Breed Profile: English Springer Spaniel

English springers love their families, but they need a great deal of outdoor time. Find out much more in our breed profile of the English Springer Spaniel.

English Springer Spaniel
Breed profile: English Springer Spaniel

Breed

English Springer Spaniel

Group

Sporting

Physical Description

English Springer Spaniels are medium-sized dogs with a long overcoat and soft undercoat. Males generally weigh around 50 pounds and are 19-21 inches tall at the shoulder. Females are smaller, reaching a weight of 40 pounds and a height of 18-20 inches.

The coloring of English Springer Spaniels is limited to black or liver with white markings; white with black or liver markings; blue or liver roan; and a tri-color of black, brown and white.

This dog breed has had a docked tail in the past; however, it is becoming more common to leave the tail intact. Tail docking is not necessary, so please consider patronizing a breeder who is willing to leave the tail as is.

The English Springer Spaniel’s typical live span is 10 years or more, but generally not beyond 14 years.

Origin

The first reference to spaniels (“spanyels”) dates as far back as the 1500s, but specific breeds of spaniels did not emerge until 1800.

English Springer Spaniels were defined as a breed in the 1880s. They are descended from the Norfolk spaniel — a dog bred extensively by the Duke of Norfolk. The name changed in 1900 to springer.

They are closely related to Cocker Spaniels, who were defined separately by only one characteristic: size. In fact, it was once true that Cocker Spaniels and English Springer Spaniels could be born in the same litter — until the separation of the breed in the 1880s by the American Spaniel Club. That organization set the breed standard and determined that any spaniel over 28 pounds was a springer.

Even though it’s a British dog, the English Springer Spaniel was not recognized in England until 1902. Interestingly enough, while it was the American contingent that separated the springer from the Cocker, the English Springer Spaniel was not recognized by the AKC until 1910.

The English Springer Spaniel currently ranks in 29th place for popularity by the AKC.

Purpose

This dog was bred for hunting, specifically flushing and retrieving. The name “springer” comes from the dogs’ ability to spring prey from the brush.

They run in large circles in the underbrush and through overgrown fields, causing the birds to take flight and thus giving the hunter a chance to shoot the bird in the air. They are also used for retrieving birds that may have been shot but aren’t visible to the hunter.

English springers are useful for all sorts of hunting but are primarily used for bird hunting.

Temperament

English Springer Spaniels are cheerful and energetic; however, they are difficult to train. Their energy makes them excitable and eager — a good characteristic in a gun dog, not so helpful for a family pet.

This should not put you off owning one of these fantastic dogs; it should just serve as a reminder that it is important to consider your family or individual needs before selecting a companion animal.

Exercise Needs

This is not a lethargic dog! It needs lots of physical and mental energy every day to satiate its instinctive need to hunt.

Plan on at least an hour of exercise every day, preferably in different environments. These are not dogs that will be happy with a short walk around a city block twice a day.

Grooming Requirements

English Springer Spaniel puppy photo
Puppy!

The English Springer Spaniel has a medium to long overcoat with a soft, fluffy undercoat.

You’ll need to do some regular brushing and cleaning in order to keep your dog house-friendly, prevent matting and ensure the dog is comfortable. English springers are not low-maintenance in this regard.

It should be noted that dogs bred from field lines have a thinner coat than dogs bred from show lines.

Common Health Problems

Illnesses that sometimes crop up include otitis externa (ear infection), CHD (canine hip dysplasia), PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), elbow dysplasia, ectropion/entropion (turning out or in of the eyelid),  phosphofructokinase deficiency (exercise induced muscle cramps and weakness), skin fragility and gastric torsion.

And there’s one more: rage syndrome. On this last one, let’s be clear. Rage syndrome is very rare; it happens when a normally docile dog suddenly becomes violently aggressive with no warning. The rage will be completely out of character for the dog. Veterinarian Lyn Johnson, DVM, believes that most dogs with this rare but serious problem are displaying severe dominance aggression. For further information, see Dr. Johnson’s fascinating article on the subject.

Most, if not all, of these problems can be avoided by working with a responsible breeder; as is the case with most purebred dogs, these issues are primarily genetic.

Is the English Springer Spaniel the Right Dog for You?

This is a high-maintenance dog in terms of exercise needs and grooming requirements. English springers love their families, but they need a great deal of outdoor time.

A family or individual who is comfortable having the dog in the house but with access to a sizable backyard would be the ideal match.

Adopt, Don’t Buy

Want to get an English Springer Spaniel? Please check rescues and adoption resources first! Even purebred animals can end up in shelters. Try Pets Adviser’s adoptable pets search tool.

Photos: TheGiantVermin (top), PartnerHund.com/Flickr

Sarah Blakemore

View posts by Sarah Blakemore
Sarah Blakemore has been researching and writing about pet care and pet behaviors since 2007. She has cared for many pets over the years and has volunteered with several animal shelters around the world.

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