Springer Spaniels predate firearms in England’s upland bird hunting history. Before the arrival of guns, Springers worked with hunters using nets or even falcons to take down their catch. Their task was to flush the quarry, then once the bird was down, point and retrieve it. Once guns made their way to the scene, Springers remained by their hunters’ sides and earned a reputation as an admirable gun dog. After a long day’s hunt, the dog is happy to return home and relax with the family. These days, the breed is still admired for its hunting skills, but has earned a reputation as a kind, trusting pet. In recent years, it has been utilized for detection work alongside law enforcement or as part of search and rescue efforts. The breed’s stamina and excellent nose make it an excellent candidate in both applications.
English Springer Spaniel Appearance
Compact but upstanding and proud, English Springers are on the larger side of the Spaniel family. They weigh between 40-50 pounds and stand 19-20 inches, with males generally slightly larger than females. The breed is marked with the characteristic pendulous, feathered ears of Spaniels. Most English Spaniels come from either field or show lines, with distinct differences between each. The field dogs have a more moderate coat, while show lines are more flowing. The show dogs tend to be more high maintenance with a greater tendency towards health issues. Show line individuals tend to be a bit larger than their field bred counterparts, and display more distinct patterns of color on their white coats. While the base of the coat is generally white, it is not always, and the colors upon it can vary greatly.
The field bred lines tend towards a more pointed muzzle, while show dogs will have a squarish face.
English Springer Spaniels from both field and show lines can be excellent companions and pets. These high energy dogs can be very social, but should have socialization from the beginning. If well-socialized, they can act appropriately with other dogs, cats, and people. They do have an innate drive to track down and flush birds, which must be kept in mind by the owner. They do not do well cooped up, and will not be happy fenced in the yard 24/7, even if they are working as a hunting partner.
Springers are eager to experience new things, whether it be an adventure such as a hike or something as simple as a car ride. They do tend to bark to alert their owners to new arrivals, but are not considered top notch watch dogs.
These dogs are high energy, but not usually hyper, and have impressive stamina.
While Springers are generally considered a sweet dog, there is the rare case of what those in the breed call “English Springer Rage Syndrome”-sudden aggression that comes on seemingly without warning. It is more common in show lines, and is suspected to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is recommended that potential Springer owners read up on this phenomenon before taking the plunge into Springer ownership.
Caring for an English Springer Spaniel
Like most Spaniels, the Springer prefers to be with his people, not left alone for long periods of time. He is not the best dog for those who work long hours or travel frequently without their pet. This breed’s impressive coat and high energy levels require some dedication from the owner for continued maintenance.
English Springer Spaniels do well on just about any type of high quality dog food, whether it is dry food or canned. If one has concerns about food, the dog’s veterinarian may have suggestions for brands and intake amounts. Due to their active lifestyle, these dogs don’t tend toward obesity, but excessive food intake or lots of treats can change this. Treats should be used sparingly, such as for training motivation. Human food and table scraps should be avoided.
Due to their high energy levels and curious nature, Springers need physical and mental exertion each day in order to maintain their health and wellness. They like long walks and hiking, especially since it allows them to spend more time with their human companions. Though these dogs can adapt to a small home or apartment living, they are best suited to a home with a large, fenced in yard that allows them plenty of space to run.
When they are indoors, they will enjoy being with their people, but that doesn’t mean that the Springer will not enjoy having toys indoors as well to exercise the body and mind. Interactive toys or chewing objects will be appreciated.
Consistent, early training is essential with this breed. Otherwise they can develop obnoxious habits, such as nuisance barking, or destructive ones, such as counter surfing or chewing. It helps to select a puppy that has parents that are good natured, but training is essential as well.
Field training will be important if one plans to hunt with their pet. Even dogs bred from show lines have potential to hunt with proper training.
The liveliness of this breed necessitates ongoing training and gentle reminders throughout the dog’s life. Owners need to be in control and firm, but kind in their training.
Like many Spaniels, Springers are susceptible to some eye problems. Owners should monitor eye health and consider having their pet seen by a veterinary opthamologist annually. As an active dog, Springer Spaniels may suffer from hip or knee problems, whether genetic or activity induced.
Phosphofructokinase, or PFK, deficiency occurs when English Springers lack an enzyme for normal metabolic function. This can cause lethargy and muscle cramping, among other symptoms. There is a simple test for this genetic disease, and a reputable breeder will be able to show documentation that a puppy is free from carrying the genes.
English Springer Spaniels shed throughout the year, with show lines carrying a longer coat than field lines. One way to reduce shedding is to brush the Springer several times a week, even daily. Clipping the coat is another option, and may be especially appealing for a dog that will be active in the field and coming home with burrs stuck in his coat!
- Welsh Springer Spaniel: A slightly smaller version of the English Springer, the Welsh Springer has a bold red and white coat that is waterproof.
- Irish Red & White Setter: Bred with impressive stamina like the Springer, these pointing dogs are amazing to watch when they freeze on their quarry.
- English Setter: With beautiful ears similar to a Spaniel, this breed was originally trained to “set”, or lay down, when they located a bird in the early days of hunting with nets in the English countryside.
- English Cocker Spaniel: This breed is described as “balanced” by the AKC-in their temperament, movement, and build.
- Irish Water Spaniel: The tallest of the Spaniels, this breed is immediately recognized by its wild, curly coat. It is a water loving champion swimmer.