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How to Train a Cocker Spaniel: The Ultimate Guide & Easy To Follow Steps

Are you thinking of getting a cocker spaniel puppy? If you do, then we are sure that you will want to get the puppy settled in as quickly as possible. For quick and effective adaptation, you need to start training your cocker spaniel puppy sooner rather than later.

Luckily for you, cocker spaniels are an intelligent breed and easily trainable. They also have a sweet, playful temperament that makes them great family dogs. If you have children, a cocker spaniel will be a perfect match. In this guide, we will look at all the basic training areas and techniques for a cocker spaniel to help you transform your new houseguest into a lovable, cuddly ball of cuteness.

Training a cocker spaniel
Training a cocker spaniel

What are the crucial areas for cocker spaniel puppy training?

As much as you want to teach your new cocker spaniel puppy some cool tricks right away, it is important to cover the basics first so that you make them a houseguest you can live with safely and easily without spending all your time cleaning after them or worrying about their safety.

These are the crucial areas of training to cover with your new puppy:

  1. Crate training
  2. Toilet training
  3. Leash training

Crate training a cocker spaniel step by step

Some people believe crates are inhumane for dogs. I think this concept cannot be further from the truth. It is, however, easy to understand why as humans we would think that way. We like large spaces, spacious apartments and houses with large gardens. Dogs on the other hand, are naturally denning animals. They enjoy a small safe space where they can go to lounge or relax away from the sometimes chaotic, home environment. If you don’t have a crate for your puppy, you will notice them crating in small spaces like under the bed or in your closet, etc.

Crate training cocker spaniels

For effective crate training here are some crucial tips.

How do you choose a crate for a cocker spaniel?

The first thing you need to get right is the crate. Ideally, you want to get a dog crate that is only big enough for your puppy to stand and turn around in when you are starting to crate train them. You don’t want them to compartmentalize a big crate, as this will lead to them using on one end to sleep in and the other end as a toilet.

To get sizing right, you might want to bring your puppy with you when you pick one. If you are ordering one, measure your dog from the tallest point on it’s head or ears down to their paw for height.  For the length measure them from the tip of their nose to the tail and leave a few inches allowance on both height and length.

If you don’t want to buy several crates in the course of your fur baby’s growth, you can get a metallic dog crate with a divider. Such allows you to extend the crate as your cocker spaniel puppy grows. You will also find crates made of other materials on the market, but whatever crate you pick, it is essential to make sure that it is easy to clean. This is because the likelihood is that your puppy will have a few accidents in their crate in the course of their training is inevitable.

Once you get a crate, you want to make it comfortable and enticing for your cocker spaniel. You can add a blanket or a fleece pad to make it cosy for them.

Top 6 best dog crates for cocker spaniels and choosing the right sized crate

How do you crate train a cocker spaniel to go in their crate and love it?

Crate padded out ready for crate training cocker spaniel
Crate padded out ready for crate training cocker spaniel

Once you have made their crate cosy, start by socializing your pup to the crate. They may not go in immediately. Let them look at it, sniff it, and so on. If possible, take the door off so that the puppy knows they can go in and come out anytime. If the door cannot come off, consider holding it open by tying it back.

To encourage your puppy to want to go inside the crate, you can put their favourite toys in there. You also want to wait for them to go into the crate by themselves. To do this, use some treats or serve them food in the crate.

Dog crate with toys to give your dog something familiar to encourage them into the crate

At first, your cocker spaniel may not want to go in all the way so, start by placing the treat near the door and move further inside as they get more comfortable. Leave the door open the first few times. Let them get in and come out freely. Whenever they go in, reward them with a treat to positively reinforce their view of the crate.

When they get more comfortable with going into the crate, you can start closing the crate door for a few minutes at a time, but stay around the crate when the door is closed. You don’t want the crate to induce anxiety in your puppy. Start with 5 to 10 minutes at a time whilst you stay around where your cocker spaniel puppy can see you.

When they get accustomed to staying inside the crate, practice leaving them in for longer. Ideally, 30 minutes would be an ideal place to start. During these 30 minutes, you can leave the room and go to another room so that you can gauge your puppy’s reaction and eventually leave them for longer.

For successful puppy crate training, here are a few things to note;

  • Never use the crate to punish your cocker spaniel. If your puppy is misbehaving, don’t ever use the crate to punish them or as a time out as you don’t want them to associate the crate with negatives.
  • Don’t leave your cocker in the crate for too long. The rule of thumb is 1 hour for every month of their life up to 5 hours. Dogs, even adult dogs shouldn’t be left in a crate for longer than that.
  • If your puppy is uncomfortable at any time, let them out of the crate but don’t take them out when they are crying or barking. You don’t want to teach your cocker spaniel puppy that whining will get them out. Wait for them to calm down first.
  • Don’t be emotional when getting your puppy out of their crate. Be as chilled as you can and ideally don’t play with your puppy or pet it immediately as you let it out. This will only make them want to get out of their crate all of the time because getting out means play.
  • Patience and consistency are key. Also, don’t prolong training more than 10 minutes at a time. You can do it twice a day.

Check out my guide where I talk about if cocker spaniels can be left alone

Also learn how to teach your cocker spaniel to stop barking

How do you successfully train your cocker spaniel?

New puppy relaxing into new home
New puppy relaxing into new home

When you bring your cocker spaniel puppy home, the first thing you need to do is socialize them with your house. Don’t give your new puppy access to your entire house immediately. You want them to claim your big house as their house. This is the reason why naturally, dogs don’t potty where they live. If you can successfully socialize them to claim your house as ‘where they live’ they will avoid accidents in the house. The problem comes in when you expose them to the entire house at once.

To set boundaries, you can use a crate or a playpen that you should move as you expose them to the house gradually. That said, here are the steps to potty-train your cocker spaniel successfully.

Read next: Does your puppy smell? There might be a more serious problem, learn more in this guide.

You can also learn how to clean your cocker spaniels ears in this guide which is something you should pay attention to as they are more prone to ear infection than some other dog breeds

How to potty training a cocker spaniel

This is another crucial area of training you need to start on soon as you bring your cocker spaniel home. Potty and crate training go hand in hand. If you don’t want to get your puppy a crate, you could get them a playpen instead.

We have also reviewed some recommended playpens in this guide

Choose a spot you want them to potty in and try to be consistent with it.

When you take your puppy out to go to the toilet, pick a spot you are comfortable with that they also seem to like. Let them sniff the place and be familiar with it. By sticking to one spot, you help avoid your puppy pooping or urinating where you don’t want them to, such as your neighbour’s lawn.

Give them time to go to the bathroom and avoid engaging with them whilst you are out for any bathroom breaks.

When you take your pup out to toilet train, it may take a while for them to go to the bathroom. Be patient and wait for them to finish their business. Don’t play with your puppy before they have finished with their bathroom business. Playing and petting will distract them. After they are done, you can give them a treat, praise and play with them to let them know that you like that they went to the bathroom outside.

Get a phrase to use when you take them out like ‘Go’ to let them know it’s time to do their business.

How to potty train a cocker spaniel

Here are a few tips to help run potty training your cocker spaniel run smoothly

  • Don’t punish them for having an accident indoors. This will only create confusion and lengthen the puppy training. It is also a negative experience for you and your cocker spaniel puppy.
  • Avoid free feeding. Free feeding is making food unlimitedly available to your dog all of the time. While free-feeding is associated with a host of other doggie problems, it also makes potty training hard for you and your puppy. If you train your cocker spaniel on specific meal times, their bathroom breaks will also be regular.
  • If your puppy has an accident indoors clean it immediately if you can. Other than eliminating any unpleasant odours, it also discourages repeat spray marking. Get yourself a good cleaner for this purpose. 

You can learn more about how much you should feed a cocker spaniel in this guide here

Leash training a cocker spaniel

This is the last crucial area you need to train your cocker spaniel on. You don’t want them tugging on the lead when you are out walking with them as this could ultimately cause neck injuries.

Leash training cocker spaniels
Leash training cocker spaniels

To leash train your cocker spaniel, here are easy steps to follow:

1.     Choose an appropriate collar.

Choose an easy-to-put-on collar for your cocker spaniel. A buckle collar will be ideal in this case.

See my article where I compared some of the best harnesses for cocker spaniels here

2.     Put the collar on your puppy.

When you first put a collar on your puppy, they may not like having it on. For this reason, put the collar on your cocker spaniel puppy when they are eating. This way, they will be distracted and may not notice that you are putting the collar on. Make sure the collar fits on well, not too loose or too tight. Ideally, you want to be able to easily slip in two fingers between the collar and the puppy’s neck.

When they notice the collar on, they might try to get it off. Don’t be tempted to take the dog collar off when they are still distressed about it. Wait for your cocker spaniel to calm down before you take it off. Taking it off when they are not settled down only teaches them to hate it.

3.     Attach a leash to the collar.

Cocker spaniels are a medium-sized dog breed. When getting a lead for one, make sure it is something light. Also, if you are leash training, avoid the stretchy retracting dog leads as they teach your puppy that it is okay to pull on the lead.

4.     Walk your cocker spaniel on a leash.

When you have gotten your cocker comfortable enough, start taking short walks with them on the lead. To stop them from pulling, always stop when your dog walks ahead of you and starts pulling. This makes them turn and walk back to you. Wait until they are calm to start walking again. This will teach your cocker spaniel to walk at your pace.

Is your puppy hyper? Check this guide which discusses the reasons puppies are often hyper and how to overcome it

If your cocker spaniel is constantly pulling on its lead, check this guide on how to stop cocker spaniels pulling on their lead and to heel

In conclusion,

Cocker spaniels are an easy dog breed to train, but even the easiest dogs to train need a lot of patience and consistency. We have already talked about what I think are three of the most crucial areas to train your cocker spaniel in to make them a cuddly house guest.

Dog training lessons should not last too long. About 10 minutes twice a day will do. If you follow this guide and stay consistent, you will soon notice a difference. It will not magically happen within a day, don’t give up on your furry friend.

Also learn more about how much cocker spaniels shred and how to reduce it

Don’t forget to check out how to stop a cocker spaniel puppy biting and why your puppy might be crying at night.

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