Cocker Specific Discussion > Puppies

Off-lead walking

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I'm a bit unsure about whether I've done the right thing letting my girl off-lead on walks...

We started letting her off in locked tennis courts and secure fields to build her confidence and practice recall when she was about 12 weeks, then started taking her off-lead on walks around the park when there were no distractions at 14 weeks, now (at 18 weeks) we're letting her off lead when there are other distractions around. Her recall is really good even around other dogs and she stays in a bubble with us (I did have to grab her once when she found a cheese sandwich and suddenly became deaf, but can't say I blame her). We don't let her off when there are lots of birds or squirrels about as that seems like too big of a temptation for her! 

A few people have told us this weekend, including other gundog owners, that we should be cautious about off-lead walking at this age as if she gets a scent and darts it will take a lot of work to stop her doing that again - prevention is better than cure and all that.

We were always planning to put her on lead or a long line at 6 months as she hits the difficult teenage years and comes into season, but should she be on a lead/long line now? Would be interested to hear other experiences of walking a puppy and the off lead/on lead dilemma.

As a new dog owner (never had dogs before) I'd say that I have no idea lol! But I have been told recently by a groomer with four of her own spaniels that recall is much easier if you've let them off lead as a puppy. I felt really sad hearing that... like I've missed a golden window  :huh:

I'm about to book onto some recall training with our puppy trainer who I love. I don't feel I can let Oscar loose now - he doesn't always come back in the garden and I don't feel I know how to use a long line safely (I worry his legs will tangle in it when he's running at full speed!).  Birds, people and other dogs are also super tempting and he wants to greet everyone we meet on a walk.   

Basically - I'm clueless so will be watching this thread with interest. I do wish we had let him off lead sooner though - it sounds like your pup is doing well and maybe a trailing long line would help her get used to it if you're going to introduce it anyway?

I guess it may depend on what you want to do with your girl?
I donít intend to work my 21 week girl but do want an obedient well trained dog. When I started taking her into the big wide world we had her on a flexi lead (she never got to the end which would have caused her to jerk back) and kept practicing recall and treating with high value rewards.  SHe was very good at this and we took the risk and let her off and she is still recalling well.  I feel it is important for her to interact with other dogs when out and about and think that is more difficult if she on a lead.  I used the same method with my previous cockers and they had excellent manners with other dogs and were able to read dog language very well and knew which dogs to avoid. We went to a local beauty spot this weekend and when off lead she kept constantly checking where we were ❤️ and  she met lots of different dogs and people.  She came away from them when recalled and I was very proud of her.
There will be lots of people telling you their opinions and what is right and wrong but you have to make the decision of what you think is best for your dog depending of what you want to do with your girl.
If my  new addition grows up to be anything  like my previous dogs (who were perfect  ;)  ) I will be very happy

dave w:
Hugo is 18 weeks and has never been off the lead apart from puppy socialization classes, I'm pretty sure he will run off i have been lent a 10mtr extended lead and he runs full pelt until he gets to the end of the lead, the other day he somehow caught a jackdaw in the garden i have no idea how but i managed to pounce on him and get the bird of him and it flew away so at least he didn't kill it ,but when we are out on walks he seams to be obsessed with birds and squirrels so i'm pretty sure he will disappear off chasing them, most of the walks near me are all fields and woods so plenty wildlife to chase.
there is a very well respected gundog trainer near to me but he won't train them till they are 6 months old.

Thanks guys for the replies :D

I heard that too Katrina about letting them off early as they will be nervous and want to stay close, but then I also heard that you should keep them on lead as puppies so you don't form any bad habits like running off and not listening to you so it's tricky to know what to do for the best! Our puppy class trainer did say that the best thing about having a spaniel is their lifelong enthusiasm for picking up new skills so I'm sure Oscar will do brilliantly with the recall training.

I think you're right Vixen, it's what you intend to do with the dog that should be your guide. We do plan to work her when she's older and our gundog trainer (who is also the owner of her dad :luv:) was one of the people cautioning us about too much off-lead walking so I think we should listen really and not let her off all the time. Glad to hear the off-lead recall is going well for your girl, there is something so special about seeing them running free, ears flapping in the wind, then turning and coming back to you when they hear their name.

I think we're going to get her on the long line, or flexi-lead, and keep practicing recall in the woods or farmers fields where there are more distractions and smells.

That was my main worry Dave about her chasing birds, and her prey drive being stronger than her desire to come back to us. Her recall is excellent at the moment and this morning she did come back to us when she spotted a squirrel running, BUT it was an anxious moment and don't really want to test it again. That jackdaw experience sounds very stressful - we've had a few of those moments chasing our cat round the garden trying to prize various woodland creatures from his jaws! Not fun.

I've been told that too about the gundog training starting at 6 months so we're just laying the foundations for that now. Are you planning to work Hugo? Will be nice to share some experiences and stories if so!


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