When it comes to training your Cocker Spaniel, the constant pulling on the lead can be one of the most frustrating parts. So just how do you stop a Cocker Spaniel Pulling on the lead?
People have come up with many ways to stop dogs from pulling on their lead. There are different training methods as well as inventions from various harnesses, collars and leads. Today I will talk about my top 15 ways to help stop your Cocker or any other dog from pulling on his leader every time he’s out for a walk.
Here is a video we put together and posted on our official Cocker Spaniel World youtube channel.
We have offered this advice to all breeds of dog on the channel but you can apply the tips to training your Cocker Spaniel. Go check out the video and don’t forget to subscribe.
Why Do Cocker Spaniels Pull So Hard On The Leash
Oh boy, where do I start? The list can be pretty much endless but there are a few reasons that are the most common. Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons.
While I have you here. If you are thinking about getting a Cocker Spaniel then I highly recommend you check out our review of this online training program.
I have personally used this myself and whenever the topic of dog training comes up, this is the training product I always suggest.
Going for a walk is pretty much your Cocker Spaniel’s most exciting time of the day, well, that and mealtime. As soon as your Cocker knows it’s time for “Walkies” he’s gonna get himself all hyper and worked up and will be raring to go.
Basically this is a recipe for a dog that will pull as soon as you attach the lead.
I touch on the Temperament of a Cocker Spaniel in this post and mention excitement fairly often.
If your dog is not properly trained and has a tendency to pull on the lead, as soon as there’s any distractions you can guarantee that he will be pulling like a mad dog.
The usual distractions are people and other dogs or animals. Cats anyone?
If they Pull They Move Forward
Dogs are very intelligent. Dogs that pull think they when they pull they move forward. It sounds simple doesn’t it but that’s basically what’s happening.
Your dog pulls on the leader because he wants to move in a certain direction for whatever reason. You let him pull you forward so he gets what he wants…..it makes perfect sense. He’s getting rewarded by you, albeit unintentionally, for pulling.
There I said it, you’re to blame for your dog pulling, not your Cocker. But we can correct that so don’t worry.
Dominant And Lead The Pack
Many people believe that a dog that pulls is simply trying to be the leader of the pack and be the dominant one of the pack.
This has pretty much proven to be a myth but I can understand why people would think this way.
Dogs Walk Quick
You don’t say? Well ok I know this is a pretty obvious statement but it’s true. Dogs walk much quicker than humans and without proper training they will always want to walk at their own natural pace. Basically a little trot.
They need to be taught to walk at your pace while on the lead. This will frustrate your Cocker spaniel but you can’t blame them. Just think how unnatural it is if you are walking along with a small child and you are having to go at their pace….it’s actually hard work going so slow. Trust me, I have 3 kids so I should know.
Ok so this is the most obvious reason a Cocker Spaniel will pull on the lead and should probably have been at the beginning of this list but hey, I’m not a pro blogger so who cares on what order I’ve put things in right?
If you are considering whistle training I have covered which are the best whistles to train a Cocker Spaniel in this post.
Equipment and training aids is a big talking point online among dog owners, trainers and manufacturers. While I agree some training aids etc have their place and use to some degree, I will talk more about equipment below and what I think you should and shouldn’t be using.
How To Stop A Cocker Spaniel From Pulling On The Leash
So now we have an understanding as to why your dog is pulling on his lead let’s have a look at some tips and how you can stop it.
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You can check out the course here and even sign up for some free training
Some of these tips helped me out massively with both my Spaniels but please bare in mind that some tips will work better than others. After all, each dog is an individual and may respond differently.
EDIT: These tips aren’t in any particular order of best to least effective etc.
1. Tire Them Out Before Their Walk
A cocker Spaniel can and will go for hours and hours without rest if he’s stimulated constantly, whether that’s while he’s out for a walk or just playing with his toys in the garden.
You can still tire them out to a degree so this is what I used to do when my Cocker was a little puppy. I would play fetch etc in the garden for quite awhile before taking him for his walk.
Like I said, this won’t completely tire him out but at a young age it will certainly make him less energetic and while it won’t stop the pulling, it did stop my Guinness from pulling so strongly and make the training that little bit easier,.
2. Don’t Attach The Leash
I found this to be a very frustrating one but well worth the effort. As soon as any dog sees their leash they know that it’s time for a walk. Cue massive excitement, barking, spinning around in circles etc…..I know you can certainly relate as you’re reading this.
So this tip may sound simple, but it’s not easy, well it wasn’t easy for my Cocker to pick up anyway.
Next time you get your Cockers leash out, the idea is that you don’t attach it while he’s hyper. Try and get him to calm down and sit.
By the way, you can check out my review of the leash I use here.
If he refuses to sit and behave, do not attach the leash or you will be rewarding him albeit unintentionally. I used to go as far as to putting Guinness’ leash away until he calmed down. Obviously as soon as I got it back out he started with his hyper excited behavior so away it went again.
This went on for weeks but it did get better over time so please stick with it.
3. Reward With Treats
If you have searched online or read any books about training a dog you will have no doubt come across the treat method. Simply put, rewarding good behavior with treats works, period.
So from now on, if you aren’t using treats with your training methods, you had better start.
I’m pretty sure you know this but treat rewarding simply involves giving your Cocker some sort of little treat the second he does something that you want him to do.
If you have made him sit and stay until you call him, give him that treat straight away and talk enthusiastically to him as you give him it.
If you praise him with words such as ‘good boy’ or ‘good dog’ then use them in conjunction with a treat and he will quickly pick up that he gets rewarded for doing what you want.
Remember, Cockers are very intelligent dogs and want to please their owners as well as themselves.
4. Keep The Leash Short
When you’re trying to train a Cocker Spaniel not to pull on their leash then you must start off by keeping them on a short lead. Even if you eventually want to have your Cocker on a long loose leash eventually, a short leash is the way to start.
The short leash keeps your Cocker walking closer to you until he’s fully trained.
It can be handy to have a retractable leash to help with your dogs training, a cheap and cheerful leash will do the job, this one on Amazon is as good as any.
5. Stop When He Pulls
This tip, along with the treat tip, is one of the ones that worked best for both of my Spaniels.
The idea here is that as soon as your Cocker pulls on the leash, you stop, dead in your tracks. Stand still, even if he keeps trying to pull.
Use firm words like ‘stay’ and make him sit. Once he has calmed down and sat for a period of time, reward him with a treat and proceed.
If he pulls again, which he will haha repeat this process. Be ready to have plenty of those treats ready because this will go on and on but please stick with it as it’s such a rewarding training method.
6. Do Not Use A Harness
For many people, a harness is the next step they take for their dog who is pulling on the leash. Why do so many people go down the harness route?
It’s simple. A dog that pulls on it’s leash that wears a regular collar with cough and breathe very heavily, partly due to the collar on the dogs throat.
A harness eliminates that choking effect that you get from a regular collar but not only does it not stop your dog from pulling but it can and usually does make the pulling even worse.
How come? If you put a harness on a dog that pulls on it’s leash, not only can it pull without choking itself, but because of the way a dog wears its harness, it can now use it’s whole body to pull therefore pulling with more force.
I really do not recommend that you use any harness when trying to train your Cocker spaniel on a leash but I appreciate that many people feel they have no option but to try a harness.
Do not try and get all fancy with a harness, they are all pretty much the same regardless of price. One of the best ones on the market is the Rabbitgoo No Pull. Its easy for your dog to step in and has reflective lights for visibility and safety…..You can get them on Amazon for some small change, here’s the link to Amazon.
EDIT: I have had a few emails from people asking why my Cocker in the picture is wearing a harness if I don’t recommend them wearing one.
Well my old boy is nearly 13 years old and is going blind and getting very hard of hearing. There have been a few occasions where he has gone to cross a road without warning or looking which is something he never did when he was younger.
So he is now wearing harness purely down to safety reasons…..I hope that helps clear up any misunderstanding.
7. Do Not Use A Choke Chain
Please, whatever you do, DO NOT use a choke chain. Why these are available for the general public to but is beyond me.
Only qualified dog trainers and handlers should be permitted to use these things.
The amount of people who say they have tried everything to stop their dog puling on the leash, including a choke chain, astonishes me. Choke chains aren’t even meant for this type of training.
Choke chains are cruel, can cause pain and damage to your dog. Remember, we are using positive and rewards for training.
Never use punishment and believe me, choke chains are definitely punishment for any dog that pulls on the leash.
8. Train In Quiet Place
When starting out, training should be done in a quiet place without distractions. At least until your Cocker is starting to pick up the basics.
When it comes to distractions I’m talking about other people and especially other dog or cats. Even other family members should be kept away during the initial early stages of training.
It doesn’t take much to distract a young happy go lucky Cocker Spaniel who just wants to have fun.
9. Short Training Sessions
Another great tip is to keep your Cockers training sessions short. This will help keep him interested in the long run.
If you go straight into mammoth 2 or 3 hour long training sessions, your Cocker will get bored and very uninterested fairly quickly and begin to resent training.
Start with very short 5 – 10 minutes at a time and as your Cocker gets better at his training and gets older, then increase the time but not by huge amounts.
10. Use Rewards Not Punishments
I’ve already touched on this above.
A very important part of training any dog, not just Cocker spaniels, is to never ever, under any circumstances, use punishment in training.
I talk about not using punishment often on this site, especially on subjects such as how to stop a Cocker from peeing in the house for example.
Your dog will not respond very well at all and resentment and other behavioral issued will definitely develop and set in.
Positive rewards can involve enthusiastically praising your dog as well as the treat method I mentioned in an earlier tip.
11. Teaching To Walk To Heel
This tip goes along with the ‘short leash’ tip.
Teaching your dog to walk to heel is the perfect way to keep his attention and make sure he is responding to your commands. Having your dogs attention is vital in the event of any distractions arising.
For instance, a well trained dog that walks to heel that is suddenly confronted with another dog or human close by, will not respond or react if a the owner says a firm ‘heel’.
12. Changing Direction
This particular tip goes hand in hand with the ‘stop when he pulls tip’ and is possibly the next step on from that tip.
The idea here is that as soon as you Cocker pulls, instead of stopping and waiting for him to stop the pulling, you simply change the direction in which you are walking.
Your Cocker will instantly follow you. Now not only will he follow you but he will get straight ahead of you and start pulling again……so what do you do next?
Yeah you guessed it, you change direction again and encourage him to follow you. The reason you keep changing direction is so that you are making your dog aware that you are in charge and you control where you and your dog are going, not the other way around.
13. Introduce Distractions
Now once your Cocker reaches a decent level of training and is responding to basic commands and no longer pulling on the leash, it’s time to up the anti.
Yes, don’t get too confident because it’s my experience that as soon as you take your dog out of the ‘comfort zone’ of his usual training, it feels almost like you are going back to square one.
Distractions can be strangers and other dogs or cats. For a short period of time, when you Cocker is introduced to these new distractions it can feel like all your training efforts have just gone out of the window.
But fear not. Carry on using the same training methods and tips that you did earlier and he will respond to the new environment much much quicker than he did during the initial puppy training, I can almost guarantee that.
14. Communicate With Your Cocker
This is a very important tip. You need to have basic words or commands that your Cocker understands. I’m not going to explain which ones as you can use various words but obviously sit, stay and heel are the basics.
Positive communication is also a must.
You also have to remember that if you have your dog walking alongside you, not pulling on his leash and staying close to heel, then don’t ignore him.
Praise him vocally and keep him interested in what he’s doing which will lessen any temptation with distractions.
When learning something new, patience is always going to be a massive thing and believe me, when it comes to training a Cocker Spaniel, especially when you’re trying to get him to stop pulling on the leash then your patience will be tested to the maximum.
But there’s nothing more rewarding than having a fun loving, adorable Cocker Spaniel that is well trained.
I also recommend you try whistle training. You can check out my recommended whistle on Amazon.
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