14 Cocker Spaniel Training Tips Every New Owner Needs

June 11, 2022

Getting a puppy is an exciting time for the whole family.

But these energetic youngsters have a lot to learn and need your time and attention to understand how to behave and what is expected of them.

Luckily, Cocker Spaniels are very intelligent dogs. They love to learn and can pick up new skills quickly.

In fact, a study by Stanley Coren found that a Cocker Spaniel would obey a command asked only once time 85% of the time.

But while this breed is highly trainable there are still ways you can get the most out of training sessions and speed up their development.

This article will run through 14 tips for effective training.

Let's get started!

Start Early

Cocker Spaniel puppies are like sponges and absorb information very quickly. This means that the younger you start to train your dog the easier it will be to have that information set in

Generally, puppies are most receptive to learning from 8 to 12 weeks old. Luckily this coincides with when you will get your new puppy home from its mother and begin training.

Don't waste any time and get stuck in straight away to get the maximum benefit out of this stage. If you leave this too late you will have a harder time correcting bad habits and behaviours.

There is a wide range of behaviours you will want a new puppy to have quite quickly especially potty training your Cocker Spaniel and helping them develop bite inhibition.

No Distractions

A Cocker Spaniel puppy has a short attention span. Ensure your training environment is quiet and free from distractions.

If there is a lot going on around them they are going to struggle to stay focused on the task at hand.

Distractions can come in many forms. This could be dog toys lying around, other dogs/animals around, the smell of food cooking in the kitchen, or any of the wide array of distractions the outside world offers. The list goes on.

To create the perfect environment for Cocker Spaniels to learn try to keep any potential distractions out of the way.

Once your dog has mastered it in a less stressed environment look to bring in more distractions to ensure they can listen to the command when it matters.

This can be very important as you might be teaching your dog to stay and there are cars on the road posing danger.

Make Sure your Puppy Has Been to Toilet and Eaten

Just like the previous tip to avoid distractions, you will want to ensure your Cocker Spaniel pup has been to the toilet and had food.

Be sure not to do any arduous training before or after food. If you do the consequences can be quite dire as your Cocker can get a twisted stomach or gut torsion.

Of course, a level of common sense should be applied here. If you are working on teaching your dog to sit you'll likely be okay but if you are working on their recall when they will be running around you would want to give it some time.

Be Consistent

Consistency is a critical part of any endeavour and training your Cocker Spaniel is no exception.

It takes repetition and patience to help a young puppy understand what is required of them. While Cocker Spaniels are smart dogs they still need your patience and understanding when learning new skills.

All dogs learn at their own pace.

Remaining clear and consistent in your commands and approach can make a big difference in how quickly your Cocker Spaniel picks things up.

If other members of your household get involved in training your Cocker Spaniel you will also want to ensure they treat the dog in the same way. The last thing you want is to lose progress from mixed messages confusing your dog.

Keep Training Sessions Short

See that short attention span I mentioned earlier? A Cocker Spaniel puppy has a very short attention span.

This means if training sessions drag on too long you will lose your audience and retention goes down.

A better approach is to keep sessions short and more frequent. Think 15-20 minutes maximum and three to four times a day, if possible.

Your Cocker Spaniel will start to notice patterns here and recognise what is going on and be energetic, excited, and ready to get started.

The tone of Voice

Cocker Spaniels are sensitive dogs and don't do well when treated harshly. The tone of voice you choose to speak to your dog in when training can come into this.

Training your Cocker Spaniel puppy should be a fun experience for both you and your dog.

While giving your dog a command your voice should be firm and confident but definitely not threatening. If your dog doesn't feel comfortable this is another way to lose ground and slow their progress.

And when your puppy gets something right don't forget to raise your voice and be very positive.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Leading on from that last point, remember to use positive reinforcement when training your Cocker Spaniel puppy.

Positive reinforcement comes in a number of flavours.

Firstly as already touched on verbally telling your Cocker Spaniel they've done a great job in a positive tone can help encourage this behaviour.

A great way to get to a dog is through its belly. Cocker Spaniels love food. Get some tasty treats ready

Physically is another way of giving Cocker Spaniel puppies positive reinforcement. A good scratch behind the ear or on the belly can make your dog feel loved and also helps encourage positive action.

A combination of these approaches will be most effective in my experience.

Be Kind if your Dog Gets it Wrong

When you start doing puppy training sessions your dog won't get it right on the first go. It takes time for your dog to understand what is required of it.

Every dog is an individual and will learn at its own pace. You just need to relax and enjoy the process. It is a great bonding exercise for you both anyway.

If your Cocker Spaniel is finding something particularly challenging you will want to just take a break and come back to it later on. They will get it eventually, you've just got to stick with it.

Perhaps the training sessions are too long, there are a few distractions or your pup is just a little tired.

Whatever the case. Take a beat and circle back later refreshed and ready to go.

Don't Repeat Commands

If you give your dog a command multiple times before they obey it they will begin to think they don't have to listen to you the first time, or maybe even at all. Don't repeat commands when training your dog.

This can create very dangerous situations if you are out with your dog. There might be something toxic to dogs on the ground and you ask your Cocker to leave it and they don't listen leaving you taking an unplanned trip to the vet.

Not only can this situation look bad to others it also can make it look like your dog is not very well trained which would be a little embarrassing in public.

One way to help this is to make sure you get your dog's attention before giving a command and positively reward your dog if they follow it the first time.

Nobody wants to be that person in the park asking their dog to sit 10 times!

Keep Training Simple

When training your puppy ensure that you make everything you do simple and straightforward.

You can do this by only focusing on one command at a time, keeping sessions short, and ensuring that words used for commands are clear and simple to understand. Preferably only one syllable too to help your Cocker distinguish it.

Record your Progress

Keeping a note of how training sessions go can help highlight areas you need to focus on during your next session. It is also great to see how well your pup is progressing from week to week.

To do this just keep a notebook handy and jot down the key point from the session.

I'd write down what we worked on, how it went, and any focus points for next time.

Doing this can also help you stay focused on what you need to work on during a session. It can be very easy to go off on a tangent when training.

Remember to Have Fun

It is important that your Cocker learns how to behave and become a well-trained dog.

However, it is also important to remember that dog training should be fun for both dog owners and Cocker puppies.

This shared experience is a brilliant way of cementing that bond you both are developing and is a really rewarding part of being a puppy parent.

So where possible try to take a fun approach to training and you will find it becomes an activity that you both look forward to.

Always Finish Sessions on a Positive Note

It's always good to finish your session on a positive note. This helps your pup connect positive feelings towards this experience and look forward to the next one.

For tips on how to bring positivity into your dog's training refer back to the positive reinforcement section.

Reward Progress

Letting your Cocker know that they have done a good job and reinforcing positive action can help your dog understand what you want them to do. It also helps your dog feel good.

They yearn for the positive feedback that getting it right offers.

Rewarding progress can come in many ways. Similar to the positive reinforcement section above.

Don't let any positive action go unrewarded. While Cocker Spaniels are very motivated by food. It, of course, can't always be an edible reward or you will end up with an overweight dog.

What Should you Teach a New Puppy?

So, with all of the advice in hand what should we use our new dog training skills to teach our pups?

There is a wide range of skills you will need a new dog to learn. In this section I'll just run through the main behaviours I focus on instilling into a new dog.

The first is toilet training. This is definitely priority number one for the majority of dog owners.

Next, you will want to curb that curious biting phase that puppies go through. Developing bite inhibition is a key stage of any Cocker Spaniels development. If not dealt with promptly those cute little bites won't be tolerable when those adult teeth come in!

Crate training is another part of the training you will want to tick off. This gives your Cocker their own space where they relax and have a sense of security. It can also be helpful for preventing destructive behaviour or house training.

Of course, you will also have to train your puppy the basic commands. These include sit, stay, go to place, drop it, and walking next to you on the leash.

American Cocker Spaniel Training

What About Adult Cocker Spaniels?

If you are looking to train an adult Cocker Spaniel but not a puppy the same tips still apply. They will still learn, but it will take them a little longer for it to set it.

Just be persistent and patient and you'll find that they pick up the new behaviours in no time. Cockers are smart dogs remember!

If you are having a hard time or having more serious/dangerous behavioural issues such as biting don't try to deal with it alone. Enlist the support of a dog trainer.


So, here are our top training tips to get the most out of your time training your Cocker Spaniel.

No matter their age if you apply these tips you are sure to get the most out of your time training your dog.

Also, given how smart and trainable this breed are you are sure to have no problem supporting your canine companion in developing all of the skills they need to be a very well-trained dog.

Remember that if you are finding any element of this challenging there is very likely help available in your local area.

You can also enrol your puppy in classes to get a structured course to get them well on their way.

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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