English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a dog breeds of gun dog traditionally used for flushing and retrieving game. It is an affectionate, excitable breed with an average lifespan of twelve to fourteen years. Descended from the Norfolk or Shropshire Spaniels of the mid 1800's, the breed has diverged into separate show and working lines. The breed suffers from average health complaints, however it is linked to rage syndrome, which is sometimes called "Springer rage". It is closely related to the Welsh Springer Spaniel and very closely with the English Cocker Spaniel, in fact less than a century ago, springers and cockers would come from the same litter. They are commonly used as sniffer dogs by various nations. The term springer comes from their historic hunting role, where the dogs would "spring" or "flush" birds into the air.

English Shepherd Spaniel Description

The English Springer Spaniel is a medium sized compact dog. Its coat is moderately long with feathering on the legs and tail. It has well proportioned balanced dog with a gentle expression and a friendly wagging tail. This breed represents perhaps the greatest divergence between working and show lines of any dog breeds. A field-bred dog and a show-bred dog appear to be different breeds, but are registered together. In fact, the gene pools are almost completely segregated and have been for at least 70 years. A field-bred dog would not be even remotely competitive in a modern dog show while a show dog would be unlikely to have the speed or stamina to succeed in a field trial.

Field-bred dogs tend to have shorter, coarser coats than the show-bred dogs. Their ears are less pendulous. Field-bred dogs are wiry and have more of a feral look than those bred for showing. The tail of the field-bred dog is only docked by a few inches in comparison to the show dog to provide a "flag" for the hunter. Docking also prevents laceration of the tail during hunting. Field-bred dogs are generally selected for nose, hunting ability, and response to training rather than appearance.

Show dogs have longer fur and more pendant ears, dewlaps and dangling flew. The tail is docked to a short stub in those countries that permit docking. They are generally more thickly boned and heavier than field-bred springers.

The English Springer Spaniel is similar to the English Cocker Spaniel and at first glance the only major difference is the latter's smaller size. However English Springers also tend to have shorter, and higher-set ears than English Cockers. In addition Springers also tend to have a longer muzzle, their eyes are not as prominent and the coat is less abundant. The major differences between the Welsh Springer and the English Springer is that the Welsh have more limited colors and tend to be slightly smaller.

Coat & Colours

Field-bred dogs tend to have shorter, coarser coats than the longer furred show-bred dogs. The English Springer Spaniel normally only shed in summer and spring months, but shed occasionally in the autumn. The coat comes in black or liver (dark brown) with white markings or predominantly white with black or liver markings; Blue or liver roan; Tricolour: black and white or liver and white with tan markings, usually found on eyebrows, cheeks, inside of ears and under the tail. Any white portion of the coat may be flecked with ticking.

Welsh Springer Spaniels typically do not have the wide variety of colors that the English Springers do. For instance the UK Kennel Club standards state that they should only be a "rich red and white only".


Males in the show dog line average approximately 18–20 inches (46–51 cm) at the withers and weigh on average 50–55 lb (23–25 kg). According to the UK (FCI) Breed Standard, the English Springer Spaniel should be 20 inches (51 cm) at the withers. The females should be 17–19 inches (43–48 cm) and usually 35–45 lb (16–20 kg). Working types can be lighter in weight and finer in bone.

Welsh Springer Spaniels are generally smaller than their English cousins, with the UK (FCI) Breed standard stating that the males should be 19 inches (48 cm) at the withers, and the females 18. inches (46 cm). English Cocker Spaniels are smaller still according to the UK (FCI) Breed standard, they should be 16 inches (41 cm) for the males at the withers, and 15 inches (38 cm) for the females.

English Shepherd Spaniel Temperament

The typical Springer is friendly, eager to please, quick to learn and willing to obey. An affectionate and easy-going family dog, its alertness and attentiveness make it the ideal hunting companion. The English Springer Spaniel ranks 13th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, considered an excellent working dog. It has exceptional stamina and needs moderate amounts of activity, to focus its mind and to provide exercise, although this is different for each dog. English Springers need plenty of exercise in order to run off their excess energy. Its long-legged build makes it among the fastest of the spaniels.

The English Springer Spaniel is a sociable dog breeds that enjoys the company of children and handles the company of other pets well, except birds, however they can become aggressive to other dogs of the same sex. If left alone for too long, they can become destructive and mischievous through boredom. They love the water, and tends to get wet whenever it has the chance.

English Shepherd Spaniel Health

As in most breeds, there are some health problems that are more likely to occur in this dog breed. Hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joints that leads to arthritis, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) which is a degeneration of the retina causing vision loss leading to blindness, are two such diseases for which veterinarians are working on genetic markers to determine carriers. Retinal dysplasia (RD) which can cause blindness and Phosphofructokinase deficiency (PFK) which is genetic deficiency which impairs the ability of cells using carbohydrates for energy are two other hereditary conditions that both lines of the English springer spaniel should be screened for prior to breeding. Health issues are usually similar in both types of English Springer however phosphofructokinase deficiency in particular can appear more in field lines, however carriers in show lines have been identified.

As with most spaniels and floppy eared dogs, they are prone to ear infections. Treatment can including cleaning the ear canal weekly with a solution that will leave the ear in an acidic state to retard the growth of yeast and bacteria.

Other health problems include autoimmune diseases, which include allergies and other sensitivities to the environment. They can also be susceptible to various eye problems including inward or outward curling eyelashes or even an additional row of eyelashes, all of which can require corrective surgery.

They tend to gain weight easily, and owners need to be careful about their food consumption.

English Shepherd Spaniel Skills

An English Springer Spaniel is first and foremost an upland flushing dog. There are a number of skills that breeders train the dog to perform for their occupation.

  • Retrieve to Hand: Most hunters and all hunt test or field trial judges require that a dog deliver a bird to hand, meaning that a dog will hold the bird until told to give it to the hunter directly.
  • Soft Mouth: Springers are taught to deliver game with a soft mouth, meaning he does not puncture it with his teeth. The game should always be fit for the table. If a springer damages the bird, it may be hard mouthed. This is a serious fault, but it can be difficult to determine whether it may have been genetic or caused by poor training methods. Breeders generally avoid using any springer that is hard mouthed.
  • Quarter: A flushing spaniel's primary role is often as an upland flushing dog. Dogs must work in a zig-zag pattern in front of the hunter seeking upland game birds. The dog is taught to stay within gun range to avoid flushing a bird outside of shooting distance. This pattern is one of the primary criteria used to judge a dog in a field trial.
  • Scenting: Having the ability to scent game is of vital importance to the hunter. A springer should have a good nose in both wet and dry conditions. A dog with a good nose will learn to use the wind as it quests for game, ever adjusting its pattern according to the nuances of the wind.
  • Flushing: The springer should have a positive flush. It should not hesitate or point when encountering game. Some field trial dogs will often get airborne during a flush. This is exciting to watch, but is not necessary to win. Most hunters prefer that their dog not flush in that style, as it can present a risk to the dog.
  • Hup: This is the traditional command to sit and stay. When hupped the dog can be given direction called to the handler. The ability to hup a dog actively working a running bird allow the handler and any gunners to keep up without having to run.
  • Follow Hand Signals: Upland hunting involves pursuing wild game in its native habitat. Gun dogs must investigate likely covers for upland game birds. The dog must be responsive to hand signals in order for the hunter to be able to direct the dog into areas of particular interest.
  • Steady: When hunting upland birds, a flushing dog should be steady to wing and shot, meaning that he sits when a bird rises or a gun is fired. He does this in order to mark the fall and to avoid flushing other birds when pursuing a missed bird.
  • Blind Retrieve: An adequately trained and experienced working springer can be expected to use all of the aforementioned attributes to be conducted by hand, whistle and command to a position whereby an unmarked lost game bird can be picked and retrieved to hand.

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