English Springer Spaniel

Second only to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (in terms of spaniel popularity), the English Springer Spaniel is a beautiful, friendly, active breed. These dogs are best known for their medium-length coats and happy demeanor. Training them is easy, but grooming them requires a bit more work. English Springer Spaniels are 18” to 21” tall and weigh between 40 and 50 pounds.

English Springer Spaniels are energetic dogs that approach life with enthusiasm. They are attractive dogs, and many people may be tempted to purchase one. It is essential to do research to know as much as possible about Springer Spaniels before choosing them. They have specific needs, and these must be met for a dog and family pairing to have any chance of success.

English Springer Spaniels are medium to large breed attractive dogs. They developed in England. They are friendly, enthusiastic dogs with a moderate to high energy level that must be matched to the home. English Springer Spaniels are intelligent and eager to please, making training easy.

English Springer Spaniels are not dogs for every home. You must determine if your home and family are suitable for a Springer Spaniel. After all, you get to choose. The dog does not have a say in where it ends up. Hence, the responsibility for compatibility rests on the owner’s shoulders.

What Is The History Of Springer Spaniels?

Dogs with spaniel characteristics originated in Spain and were known throughout Europe for centuries. They are thought to have arrived in England with the Romans when they invaded in 55BC. This makes spaniels one of the oldest dog breeds in Britain.

There are references to spaniels littered throughout written histories and commentaries on England. There is even a reference to spaniels in an ancient Welsh law established in 300AD.     

Up until the end of the 1800s, Springer and Cocker Spaniels came from one litter. The bigger dogs were designated Springers and the smaller ones Cockers. The terms referred to the way they functioned on a hunt.

Cocker Spaniels, due to their small size, flushed woodcock from bushes. Springer Spaniels used their larger size to ‘spring’ or flush game from the ground cover. They were particularly useful once the advent of guns allowed hunters to shoot at birds in flight from a greater distance.

Some breeders in the mid-1800s had begun breeding bigger spaniels known as The Norfolk and Shropshire Spaniels. These were collectively shown as Norfolk Spaniels. This trend encouraged breeders to begin selecting dogs to differentiate the breeding so that Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels could be bred separately. 

In 1902 the English Kennel Union recognized the English Springer Spaniel as a separate breed. The American Kennel Union entered English Springer Spaniels into their registry in 1910. The first English Springer Spaniel, with a traceable lineage, arrived in North America in Canada in 1913.  

William Wallace had a large spaniel named Merlin that accompanied him everywhere. The dog rode into battle with him at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. Although there was no classification of Springer Spaniels at this stage, details indicate it would probably have fit the criteria of a Springer.  

How Big Are Springer Spaniels?

The United Kingdom breed standard states that English Springer Spaniel males should stand 20 inches (51 cm) at the shoulder (or withers). Females can be slightly smaller at 18 to 21 inches (46 cm to 51 cm). In the USA, male Springer Spaniels can be 19 to 21 inches (48 cm to 53 cm).

Male Springer Spaniels weigh 40 to 60 pounds ( 18 kg to 27 kg), and females weigh 35 to 55 pounds (16 kg to 25 kg). Bench or show spaniels tend to be heavier than their field counterparts.

What Color Are Springer Spaniels?

Springer spaniels come in limited colors.

  1. Black with white markings
  2. Liver (dark brown) with white markings
  3. White with black markings
  4. White with liver markings

Some dogs may have tan markings accompanying the black or liver. Hunting lines may have ticking in their coats.

Do Springer Spaniels Have A Long Coat?

Springer Spaniels from working lines have a medium-length double coat. Those from bench or show lines usually have a longer coat and heavier feathering on the legs and tails.

Springer Spaniels have an insulating soft undercoat and a topcoat that consists of thicker guard hairs. The Springer coat is soft to the touch and should never be coarse or harsh.

How Often Should I Groom My Springer Spaniel?

Springer Spaniels should be brushed three to four times a week. Show Springers will need more intensive grooming due to the length and density of their coats.

Springers tend to lose their heavy winter coats in spring. They will shed heavily during this time and need more frequent grooming. They may also lose their summer coats in fall in preparation for growing in the heavier undercoat necessary for winter.  

Some people may be tempted to give their Springer Spaniels a haircut, but this is not advisable. Although it may seem a kindness to shave the dog in summer, this detracts from the natural insulation of the coat.

The dog will lose the thick undercoat naturally in summer, and the guard hairs of the outer layer allow the air to circulate against the Springer’s skin, cooling it down. Shaving the coat takes away both the undercoat and topcoat. It stimulates the growth of the undercoat when it should be dormant for summer.

Both coat layers grow at the same rate, and the dog ends up hotter than it was before shaving. There are grooming techniques that can help strip away the undercoat if the Springer Spaniel is not losing it fast enough and is overheating.

Consulting a groomer familiar with Springer Spaniel and other double-coated dogs will help assist the dog if overheating becomes a problem.

How Long Do Springer Spaniels Live?

Springer Spaniels generally live between twelve to fourteen years. Some can live longer than this. The oldest Springer Spaniel documented by the United Kingdom Kennel Club was nineteen years and six months old at the time of death.

What Is The Temperament Of Springer Spaniels?

Springer Spaniels are alert dogs that take an interest in their surroundings, quick to notice movement and changes. They are eager to be involved in their owner’s activities and enthusiastically approach any task given to them.

This alertness and willingness make them ideal hunting companions. They are athletic dogs with seemingly boundless energy and stamina, allowing them to cope well with a day in the field.

These friendly, confident dogs generally get along with both people and other dogs. Aggression or timidity should not be seen in Springer Spaniels. Their hallmark is cheerfulness and gentleness.

Springer Spaniels are popular as hunting dogs. They excel in the field but can come home and fit in easily with children and other pets. They can live with cats if they are introduced at an early age and taught not to chase.

Springer Spaniels are not usually good with pet birds. Their genetics hardwire them to react to flapping and bird noises. Pet birds and chickens should be safeguarded from Springer Spaniels. They may not kill them, but catching the bird will cause stress and potential injuries, which could result in the bird’s death.

Are Springer Spaniels Crazy Dogs?

Springer Spaniels have a reputation for being crazy dogs. This generally comes when there is a mismatch between the family’s activity levels and the dog’s needs. Springer Spaniels from working lines will have even greater requirements for exercise than those from show lines. Even show Springers have a moderate need for activity.

Springer Spaniels do not cope well with a sedentary life. They will find activities to entertain themselves if they are under-stimulated. This often leads to them being labeled as crazy dogs.

Springer Spaniels with sufficient daily mental and physical stimulation are generally well-balanced dogs that can settle down when needed.

What Is The Ideal Owner For A Springer Spaniel?

The ideal owner for a Springer Spaniel is a family or someone who wants their dog to live around them. Spaniels as a group do not enjoy being left by themselves as they crave interaction with people. Springers, therefore, should not be kept as outside dogs.

The ideal owner will enjoy being physically active and want their dog to be a companion in their activities. Springers need at least one walk per day. They are athletic, fast dogs and can easily accompany owners who run and ride bicycles or horses.

They should not be owned by someone who works long hours and has little time for their dog. If you do not provide mental and physical stimulation for your Springer Spaniel, you will discover just how crazy they can be.

Are Springer Spaniels Intelligent And Easy To Train?

Springer Spaniels are considered the thirteenth smartest dog breed in obedience and working intelligence. One of the advantages of Springer Spaniels is that their eagerness to please their owner makes them cooperative dogs.

Cooperation is essential when training dogs. It does not matter how smart the dog is; if he does not want to work for you, the training will go nowhere. Cooperation is where Springer Spaniels excel.

They become excellent hunting teams with their handlers in the field. Their sensitivity to the owner makes them develop intuitive skills that help them predict and quickly understand directions or instructions.

Springer Spaniels at home are easy to train for the same reasons. They should be trained positively as they can be crushed and discouraged by heavy or harsh training.

Springer Spaniels can learn a new behavior with five to fifteen repetitions. The implication is that simple commands can be taught in thirty to sixty minutes. More complex tasks will take longer, but the Springer will still learn them quickly.

Springer Spaniels were shown to obey commands more than 85% of the time on obedience tests. This is a high rate of obedience. 

Are Springer Spaniels Healthy Dogs?

Unfortunately, breeders have unwittingly bred several health problems into some lines of Springer Spaniels. Just as with numerous dog breeds, the health of Springer Spaniels has been compromised by selecting dogs for type, size, and performance ability.

Early breeders did not realize that they could compromise the health of Springer Spaniels. Little was known of genetic inheritance, and communication with offspring owners was not maintained to follow up on the dogs’ health.

In the modern era, irresponsible and unethical breeders who care more about their bank balance than the dogs have added to the health problems through indiscriminate breeding.

There are a large number of health disorders that can affect Springer Spaniels. Some of them can be tested for with genetic screening.

Elbow And Hip Dysplasia In Springer Spaniels

Hip and elbow dysplasia are developmental skeletal disorders in dogs. The bones of the hip or elbow joint grow abnormally, affecting the function of the joint. The abnormal joint becomes unstable and loose, which results in erosion of the bone, cartilage, and delicate joint linings.

There are various forms of both hip and elbow dysplasia. Some may be easily corrected, but others are more complex to repair. All joints affected by dysplasia will ultimately result in the early development of arthritis.

Elbow and hip dysplasia in Springer Spaniels have a genetic component. There are no genetic screening tests for dysplasia. The parent dogs should be screened using X-rays when they are at least 18 months to two years of age. The hips and elbows are graded and scored. Only parent dogs with the best scores should be bred.  

Are Springer Spaniels Prone To Ear Infections?

Springer Spaniels have floppy ears with long hair. This means the ear canal is closed with limited airflow. The moist, dark environment is perfect for the growth of fungus and bacteria, causing painful ear infections known as otitis externa.

Otitis externa can also be triggered by food and environmental allergies. It can be tricky to treat as antibiotics and antifungal medication must be used concurrently.

Keeping the ears clean and the ear hair short helps minimize the recurrence of ear infections. Most dogs hate having their ears cleaned, and this frequent procedure can become a challenge.

A complication of ear infections in Springer Spaniels occurs when the dogs shake their heads and scratch their ears excessively. Blood vessels in the pinna (outer ear flap) burst internally, resulting in swelling and a thickened ear. This is known as an aural hematoma.

A veterinarian must treat aural hematomas as they seldom resolve by themselves. Minor surgery is required to drain the blood and stop the bleeding. Stitches joining the two sides of the ear are inserted to prevent further bleeding and a recurrence.

Do Springer Spaniels Suffer From Eye Conditions?

 Springer Spaniels are susceptible to several eye conditions.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a recessive genetic condition in which the dog’s retina begins to shrink and die. Many of these dogs become blind by the time they are five or six years old. Springer Spaniels are 24.6 times more likely to get this disease than other breeds of dogs.

Genetic screening tests must be done on the parents to ensure that they are free of PRA. Ideally, both parents should be cleared for PRA.

If only one parent is clear and the other is positive for the PRA gene, the puppies will not have PRA but will carry the gene. Breeding with both parents clear for PRA helps in the fight to eliminate this condition from Springer Spaniel genetics.

Some Springer Spaniel genetic lines are more susceptible to the early development of cataracts. Cataracts occur when the dog’s eye lens becomes thickened and cloudy, effectively blinding the dog.

Cataracts can often be clearly seen as cloudiness in the eyes. There may be discharge, light sensitivity, and pain around the eyes. Veterinarians can help with drops to slow the process of cataract formation.

There are no genetic screening tests for this. Breeders should refrain from breeding with lines that show early development of cataracts. Cataracts in dogs older than ten years are common in many dog breeds and are a consequence of the aging body.  

Glaucoma is an uncomfortable eye condition where there is a buildup of pressure in the eye, which can destroy vision. It can be managed with eye drops. Primary glaucoma has genetic origins. Secondary glaucoma occurs due to infection, trauma, inflammation, and tumors.

Primary glaucoma can be eliminated from Springer Spaniels with careful breeding. Secondary glaucoma cannot be predicted and is an idiopathic condition found in individual dogs.

Do Springer Spaniels Have Metabolic Diseases?

Phosphofructokinase (PFK) deficiency is a genetic glycogen storage disorder. This condition interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize glucose. The disease can be detected as early as eight to twelve weeks or when the dog is several years old.

The symptoms of PFK deficiency are:

  1. Anemia
  2. Muscle wasting and disease
  3. Exercise intolerance
  4. Lethargy
  5. Fevers

DNA testing can detect this disease, and parent dogs should be screened for PFK before being bred.

Springer Spaniels show a higher incidence of diabetes than many other breeds. Diabetes requires dietary management and daily insulin injections.

What Is Pemphigus Foliaceus In Springer Spaniels?

Pemphigus foliaceus is an autoimmune skin condition found in Springer Spaniels. It causes skin lesions, serum that forms crusts, and hair loss. The most common sites are the nose, inside of the external ear, toenail beds, and between the footpads.

Secondary bacterial infections can occur. The disease is typically first seen when the dog is four to five years old.

Do Springer Spaniels Have PDA?

Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA) is an inheritable condition where the patent ductus, a small blood vessel between the heart and the lungs, does not close after birth. It results in compromised blood flow, which causes abnormalities in the heart.

Puppies with PDA begin to show signs of lethargy and exercise fatigue within eight weeks of birth. The heart sounds are very clearly abnormal when listened to through a stethoscope. The puppy will die from heart failure within a few months of birth without intervention.

Surgery can be performed to close the patent ductus vessel when the puppy is only a few weeks old. The first twenty-four hours are critical, but if the puppy survives this, the prognosis for a normal life is excellent.   

PDA has complicated genetic inheritance, and as a result, the risk cannot be assessed prior to breeding. Dogs that have produced a puppy with PDA should not be bred together again. They can be mated to other dogs, but they will produce more puppies with PDA if they are bred to each other.

Do Springer Spaniels Suffer From Seizure Disorders? 

Springer Spaniels may suffer from seizure disorders such as epilepsy. If the male or female dogs have epilepsy or come from lines where epilepsy has occurred, they should not be used as breeding animals. There is evidence that seizure disorders have a genetic component.

Rage Syndrome is a seizure disorder found in show or bench Springer Spaniels. Its symptoms are unlike what most people associate with seizures. The dog seems to go into a blind rage, attacking people and objects randomly. There is growling, snarling, and snapping.

After a period, the dog stops the behavior and returns to its normal behavior. There may be tiredness and some confusion after the rage has passed. This is a genetic condition that should exclude dogs from breeding programs.

Do Springer Spaniels Suffer From Anxiety?

Recently, it has been noted that there has been an increase in anxiety in Springer Spaniels. Separation anxiety can be extreme in some dogs. This problem has come about from indiscriminate breeding.

 Any dogs showing anxiety should not be bred. If a mating has produced puppies that exhibit anxiety, the parent dogs should not be bred again.

How Do I Find A Healthy Springer Spaniel?

Although this catalog of diseases seems daunting, healthy Springer Spaniels are still available. The buyer’s responsibility is to ask questions and request results of genetic tests to ensure the puppy they purchase is healthy. The sad reality is that dog breeding has often become a commercial endeavor with little care for the dogs’ health.

There are some tips to help buyers find responsible breeders:

  1. Ask for referrals to people who have bought puppies from the breeder previously.
  2. Ask for genetic testing results. It is not enough to ask if the tests have been done. It is important to see the results personally.
  3. Enquire if your veterinarian can recommend an ethical breeder.
  4. Enquire with Springer Spaniel Clubs about ethical recommended breeders.
  5. Get a list of approved breeders from the Kennel Club Union.

Conclusion

Springer Spaniels are charming dogs for people who want an active dog to participate in their active lifestyle. They are dogs that excel in the hunting field. They have some health issues that must be borne in mind when purchasing a dog.

References

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeds/about-the-english-springer-spaniel/

http://www.englishspringer.org/breed-standard/

https://thesmartcanine.com/are-springer-spaniels-smart/

https://www.hillspet.com/dog-care/dog-breeds/english-springer-spaniel

https://www.newportharborvets.com/services/dogs/breeds/english-springer-spaniel

https://www.animalfriends.co.uk/dog/dog-advice/dog-breed-health-problems/springer-spaniel-health-problems/

https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/dog-breeds/english-springer-spaniel

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