppy from pulling on their lead and instead walk beside you in a relaxed manner.
Leave it: This command tells your puppy not to do something or pick something up.
Drop it: This command tells your puppy to let go of something in their mouth.
Sit: Probably the first command any puppy owner teaches their new four-legged family member and an important one for establishing control. ‘Sit’ also helps to manage unwanted behaviours.
Lie: A command that, as the name suggests, teaches your puppy to lie down on command. ‘Lie’ also helps to manage unwanted behaviours.
Stay: This command tells your puppy to stay in a certain place and not move until instructed to or stay in a certain position until you return. Stay is one of the best commands for stopping your puppy from running into dangerous situations.
Wait: This command teaches your puppy to wait in a specific spot until instructed to come to you. Perfect for stopping puppy bolting out of their crate, the car, or out of the front door of your house.