How to Train a Cocker Spaniel to Walk Nicely on Lead

July 27, 2022

Cocker Spaniels make wonderful companions. They are intelligent, sensitive and responsive dogs that love to spend time with their owners.

However, like many other breeds of dog, the Cocker Spaniel can have a tendency to be stubborn and wilful. This means that training them can sometimes require a lot of patience and persistence on your part as an owner.

One of the most challenging aspects of loose lead training is teaching your Cocker Spaniel how to keep slack in the lead. In this article, we will look at some tips and tricks on how to accomplish this.

Ensure The Lead Is The Right Length

The first thing you need before beginning lead training is that the lead needs to be the right length. The best length is typically 6 feet. If the lead is too long, your dog may be able to drag you around, causing you to trip over or fall over.

You must also make sure that the lead is long enough for your dog to comfortably walk next to you. Having the lead too short can cause your dog pain and discomfort when walking on the lead.

And nobody wants to make their Cocker uncomfortable! This can also create an extra distraction from your dog training. You want your dog focused on the task at hand.

There are different training methods for leash training, but most dog trainers agree that the worst training tools to use for training your dog to walk nicely on a lead are harnesses, bungee leashes and retractable leads.

Despite what you've heard in the clever marketing ads, most professional trainers agree that these three tools are the main culprits when a dog pulls on the lead. If you think about it, this makes sense. Any animal that's ever been trained for pulling something, is put on a harness.

These tools may make you feel like you have more control over your dog, which is what many of the harness ads will have you believe. However, the best way to keep your dog's attention is to use a collar that controls the neck or the head, not the torso. A collar at the neck or head makes it easier to control the parts of the body nearest your dog's nose, which is the main source of all his distractions, and the main reason your dog pulls.

Where the head goes the body follows.

Don't Reward Bad Behaviour

The first step is to start your training sessions with your hands down and relaxed at your side. Do not tense your arms or shoulders. This will be hard at first because by now it's probably a habit for you, but with time you will gradually build your training skill.

Starting position begins with your dog on the left-hand side. You can keep your dog on the right side if you prefer, but always walk your dog on the same side. Not being consistent with your dog's heel position may encourage your dog to weave left to right which defeats the purpose of this exercise.

Do your best not to reward bad behaviour. When your dog is pulling, you should avoid forward movement. Moving closer to where your dog wants to go is rewarding for him. To teach him to stop pulling on the lead, you should quickly turn and start walking in the opposite direction the moment his nose hits the ground and he starts to pull.

You can use the cue word "heel" as you turn, or say nothing at all, it does not matter so long as your dog is understanding to keep slack in the lead. Practice changing direction often, especially when your dog loses focus. This teaches him that you will not continue to walk in his desired direction if he isn't focused on you.

Working Around Distractions

Training your dog to listen despite other exciting events can be challenging.

Firstly, make sure your dog gets opportunities to explore and socialize regularly outside of your training sessions. This will desensitize him to the world outside the four walls of your home. If the only time your dog gets to socialize is on their walks, you will struggle to get them to walk on a loose lead.

Second, if your dog has a habit of barking or pulling when they see other dogs, do not stop walking or tell your dog to sit. Dog owners have a bad habit of doing this because they believe they are teaching their dogs to be calm in the face of distraction.

What you're really doing is alerting the dog to the fact that this triggering event is about to happen and encouraging them to set their sights on another pup instead of you.

When you and your dog are approaching a situation that typically causes high arousal, it's better to engage in play with your dog by using a toy or practicing several commands with treats. But do remember not to overdo it on treats too much as this will count as part of your Cockers diet.

This encourages your dog to continue paying attention to you in the face of strong distractions versus ignoring you, barking, or pulling on the lead while you struggle to regain their attention.

Praise & Reward Good Behaviour

While it's important to correct bad behaviour, it's equally as important to reward good behaviour. When your dog walks calmly with slack in the leash, praise him heavily and reward him with a treat. Be engaging and use a pleasant voice.

One of the most common reasons a dog pulls on lead is because the environment is more exciting than you are. Like with any other dog training such as toilet training or crate training positive reinforcement is the best way forward. Especially with Cocker Spaniels who are very sensitive dogs in general.

Food is always a great way to get through to a Spaniel. Being armed with your dogs favourite treat can help overcome a stumbling block.

When you are training your dog to walk nicely on a lead, you will need to be patient and persistent. You must ensure that you keep training your dog and do not give up too quickly. It can take several weeks, if not months, to train a dog to walk nicely on a lead. Therefore, you must be persistent and stay committed to the training.

Additional Training Tips

  1. Try different collar styles. Each dog is an individual with different levels of strength and stubbornness. No training tools are bad. Some are just more effective than others.
  2. If you notice a coughing sound while training Cocker Spaniel to walk on lead and training shows little improvement, it is recommended to try a prong collar. While these collars may look medieval, they were invented (by a veterinarian) for small to medium-sized dogs that pull hard on the leash. They will not cause your dog pain if used properly and will prevent tracheal collapse, a very uncomfortable injury for a dog.
  3. Prevent your dog pulling at all costs by remembering to follow our advice about changing direction often.

Is it Easier to Train a Puppy to Walk on a Lead?

Yes. We would recommend starting this training as soon as you get your Cocker Spaniel puppy.

While you can't quite take your new pup our for a walk when they first come home you would be able to get them used to the feeling of the head collar while out in the back garden. The key benefit here is to get your dog used to the feeling of the head control.

This can reduce the amount of time loose lead training takes as you won't have that teething period which lasts as long as the start.

Of course, puppies are very excitable and will start pulling on the lead the second they are outside, there is so much to see and do, right? It will still take time. But why not get a head start on it.


Cocker Spaniels are beautiful and loving dogs. However, they can be stubborn and unruly. Therefore, training them can sometimes require patience and persistence on the part of their owner. One of the most challenging aspects of training a Cocker Spaniel is teaching them how to walk nicely on lead, but with time and dedication, it can be done.

Remember that there are many factors which can influence how well your dog responds to training, especially when outdoors with many distractions and draws for your Cocker's attention.

From other other dogs, to kids, or even a BBQ on in the park there are no shortage of distractions. But if you start in a quiet place and build up and you gain more confidence you will be walking around with a very well trained Cocker Spaniel in no time. No more being dragged around the park on the leash!

And just remember, it can take time to get your dog to walk nicely and they all learn at their own pace. Take it easy and your patience will be rewarded.

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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