Cocker Spaniel Pulling on the Lead? Here is How to Fix it

June 14, 2022

Many Cocker Spaniel owners can relate to having their dog pull frantically when out for a walk. This can be a little embarrassing and you can begin to wonder who is walking who!

It just turns a nice walk in the park into an exhausting afternoon with a sore arm.

Cockers can be a little worse for this than many other dog breeds. There are quite a few factors that contribute to this though and we will get into that in this article.

If this sounds all too familiar to you then fear not, you are not alone. And it doesn't even only impact puppies, Cockers of all ages can be excitable and pull when on a lead.

Better still, there are plenty of ways you can rectify this behaviour and have nice relaxing strolls in the park with a perfectly well-behaved Cocker Spaniel. Like all dog behaviour it comes down to training and this has to be taught.

In this article, we will delve into everything you need to do to make your Cocker stop pulling on the leash.

Why Does a Cocker Spaniel Pull on the Lead?

Let's start with the reason your Cocker Spaniel pulls the lead. The main reasons are that incredibly effective nose and their history as hunting dogs.

Naturally, Cocker Spaniels don't walk in a straight line. They follow a zig-zag pattern which is used to help effectively search an area. A trait that is unique to this breed. It is hardwired into the breed's genes from their hunting days.

Of course, a dog pulling from side to side can jerk your arm a little as you walk them.

That nose of theirs is incredibly powerful. If there is an interesting scent that invokes curiosity around it could result in a Cocker Spaniel pulling on the lead.

Time to investigate!

Those long ears also play a role in finding that scent as they bounce across the sides of their head wafting the smell towards that nose.

Following scents actually activates the "seeking system" portion of your dog's brain. This releases dopamine making your dog want to follow the trail and feel good.

If they are not taught to fight that urge your dog will follow the scent every time without fail.

This is how pulling on a lead can become self-rewarding behaviour. First, your dog catches an interesting scent and pulls to investigate. Then you allow your Cocker to follow it and their brain released the dopamine which makes your dog feel good and encourages the behaviour.

There are other reasons your dog will pull when out on a walk. Reasons could include chasing a cat or bird or making friends with people passing or other dogs.

A final reason for pulling could be anxiety. If you suspect this to be possible it can't be trained out by the methods below you will want to identify and deal with this first.

Try to find the common denominator when your dog acts this way. It may be other dogs, busses, passing cars, or cats to give a few examples.

How Can I Stop my Cocker Spaniel from Pulling on the Lead?

It is possible to train Cocker Spaniels of any age to walk nicely. Training is the solution to a Cocker Spaniel pulling on lead. That paired with plenty of time patience, and clarity when giving commands.

As a bonus, these training sessions are nice quality time spent together with your dog which will strengthen your bond.

Any of the below training methods will benefit from eye contact. If your dog is looking at you they are not yanking on their leash.

If you do find yourself out for a walk and your dog begins to pull the first thing you should do is stop. Do not let your Cocker pull you around. This just plays into the self-rewarding behaviour we were talking about earlier.

Try turning in the other direction or stopping for a minute. You'll quickly get their attention when you do this, especially the first few times.

Depending on your schedule it can be hard to do this. If you are short on time and they start playing up it can be frustrating. Stay with it though as there will be no progress unless you are consistent.

Training Methods for Stopping your Cocker Spaniel Pulling the Lead

Dog owners have quite a few options at their disposal to deal with a dog pulling their lead.

In this section, I'll go over my top six. Pick one at a time and give it a chance to work. Too many different training methods can cause confusion if used at once.

Methods include:

  • Reducing stimuli
  • Heel work
  • Loose lead
  • Slip lead
  • Head collars
  • Harnesses

Try to Reduce Stimuli with Walking

This method tried to desensitise your dog to potential stimuli. We all know Cocker Spaniels can be crazy at times. No matter their age it can feel like they will go from zero to 100 in a moment.

Going for a walk is one of your dog's favourite parts of their day, right after getting fed! A good reason to get excited. This can lead to your dog pulling frantically and racing to the park.

So, what you should do is keep any potential stimuli low and reduce arousal.

Try to use their lead for non-walk times, or take them out for a few minutes down the street and back. Keep them guessing what is going on.

Over time you will find your Cocker becomes calmer and pays more attention.

Teach your Dog to Heel

Heel work trains your dog to stay at your side while you walk with them.

You would reward your dog for being in the heel position and not darting away. Over time your Cocker learns being in the right place gets rewarded. Likely with food, the fastest way to a Cockers heart!

Slip Lead Training

Slip lead training is slightly different to heelwork. Rather than your dog's intuition helping your dog understand the correct position a slip lead quickly tightens and releases if they dash forward.

While this will be an uncomfortable experience it does act as a deterrent over time.

Loose Lead Training

Next, we have loose lead training. This method rewards dogs for having a loose lead as in there is no tension in the lead. When your dog is darting forward the lead will tighten as they pull and there will be no reward.

Pretty simple, right?

This one works well with Cockers since they are smart. As previously noted if there is food involved you can be sure they will pick it up fast.

If possible try to walk in an area with a barrier on one side stopping too much veering away from you.


A headcollar/anti-pull collar is another tool you can use to stop your dog from pulling. This offers far more control over the dog's head taking a lot of pulling strength away from them.

It is not the most popular option on the list but some have sworn by it as an effective method of getting your Spaniel to walk well. There will likely be a little adjustment period for your Cocker when you begin using it.

It can take some time for a dog to get used to a headcollar.

No-Pull Harness

A no-pull harness is designed to restrict a dog's movement a little. When that excitable Cocker yanks forward the harness will allow your dog to go to the side rather than the back.

This style of harness actually reduces the amount of tension and stress on your dog's body and reduces any chance of injury. A bit more forgiving than a standard harness.

When Should you Train your Cocker Spaniel not to Pull on the Lead?

As with any dog training working on this will be far easier when your Cocker is still a puppy.

You want to create good habits as soon as you can. Young dogs learn faster and are far more open to learning and have brains like sponges. Much like small children in this regard.

Cocker Spaniels are intelligent dogs and will be able to pick it up at any point in their lives but why delay. This is something that will make your time with your dog easier when out walking.


You've made it to the end! Now you will be well equipped to handle when a dog pulls on their lead and understand why Cocker Spaniels are so driven to pull.

A lot of it comes with their history as hunting dogs and that unbeatable nose. With training and patience, it is easily trained out of them though resulting in a very well-behaved companion.

Do ensure that if you are trying to correct this behaviour that other family members are on the same page. As with any dog training, the last thing you want to do is lose progress due to mixed messages.

As always, consistency is key!

If you are having problems getting good behaviour when out on walks and the above methods are not working for you do contact a dog trainer or a training class in your local area for support.

And finally, best of luck with your training!

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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