Among all the cocker spaniel breeds, the working types tend to be bigger in size with shorter ears, flatter heads and finer coats. Keep in mind that these dogs are breed specifically for the hunt and trials – gun dogs, to be exact – instead of being bred for show purposes. As such, dog experts recommend higher levels of firmness, consistency and tact when undertaking the process of working cocker spaniel training especially as success in the field is at stake.
The kingpin of any training for a working cocker spaniel is obedience for good reasons. Even when a dog is a brilliant finder of game when it refuses to follow even a single command from its handler, then it is not trained in every sense of the word. And in the field, the handler must be the leader as the cocker spaniel must be the follower such that any kind of disobedience can endanger either man or dog or both.
Of course, the obedient aspect of the working cocker spaniel training process starts with potty training and house training. These steps toward gun dog training must start as soon as the puppy comes into the home of its owner, thus, setting the precedence for dog behaviour in the years to come. This is also the time when the unequivocal leader-follower relationship between man and dog, respectively must be firmly established.
Gun Dog Training
When the working cocker spaniel has been trained in the potty and the house, gun dog training will start. In many cases, however, all three types of training can start at roughly the same time so as to reinforce the progress made by the dog. There are many stages to gun training that must be undertaken gradually with the aim of introducing the dog to the hunt in a successful manner.
The first steps in working cocker spaniel training for gun purposes are recognizing its name, responding to the whistle and retrieving the dummy. At each successful completion of the steps, edible rewards as well as verbal praises reinforce the positive association between following commands and being provided with prizes.
Then the sitting command comes next. Dog experts recommend teaching the cocker spaniel to sit on the command “Hup” with the raised hand followed by the single long blast of the whistle. This is with the assumption that the dog has been trained to positively respond to the sound of the gun being fired such that it is neither gun-shy nor gun-nervy.
The next step in working cocker spaniel training is to ensure the dog’s steadiness to the thrown dummy. Repeated practice is necessary as handlers want the dog to work for its master instead of working for its own selfish ends.
Succeeding steps in training will include dropping to shot, retrieving the game and jumping over obstacles. It is only when these initial phases of gun dog training have been mastered will the handler proceed to the introduction of the cocker spaniel to the actual hunt.
We suggest that throughout the entire working cocker spaniel training, the handler must think like a dog especially in crisis situations. Just make sure to maintain the leader-follower relationship at all times and the hunt will be a good one for everybody involved.