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.