The Welsh Springer Spaniel is a vigorous, medium-sized bird dog of happy disposition, known for versatility in the field, and companionability at home. According to leading authorities, Welshies are the oldest of Britain’s spaniels, descendants of the original spaniels of the Iberian Peninsula (the word spaniel is derived from “Spaniard”).
Exactly how these dogs traveled in ancient times from Spain to Wales is one of those canine mysteries that historians chalk up as “lost in the mists of history,” but Welshie-type dogs appear in British art and literature going back some 250 years BC. Welsh and English Springers emerged as separate breeds in the early 1900s.
Welsh Springer Spaniel Appearance
Standing between 17 and 19 inches at the shoulder and weighing 35 to 55 pounds Welshies are compact and not leggy. The Welsh Springer Spaniel gives the impression of length due to obliquely angled forequarters and well developed hindquarters.
Welshies have a uniquely tapered head and a coat of bold red and white patterns. The beautiful coat isn’t just decorative; it’s waterproof, weatherproof, and thornproof which enables Welshies to show off their renowned versatility in all climates and on all terrains.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel needs at least weekly grooming; a soft brush should work well for this, along with a slicker brush or metal dog comb to work apart any forming mats or tangles. The nails should be trimmed every three to four weeks, and a bath every month or so with a gentle shampoo meant for dogs will help to keep the coat and skin clean and healthy.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel life expectancy is 12 to 15 years. Welsh Springer Spaniels may be a bit standoffish with strangers unless they have early exposure to many different people, sights, sounds and experiences to prevent timidity. They can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone too much and for too long. If this occurs, they may engage in destructive behavior.
Welsh Springer Spaniels are trainable and eager to please. As a typical spaniel, they have a lot of enthusiasm and can sometimes be impulsive or headstrong. They’ll bark to let you know when people are approaching happily for friends and more loudly or sharply for strangers. When they’re not outdoors, expect them to spend a lot of time looking out the window to keep an eye on everything that’s going on.
Welsh Springers are gentle around children if they grow up with them or are exposed to them when they’re young. If they’re raised with them from puppyhood, they are generally good with other pets in the household, even small ones, although they might see birds as prey since that’s what they are bred to hunt.
Welsh Springer Spaniels can be kept outside, with adequate shelter from the heat and cold. They are fairly active indoors and can live comfortably in city apartments or in the country. They do best with at least an average-size yard in which to run. Wherever they live, they are energetic dogs that need a lot of exercise to keep them from becoming fat, bored, and lazy.
Caring for a Welsh Springer Spaniel
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Welsh Springer Spaniel.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age. Some dogs are prone to becoming overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
Welsh Springer Spaniels are active, energetic dogs who require a lot more exercise than your average dog. Play sessions with their family in a securely fenced yard or long daily walks with their owner work well. They have a great deal of stamina and energy and can work for hours in all kinds of weather and terrain. Keep them on leash in unfenced areas unless you want to see them take off in pursuit of a bird or bunny. They have a tendency to wander from the yard; training a Welshie from a young age to come when called is a must. An electric dog fence or outdoor dog kennel could be a good idea.
Welsh Springer Spaniels have a “soft” personality and will not respond well to harsh training methods; use positive reinforcement and praise when the Welshie obeys. Although they are very trainable and eager to please, housetraining can be a challenge; Some Welsh Springer Spaniels can demonstrate submissive urination. Crate training is recommended. Especially when they are young, Welsh Springer Spaniels can greet you with a great deal of exuberance, jumping up on you and generally showing their joy at seeing you. You might want to train them not to jump, especially if you have children that they might accidentally knock to the ground.
Welsh Springers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions, including the following (not all Welshies will suffer from these conditions):
- Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a heritable condition in which the thigh bone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia.
- Entropion: This is a condition caused by the lower eyelid folding inward toward the eye, resulting in a chronic irritation of the surface of the eye. It can be corrected through surgery.
- Epilepsy: This seizure disorder has been noted in some lines of Welsh Springer Spaniels and can be treated with medication. There is no cure.
Because their ears hang down, you need to check your Welshie’s ears and clean them at least once a week to prevent ear infections. Clean their ears with a wet cloth; never use cotton swabs as they can damage the ear canal. Their teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste formulated for dogs. Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control help to ensure the dog a long, healthy life.
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