Tips on Training an English Springer Spaniel

Training springer spaniels is a rewarding task for you and the dog because they are intelligent, and eager to learn and please; their natural traits to hunt and retrieve make for a lot of variety and fun. It is important though to understand the various aspects of training, and to be clear about your objectives. If this is your first time, then you will also have learn to be a trainer.

Training can be grouped as follows:

* Initial house training
* Obedience
* Field Training
* Rescue dog training
* Socialisation

Initial House Training

Initial house training is the training undertaken with a puppy, so that he or she learns to control their bowels and do their business in an allotted place (hopefully following a regular pattern – on waking, after meals and so on – and not indoors. Some rescue dogs may require initial house training – this is more about getting them out of bad habits and instilling good ones.

Obedience Training

Obedience training teaches the dog to obey spoken commands, whistles and body (usually hand, but stance is important too) signals. This should start when the young dog is 5-6 months old and bonding and trust between you has been established. Getting the dog used to hearing a specific set of commands can start on day 1, though don’t expect or push for any progress this early. You and the family need to agree your set of commands, so that the dog does not get confused. Besides his name, commands should ideally be single words: No, Come, Sit, Stay, Heel, Fetch and of course, two words ‘Good Boy/Dog/Girl’, which are not a command but very important. Some owners also use ‘Bad Dog’ as a chastisement.

Field Training

Training your dog for springer spaniel field trials is very specialized and is outside the scope of this article. Field training is a specialised area and depends on what type of work the dog will be involved in and what country, as the field trials take different forms. It is so specialised that some gundog owners will buy their dogs ready-trained, or have them trained for them.

Rescue Dog Training

Although rescue dogs are usually mature, training might include initial house training (rarely, but depending on the dog’s background); in some cases rescue dogs will not have had any obedience training and will have bad habits which need to be eliminated, and good habits instilled in their place.

The training ‘course’ for a specific rescue dog will need to be tailored to that dog’s personality – is it overly aggressive, too passive and lacking confidence, and so on. There are techniques for dealing with each of these likely issues, and the owner will need to think carefully (and perhaps liaise with the rescue centre) about the training scheme for the dog. The springer spaniel is a very intelligent breed and therefore learns quickly if taught properly, but does get bored with too much repetition.

Social Training

Bound in with all this training is also the need to socialise the springer. Dogs are naturally pack animals, but they need to be taught how to meet other people, other dogs and other animals, and behave in an acceptable way in many situations (for example not pulling through an opening door or gate, or jumping up at people).

Finally, you, as the trainer, will need to understand the use of your body language, including hand signals, as a means of communicating with your dog in addition to words. Dogs can read faces and body language, and also have that ability to sense people emotions.

If all this seems a bit too much, then you can always check with your veterinary clinic, local pet shops and the local library to find out when any dog training classes are held in your area. That way, you can both learn effectively and your springer gets used to being with other dogs too!

Pecking Order

Dogs are pack animals and live within a clear pecking order in their wild condition. Within the family, you need to instil the pecking order into the dog, so that he or she understands their position, behind all human beings and especially the children. This makes life easier for all, removing competition and uncertainty from the dog.

So, there is quite a lot to think about and prepare for, and you have start at the right time, be very patient and set realistic training objectives and timescales for your dog. If you want to see how it’s done by the experts, then check out Dr Dennis Fetko – ‘Dr Dog’ as he’s more widely known – maybe you’ve heard of him already? He has a book and audio available which will help you tackle any training problems head on. See what you think: Dr Dog’s Fast, Easy, Fun Behaviour Solutions.

What’s the Correct Weight for a Springer Spaniel?

Spaniel weight depends on a number of factors across the various breeds. For a springer spaniel it depends on whether the springer spaniel is of English or Welsh pedigree. The Welsh Springer has a slightly different build to the English Springer, with the Welsh dog being slightly longer, and having a lower height. English Springers tend to have bodies which are square – their height at the withers (shoulders) being much the same as their overall length. By contrast, the Welsh pedigree’s body is more elongated and less inclined to squareness. These build differences affect spaniel weight.

One other factor of note is that in Welsh springers, there is no distinction between the show dog bloodline and the working dog bloodline; these bloodlines are distinct for the English springer spaniel, with the working dog being more slender and having a finer bone structure.

Also, of course, the bitch has a smaller, lighter build than the dog but is more susceptible to weight variations.

Springers, as all dogs do, will of course vary in weight and height slightly from day to day, as we all do. So the weights quoted have a tolerance typically of 5 lbs (2kg) in the dog and more in the bitch.

If the height of the your dog is in the right range, then the dog should appear proportionately built, without excessive flesh, though appearances can be deceptive. In the adult springer, the flesh covering can be masked by generous feathering, but running the hand over the ribs will give an indication. Ribs should not be visible, but should be easily felt to a light touch, without undue fleshiness.

For English Springer Spaniels, the heights/weights are typically as follows:

Dog:  Height 18-20” (46-51 cm) Weight 50-55 lb (23-25 kg)
Bitch: Height 17-19” (43-48 cm) Weight 35-45 lb (16-20 kg)

For Welsh Springer Spaniels:

Dog:  Height 18-19” (46-48 cm) Weight 40-45 lbs (18-20 kg)
Bitch: Height 17-18” (43-46 cm) Weight 35-40 lbs (16-18 kg)

Springer Spaniels are generally healthy dogs but as they age they will required fewer calories and less fat and protein. It sometimes helps older dogs to cut their meals in half and feed them twice daily – this put less load on their digestion.

If your dog does develop a weight problem and you cannot adjust it with diet and exercise (remembering always to ensure that dietary adjustments are balanced), then check that he has been wormed recently.

Also, it is always worth checking that the children are not giving him extra food or secret treats which can add weight slowly but surely. This happens quite often and secretly in families. If the children want to give him treats then get a supply of proper dog treats which taste good to him but don’t have many calories.

Also families get into a habit where everyone leaves a bit of supper for ‘Sammy’ and he ends up with an extra meal. If you do want to give him scraps, then keep them till his next regular meal and add them in, ensuring that the overall quantity is not increased. Also, check that your neighbours are not feeding him treats – this does happen but is more common with cats who can wander more easily. The whole family has to commit to keeping his weight healthy!

If after all this your springer still has a weight problem, then it is worth discussing it with your veterinarian; most of the reasons for weight gain (excluding the possibility that ‘Sally’ is expecting pups!) lead to a slow increase in weight, but any rapid weight increase should be checked immediately.

How to buy an English Springer Spaniel

Buying a Springer Spaniel is one way of owning one of this beautiful breed, though ‘ownership’ is perhaps the wrong term – it is more about sharing your life with them as they make such wonderful, loyal, fun pets and companions. You may want to start out with an English Springer Spaniel puppy, or maybe a Springer rescue dog from a rescue center or a breed center – there are various aspects to consider. If you have a family, then it is a good idea to discuss the ideas together to decide on coloring, gender and other basics; to decide who will be the dog’s ultimate master and how you will share responsibilities for feeding and exercising the dog.

You should also think about timing and arrange your plans so that for the first few months there are no family holidays away from home so that the pup has enough time to adjust and get used to his new surroundings.

Pedigrees

The main springer spaniel pedigrees are English and Welsh. The English are either liver-and-white or black-and-white (occasionally with tan ‘trimmings’); the Welsh, by contrast are red-and-white.

Dog or bitch? In these breeds the dogs are not too macho and less inclined to wander off than other breeds. Bitches require a bit more care and will also need to be kept close when they are in season. You could have the bitch spayed (neutered), but this make them tend to gain weight; there may be other side-effects.

Next, will you want to show the dog or work it, or just keep it as a family pet? There are different bloodlines for show dog and working dog, but either will make a great family pet. You will need to find a breeding kennel which specialises in the line you want, if that is important. Working dogs tend to be more slender and have a finer bone structure.

Cost

If pedigree is important to you, then you might expect to pay more for a pup which has a long line of prizewinners in its recent ancestry. A good pedigree pup may cost upwards of $700 (£450).

Finding Breeders

Then you will have to find a breeder, avoiding puppy farms where bloodlines are doubtful and standards not of the highest. You can check the Kennel Club – most major countries have one, and many of them are online. They will be able to provide a list of breeders of springer spaniels. The UK has 100 or so breeders advertising with the Kennel Club. Amongst these, there are also Kennel Club Accredited Breeders, with a stricter set of policies applying. The Kennel Club site may have a ‘Find a Puppy’ link, which will tell you what pups the breeder has available, and when they will be ready.

Having decided the basics of the ideal puppy for you, then phone around a few of the breeders and discuss your requirements. They may or may not have a litter ready, and you may have to wait a few months to find the right pup.

The breeders can be particular about the homes to which their pups go, and it may be that your environment does not fit in with their ideas; if so you will have to accept their decision gracefully. For example, if they have a line of prize showdogs, then they may want to see the pups being successfully shown – which will be good for their particular bloodline.

So, once you have a couple of breeders marked down as possibles, then it is time to visit. Find out about the breed standards so that you are able to avoid pups with obvious showring weaknesses (though this is not important to everyone).

Choosing your Pup

Then it is down to selecting your pup – you will need to check eyes, nose, coat, flesh covering, stance, friendliness and confidence; parents’ pedigree papers, vet’s report (if any) and vaccination certificates depending on age.

Depending on the age of the puppy, you may or may not be able to handle it. A general rule though is that if the breeder is keen to let you handle the pet, then he is very keen to sell it. This is not a good sign, and such pups are best examined much more closely or even avoided.

This article should have given you a flavour of the main things to consider when buying a springer spaniel, and an outline of the steps to follow.

What are Springer Spaniels Rescue Dogs?

Simply, springer spaniels rescue dogs are springers which have been abandoned – either in the street and then captured by a Dog Warden and taken to a pound, or have been handed in to a Dog Rescue Centre as they are no longer wanted.

Taking on a springer spaniels rescue dog requires careful thought and preparation. You may find that you will be carefully interviewed and assessed by the rescue organisation before you are allowed to adopt a dog. So, there are several things you need to consider carefully in preparation for the trip to the rescue center. This will ensure that when you take that dog home, it is the right dog for you and yours is the right home and family for that particular springer spaniel.

What is a Springer Spaniels Rescue Centre?

Usually a kennel run by a charitable organisation, though there are still local authority or city (dog catcher) pounds. Life expectancy for dogs is short in such pounds, and hence charities have grown.

There are rescue centres which specialise in Springer Spaniels.

Why Springer Spaniels Rescue Dogs are in a Rescue Centre

Dogs may be in the care of a rescue center for several reasons:

– the dog is an unwanted gift (thankfully very rare these days);
– there are concerns about behaviour with young children;
– the owner is unable to afford to keep the dog due to changed finances;
– the owner is moving away, perhaps abroad;
– the dog has been caught by a dog catcher or perhaps police patrol on a motorway or highway;
– the owner is unable to train the dog;
– an uncommitted owner, unable to exercise the dog;
– the owner’s changed working circumstances;
– the owner died and the next of kin are unable to look after the dog;
– the dog has an illness and the owner cannot afford the treatment cost;
– the dog has a problem personality;
– the dog barks too much

These are just a sample of the reasons why a dog is given up to rescue.

Some rescue organisations actually expect you to enter into a contract with them, and this may permit them to take the dog back if they are unhappy in any way with its treatment.

Health Issues

Generally, most charitable rescue centres will be able to give you a health report on a dog, if only verbally. Depending on cost then the dog may be undergoing treatment at the centre.

Disadvantages of Rescue Dogs

If you are looking for a dog to breed from or to show, then a rescue dog is not really an option. Most do not have the pedigree registration paperwork that is necessary and some rescue centres prohibit using the dog for breeding or for profit, even if the paperwork is available.

Springer spaniels rescue dogs may not have been trained properly, or perhaps not trained at all and could therefore present a challenge; their background is usually an unknown.

If they have come from a difficult or abusive family, then they may have behavioural problems, but the rescue centre should be able to advise you about this.

Springer Spaniels Rescue Centres

If you can find a local rescue centre which specialises in the breed, then this is a clear advantage. Dogs are more likely to have come from good backgrounds with owners who care and are therefore seeking, for good reasons, to have the dogs placed in good homes via a specialist rescue centre.

And Finally

A really good pedigree Springer Spaniel will cost several hundred dollars from a reputable registered breeder; charity rescue centers cost money to run. So, if you have found the perfect springer spaniel for you at a rescue center, then at least give them a reasonable donation to help with their ongoing rescue work. You have saved one dog, help them to save more!

I have had the joy of rescuing an English Springer Spaniel from a police pound and we were together for many years. He was well balanced, intelligent, great fun and a loyal companion. I would definitely recommend it as a course of action if your circumstances are suitable.

SpringerRescue.org (no relationship)

How to Exercise your English Springer Spaniel

Springer spaniels are very active dogs, so lack of exercise is not good on two counts – firstly they need exercise, as all dogs do, to maintain a healthy body and good muscle; secondly, the springer will become very bored and unhappy without exercise, as is it is such a big part of their nature.

Exercising your Pup

The very young pup will not be up to much walking and running, so start off very gently in the first few months when the pup is still learning to walk steadily and gaining confidence – walking, running and playing in an enclosed space is enough – maybe the yard or your garden if the boundaries are secure. Once you are able to walk him gently on a lead you can gradually extend this distance ‘around the block’, judging when the pup is getting tired, and not overdoing it – you have to let them make the pace at this time when their bone are relatively soft.

They need to get out into open space where they can be let off the lead – you can start this at about 4 months, but choose your area carefully. The pup will have a natural tendency to run and hunt. Let him roam and get used to the sound of your voice – not shouting; he will return to the security he knows; sometimes it might take a bit longer to return, but don’t scold him if it does.

An old sock or glove can be used to get them running and fetching – it comes naturally to springers. This gives them plenty of exercise and lets their natural instincts come through.

6 Months and Beyond

As the dog reaches 6 months old, then training will become more focused and formal, and besides regular walking, he will be getting exercise as part of the retrieve training.

You do need to be satisfied that ‘recall’ is working well and that your dog returns obediently when called, before you move into wider areas and more freedom for your dog.

Try to vary the area where you exercise your dog – they do get bored – but this is not always easy mid week in an urban family environment. Walks for a springer spaniel should be 30-45 minutes long, with a couple of longer walks each week. Ideally it will include wooded or brushland areas where he can have a hunt around.

Midweek, the springer can now be retrieving a ball in the park – you can throw a ball further than an old sock. Springers love to jump – well, they are called ‘springers’ – and you can exercise this with the ball.

Whilst using a ball is a good way of concentrating their exercise with short sprints, the springer is not a sprinting dog – they are bred for endurance either at a walk or gentle trot, so you too will need to put in the walking hours!

They can be introduced to water now – a swim is good exercise for them, but obviously the first few swims should not be on an outgoing tide in an estuary, but in a relatively shallow enclosed area, or small stream, where they can get used to water safely, and have a splash about. Mine loved the mud at low tide in the local harbour, but you do need to be prepared to clean up!

One more detail – when out in the country with your springer, then you should remember to observe the ‘country code’ – particularly keeping your springer under control near other animals and closing gates.

How to Groom your English Springer Spaniel

Grooming is an important part of looking after your springer spaniel – keeping his fur gleaming and brushed, and his nails trimmed. The process of grooming is pleasurable for the dog, in the main. During grooming you can examine the dog closely and check for ticks, scratches, dirty ears, damaged pads, swollen leg joints and anything unusual. As a working breed they do not need professional grooming, but will look their best with some regular attention which you can do yourself.

Starting Early

Getting your pup used to regular grooming is the best approach, and if you include with this the commands such as sit and stay, it also forms part of his early training – he might not listen at first, but it will get easier.

Their ears will often get wet at the ends eating wet food, so washing will be necessary. He also gets used to having his ears handled – they need to be checked regularly with springer spaniels – they love mud and can be susceptible to ear problems.

A soft brush is needed for a pup – it will not pull at his coat or hurt his skin. A stiff brush may be invigorating for an adult dog, but pups have to learn with the soft brush first, and of course, to sit still whilst being brushed.

Nails should be trimmed regularly, you can do this yourself with a guillotine clippers, but not too close.

They will soon get used to the brushing and enjoy it.

Grooming the Adult Dog

Besides regular brushing (3 times a week), to keep him looking tip top, trimming will be required.

We are not dealing here with preparation for a dog show, but the general areas will apply if you want your springer to look its best. Of course, trimmed hair also stays cleaner and its easier to disentangle twigs, Some people use clippers, though they are not really necessary. Don’t overtrim your dog – he should look natural, as they are after all, a working breed:

– Tidy the head first – pull out dead or loose hair with your fingers.
– Thinning scissors can be used at the top of the ears, with a large tooth comb to help. The hair is thinned from the top of the ear down about a third of the way, combing out any trimmings. Don’t overtrim.
– Older dogs may require thinning of the lower part of the ear. Occasionally, a slight trim round the edge of lower ear flap may be needed  – the right length for the ear is when it is about 1 thumb joint on your hand forward of the tip of her nose when pulled forward.
– Inside the ear flap is a delicate area, and should be trimmed so the ear lies flat against the head and he can hear clearly. Hair around the ear canal should be trimmed to about ½” .
– Comb the hair at the top of the neck; remove dead hair with your finger and thumb.
– Beneath the chin, use straight scissors as far down as the breastbone, scissors pointing down. You can take off a bit more than on the ears.
– Trim the feathering below the breastbone, and down between the front legs, if it becomes too thick and unruly.
– The sides and the top of the back are never cut, just remove dead hair with your fingers.
– At the rump, tidy up under the tail, to keep the area clean and clear. Trim beneath the tail close to the body, to help with cleanliness. For an undocked tail, the feathering is maintained by pulling away dead hair and brushing. If the length of feathering becomes excessive, then slight trimming is ok, but don’t spoil the natural shape.
– Feathering on the quarters, front legs and belly may need some shaping and thinning on older dogs.
– The back leg should be thinned from the hock down to the ground using thinning scissors (hold them point downward).
– The paw should be trimmed to outline with straight scissors, and also trim the underside flat to the pads.

This grooming should only take 15 -20 minutes once a month on your adult dog. There are specific coat trimmers available too,  such as the Oster Professional Undercoat Rake.

Both you and your dog will need patience; also your dog will need to have developed trust and confidence in you. Start by doing a bit at a time and then combine the sessions so you can do it in one sitting.

Praise him often as you go.

How to Find an English Springer Spaniel Breeder

If you have decided that an English Springer Spaniel is the dog for you (well, they are affectionate, loyal, intelligent and active), then you have a couple of broad choices – puppy or rescue dog. There are many pros and cons, but for many families a rescue dog is not the best option – they are usually mature dogs, often with unknown behaviour and background, and training can be challenging. To be fair though, an exceptional dog can sometimes be found. But, let’s assume you’ve decided to opt for a puppy – probably the best choice for a growing family. How do you find a breeder?

Basic Guidelines

Now, some people will have strong views on colouring, and with the English springer there are two main colourings – black on white or liver on white (some people call the latter a chocolate springer). Either of these colours may have tan markings in addition. Choice of colour (if it is important to you) will reduce your range of breeders and may mean significant travel – you need to think about that as you will need to visit at least a couple of breeders and then bring your puppy home.

Then, do you want a pure working dog or a show dog? These are distinct lines and could influence your choice of breeder. Both types are fine as family pets provided you are able to exercise them adequately.

It is very important that you avoid so-called ‘puppy farms’ if you want a pure dog with no doubtful genetic background. This is important because all pure breeds have hereditary conditions (the English Springer is pretty good in this respect, but hip dysplasia, eye and ear weaknesses the main ones). Some puppy farms can be less than scrupulous, and know that once a dog with appealing eyes is in your arms then it is hard to say no. So, you need to find a dog with a fully documented bloodline and pedigree certification which is in order.

Also, by choosing a fully certificated pedigree, you would be able to enter the dog in class in a dog show – well, you never know, the kids might like that! If your dog is exceptional you might even want to breed from it.

Finding the Right Breeder

So, to find the right breeder the best way is to log-on to official Kennel Club sites (there are Kennel Clubs in many countries), and get a list of approved breeders. Not all breeders listed will be accredited. In some countries, Kennel Clubs will refer you to Breed Clubs to find a breeder. In the UK, there are currently of the order of 100 breeders registered with the Kennel Club.

Kennel Club websites or Breed Clubs will provide you with the Breed Standard and also details of the hereditary and other weaknesses of the breed. It is well worth reading up on these and preparing a summary, so that when you visit breeders you will be able to have informed discussions about particular pups and bloodlines.

Meeting Breeders

Visiting at least a couple of breeders will enable you to compare them and give you confidence. They will not all have pups ready for you at the same time, but if you have found a breeder you like, with a bloodline you like, then it is worth waiting for the right litter. Of course, the best breeders will also have high demand for their litters and that will affect cost.

Finally, accredited breeders are very concerned for the future and welfare of their springers and they will also be assessing you (and your family) as potential owners of their valued bloodline.

An Introduction to English Springer Spaniels

This is a short article about English Springer Spaniels – their background, physical characteristics, personality and general health. These agile and intelligent animals are prized hunting dogs; they are the oldest of gundog breeds. Specifically, they are ‘upland flushing dogs’, used for flushing game.  The breed is widely recognised as an active, gentle and loving breed, and I can vouch for that having shared family, work and leisure with ‘Jasper’ (a rescue dog) for several years.

Background

The English springer spaniel breed can be traced back through the mists of time to the first century A.D, with the name ‘spaniel’ deriving from the Roman word for Spain. Over the centuries, various types of spaniel started to emerge, with the English springer, as we know them today, becoming distinct in the early 19th century. There is debate as to whether the geographical origins of the modern breed were in Shropshire or Norfolk, but the breed does include traces of the Clumber. They are very closely related to the Welsh Springer Spaniel, principal distinction being coloring.

Conformation and Coloring

Dogs are generally 46-51 cm in height and weigh in at about 23-25kg; bitches are 43-48 cm at the withers, and 16-20 kg. Show dogs are distinct from the working line, with the latter being leaner both in flesh and bone.  They are the longest legged and therefore the fastest runners of the spaniels.

Traditionally, tails are docked. Not all countries permit tail docking (this was done for practical health reasons in working dogs).

Coloring may be black and white or liver and white, occasionally with additional tan markings. By contrast, the Welsh springer has a distinctive red and white coloring. Occasionally, the liver and white colored dog is referred to as a chocolate springer spaniel.

Personality

They are loyal and affectionate, and willing to please. English springers can be aggressive with dogs of the same gender. They do need daily walking, and proper training (including retrieving) is easy and rewarding both to dog and owner – they are willing and eager, with good noses.

Health and Grooming

They are generally a healthy breed, but will pick up the usual canine illnesses in circulation. Whilst there are some hereditary diseases in the breed, these are not widespread. Hip dysplasia and eye problems are known, with some metabolic disorders. The show dog strain has inherited ‘rage syndrome’ from cocker spaniels; this is rare, and treatments are variable in their effectiveness. The working strain of the breed is unaffected.

Coats need brushing at least two to three times a week. Paws and ears should be regularly checked for mud, twigs and so on. Ears and rear need to be kept clear of excessive hair. They do shed fur, though not heavily. If properly groomed, then professional grooming is unnecessary.

Are they expensive to keep?

Apart from the demands for plenty of exercise (daily walking), they can be properly fed for £5-6 ($7-9) a week (2010 prices). Veterinary costs should on average be low if they have no hereditary conditions.

And Finally

They make good family pets and companions and are fun to have around. They are good with children, though can be a bit boisterous. If you live in a town, then a fenced garden is a minimum requirement. They are water lovers and love splashing and swimming, so you will need to be prepared. Certainly, my English springer spaniel gave me and my family tremendous fun.