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!
Luna is a very steady pup however she goes crazy at the slightest sign/sniff of a treat. Do we persist or just use praise for training? Thank you.
Hello Nicki, If praise alone is effective you can certainly just use praise! I would also suggest trying to use just pup's own meal kibble as treats (taken from her daily kibble amount to avoid overfeeding). Her own meal kibble might be the right amount of reward without being overly exciting. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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my dog will not listen.. she jumps, steals cushions, runs off.. i’m at the end of my tether. any advice please. I just want her to do as shes told
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I am wanting honey to be great at her recall and let no distractions stop her. I also want to make sure that when she is off the lead she is close and doesn’t run away and she is a very flighty dog
Hi there. I am going to send you some step by step instructions for recall. It's a good idea to practice this exercise in a distracted environment so she can learn to respond to you despite what is going on around her. Recall: STAGE ONE – 'Catching' or Charging Up the 'Come' Cue Start in a distraction free environment so that your dog can focus only on you. Whenever your puppy or dog is coming to you on his own, wait until he is a couple of feet from you and then say his name and the word 'come.' When he gets to you, make a big fuss. With this exercise, your dog will learn that coming to you is a really good thing. After a while, you can lengthen the distance between you and start using the word when he is coming to you from a greater distance. Coming to you should always be rewarded, whatever the circumstance and no matter how long it took your dog to respond. Motivate your dog to come by being exciting, running away from him, waving a toy, or having delicious food for him when he gets to you. This will show him that coming back to you the best thing he can do. STAGE TWO – Solidifying the Cue Through Play Make sure you play the Back and Forth game with another person that your dog is comfortable with. Start the game in a quiet environment so it is easy for your dog to focus on you. Hold your dog back while the other person calls him excitedly. Try not to use his name or the cue word but talk excitedly to ‘gee’ him up. Do not release him until the person calls his name followed by the cue word “come.” When the cue word is given, release your dog and let him go running to the person calling. As soon as he reaches them they should praise and reward him with a game of tug or a food reward. When your dog has had his reward, have the other person hold him back as you call him and release as you say his name followed by the cue word. When he comes to you reward him with another game of tug or food reward. Repeat this game back and forth but only do a few repetitions so your dog does not get bored or too tired. Keeping it fresh means the game is always fun to play. STAGE THREE – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Inside Now your dog knows what the word “come” means you can use the cue word to call him to you while adding a hand signal to the word. Hand signals are always good to build with vocal cues so that even if your dog cannot hear you he will understand what the hand signal means. This is good if your dog is a distance away from you. Start in a quiet environment. Walk away from your dog and call his name followed by the cue word and a hand signal. Praise and reward him when he comes to you. Start increasing the distance you call him from and praise for his compliance. If he does not respond, go back to the previous distance and repeat. Only practice this cue for a few minutes so your dog does not get bored. The secret to success is to always keep it fun, exciting and fresh. When your dog recognizes the hand signal, try calling his name and using the hand signal by itself without the vocal cue. You will then be able to use a combination of vocal cue only, hand signal only and the two together. Now your dog knows what the cue word means you can start to call him from different rooms or from areas where he cannot see you. This will encourage him to respond even when you are out of sight. STAGE FOUR – Adding Vocal Cue With Hand Signal Outside Now your dog is consistently coming to you in a distraction free environment you can proof your recall cue by taking it outside. Practice the recall in your yard and then gradually build up to the point where you can use it in the park or similar environment. The ultimate test is to use the recall when your dog is engaged in a different activity. Wait for a lull in that activity and then call your dog to you. Praise his decision to comply.
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