How to Train Your Cocker Spaniel Dog to Heel

Medium
4-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

Cocker Spaniels are an incredibly cheerful, easygoing, and playful, which is part of what makes them such popular pets. Along with this, Cockers are very intelligent and easy to train, especially when you start training them while they are still puppies. As with most breeds, successful training requires plenty of time, repetition, patience, and continued positive reinforcement.

'Heel' is one of the most important commands you can teach your pup beyond the four basic commands of 'come', 'sit', 'stay', and 'down'. The traditional 'heel' position is on your left side while you are walking down the sidewalk. You can teach your pup to heel on the right side if it works better for you. This position is by your side, not in front nor behind you. Your pup should be close enough that he is virtually brushing up against your pants leg and there should be no tension on his leash. 

Defining Tasks

The 'heel' command tells your dog that when he hears it, he should immediately assume a position by your left leg ready to go for a walk with you. It also means this is the place where he should be anytime you go for a walk unless you give him permission to do otherwise. It does NOT mean he can walk behind you, ahead of you, or be trying to pull you along. Heel puts your dog in position to remain in constant communication with you so that he knows what you want the minute you want it.

You can teach 'heel' to virtually any age dog, but the sooner you start the better. The ultimate goal is for you and your pup to be able to go walking together whether he is on or off his leash with him maintaining the heel position, no matter what. 

Getting Started

Training your Cocker Spaniel to "heel" doesn't have much of a supply list. This type of training is more about being patient with your pup and being ready to put in the time needed to achieve your goal. Your job is to work with your pup until he understands what you expect of him when you give him the  'heel' command. However, you should plan to have a leash and a good supply of treats on hand.

Also, training always goes better when you have a quiet time of day to work with your dog. Fewer distractions make it easier for your pup to focus. Beyond that, the only other things you need are plenty of patience and lots of time to take your pup out for lots of walks on a daily basis. Remember not to punish or chastise your pup if he doesn't get it right, just keep working with him until he does. 

The Stay With Me Method

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Step
1
Treat in place
Take one of your pup's favorite treats and hold it down beside your leg on whichever side you plan to use as the 'heel' position.
Step
2
Look what I have
Let your pup see that you have the treat, hold it down beside you and then take a few steps.
Step
3
Follow me, please
If your Cocker follows you, come to a stop and give him the 'sit' command. When he does, give him lots of praise and the treat.
Step
4
Over and over and over again
Keep repeating the process, adding extra distance before you give your pup his treat every time he stays right with you.
Step
5
Cue up the cue word
Now that your pup has a pretty good idea of what you expect from him, it's time for you to add the cue word, "heel". Call your pup's name and say "heel" then tap your leg and start walking. If he does what he is supposed to, stop and give him lots of praise, but now start cutting back on the treats (no one wants an overweight Cocker Spaniel). If he tries to run ahead, try turning 180 degrees and walking the other way, give the 'heel' command and tap your leg. Keep doing this until your pup will remain in the expected position anytime you go for a walk.
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The Praise and Rewards Method

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Step
1
Call your pup
Start by clapping your hands and calling your pup over to you using the command word "heel". When he comes over, give him a treat and plenty of praise.
Step
2
Step by step
With your Cocker standing beside you in the heel position, take a single step. If your pup follows you, give him a treat. Do this repeatedly over the course of several steps, stopping each time and praising your pup while giving him a treat. Keep adding to the distance between stops and treats until your pup will walk in straight lines maintaining the heel position.
Step
3
It's complicated
When you are confident that your pup has mastered the straight line, start working on going around sharp corners, hit those winding hiking trails, and do a few figure eights. All you are trying to do is teach your dog to do is remain in the heel position any time you are going walking together.
Step
4
Oooh... shiny
Time to switch from the quiet of your training sessions to a busier time of day. If he remains in the heel position, be sure to reward him with a treat and plenty of praise.
Step
5
And in the end
Now that you have your pup behaving while he is on his leash, you can go ahead and work with him off-leash. Start over during the quiet times before introducing him to distractions again. Soon you and your pup will be able to go anywhere together.
Recommend training method?

The Snapping Collar Method

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Step
1
Pick your side
Start by deciding which side is going to be the 'heel' side when walking and make sure everyone in the family knows they have to use the same side. This is important, as if everyone uses a different side, your dog will end up being confused.
Step
2
Choose a collar
For this method, you will need to pick up a slip collar that is designed to make a snapping sound when you give a short snap of the leash. You will be using this for the entire training time.
Step
3
Find your place
The best place to start training your Cocker to heel is a nice long stretch of sidewalk during a quiet time of day.
Step
4
Getting ready
Call your pup over to you and have him sit. Connect his leash, call his name and say "heel!" once. Do NOT repeat the command.
Step
5
Off you go
Start off walking, your pup should get up and follow you. Be sure to walk at a comfortable pace so your pup can keep up. You should not have to give him the command again. Continually repeating the command will actually confuse your pup. When he walks with you give him a treat and praise him.
Step
6
Snap
If your pup gets it in his head to walk ahead of you, turn 180 degrees, snap the leash so that the collar makes the snapping noise. The noise and change in direction lets your dog know who's the boss. The reason for this is that the sideways jerk of the leash mimics the behavior of the pack leader to control the rest of the pack.
Step
7
Drop the leash
The best way to teach your dog to walk in the heel position off-leash is to let him walk with the leash dragging on the ground first. This way if he tries to take off, you have a way to stop him. Keep heaping on the praise and rewarding him with treats until he will stay in the 'heel' position on or off the leash.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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