How To Keep a Cocker Spaniel Busy

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For a few days now there have been restrictions on movement placed upon people in various countries due to the Corona Virus pandemic.

Here in the UK people have been instructed to stay at home, only going out for one period of exercise daily and, to do their best not to leave home.

As the owner of two Cocker Spaniels, both of whom are working dogs and very, very active, this presents something of a challenge.

Boris and Nimrod, my Cocker Spaniels love being outside and, like most spaniels and other dogs, go pretty stir crazy if they aren’t kept busy and tired out.

There are a few things that we can do with our dogs to help them to stay occupied and it is important that we do our best to accommodate and care for our dogs while this pandemic is active.

Exercising your Spaniel

Typically, your spaniel will need a good walk at least once daily, twice if possible. An hour’s walk, for a spaniel, is a great way to let him burn off energy and, if you are able to let him run freely off his lead, then he will run and run, chasing his nose ( which is what he loves best ) and will end the walk tired, ready for a drink and a meal followed, probably by a good sleep. 

If you can do some training with your spaniel, either on a walk or at home, outside, then that’s great and you can find some spaniel training tips and hints here which will help to get you started.

Sometimes it may not always be possible to take your dog for a lengthy walk. This may be due to weather, illness, time of year, daylight levels or, as in the current climate, restrictions placed by government for national security or welfare reasons.

In these circumstances it is important to be creative and use whatever time and spaces you have available in the best way that you possibly can.

You may have an outdoor area, garden or yard. If you can make it secure and escape proof then you can allow your dog to be outside, in the fresh air, he can roam around the garden and enjoy being outside.

You can do some training and some simple exercises such as teaching him how to stop on the whistle.

If you live in an urban area, where outdoor space is at a premium and difficult to access, then ytou may have to jump in the car and travel for a short distance or, if the only option is to walk around the town, then do this.

Anything is better than nothing when your dog’s exercise and welfare is concerned.

Play Dog Hide and Seek

Spaniels live for smells and love playing ‘nose’ games.  One of the prime instincts of a spaniel is that of retrieving and finding and we employ these instincts in gundog training when we use dummies and other items for retriever training and practice.

If we are unable to get out properly to train our spaniels then we can think of other ways to challenge our dog through other activities that replicate some of that scenting interest.

Dog hide and seek involves hiding a doggy treat somewhere in the house or garden and getting your spaniel to find the treat.

Although this might not be as physically demanding as working out in the open on regular retrieving exercises, the mental stimulation will tire your dog while helping him to develop his scenting and finding skills.

To get this started you can take some treats and let your dog see you plant them around the room.

You can then instruct him to find the treats and let him search them out. When he is successful let him eat the treat.

As he gets better and more familiar with the game, hide the treats when he is not looking, so you make the game more difficult and more challenging for him.

The Three Ladies Game for Spaniels

An easy game to play indoors with your dog

Take three upturned cups, place a treat underneath one of them and then let your dog see you shift them around, so that the treat has been moved.

You encourage your dog to find the treat, which cup is it underneath.

Let him sniff it out – this challenges him and will mentally test him and use energy up.

keep a cocker spaniel busy

Use a Stuffed Kong to Keep your Spaniel Occupied

My young Cocker, Nimrod, loves playing with his stuffed Kong toy.

Easy to use and clean, these toys can be stuffed with almost any type of dog food, which your dog then licks and tries to get out so he can eat it.

I have used dog treats, cheese and peanut butter as Kong stuffing and they are all enjoyed by Nimrod, who takes delight in prising the food out.

To make the Kong last longer you can even put a stuffed Kong into the freezer to solidify it, like an iced lolly for dogs.

I like the regular Kong toys because they they are tough, they roll around so it is a challenge for a dog to hold it and they have to think about this as well as extracting the food contained inside.

They are also easy to clean and you can put them into the dishwasher.

You can also find similar toys to Kongs that are just as tough and easy to clean such as these West Paw Dog Toys.

Get Your Spaniel some Toys

Although my dogs are working spaniels they have loads of toys. I think toys can be important for dogs, just as they are for children. Nimrod and Boris have a multitude of soft toys that they carry around and hide in various places of the house.

They also get regular bones and dog chews which help keep them occupied on those days when we can’t get out with them or when time is limited for walks and training.

As long as the toy is dog proof and safe for him to carry around, and maybe tear up ( this is common and many of Nimrod’s toys have ended up chewed to bits), then get some.

Most pet stores will have selections of toys of various quality and price but I tend to look for ones that are tough and can take some punishment such as these Dog Rope Toys from Pacific Pups.

Read our article here about the toughest chew toys for spaniels.

Teach Your Spaniel the names of his Toys

According to experts it’s said that a dog can recognise around 165 words and, can count to 5.

There are some dogs that can go even further and recognise many more words.

This gives us an opportunity to work with our dog, to help to keep him entertained and challenge him mentally.

Teaching a spaniel or other dog to recognise things by name, such as his toys, is a fun thing to do and will work your dog mentally, thus helping to keep him occupied if time is precious or, if we are confined to our homes such as in present times.

You can start with one specific toy, giving it a name, show the toy to your dog and repeat the name. Do this regularly and, before long, your spaniel will associate the name with the toy.

Just as he recognises the word ‘walk’ with going for a walk, he’ll soon recognise the toy’s name.

Once you have some success, repeat with other toys, Eventually you can have a game where you say the toys name and ask your spaniel to find it and bring it to you.

A great game to play and a challenge for your dog.

busy cocker spaniels

The ‘which hand game’

Boris and Nimrod are really good at this game and it’s an easy one for your dog to learn.

Take a nice treat and put it in one of your hands. Hold both hands out to the dog with your fists closed and ask the dog ‘which hand’.

Hopefully your dog will sniff your hands and choose the correct hand. When he does open your hand and give him the treat.

Try different treats and if he gets it wrong encourage him.

This simple game encourages your dog to use his nose and think about which hand the treat is in.

Take him for a ride in the car

If you have a car then you can take your dog for a ride out. It may be that you are restricted as to what you can do or where you can go.

Maybe you are only allowed to goto the shop for food?  Why not take your dog along with you? If two people are allowed out at the same time then one of you can stay with the dog while the other shops.

My two spaniels enjoy a ride out, even if its only for a short time. It’s stimulating for them, they enjoy the sights and smells, and, if there’s any chance to get out and have a sniff around, even if it is just at the supermarket car park for a few minutes, then why not take them with you?

Try to keep your dog busy

When things are as they are at the moment with the Corona Virus outbreak, it can be tricky to keep a working dog, or any dog, occupied. 

A bored dog is an unhappy dog and it’s unfair for us to ignore his needs.

Dogs love interactive play, games such as fetch, hiding treats, exploring, anything that challenges his mind and makes him use his senses, particularly his sense of smell.

If you can keep his tail wagging and a big doggy smile on his face then you’re doing something right.

Have fun with your dogs.