I have found that Cocker spaniels, like most spaniels love water. My two Cockers Boris and Nimrod will find any open water that they can when we are out and, inevitably, get in and either paddle around, swim or put their heads under the water and pull stones and rocks out.
Cockers, like the majority of gundogs, have been bred for days working in the field, finding game for the gun and, at times, they are expected to retrieve shot game that is down. Sometimes this can be from ponds, rivers or lakes.
With years of working breeding this means that the majority of Cocker spaniels like water and, as a result, as a Cocker owner you are going to need plenty of old towels.
Introducing a Cocker spaniel to water
Although the majority of Cocker and other spaniels love water, it is important to introduce a young dog to water carefully so as not to frighten or alarm him.
There are many tales of ‘trainers’ simply throwing dogs into water when they are young, with the idea that this is the best way.
This is certainly the best way to scare the life out of a young spaniel and, one thing for sure, is that he will be forever wary of water for the rest of his life if you follow this ‘training’ advice.
By far the easiest and safest way to get a young spaniel into water is to take him out on a warm day, if you have another dog that likes water then take that dog along too.
Go somewhere where the water is not dangerous and where it is gentle and shallow, a small stream or shallow pond would be ideal.
Let your spaniel run and play, throw a ball for him, get him enjoying his surroundings and get him nice and warm.
Cool water is a great way to help your spaniel to stay comfortable on a hot day and can help to prevent heatstroke and other heat related problems.
Take him into the shallows, paddle with him and encourage him into the water. Chances are he’ll follow you in and begin to enjoy himself.
If you take another dog then let your young spaniel chase him and play, get the older dog into the water and encourage the youngster to get in too.
With patience, persistence and frequent trips to the water your spaniel will soon begin to enjoy himself.
If you are lucky enough to live near to the sea, then trips to the beach are often adored by dogs. Like children they seem to know and can hardly wait to get to the beach.
This is true of Boris and Nimrod who love the sea, digging and running on the beach.
Getting a spaniel retrieving from water
Once your spaniel is confident in getting into water and is swimming strongly we can begin to think about retrieving from water.
Your Cocker should already be retrieving on land keenly before we look at water work.
If we are happy that our dog will swim and will keenly retrieve a dummy on land then we can look at water retrieves and water work.
It is best to start with shallow water, where the dog can wade in without swimming and where the water flows slowly so that the dummy is not washed away.
Sit your spaniel on the bank and let him see you throw a dummy into the water so that he can mark it.
Send him with the usual command of ‘fetch’ and, all being well, he should run out, into the water, collect the dummy and bring it to hand.
A quick word on dummies ( or bumpers as some people call them ) I find that various dummies can be used but these ones from Avery in the picture below, are particularly good as they are leak resistant, float and are nice and soft for your dog’s mouth.
They come in different sizes and you can get packs of six. Prices vary depending on what you choose. Check what they cost on Amazon today.
If we do our water retrieving exercises on a warm day, when the puppy is warmed up, we reduce any reluctance to get into the water.
Only do the exercise once, if he is unsuccessful, stop and try again another day.
As our spaniel becomes more proficent and confident with his water work, we can look to increase the depth of the water and get him swimming for retrieves that are floating, or send him across the stream to the other bank to collect a retrieve that has fallen there – so he swims across, picks the retrieve and then swims back ( or wades ).
Always remember that water is dangerous and never place yourself or your spaniel at unnecessary risk.
I recall being on a shoot with Boris, we were picking up ducks from the river. The weather had been foul with days of heavy rainfall and the river was badly swollen. None of the Cocker handlers would send their dogs into the water ( myself included ) as even the stronger Labradors were struggling in the swells. The gamekeeper was not overly happy but the view was that the water was too strong and fast which presented a danger to the dogs.
Your dog is precious and you should take care to look after him.