Do you dread taking your cocker spaniel out for their daily walks because they constantly keep jerking you as they try to pull on their lead? Well, you will be pleased to hear that yours is not a unique struggle. While cocker spaniels are on the list of the most adorable dogs to pet, their energy can sometimes push you over the edge.
Cocker spaniels are energetic dogs and naturally bubbly, it is only natural that they want to be jumpy every time you take them for a walk. However, it doesn’t always have to be a struggle to keep your dog on the lead and keep them from choking or injuring its neck. Here are some of the tricks you can use to keep your cocker spaniel from pulling on the lead.
Teach Your Cocker Spaniel How to Heel
First things first, did your cocker spaniel learn how to heel during basic puppy training? No? Then this could be the reason why they find it so hard to stay within your pace when you are walking. This means that it is time to go back to basic dog training, it might take a little more effort if your dog is older but it is not an impossible task.
Heeling is a walking technique where you train your dog to keep its front paws behind your heels when walking. The “heel” position is very handy, especially for cocker spaniels who are a bit hyperactive compared to other dog breeds. It is also safe as your dog is then unlikely to go ahead of you and tug on the lead when you are out walking them.
Find a quiet, enclosed space to train your dog how to heel. Keep the training short, or you will find that your dog becomes bored. Each training session should only be 5-10 minutes long, where you walk with your dog and take sharp corners so that they learn how to stay within your stride.
Wear Out Some of That Energy Before a Walk
If the only exercise your cocker spaniel gets is a daily walk, then they might have too much pent-up energy so this could be the reason they keep on pulling on their lead. Try and engage them in other activities before you go out for a walk to see if you can use up some of their built-up energy.
You could play fetch or make them run up and down a staircase to wear them out a little before taking them out on a walk. If you don’t have time for the extra exercise, you should consider taking your cocker spaniel to doggie day care and by the time you pick them up for your walk, they will be too tired to try and pull on their lead, making them more willing to walk at your pace.
Reward More Than You Punish
Whilst constantly pulling on the lead could earn a “bad dog” comment from you, go slow on the punishment or reprimanding remarks on your cocker spaniel. Dogs can read your body language and understand the emotion behind your voice depending on the tone you use with them. Every time your dog pulls on the lead, correct them gently.
Rewarding good behaviour works better with dogs than punishing them so try as much as possible to praise your cocker spaniel every time they stay within your pace. You don’t have to wait till the end of the walk to praise them for their good behaviour. Keep talking to them gently as you walk, they will learn what is right and understand that you don’t appreciate them pulling on the lead. You could even give them a treat every time they complete a walk without pulling on the lead.
Use a Short Leash
Every dog owner wishes to use a long lead on their canine, but if your cocker spaniel keeps on pulling on the lead then a long lead will only make it more difficult to control them. Get a short leash so you can keep your dog close to your heel as you walk, especially when you are lead training. You can get a longer one once your dog learns how to stay at your heel.
Be in Command When You Walk Your Dog
Your pet needs to understand your authority every time you go for a walk. One way you can teach them this is by stopping every time they pull on the lead. You can also change direction every time you stop so that he falls back in position.
Every time you stop and change direction, your cocker spaniel will understand that you’re in the lead and set the pace for the walk. You should see a change in their behaviour after a few days or weeks of training.
However, whatever you do, don’t use a harness or a choke chain. A harness will only enable your dog to pull more because they have more control over the lead and a choke chain is simply torture to your cocker spaniel.
You will be subjecting your dog to pain every time they pull on their lead and instead of learning positive behaviours, your dog will most likely cower in fear. Choke chains should not even be used for domestic dogs.
Be Consistent and Patient with Your Furry Friend
While pulling on the lead is an unwanted behaviour in your cocker spaniel (or any other dog), you cannot change it overnight. It will take several days of training, sometimes longer, to finally get your dog walking at your pace. Be consistent with the training and be patient with your dog.
Celebrate every milestone in your cocker spaniel’s journey to walking on the heel and communicate your feelings to them. Let the dog understand when you are happy with their progress and when you are displeased with their pulling.
Your cocker spaniel might be frustrating you every time you go out for a walk because they cannot stop pulling on the lead. While you might feel like this is getting out of hand, you can still train your dog to walk at your pace.
Train them to heel if they haven’t learned it yet in their basic puppy training. You can also use other strategies such as tiring them before a walk, rewarding their milestones more than punishing them for pulling on the lead. Using a short leash, especially in the leash training phase also helps.
Also, stop every time they try to pull the lead and let them know who is in charge. Please don’t use a choke chain or a harness and be patient with your dog as they learn how to heel.