Every time Sam takes his Cocker Spaniel, Trixie, for a walk around the neighborhood and she sees someone on a bike, Trixie goes ballistic and barks uncontrollably. This is not only embarrassing it is dangerous, as Trixie startles the bikers, who are unsure of her intentions.
Why is Trixie barking at bikers and what can be done to correct her? Barking is a common issue with Cocker Spaniels, who are at heart, high-energy sporting dogs. Perhaps Trixie’s prey drive is kicking in, perhaps she is trying to warn you of a perceived danger, she may be excited or anxious, or she may be just bored and think it’s a game. After all, the bike leaves every time she barks--Trixie wins! Fortunately, there are several strategies Cocker Spaniel owners can use to get their pets to stop barking at bikers, which will make walks much more peaceful and safe for your biking neighbors.
Ideally, you will train your Cocker Spaniel not to bark at bikers as soon as the behavior manifests, or when your dog is young to avoid the behavior becoming established. If barking at bikers has become a habit, training your dog not to bark at cyclists may take longer, but persistence will pay off. Some Cocker Spaniels thrive on learning tricks, and putting barking on command or teaching an alternate behavior may be a great method for these dogs. Nervous dogs may just need more experience with bicycles to change their behavior.
You will need to engage an assistant with a bicycle to train your dog not to bark at bicycles, as you do not want to frighten cyclists you randomly encounter with your barking Cocker Spaniel. Treats to reinforce desired behavior will also be required. Plan on spending some time working on teaching behaviors such as 'be quiet' or alternative behaviors, in addition to working with bicycles. Avoid yelling at or punishing your Cocker Spaniel for barking, as this tends to only add to his excitement and makes barking worse.