Springer Spaniels – Obedience Training

Here’s a video of a well trained English springer spaniel demonstrating obedience during a dog shop. You’ll note that the tail is docked, and the ‘stocky’ build is indicative of the show (bench) line of the breed (the field line is less stocky, and in my opinion, more agile).

Note the constant use of eye contact to maintain communication.

Springer spaniels are sociable, even with other dogs, and quite level-tempered. They are intelligent and eager to please (‘biddable’) so they are easier to train than some other breeds. The Springer was bred originally as a working dog. An outdoors dog has the genes for running, swimming, and staying active. So, they need exercise, but this makes training them a lot of fun – they keep the owners active too!

They want to get it right although they can be stubborn if trained the wrong way. If you take on a springer spaniel rescue dog, then bear in mind that some re-training may be necessary.

If you have a puppy, though, then it is much easier. Kennel Clubs usually run puppy training classes, and after the basic training – ‘boot camp’ – there are various levels, typically bronze, silver and gold. You and your springer must pass a test so that you can start training at the next level up. The course is straightforward though; different springers have different difficulties with exercises, but the trainers will help you and you dog surmount these hurdles (often literally). And so you and your springer progress from level to level.

Training field dogs is a completely different process – they need to get used to the sound of guns and learn to work in a team with another dog. They are also at a much greater distance fromt their owners, on average, and signalling techniques differ – they may be out of sight in undergrowth, or swimming to retrieve.

Here’s more on field training and exercises.

Jack, The Front Line Springer Spaniel Sniffer Dog

A great story from David Wilkes at the UK’s Daily Mail this week. Jack, the English springer spaniel sniffer dog, finding bombs in Afghanistan. And a terrific picture too!

Technically, they are called Arms and Explosives Search Dogs. To them, it’s all a bit of fun, with a reward – maybe a game or a bit of spoiling! For the soldiers though, it’s life and death. When Jack’s handler, Private Andrew Duff, sees Jack sit down, then it’s time for very great care. Patient sitting is a sign of a ‘find’, and time for the bomb disposal experts to be called in.

Springer Spaniel Sniffer Dog Jack
Jack The Sniffer Dog With Pte Andrew Duff

It takes 15 weeks to train a springer like Jack – and that’s just basic training, which develops focus and obedience. Then it’s out to the war theatre and several more weeks’ training.

There have been occasions when Andrew has been convinced that Jack’s training has saved his life.

I’ve written more about the jobs that springer spaniels carry out – it’s surprisingly varied, from security to preservation – both of wildlife and ancient buildings, and even helping hospital patients to get well. Check the links at the bottom.

The full story is at the Daily Mail.

English Springer Spaniel

Two ‘Lines’

English springer spaniels have two main ‘strains’ – the bench or show bred line, and the field-bred line, though the American Kennel Club makes no distinction. The former, clearly, is bred as a show dog (and stands on a bench at a show, ‘bench’ being the US term). The field-bred line is the working line, used in the classic role as a flusher and retriever of game in the field.

The lines differ in that the show line has a darker, heavier coat, showing less ticking (colour flecks) and is more of a ‘home’ dog than the field line – which love the mud. Where tail docking is permitted, the show line has a shorter docked tail, whilst the longer docked tail (or full tail) of the field line is useful for the hunter to keep the dog in sight.

Certainly, the show line loves the mud too, and the field line makes a good family dog – theses differences are generalisations only, but the differences are there for the expert to spot.

Size

The heights/weights of the mature English springer 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)

Breeders

Given that there are two distinct lines, it follows that breeders tend to specialise in one line or the other, so when looking for your English springer spaniel, check on the line that the breeder handles. Of course, this is probably only of importance if you are looking for a field line, as you’ll want the best for your hunting.

If you are looking for a family pet, then the line is less important, but do remember that these are energetic dogs and will need plenty of exercise.

Here’s a great example of Humla, an english springer spaniel (field line) at work, retrieving game for real – WARNING – it’s a real duck shoot.

Licence: standard YouTube, thanks to MrDrenten

Think Before You Choose A Springer Spaniel Puppy

This short article deals with some of the initial choices you will need to make, and how to go about finding a breeder when you decide to become an owner of one of these terrific companions.

Colouring

You may have firm opinions on colouring, and with the English springer there are two main colourings – black on white or liver on white (chocolate). Either of these colours could be combined with tan markings. Wanting a particular colour will reduce your choice of breeders and may lead to a lot of travel. You should visit at least a couple of breeders before you decide. Then you will return when the litter and pup is ready, to bring your springer puppy back to your home.

Gender

Which – dog or bitch? Springers are loyal and affectionate, so the males are not a huge diffculty when it comes to going awol. With a bitch, you have to plan for the obvious – keeping her away from males when she is in season; there will be hygiene aspects to consider at home. Spaying has side effects, such as a tendency to getting fat. If you do want to breed springer pups, then there is only one way to go.

Working Dog, Show Dog or Family Pet?

Do you want a gundog or a show dog? For an English Springer Spaniel, these are distinct genetic lines and could influence your choice of breeder. Both types are good as family pets provided you are able to exercise them adequately. There is no lineage difference for Welsh Springer Spaniels.

How to Find your Springer Spaniel Pup

If you want a pure springer spaniel puppy with no doubtful genetic background then avoid ‘puppy farms’. This is important because all pure breeds are susceptible to hereditary conditions (the Springer is pretty good in this respect). So, you need to find a dog with a fully documented bloodline and pedigree certification which is not falsified. By choosing a fully certificated pedigree (which can usually be checked online), you would be able to show your springer in class at a dogshow – well, you never know, the kids might like that!

How to Find Breeders

The main ways to find breeders are through:

  • Going to shows and talking to owners and breeders
  • Specialist dog magazines and papers
  • Online web search
  • Newspaper advertising
  • Kennel Clubs
  • Yellow Pages
  • Springer Spaniel Breed clubs

Do be cautious about the small ads in your local newspaper. ‘Springer spaniel puppy for sale’ may be genuine, or not. Make sure you see proper documentation.

Official Kennel Clubs usually operate a Breeder Accreditation scheme. Kennel Club websites or Breed Clubs will provide you with the Breed Standard (there are some differences from country to country). 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.

Of course, the better breeders (those with the best show records) will want more money for their spaniel puppies, but that’s to be expected.

You might consider a Rescue Dog. Using a rescue centre requires more care and preparation, but can be a good way to go if you don’t want to go through the ‘house training’ stage.

Phil has been a long-term springer spaniel owner, both English and Welsh springer spaniels.

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.