When you train your Cocker Spaniel to walk off-lead, it gives you the gift of added mobility, less time fussing with leashes while enjoying the outdoors, and the peace of mind that your dog knows to stay close.
Cocker Spaniels are usually quite easy to train. They are intelligent, they love to please, and most are quite motivated to work for food! In fact, if your Cocker Spaniel is on a diet, most will gladly train just for pieces of their regular kibble withheld from the daily meals. Of course, mixing in a few special tasty treats never hurts motivation either!
This guide will explore three different methods to train off-lead walking so that you can choose a way that works best for your dog’s learning style. Although easy to train initially, walking off leash requires some dedication to lots of practice before your dog master’s this skill.
Most people want something along the lines of a fairly obedient and tight 'heel' when training their dog to walk off-leash. However, it is your call! If you are satisfied for your Cocker Spaniel to stay within a few feet radius, you can use any of the methods described here, substituting your desired position or radius as the criteria to reward your dog at each stage.
Both the 'Drop Treat' and 'Baited Stick' methods start with your dog off-leash. These methods will require that you have a safe and contained space that is large enough to practice off-leash walking. Preferably, you will also have a fenced area to work on this behavior outside.
The 'Heel' method starts with leash work and only transitions to off-leash work once the behavior is already on command. It is a better choice if you are living in an apartment without regular access to secure spaces large enough to practice off leash.
Safety Precaution: Be sure to never expect your dog to heel in a potentially dangerous situation such as near traffic. Even the best-trained dogs can be distracted by something interesting like a squirrel and chase it into traffic.
Items you may need, depending on the method you
These methods refer to click/treat. A clicker is a very inexpensive training tool that makes a sharp sound used to mark behavior you like, followed immediately by a reward. If you do not use a clicker that is totally fine. Just use a word or sound of your own that you use just for training, followed consistently with a food reward.
Since Cocker Spaniels are such shorties, you will need a method for rewarding behavior you like without having to bend over and deliver it. In this case, you can stand up and walk normally, dropping treats after you mark the desired behavior with your clicker or your special marking sound.
It is okay if your dog has to go outside of your desired radius or position to get the treat. This will force them to choose to get back in position to earn more rewards, further reinforcing the desired behavior.
Let’s get started!