When it comes to finding the perfect canine companion, there are plenty of things to consider. Finding your best friend will involve deliberating plenty of factors, from whether you have enough room, if you live in a dog-friendly area, the best dog food, to their grooming and exercise needs, and trainability.
To help you better understand the different breeds, their background, and what it’s like to own them, we will be discussing popular dog breeds in detail. This article is all about the superb English springer spaniel, a loveable pup with bounce and cheer that has been winning over human hearts for centuries.
This energetic breed is eager to please, making them brilliant as working dogs or beloved family pets. A springer’s recognisable looks are characterised by their long, curly ears and beautiful feathering on their tail, legs, and chest. They can sometimes be confused with the smaller Cocker Spaniel.
Originally bred as a versatile gundog able to flush and retrieve game, English springer spaniels are athletic and willing to work. Having been developed to work closely with humans on a hunt, these dogs have energy and enthusiasm but remain easy to train, making them pup-ular pets as well as accomplished working dogs in the field or as detection dogs.
Their affinity for people means this breed is characterised as being cheerful and gentle, and thrive on human company. This makes them perfect family pets but does mean they can be anxious when left alone for too long.
Because of their love of human company, despite the energy the breed is characterised by, many springers are perfectly content to snuggle on the sofa beside their favourite human for hours.
THE HISTORY OF SPRINGER SPANIELS
Spaniels are an ancient kind of working dog that has existed for centuries, typically characterised by having long, curly ears and feathering on their legs and chest.
It’s believed that spaniels were brought to Britain by Celts travelling from Spain. But there is an alternative theory that the Romans brought the spaniel’s ancestors to Britain from China. Regardless of the story, it’s unclear where or how these loveable dogs originated.
For centuries, the different breeds of spaniel were not distinct. In the 17th century, they began to be divided into two separate classes, water spaniels and land spaniels, denoting where the dog was put to work. Unsurprisingly, land spaniels were specialised in marking and flushing game on land, while water spaniels were excellent water hunters and retrievers.
Over time, breeding spaniels for specific hunting purposes meant clear breeds began to emerge. Around the same period of time that spaniels were divided into land or field types, the land spaniels began to be divided further into another two sub-groups.
These were “springing” spaniels or “crouching” spaniels. We know a fair amount about springing spaniels as they became the springer spaniels we know today. However, there’s little record of their difference to the crouching spaniels.
The springer spaniel was a dog particularly skilled at “springing” game, which meant they would flush their prey out into the air for a falcon or shot to take it. Typically, this would be scouting through grass and bracken to find birds and startle them out; the birds would then take flight where a hunter could then try to shoot them.
These springing spaniels included the now-extinct Norfolk spaniel, which is the ancestor of the modern springer spaniel. The springer itself has a pair of close relatives, the Welsh springer spaniel and the cocker spaniel.
Welsh springer spaniels are lighter in colour and size, and not as common as their English cousins. Cocker spaniels and springer spaniels are very closely related, having once been the same breed. Nowadays, cocker spaniels are smaller and come in a wider variety of colours than their springing relatives.
Nowadays, springer spaniels are versatile and valuable gundogs as they also make excellent retrievers as well as flushers. This means they’re perfect as an all-round hunting dog. As springers are also used to retrieve game, they have been bred to become “soft-mouthed”.
Being “soft-mouthed” means these dogs have an instinct to pick up and carry things whilst inhibiting their bite so as not to damage what they’re carrying. As hunting dogs, it was important they did not pierce the skin or damage prey so that humans could then present it to the dinner table.
If you remember the trend of dogs holding eggs, that’s the perfect example of bite inhibition. This instinct to retrieve items for you might mean your dog tries fetching your post or slippers and carrying it around, or that they need to find you a “present” to give to you when they greet you.
The traits that made them good sporting dogs, such as intelligence, trainability, and good temperament have also made them into a great choice for a canine companion.
FIELD SPANIEL VS SHOW SPANIEL
Today, the English springer spaniel is its own distinct breed that is divided into two different varieties, the field type and the show type.
The field spaniel is smaller with a shorter coat and ears and was bred to be a working gundog. They also happen to be the more common of the two, and most often found in a family home.
Meanwhile, show spaniels are far more regal in appearance and can look remarkably different with their heavier build and a longer coat and ears. Show spaniel ears are also set lower in their head, and they can’t move their ears around.
Meanwhile, a field spaniel will have quite expressive ears which they can move around to help locate sound better, and as additional body language.
Springer spaniels are classed as a medium-sized dog. They are one of the largest spaniel breeds as well as one of the oldest.
Males are a little larger and heavier than females, but your springer should stand somewhere between 45 to 53cm tall and weigh between 16 to 26 kilograms. They all have a double coat and medium-length fur, which they will shed.
Here’s a chart of the key statistics for English springer spaniels:
|Average height (Withers)||48 to 53cm||46 to 51cm|
|Average weight||16 to 27kg||16 to 23kg|
|Lifespan||12 to 14 years||12 to 14 years|
SPRINGER SPANIEL FACTS
SPRINGERS ARE NOT NAMED FOR THEIR BOUNCE
Although springer spaniels have a delightful habit of bouncing and springing through long grass, this isn’t where their name originates from. “Springer” was a term used for a specific hunting role, where a dog would “spring” game and flush it out.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPRINGER SPANIELS AND COCKER SPANIELS
Springer spaniels and cocker spaniels used to be the exact same breed, and would even come from the same litter of puppies. The difference between springer spaniels and cocker spaniels was simply their size.
The breed names come from their different hunting roles which directly related to the size of the dog. Larger puppies would become “springers” used to flush game, while smaller dogs were used as “cockers” and would be used to hunt woodcock. It was only in the early 1900s that the two breeds would become separate, and springers were finally recognised as their own breed by the Kennel Club in 1902.
BRAVEHEART OWNED A SPRINGER SPANIEL
At this time, breeds of spaniel were not distinct and all just a “spaniel”. One of these ancient springers was a pup called Merlin MacDonald, which is one of the best dog names we’ve ever heard of. Merlin was the faithful furry friend to none other than Braveheart himself, William Wallace. This loyal hound even went into battle with him, including the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge.
SPRINGERS WERE ONE OF THE FIRST DOGS IN THE “NEW WORLD”
As well as helping their owners in battle, springers have helped their masters explore new lands. Two dogs aboard The Mayflower, a mastiff and a springer spaniel, were involved in the first explorations of Cape Cod in the “new world” of America.
THEY ARE POPULAR PETS
Springer spaniels consistently appear in the most popular dog breeds in the UK, almost always appearing in the top 5 breeds.
Meanwhile across the pond, Springers are in the top 30 favourite breeds. It seems their kind expression and friendly disposition has made the springer a firm favourite in households around the world, but particularly here in the UK.
SOME VERY SMART SPANIELS
Springers are one of the most intelligent dog breeds around, ranked #13 for their intelligence. A springer’s intelligence, eagerness to please, and endurance make them fantastic working dogs.
As well as being versatile gundogs, they are exceptional sniffer dogs and one of the most popular breeds to be used as detection dogs for the emergency services, army, or search and rescue teams.
SPRINGERS ARE HEROIC DOGS
Given their bravery, loyalty, obedience and intelligence, it’s no wonder springers have been our close working partners for centuries. Two springer spaniels have received the PDSA Dickin Medal for gallantry. It is the highest honour an animal can receive, and only 34 have gone to dogs.
SPRINGER SPANIEL PUPPIES
Your adorable springer spaniel puppy will come home sometime after they are two months old when they are fully weaned and thriving. By three months, your pup will probably start to lose their puppy teeth, and will already weigh around 8-9kg. Your pup will be fully mature at approximately 18 months, but individual dogs and their growth do vary.
CARING FOR A SPRINGER SPANIEL PUPPY
Caring for springer spaniel puppies is fairly standard to the expected care for any puppy. They will need to be fed well and given plenty of time to play and sleep. You should also be training your puppy, including toilet training. Thankfully, springers are very intelligent dogs, quick to learn and eager to please, and they usually take to training very well and can learn new commands fairly quickly.
However, given a spaniel’s flushing nature and energy, you will have to be dedicated to training your dog in order to have a well-balanced and obedient adult dog. Spaniels without training can become difficult to control, and paired with their energy, will make unruly and easily distracted dogs.
SOCIALISING YOUR SPRINGER
With springers, it is important to start socialising and desensitising your puppy early. This is the process of slowly allowing them to encounter other dogs and people, as well as new situations and stimuli, so that they can grow up to be confident, sociable dogs.
Springers tend to focus on their own family bubble, which can lead to some dogs being disinterested in other people or dogs, making socialising your puppy important to help to prevent later nervousness or anti-social behaviour.
Springer spaniels are very people-focused dogs, which means they can be prone to developing separation anxiety. This makes it important to teach your dog that being apart from you won’t last forever. Crate training is very useful in this situation, as well as slowly introducing periods of time alone which gradually increase in length.
Desensitising your pup will also include getting them used to things like grooming and bathing. It’s far easier to start introducing these habits now and have your dog grow up used to doing these tasks with you.
For instance, some dogs don’t like having their ears handled, but being a springer, you will need to be able to check and groom their ears for cleanliness regularly. While your pooch is still a pup, gradually introduce them to things like having their teeth brushed, or their ears inspected or having a comb run through their fur. This is the perfect time to get them used to all new sensations and experiences so they will be normalised for them.
You should also introduce new sounds to your puppy to try and prevent sound aversion. By gently introducing new or sudden sounds, it will help to desensitise them and prevent future anxiety.
This is especially useful in preventing fear of sudden loud noises, such as a passing motorbike on a walk, or fireworks. This is vital if you’re raising a springer spaniel puppy to be used as a working dog, but for a family pet, will still be useful to try and prevent future nervousness.
SPANIELS DO TEND TO PULL ON THE LEAD
Given their active nature, springer spaniels can have a tendency to pull on a lead. Granted, you can’t take your springer spaniel puppy for walkies until after all their vaccinations; you can still introduce lead training in your home and garden.
Practice walking on a lead in the familiar and safe environment so they are used to it and what you expect from them. Just be prepared to put in some time teaching your springer to walk nicely once they’re allowed out in the big wide world and the dozens of distractions it has to offer. It can take months for some springers to learn how to walk well on a lead, so be patient and persistent.
SPRINGER SPANIEL PERSONALITY
Springer spaniels are notorious for their loyal and loving personality. These dogs were bred to be man’s partner in the field, so it’s no wonder they have also developed into the epitome of man’s best friend.
THE PERFECT CANINE COMPANION FOR CENTURIES
As far back as 400 years ago the sportsman Richard Surflet spoke about spaniels, and his quote could be true of any modern springer spaniel today.
“The spaniel is gentle, loving and courteous to man more than any other dog, of free untiring laborsome ranging, beating a full course over and over, which he does with a wanton playing taile and a busie labouring noise, neither desisting nor showing less delight in his labours at night than he did in the morning.”
As Surflet said, a spaniel can be easily recognised thanks to their gentle, loving temperament and hard-working personality. Both eager to please and full of boundless endurance, they can work or play with their owner for a whole day without any loss of enthusiasm and a persistently wagging tail.
Not to mention, their exceptional noses which have earned them fame as excellent sniffer dogs.
MODERN SPRINGER SPANIELS
Springers thrive on human company and want nothing more than to earn their human’s praise, making them very responsive to training and leading to their continued use as working dogs as well as family pets to this day.
One downside to this active and alert breed is that they can be easily distracted. In some cases, they can even seem deaf to command and doggedly focused on whatever has caught their attention.
This means some extra training on recall and walking on a lead might be required. This seems to be counterbalanced by their loyalty and trainability, so teaching them shouldn’t be too difficult provided you are structured and routine in your training sessions.
Due to their sporting background, springers are an active breed and will require a moderate amount of daily exercise. They are also a very playful but generally calm breed, so provided they are given training and proper stimulation and exercise, they should remain a well-rounded dog perfect for family life. In fact, if you provide your pooch with the right amounts of love and exercise, they will be just as content to snuggle you on the sofa as they will be out in a field playing fetch.
Despite their bouncy nature, springer spaniels are also incredibly gentle and patient dogs, making them excellent for families with children and other animals. Combine that with their eagerness to please and ease to train, and you have the makings for a brilliant family pet who is obedient but playful, and exceptionally loving.
These dogs also have a cheerful disposition and “kind eyes” as a breed standard, giving them great cuteness appeal too. If you’ve ever owned a spaniel, particularly a field type, you’ll know just how expressive those eyes and ears can be!
SPRINGER SPANIEL SIZE
Springer spaniels are a medium-size dog. They stand around 50cm tall at the shoulder, with females being a fraction smaller than males. However, given the shared ancestry with cocker spaniels, you might find the occasional springer that seems to be on the smaller side.
They are one of the largest breeds of spaniel, but not the biggest. Standing about as tall as Sussex and Clumber spaniels but are more lightly built than these other breeds. Springers also have relatively long legs, perfect for running long distances over uneven ground.
COLOURS OF SPRINGER SPANIELS
Springer spaniels are most commonly found in liver and white or black and white varieties. However, some tri-colour springers do appear. Tri-colour dogs are uncommon and will be either black and white or liver and white, with some limited tan markings. (Usually on their eyebrows and muzzle.)
As well as these colour variations, springer spaniels vary a lot in their coat patterns. Show dogs are mostly black or brown in their head and body, whereas field spaniels tend to be more white. Some dogs will have distinct, solid patches of colours, while others will also have spots and ticking.
This means that you might pick a puppy with lots of solid white on their body, and find that as they mature, they develop lots of spots of colour. Even in adult dogs, you might think your springer has a mostly white coat, only to clip their fur and suddenly find spots appearing as their coat is trimmed.
SPRINGER SPANIEL LIFE SPAN & HEALTH
The median springer spaniel lifespan is 12 years, and on average, you can expect your springer to reach 12 to 14 years old. They are a relatively healthy and hardy breed, and most dogs will make it into their teens.
However, as with any breed, there are exceptions, and some dogs can live much longer than this. The oldest springer spaniel the UK Kennel Club knew of was 19 years and 6 months old, which is a grand old age for any dog. One of our own springer spaniels reached 16 years and 4 months, almost beating the local record for the oldest springer spaniel. So, as you can see, there is every possibility you could spend many happy years with your furry friend.
Sadly, just as some spaniels can live longer than average, some will cross the rainbow bridge prematurely. Springers are somewhat predisposed to a few health problems compared to other breeds that might impact their lives, including a few forms of cancer and diabetes.
However, many of these conditions are hereditary and remain uncommon, which means that provided your spaniel is from good stock and well cared for with a good diet and exercise. They should live a long and happy life.
Typically, springer spaniels suffer from average health problems which any dog and all breeds are at risk of. Therefore, you should ensure your dog is vaccinated, fed a good quality diet, and given adequate exercise to minimise their risks of serious health problems, but this stands for any dog, not just springers.
SPRINGER SPANIEL FUR
All springer spaniels have medium length fur and a double coat. The double coat helps to waterproof and weatherproof your pooch, ideal for a hunting companion spending long days out in the field in all weathers.
The longer top coat can be flat or wavy, while the undercoat is much softer. A springer spaniel’s top coat is designed to give them protection from the elements, including some waterproofing, perfect for swimming to retrieve things from the water. These tougher coats also protect your dog from brambles and thorns, since a hunting dog would need to delve through bushes and into bracken in search of prey to spring.
Stress and poor diet can affect your dog’s fur, especially in the case of springer spaniels. This makes it important to feed them a high-quality diet with plenty of omega 3 to maintain a lush, healthy coat and prevent abnormal or excessive shedding.
SPRINGER SPANIEL GROOMING
Because of their characteristic feathers and long, curly ears, springer spaniels require a moderate amount of regular grooming.
Proper springer spaniel grooming should include brushing your dog at least once a week to prevent tangles in their feathers and to keep their ears clean. You can also trim the fur on their ears and the feathers around their rear every so often as this will help to keep these areas clean.
You should also regularly trim the fur growing between your dog’s pads on their paws. Springers have very hairy feet, and if the fur is left to grow too long, it can splay their toes and will prevent the pooch from gaining traction. Just remember not to cut the fur lower than their pads.
Other than keeping their long fur tangle-free, Springers aren’t very difficult to care for in terms of grooming. They have a double coat, and the thick outer coat helps to keep them clean just as much as it is meant to weatherproof them.
You might want to have your spaniels fur clipped short ready for summer to help them keep cool and minimise the shedding of their winter coat. Even when a springer is clipped, the groomer will usually keep their curly ears and feathers intact.
They do shed a moderate amount so be prepared to find white hairs around your home. But as long as you give them a good scrub in the bath and regularly brush them with a shedding comb, it should help to stop the fur spreading.
Show line springers have longer, thicker coats and shed more fur than their field line cousins, and as such, they will require even more regular grooming.
DO SPRINGER SPANIELS SHED?
Springer spaniels do shed a moderate amount because of their double coat. As such, they are not a hypoallergenic dog and are not suitable for anyone with severe allergies. English springer spaniels shed their fur year-round, so you can always expect a few stray white hairs stuck to your clothes.
That being said, shedding is more noticeable twice a year as they moult their coat to prepare for the season ahead. In autumn they will shed their summer coat, growing a longer and thicker winter coat ready for the colder temperatures. Then in spring they will shed this winter coat for a lighter summer one to help keep them cool in warm weather.
Regular bathing and grooming will help minimise the amount of shedding your dog does. You can also purchase a shedding comb to help collect and brush off your dog’s fur, leaving less to be dropped.
SPACE AND STAMINA NEEDED FOR A SPRINGER SPANIEL
Because they have been bred to be a hard-working sporting dog, it’s no surprise that springer spaniels need a moderate amount of daily exercise. However, you certainly don’t need a hunting estate to own one of these gorgeous gundogs.
SPACE REQUIRED FOR A SPRINGER SPANIEL
Although springer spaniels are an active breed, you don’t need acres of space for them to run around in. Obviously, a large garden is ideal, but it is not essential provided you’re willing to give them the time to stretch their legs on a long walk.
As long as you give your springer plenty of stimulation and adequate daily exercise, they are quite happy to live in a small house and garden. Due to their size and tendency to bark, they aren’t very well suited to apartment living.
HOW MUCH DAILY EXERCISE DOES A SPRINGER SPANIEL NEED?
If you research the amount of daily exercise a springer spaniel needs, you’ll soon see that it’s not a dog suitable for a sedentary household.
Springers are endurance athletes in the field, having been bred to be able to work with their master for a whole day. This means your springer spaniel will likely have no trouble in going on hikes with you for hours on end without any sign of tiring.
However, in terms of daily walkies, a springer will need at least an hour a day. If possible, supplement this with a few longer walks each week. (For some wonderful walkies ideas, check out our dog walks series, including counties like Cheshire and Kent.)
Some recommend up to two hours walking a day for your springer. This will certainly make your pup very happy, but it’s not strictly necessary. Provided your pooch has plenty of time spent in your company, and lots of stimulation in the day, they are often quite content with a moderate walk.
Springer’s thrive on working, making them very adept at scent-work games or other forms of structured play which are ideal for entertaining your pooch and provide much-needed mental stimulation.