Activities For American Cocker Spaniels

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Introduction

The American Cocker Spaniel is an adorable mid-sized dog with long, often wavy hair. The Cocker Spaniel was bred to hunt a type of bird known as the woodcock; although the Cocker Spaniel is often a companion animal today, the desire to hunt down prey is still strong in the breed. The Cocker Spaniel has been a part of at least two White House families; both Richard Nixon and Harry Truman owned Cocker Spaniels during their time in office. The American Cocker Spaniel is the smallest of the dog breeds considered a part of the Sporting Group; they are generally quiet happy and are easily trainable.

Sniff it Out

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
15 - 20 min
Items needed
treats
Activity description
Sniff it Out is very much like Hide and Seek. However, instead of using scented balls, this form of treasure hunting involves finding treats hidden in unlikely areas. This activity is meant to hone the Cocker Spaniel's scenting skills, and allowing them to engage in activities that mimic a hunt will actually contribute to good behavior in your pup. 

Sniff it Out is best played indoors. It is a good rainy day activity, or an activity that you can perform on a hot and humid day when pups should be inside an air-controlled environment. You can begin this treasure hunt with two or three treats, and work up to more as your dog becomes accustomed to the game. 

Step
1
Introduce the game
Just as you would with Hide and Seek, take your dog out of the room while you place three treats in not-so-difficult to spot places. Once you have placed the treats, bring your dog back into the room. You might want to encourage them by saying, "Is there a treat in here? Find the treat!"
Step
2
Practice makes perfect
The first few times that you run through the steps of the game, you might want to walk alongside your pup. Encourage them to find the treats, and, when they do find the hidden item, pour praise on them. They will soon learn what you expect of them.
Step
3
Have Fun!
The great thing about this treasure hunt is that it can be played inside, and your dog will get a reward each time you play. This is a good alternative for the Hide and Seek game using tennis balls, and you can play this to reinforce the ideas set forth in Hide and Seek.
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Frisbee

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Sunny Day
Cheap
Easy
20 - 30 min
Items needed
Frisbee disc
Activity description
Frisbee is a fun activity that you can share with your dog. In fact, playing Frisbee with your dog will provide both of you with ample bonding time as well as physical activity! Frisbee is best enjoyed outdoors during a sunny day (caution: depending where you live, you may want to restrict play time to early morning or late evening hours; remember that the Cocker Spaniel has a lot of fur and they can become overheated easily in very hot and humid weather). However, you can bring the dog Frisbee disc indoors - provided you have the room - and allow them to play in the hallway or perhaps on a covered porch area (where you are less likely to have lots of furniture). The author recommends purchasing a dog Frisbee. This will be a little easier on your pup's mouth than a "human" Frisbee.
Step
1
Teach the game
The Cocker Spaniel is a hunter at heart. Being given "prey" (in the form of a Frisbee) to chase taps into their innate need to go after game. You will need to first introduce the Frisbee to your dog. You may need to show a young dog that you expect him to run after the Frisbee and return it to you. This may involve coaxing him to go get the Frisbee once you've thrown it.
Step
2
Play the game
Once your dog has mastered the idea that you want them to chase the Frisbee and return it to you, work on commands such as "give" and "gentle." As this game will likely excite your pup, you will also want to work on heeling rather than your dog jumping up on you to give you the disc.
Step
3
Reinforce manners
As previously stated, you can use this game to not only garner some great physical activity for yourself, but also for your dog. You can also reinforce manners while playing Frisbee. Always remember to reward good behavior with praise or a treat. In hotter temperatures, carry extra water so as not to experience heat exhaustion.
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Hide and Seek

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Any Day
Cheap
Easy
20 - 30 min
Items needed
tennis balls
hot dog cut in half
Activity description
The American Cocker Spaniel was bred to hunt down and flush out their prey. A game such as Hide and Seek involving tennis balls is a great game that focuses on the hunting instinct of the Cocker Spaniel. First, you will need to train your pup as to how to play the game. This author recommends using a hot dog (which you will have cut in half) to scent the balls. Simply rub the inside of the sliced hot dog over the balls prior to training. This will help the Cocker Spaniel to find the balls during the game. It may be a good idea, once you have scented and hidden the balls, to walk your dog through the places where you've hidden the balls. Speak the commands as you take the pup to the balls. When they find the balls, be sure to reward them! For the first few tries, a treat might be a great reward. You can also heap lots of praise on the pup as they find the balls. In time, the Cocker Spaniel will understand what you expect of them, and they will find the balls without benefit of scent.
Step
1
Introduce the game
Grab at least three tennis balls (you can always increase this number as the pup becomes more familiar with the game). Cut open a hot dog, and use the inside to rub over the ball in order to "scent" it. Hide the balls while the dog is out of the room. Once you have the balls in the hidden areas, bring your dog in the room. Guide them to the balls for the first few times you play the game.
Step
2
Reinforce the game
Before leading your dog to the hidden balls, you might say, "Let's find the balls!" As you walk your dog to each hiding place, use the same commands: "Find the ball." The first few times, you may have to actually pull the ball from its hidden place and allow the dog to take the ball from you. Praise your dog at this point. You can give them a treat, if you wish. Carry the dog through each hiding place, repeating the commands and praise.
Step
3
Play the game
Once you feel the dog has gotten the gist of the game, you can remove them from the room, then hide the balls in new places. Bring your dog in the room. Repeat the command to find the balls.. Each time your dog finds the ball, be sure to reward them with praise. Once they have found all the balls, you can give him a treat for a game well-played!
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More Fun Ideas...

Flyball

Flyball is a great agility exercise that your American Cocker Spaniel will enjoy. You should play flyball outdoors where your pup can run freely. You can purchase a flyball machine at any pet supply store. For the first few runs of flyball, you might need to show your pup what you expect, but the highly trainable Cocker Spaniel will quickly learn how to play this fun game.

Go Fetch

Choose a favorite toy for this game. Ideally, a tennis ball or a bone-shaped chew toy works best. Never allow your dog to pick up a limb or something similar from the yard as it could splinter in the dog's mouth. You may need to encourage a young pup on what you expect, but the intelligent Cocker Spaniel will soon catch on.

Conclusion

The American Cocker Spaniel is a happy, energetic little dog. They were developed for the hunt, particularly hunting small game. They will enjoy participating in games which allow them to scent out their "prey," such as Sniff it Out. The hunter in them will enjoy tracking down the hidden object in Hide and Seek. Remember that the Cocker Spaniel loves agility games as well.