Are Cocker Spaniels Easy to Train?

June 5, 2022

Have you just got a new Cocker Spaniel puppy or perhaps are considering this breed? If so you might be wondering how challenging training your cocker spaniel will be.

The good news is that Cocker Spaniels are very easy to train. Their intelligent, loving playful nature, and eagerness to please make this breed a joy to train.

This article will dive into what makes a Cocker Spaniel such a delight to train as well as advice on how to best approach it.

What Makes Cocker Spaniels Easy to Train?

Cocker Spaniels are well known for being smart, affectionate dogs. Luckily for us Cocker Spaniel owners, this makes this breed simple and straightforward to train.

Firstly, the kind and loving nature is seen in a Cocker Spaniel makes this breed a joy to train. They are always looking to please their owners.

Cocker Spaniels are smart dogs. In fact, Stanley Coren's dog intelligence criteria ranked English Cocker Spaniels as 20th out of 133 breeds by intelligence. The American Cocker Spaniel took the 23rd spot in these ratings too.

When combining their amenable nature and their intelligence you get the perfect dog to train. You will find that a Cocker Spaniel is responsive to instruction and had even been observed in the above study to carry out a newly taught commands when asked 85% of the time.

Also, I've never seen anything more motivated by food than a Cocker Spaniel. Once they realise the path to getting one of those tasty treats is by lying down or sitting everything quickly falls into place.

When Should I Start Training my Cocker Spaniel?

Start training your Cocker Spaniel as a puppy. This will help avoid bad habits setting in as they age. Beginning training from this age is also far easier and just like small children, young dogs learn much faster.

I know we have focused a little on Cocker Spaniel puppies up to this point. This is because more will be training younger dogs. Adult Cocker Spaniels are still very capable learners though. They will just pick it up a bit slower than those at a young age and require slightly more patience on the owner's side.

So if your Cocker Spaniel is a little unruly it's never too late to improve their behaviour. The phrase "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is definitely wrong.

What Should I Teach my Cocker Spaniel Puppy?

There are a lot of skills needed for that puppy to grow up to be a well-trained dog.

First off you will want to ensure the basic commands are covered. The main ones you will want to tick off include:

  • Sit
  • Lie down
  • Stay/Wait
  • Leave it
  • Drop it
  • Go to place

Once you Cocker Spaniel has a firm grip of these commands they will have a solid foundation to build on. These are certainly the key ones as they don't only relate to behaviour but keeping your dog safe.

You will be able to move along to more advanced commands after this or even start having a little fun with tricks.

Along with above commands there are a few other things you will want to focus on for training your Cocker Spaniel.

Toilet training is a main one and likely the number one priority for any new dog owner. Another is bite inhibition as a Cocker Spaniel explores the world with their mouth and need to learn to regulate the strength of that bite before those adult dog teeth set in.

Once my Cocker Spaniel is Trained will I Need to Continue Training?

Once your Cocker Spaniel is fully trained you will still need to revisit this from time to time. If you don't stay on top of your dog's behavioural and obedience training it can gradually slip over time.

This could be dangerous if you need your Cocker Spaniel to drop something and they are not listening to you as you've not used this command in a few years. Getting something out of a dog's mouth they don't want you to have is a nightmare.

The above scenario is easily avoidable though by running with regular reviews of commands. Even just a 10 minute run-through of all of the key commands/behaviours you need your Cocker Spaniel to know will make all the difference when it matters.

If it has been a year or two since you have run over certain commands don't fret, you may just need to circle back to training sessions on specific commands again. Cockers are smart dogs though so they'll pick it up again in no time.

Top Tips for Training a Cocker Spaniel

Starting to train your Cocker Spaniel? Well, these tips will help make this a breeze.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Cocker Spaniels don't respond well to harsh treatment and are best given soft and gentle guidance as they are learning.

If you are too much you can make your dog more anxious, slow down their training, or even make the dog scared of you.

What works best is using positive reinforcement.

This can be achieved in a variety of ways which can include verbally telling your dog in a positive tone how great they are doing, giving the dog a good scratch, or through their bellies with treats. Food is a fantastic motivator for Cocker Spaniels.

Have a Calm Environment for Training

The last thing you need when trying to train a excitable Cocker Spaniel pup is distractions. This only serves to split their attention from the task and hand and can inhibit progress.

Anyone who has had a puppy will confirm they can be distracted easily.

Try to find a quiet location to with as few distractions as possible when instilling a new behaviour into your dog. Later on you can add in other factors such as other people, traffic, or other dogs to help cement this behaviour in more challenging situations.

Also if you have any other pets it would be better if they were not around during.

Its important that your dog will listen to you in a busy area with many distractions as well as at home alone. Starting with no distractions and building up is the most effective approach.

Consistency is Key

Being consistent with training is one of the most important elements of Cocker Spaniel training.

While this breed is known for pick up new skills quickly repetition is going to be critical to ingraining these behaviours into your dog.

Try to start out by dedicating at least 15-20 minutes a day to training at the beginning. Then move along to the next one after they master a command.

Take this approach and your dog will quickly be showing up all of the other dogs in the park.

Don't Focus on too Many Things at Once

A Cocker Spaniel has a lot to learn. Trying to tackle everything at once will be too much and only slow down overall progress.

Pick one or two aspects of their training to focus on and keep with that until it sinks in. By organising


Luckily a Cocker Spaniels affectionate, loving nature, eagerness to please and keen intellect make them a breeze to train.

As with many aspects of being a Cocker Spaniel owner, consistency is important. This is especially the case when it comes to the training process.

All dogs are individuals though with unique personalities and as such will learn at their own pace. Have patience with your Cocker and just enjoy the process. Dog training can be a great opportunity to bond with your canine companion.

You will have a hard time finding owners of Cocker Spaniels who do not have a positive experience when training. The stellar Cocker Spaniel personality shines through here making them a fantastic pet and family dog.

Allan  Noble
Hi, my name is Allan! I am the owner of Spaniel Advisor and I've got over seven years experience of owning Spaniels.  
I hope this article was helpful for you! 
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