How Do I Train My Spaniel To Walk On A Lead? | K9 Bridle

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How Do I Train My Spaniel To Walk On A Lead?

In a customer survey, spaniel and spaniel cross owners were the second best k9 bridle customers.

Most spaniel breeds were bred to flush game out of the undergrowth so their noses are always down, searching for anything that moves, and they are always on the move. They are athletic dogs with loads of energy and find walking at the speed of their owners on a lead almost impossible, especially when they are young. Despite some spaniel breeds being relatively small, they are incredibly strong. 

We wanted to find out how spaniel owners cope with dogs that pull on the lead.  

We asked over 100 spaniel owners how they trained their dog to walk on a lead or managed the pulling.

“When my cocker was just a baby, other cocker owners said to me "I hope you don't think you'll ever get him to walk to heel". And I never did. Even now at almost 14 he sets off pulling but soon settles down to a slow, sniffing progress! Previous goldens walked to heel so I did know all the ways to train but not this one. I still love him though!”

Just over half of the owners that we asked successfully trained their spaniels using one of three methods that are outlined below.  Nearly a third use either a headcollar or harness to manage the pulling and 9% have not found a solution and put up with the pulling.

Spaniels and Lead Training

Just over half of all spaniel owners successfully training their spaniel to walk on a lead. The loose lead training and heel position training seem to be equally popular with spaniel owners with just over half of all respondents training their dogs in one of these ways.

You can read more detail about the different training methods in our ebook:
How to stop a dog from pulling on the lead

Training spaniels to stay in the heel position

Training a dog to heel involves teaching the dog the heel position and insisting that he stays at heel while walking on the lead. Trainers recommend using food or a toy to reward the dog for being in the correct position. The dog learns that the best rewards come when he is in the correct position.

Loose lead training spaniels

Loose lead training involves never allowing the dog to go forward while he is pulling. As soon as the lead goes slack, he can move forward but as soon as the lead tightens, the owner will either stop, turn around and walk the other way, do a figure of eight turn or make the dog sit. The only way the dog is allowed to move forward is when he is walking nicely on a loose lead. The dog is rewarded by going where he wants to go.

Slip lead training spaniels

A further 9% trained their dogs using the slip lead method. This is a traditional gundog training method. When the dog pulls, the slip lead is used to correct the dog with a quick tighten and release. The unpleasant tightness on the dog’s neck acts as a deterrent and stops the dog pulling and tightening the lead.
You can read more about these methods of training in our ebook: How do I stop my dog from pulling on the lead?

Headcollars and harnesses

Almost a third of the spaniel owners we asked use a headcollar or harness, with headcollars the more popular of the two.  9% have never managed to stop their spaniel pulling on the lead!


People have mixed feelings about both headcollars. We firmly believe, having worked with many different owners and breeds in all sorts of circumstances and backgrounds, that our k9 bridle is 100% safe and much better for dog and owner than a traditional flat collar and lead.

It can take some dogs a while to get used to the feeling of a headcollar on their face and a very small minority (under 4%) of dogs may never get used to them. However, introduced correctly, the k9 bridle headcollar can be a great way of getting control of strong dogs, making daily walks much more enjoyable for both dogs and owners.

The k9 bridle can also be used on the smaller spaniel breeds to ensure that the neck is protected from injury when the dog pulls.

Unfortunately, other headcollar brands will:

  • Rub on the dog’s nose, irritating the dog
  • Pull across the dog’s eyes
  • Restrict the dog’s mouth
  • Fasten under the chin, meaning that the dog’s head is turned sideways when it pulls, putting strain on the neck and spine
  • Stay tight all the time, not loosening off when the dog is in the right place

K9 Bridle

The k9 bridle, however, was developed because the designer saw the above issues in most headcollars and wanted to design something safer and more comfortable that would give the dogs signals it can understand.

The k9 bridle is different because:

  • It will never pull over the dog’s eyes
  • The back of the head control point ensures that the neck and spine are kept in line.
  • The bridle loosens as soon as the dog stops pulling, so is very effective as an aid in training the dog to walk on a loose lead.
  • Our bridles are made from a soft, tubular webbing with no hard edges
  • We have 5 different sizes that are all fully adjustable. This means that not only is the material lighter and softer than other headcollars, getting a perfect fit ensures that there is no rubbing or irritation to the dog.
  • K9 bridles are also extremely effective in controlling aggression or reactivity in dogs by dipping the nose when the dog pulls, averting eye contact from other dogs and reducing the chances of an incident.

They are ideal for all spaniel breeds so long as they have a 1cm stop on their nose. They may not be suitable for King Charles spaniels but are ideal for Cavaliers.


Only 11% of spaniel owners that we surveyed use a harness. There are three types of harness available:

1. Back-fastening harnesses

It’s now generally acknowledged that back-fastening harnesses don’t stop spaniels from pulling. An “oppositional reflex” comes into play, meaning that as soon as your dog pulls on this harness and you, by holding the lead, pull back, he will just pull harder. This is a reflex that the dog is not able to control, it’s inbuilt into all dogs, helping them to maintain balance when their balance is compromised. Also, the dog’s attention is directed away from you, facing forwards. This is why sled dog back-fastening harnesses are so effective.

2. Front-fastening harnesses.

These are somewhat successful in stopping spaniels from pulling. When the dog pulls against the harness, the force of his pulling against you swings the dog’s body round to face you. His attention is then diverted from where he was pulling back to you and he cannot go forwards in the direction he wishes to.

cocker spaniel to walk on a lead

3. Front- and back-fitting harnesses.

These are operated using a double ended lead and give the handler more control over the dog’s body as well as his front.

Headcollars and harnesses used together

Harnesses and headcollars together can be a successful combination, usually used with a double-ended lead. This gives people the choice about the type of control restraint they use.

As mentioned above, using both headcollar and harness can help control an aggressive dog.


If you need help with stopping spaniel pulling on the lead, then these are all the methods that spaniel owners in 2019 are using to stop their dogs from pulling. It’s a simple choice: you can either train your dog using one of the training methods listed above, or you can manage the pulling using a k9 bridle or a harness.

The training methods will work but they can take time and you will need to be patient and consistent. We always recommend that people train their dogs, but use a bridle or harness to help manage the pulling while they are training their dogs.

If you’re not able to train your dog, then the k9 bridle will serve you well in controlling the pulling behaviour, giving you back control and making walks a much happier and safer occasion for you and your spaniel.


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