Did you know that the term "cocker" derives from this breed's past use for hunting down the Eurasian woodcock in the United Kingdom? While your cocker spaniel nowadays has no more woodcocks to hunt, you can keep his body exercised and mind mentally stimulated with some training.
Toss away that choke collar and lower your tone of voice; when it comes to training, this sensitive breed does best with positive training methods. With a cocker you will definitely accomplish much more with a clicker, loads of praise and a bag of treats. This especially holds true for puppies. Scolding a puppy or engaging in harsh training methods may result in a puddle of urine. This is not due to a faulty valve; rather, this breed is notorious for urinating submissively when feeling submissive or intimidated. Luckily, this behavior often resolves on its own as the puppy matures and develops better confidence.
Add a stubborn streak into the picture and you end up with a breed that can be a bit challenging to train. With this breed you need to find the right balance between being kind and being firm. This means you have to provide gentle guidance, while being persistent and consistent in giving directions. It all boils down to dosing your training with accuracy: dole out too much permissiveness and your dog may take advantage of it, act too harsh and your cocker may wilt. Yet give the right training and this breed will flourish. It is up to you to understand your dog and modify your methods to fit his individual personality, suggests Nikki Riggsbee in the book Training Your Cocker Spaniel.
This breed is categorized by the American Kennel Club under the sporting group. While in the old days cockers were used to flush woodcocks out of dense brush, nowadays, they remain mainly unemployed today and are mainly used as companion dogs. Training will provide the exercise and mental stimulation this enthusiastic breed craves. If you are into doggie sports you may be happy to learn that this breed excels in obedience, agility and tracking.
With his past as a flushing dog, cocker spaniel training may pose a few challenges due to instinctive behaviors. Blessed with a strong sense of smell, your cocker may run off at times and be totally oblivious to your requests to come back. It is important to train a strong recall command and always keep your cocker leashed on walks and in a fenced area when he's off leash. Pulling on the leash to chase the occasional squirrel or bird may be another issue. It is ultimately up to you as the owner to make the behaviors you want him to do feel good, while making the activities you don't want him to pursue unavailable, according to Nikki Riggsbee.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.