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Basic Spaniel Training For Working Spaniels

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As a new owner of a spaniel puppy you should be thinking about how you will introduce your dog to some basic spaniel training exercises.

A puppy is often too young to begin proper training but there are some basic exercises that you can do with the youngster to encourage him to develop some good habits that will help him to become a well behaved adult dog. By doing these exercise you will set some good foundations for future training.

Spaniel puppy development

Puppies in the same litter develop and mature at different rates and there is also wide levels of variance across the different Spaniel breeds.

Springers tend to mature more quickly than Cocker spaniels and, generally you could begin training of the former sooner, but, of course, you should always take into account your puppy’s temperament.

Clearly a sensitive puppy will need more encouragement than one which is outgoing and bolder and the sensitive pup will be more inhibited and, as a result, probably mature a lot more slowly.

It would do no harm to start this type of puppy in his training, later than his more adventurous brother.

Take your time and don’t rush your dog. Get to know him and don’t be too hasty to rush ahead into more advanced training. Give your puppy the chance to learn and to enjoy spending time with you.

What age should you start training a spaniel puppy?

The general consensus of opinion is that the earliest start time for basic spaniel training is six months old.

spaniel puppy training

The most important thing for you to consider, before you start training, is the temperament of your puppy.

You should have a good understanding of him and possess a good assessment of his character.

If, after starting training, you notice a loss of enthusiasm from the pup, then it’s advisable to wait a while, for to push on regardless could cause problems further down the line.

Sometimes it is worth taking a break, a little holiday from training and it won’t do the dog any harm to have a break.

For most dogs it is usual for these types of breaks to occur in the training schedule and, often, if a puppy is having difficulty, a break can make all of the difference, both to the pup and the owner/trainer.

How often should you do training?

Little and often should be your training motto and this is far more suitable and much better than ‘binge’ type training where a lot is squeezed into a small number of sessions.

Try to be aware of your dog and his moods, they do have good and bad days, and can get unwell or tired so watch how he is and act accordingly.

If you adopt this dog friendly approach and don’t rush, you’ll make better progress.

If you adopt a regimented regime that is unrelenting then, chances are, you’ll do a lot of harm.

spaniel puppy training

Take a relaxed route to your dog training and don’t panic or rush.

If things aren’t going well then abandon training for a few days and take your puppy for a walk instead until he starts wagging his tail again.

Then you can feel more confident and start again where you left off.

There are some basic exercises that we must undertake with spaniels and their training before we move onto more advanced activities.

Don’t be tempted to ignore or rush through them or your entire training programme and the end results could be at risk.

Dog training ground

If you have a big garden or yard or somewhere that you can use such as a field then that will be ideal for basic spaniel training.

Make sure that there is no risk of distraction from game or other dogs or wildlife, then you can use this area to teach most, if not all, of the basic spaniel training activities.

As long as your puppy is happy and lively he should enjoy the training and it’s unlikely that you’ll have any problems.

The most important rule when training a spaniel puppy is you, the puppy and solitude.

Avoid distractions, such as children, other dogs, your family and don’t demonstrate your puppy’s ability to people.

Get his undivided attention and you’ll do well and make good progress.

Improve your knowledge by reading about spaniel training

Training Spaniels
Our recommended choice for a spaniel training book

Beginning our puppy training

Take your puppy to your training area on his lead and let him run around for a few minutes, call him to you, make a fuss of him, let him have a retrieve of a small dummy.

Create a happy positive atmosphere for the puppy.

Sitting at a distance

This exercise builds on the basic task of sitting down to the raised hand and ‘hup’ command when we give the puppy his meals and it’s a natural progression in his training.

It is also a really important exercise that the dog needs to grasp as you must be able to control him when he is away from you.

Ninety nine percent of a spaniel’s work will be while he is away from his handler’s side and, if you can’t control him he will realise this and take advantage of you whenever he feels like it.

After a few minutes call him to you with your whistle and make him sit in front of you with your voice command and hand signal.

Keep your hand up, repeat the command and take two steps backwards.

Hesitate for a second and then step forward to your original position, bend down and give him lots of exaggerated praise.

This is a simple exercise that can be achieved within a short amount of time and most dogs, if you have been diligent at mealtimes with the ‘hup’ command will quickly ‘cotton on’.

You should have little difficulty in helping your puppy with this, but, if you have a sensitive puppy then he can be easily frightened, so proceed carefully and slowly with patience and perseverance.

Don’t run back to him either if he gets up – this will have the same frightening effect on him.

If you try and the puppy won’t have it then forget the exercise for that day.

Cocker spaniel puppies ( and even older dogs ) can be tricky with this exercise and they are experts at crawling on their bellies and rolling onto their backs when we do this, but with patience and perseverance you’ll get there eventually.

how do you teach a spaniel a blind retrieve

Daily training practice

Each day you should incorporate this lesson into your training, building on it and gradually increasing the amount of steps that you take backwards until you can get to twenty steps.

You then pause, and then return without him fidgeting or getting up or ‘belly crawling’ towards you.

If, during this exercise he does attempt to come towards you ( and most dogs will at some point do this ) then you should quickly reinforce your command with a louder, more gruff, disapproving tone while at the same time taking one or two steps towards him.

Often this is enough to get the puppy to sit back down.

As soon as this happens take two short steps back, a quick pause, then walk forwards to him and reward him with exaggerated praise.

Your objective is to show the dog what you want him to do by repeating the exercise over and over.

Patience when training is vital

You must never frighten your spaniel by losing your temper or smacking him, he is only a puppy with a still developing brain.

Be calm, cool and collected. By all means be firm.

Calmness wins the day every day when spaniel training and you will experience better, faster results if you keep your cool.

Remember that you are the human and he is the dog.

If it goes wrong then it’s normally your fault. Take a deep breath and think it through calmly.

There are also some breeds of spaniels such as the Sussex spaniel, that can be stubborn on a bad day.

If this happens, end the training session with a positive and go home and put the kettle on.

Pick things up a day or two later.

Once you are able to walk back twenty paces and return to the puppy without him getting up, then you are ready to move onto the next stage which is a natural progression.

Please make sure that your puppy is ready to do this as you’ll potentially undo your hard work if he isn’t.

Next steps in puppy training

Your basic spaniel training will continue along the following lines:

Get your puppy to sit as before but, instead of walking away from him and then returning, you call him up with the whistle.

how to deal with a spaniel that won't return when called

The first time that you do this there is a good chance that the puppy will hesitate.

This is a good sign that out sitting at a distance training has been successful, the puppy doesn’t believe that you want him to come to you.

Therefore you’ll need to encourage him the first few times that you try this.

Be aware that when you do this you are ‘weakening’ the previous exercise that you’ve been teaching for a few weeks, so play safe and keep the puppy guessing by only calling him to you once out of every three or four times that you leave him sat down.

Do this exercise as part of the puppy’s daily routine, don’t be like a sergeant major but keep the puppy interested and happy by playing and making a game of it.

This may seem like a boring lesson but it is really important that you can control your dog at a distance and that your spaniel puppy gets this right before moving onto more advanced training.


The most important activity for any working spaniel, and the most enjoyable for all spaniel breeds, is hunting.

When your spaniel is a young dog you should explore lots of different areas with him where he can sniff around and explore but you need to try and control when he does this so that it does not adversely affect his training.

The best time to let him have a run, hunting, is after you have done your basic training for the day when he has completed the daily exercises of retrieving, sitting and staying.

Hunting is such a powerful drive for spaniels and can be an overwhelming force for many of them and a spaniel that has been allowed to do lots of hunting when he is young will often be distracted by the sheer enjoyment of it, to such an extent that the rest of his training suffers.

So let him hunt when he is young, but always in moderation and always at the end of a training session as a reward for ‘good work’‘.

Final Words

Basic spaniel training exercises are important for your young spaniel, it’s a great way to learn about your puppy and, if you take your time, you will be surprised at how quickly he will learn.

If he is having a bad day, and all dogs do, then just call it quits for that session, take him for a walk, and have a day off from training.

He will do better next time.

Read Next

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Last update on 2022-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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