Are English Springer Spaniels Pointers?

There are many different gun dog breeds – waterdogs, like the Poodle, setters, like the English Setter, and retrievers, like Labradors and Golden Retrievers. Then, of course, you get the pointing breeds, like the English Pointer. But what about English Springer Spaniels? Are they pointers?

English Springer Spaniels are gun dogs that are primarily used for flushing game birds. Traditionally, English Springer Spaniels are not considered to be pointers, but they can be trained to point. They are fantastic for hunting upland birds, especially pheasants, and for small-water duck hunting.

Gun dog breeds are generally split into three groups – retrievers, flushers, and pointers. However, just because a breed is specifically bred for a certain role, it does not mean that it cannot be trained to perform other roles. English Springer Spaniels are dynamic dogs that can be trained for a range of skills in the field.

Are English Springer Spaniels Pointers?

In short, no. English Springer Spaniels are not generally considered a pointing breed. They are considered a flushing breed.

Instead of sniffing out a bird and standing on point until the hunter gets closer, English Springer Spaniels will instinctively put a bird into the air when they find them.  

Breeds that have strong pointing instincts are the Bracco Italiano, Brittany, English Pointer, English Setter, Irish Setter, German Shorthaired Pointer, Spinone Italiano, Vizsla, Weimaraner, and Gordon Setter.

While the English Springer Spaniel is not amongst the top pointing dog breeds, you should not discount it if you are looking for a fantastic gun dog.

English Springer Spaniels are highly intelligent, and they are super eager to please their owners. You can easily train these obedient dogs to point, flush, or retrieve!

What Are English Springer Spaniels Bred For?

Spaniels are an ancient breed of dog that has always been bred for hunting. Spaniels were traditionally bred for flushing out game birds. They are good creeping up on game fowl like pheasants and partridges and flushing them into the air.

Modern English Springer Spaniels are bred as gun dogs specifically for flushing game birds. Another word for flushing is “springing” – this is where English Springer Spaniels get their name from!

Traits that make English Springer Spaniels great flushers are:

  • A fine-tuned sense of smell helps them locate birds in dense vegetation.
  • A strong instinct to put birds up into the air as soon as they locate them.
  • Restraint and obedience so that they do not chase the birds they flush unless they are commanded to retrieve them.

The Two Types Of English Springer Spaniels

There are two distinct classes of English Springer Spaniels – field-bred and show-bred dogs. While field-bred and show-bred English Springer Spaniels are the same breeds, the two types look and behave very differently.

Field-Bred English Springer Spaniels

Field-bred English Springer Spaniels come from working bloodlines. They have a natural aptitude for hunting, are highly responsive to training, and have an excellent sense of smell.

Field-bred dogs have been bred more for their hunting skills than their looks. They have a slightly more “feral” appearance than show-bred dogs, with coarser, shorter fur, a slighter build, and shorter, less dangly ears.

Show-Bred English Springer Spaniels

Show-bred or bench-type English Springer Spaniels are bred for the show ring. They make extraordinary show dogs. English Springer Spaniels have won the third-highest number of Best in Show ribbons at the Westminster Dog Show.

Show-bred English Springer Spaniels are a bit less athletic than their field-bred counterparts. They are not bred for their stamina or speed in the field but rather for their dashing good looks.

Show-bred English Springer Spaniels have a heavier bone structure than field-bred dogs, and their coats are fluffier with more feathering. They have longer, more pendulous ears and dewlaps on their neck.

Breed History Of The English Springer Spaniel

Spaniels are an ancient breed of dog. They can be seen painted in works of art from the 16th century, and according to historical accounts, the legendary William Wallace had a pet spaniel that rode into battle with him in 1297!

Many different Spaniel breeds were created during the 19th century. It is thought that English Springer Spaniels were developed from Norfolk or Shropshire Spaniels.

English Springer Spaniels were only identified as their own breed by the American Kennel Club in 1902. Before this, English Springer Spaniels and English Cocker Spaniels were thought of as the same breed.

In a single litter of puppies, the smaller pups were separated from their larger littermates. The smaller dogs were called Cocker Spaniels because their small size made them better for hunting snipe or woodcock.

The larger dogs were called Springer Spaniels because they were better at flushing or springing game birds into the air.

Is It Easy To Train An English Springer Spaniel To Point?

Just because an English Springer Spaniel is bred for flushing, it does not mean that that’s all it can be trained to do! Flushing and retrieving are what come most naturally to them, but you can teach them to point in the field.

It takes significant time to teach an English Springer Spaniel the skills they need to be a good pointer, but the process is easy enough if you make it fun for the dog. English Springer Spaniels are not difficult to train because they are so intelligent and eager to please.

Training an English Springer Spaniel to point requires lots of positive affirmation and treats. Owners must teach the dog verbal commands to make them point and hold a point or freeze.

English Springer Spaniels instinctively stay close to their owners when they are out hunting. This is a characteristic of flushing dogs. To train them to point, you will need to get them used to ranging a bit further in front of you in the field.


English Springer Spaniels are not strictly pointers, but many hunters and wing-shooters have trained their English Springer Spaniels to point. These highly intelligent, energetic gun dogs have traditionally been bred for flushing, but this does not mean that they cannot point and retrieve too!

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