Country of Origin
The English Springer Spaniel emerged as a distinct breed in the 1800’s, though Spaniel-like dogs had existed for several centuries prior. It originated in England as a gundog trained to flush game birds out into the air (‘spring’), where they could be caught by trained hawks or falcons. The English Springer Spaniel was also skilled at hunting waterfowl and small land prey such as rabbits. The breed’s name was changed from ‘Norfolk Spaniel’ (after the Duke of Norfolk, for his influential breeding program) to ‘English Springer Spaniel’ in 1900. At the time, the English Springer Spaniel was essentially a larger version of the Cocker Spaniel, but clubs were formed to promote its development, with much success. Today, the English Springer Spaniel is a popular gundog, show dog, and pet. An English Springer Spaniel named ‘Felicity’s Diamond Jim’ won the American Kennel Club national championship in December 2006 and ‘Best in Show’ at the Westminster Dog Show in 2007. Other famous English Springer Spaniels include George W. Bush’s English Springer Spaniel ‘Spot Fetcher’ and William Wallace’s English Springer Spaniel ‘Merlin MacDonald’, who is reported to have assisted him in his victory over the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
The English Springer Spaniel has a shoulder height of approximately 51 cm (20 in) and weighs 18-25 kg (40-55 lbs). It has large lips, long ears, oval eyes, and a moderate stop (depression where the muzzle meets the forehead). English Springer Spaniels have sloped shoulders and a tail which is normally docked. Working English Springer Spaniels and show English Springer Spaniels can vary significantly in appearance, as most work and show lines diverged over 50 years ago. Show dogs generally have a longer tail, longer coat and ears, heavier set, and larger flews (upper lips) and dewlap (skin folds beneath the chin).
The English Springer Spaniel has a dense, smooth coat which is dirt- and water-resistant. English Springer Spaniels are white with either black or liver. They may have tan markings, usually on the cheeks or above the eyes. Show dogs generally have a longer, smoother coat with more color whereas working dogs have a shorter, rougher coat which is whiter for easier visibility.
English Springer Spaniels are obedient, friendly, and sociable. They are easy-going and eager to be a part of the family. The English Springer Spaniel will become hyperactive if ignored or unexercised. It enjoys playing with items it finds around the house such as socks and water bottles. English Springer Spaniels have a tendency to amuse themselves by snooping around in off-limits areas.
The English Springer Spaniel is known for its ability to get along well with other pets, dogs, and children. Some English Springer Spaniels may be aggressive with same sex dogs. As with all breeds, socialization when young is preferred to make the English Springer Spaniel more comfortable around others.
The English Springer Spaniel requires grooming with a brush several times a week and trimming or clipping several times a year. Most show dogs are professionally groomed. The English Springer Spaniel has a lifespan of 10-14 years. It is susceptible to hip dysplasia (malformed hip joint which can cause lameness or arthritis), and retinal disorders such as PRA and RD. Some English Springer Spaniels are prone to ear infection, which can be prevented by regular cleaning of the ear passages.
The English Springer Spaniel is not difficult to train. It is very intelligent and eager to please. Obedience training is recommended. The English Springer Spaniel can learn a wide variety of hunting skills, such as following hand signals, ‘Scenting’ (tracking prey by smell), ‘Flushing’ (flushing birds in a zigzag pattern), ‘Quarter’ (remaining in gun range), ‘Soft Mouth’ (holding a bird in the mouth without biting it), and ‘Retrieve to Hand’ (delivering to the hunter on command).
The English Springer Spaniel is a hunting breed with high exercise requirements. It is happiest on the hunt, but also enjoys going for a walk, playing in a large field, retrieving, and swimming.