The English Springer Spaniel
is a breed
of gun dog
traditionally used for flushing and retrieving game. It is one of many spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel represents perhaps the greatest divergence between working and show lines of any breed of dog. 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 trainability rather than appearance.
Show dogs have longer fur and more pendant ears, dewlaps and dangling flews. 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.
Field-bred dogs tend to have shorter, coarser coats than the show-bred dogs, which should have longer fur. They normally only shed in summer and spring months, but shed occasionally in the autumn.
comes in three different colour combinations. Black and white, liver and white and either combination can have tan above the eyes or muzzle. Dogs bred for show are generally more colour than white, whereas sporting dogs tend to have more white in their coats for visibility.
Males in the show dog line average approximately 18–20 inches (45–51 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.
The Springer is an affectionate and easy-going family dog, and its alertness and attentiveness make it the ideal hunting companion. An intelligent dog, active and eager to please, an English Springer is easily incorporated into a family setting.
Although good with children, it tends to have a moderate to high energy level. Its long-legged build makes it among the fastest of the spaniels. It has exceptional stamina and needs plenty of activity, to focus its mind and to provide substantial exercise, although this is different for each dog.
Like any breed described as "good with children", an English Springer Spaniel must be accustomed to children. Any dog that is not well socialised with children will not behave predictably around them.
In general, the breed is good with other pets, such as cats and ferrets. However, some English Springer Spaniels may not be suitable for homes with pet birds without additional training, due to their natural hunting instinct. As with all breeds, dogs must become accustomed to other pets, and it's better to introduce to pets when they are both very young.
English Springer Spaniels are energetic, cheerful, happy and playful animals; many owners find humour in their play. As with many playful dogs or hunting dogs bred as retrievers, these dogs will play with things as simple as empty plastic bottles, socks, or towels. These spaniels easily remember where such things are kept and are good at getting them out. They need a lot of regular exercise and mental stimulation for optimum mental health.
As in most breeds, there are some health issues that are more likely to occur in this breed. Hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) are two such diseases for which veterinarians are working on genetic markers to determine carriers. Retinal dysplasia (RD) and Phosphofructokinase deficiency (PFK) are two other hereditary conditions the English springer spaniel should be screened for prior to breeding. Canine Eye Research Foundation (CERF) and Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certifications for the father and mother of a litter of pups provides some information about eye and hip wellness.
Some English Springer Spaniels are prone to ear infections. Susceptible individuals should have their ear canals cleaned weekly with a solution that will leave the ear in an acidic state to retard the growth of yeast and bacteria. Keeping the hair trimmed around the ear can also help.
Other health issues include autoimmune diseases, which include allergies and other sensitivities to the environment. These are not common, but are found in the breed.
An English Springer Spaniel is first and foremost an upland flushing dog. In performing this task there are some skills the dog must be trained to perform.
- Retrieve to Hand The majority of 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 It is desired that a springer 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. It is usually wise to avoid breeding 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 must be 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.
is an older breed, appearing in paintings as early as the 1600s. It is possibly the ancestor of most modern spaniels; Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels
were not recognized as separate breeds until the 1800s.
The purpose of the breed was to serve as a hunting dog. Before guns were used to shoot game, the land spaniel would "spring"—or flush—the gamebird into the air where a trained falcon or hawk would bring it to the handler.
As the shotgun replaced the bird of prey for the hunter, the English Springer Spaniel continued to serve as a hunting companion. Although most are hunted on traditional upland game, the springer spaniel is adept at hunting waterfowl and small game, as well. They are excellent rabbit hunting dogs.
The spaniel is trained to "hup"—or sit—until the hunter casts the dog off to start hunting. A good spaniel is bold to cover, has an excellent "wet" or "dry" nose, works within gun range in an efficient, merry fashion and has a strong flush. The dog should mark the fall of the bird – or accept minimal handling to the area of the fall, where its nose can locate the downed bird's scent. After finding dead or wounded game, the spaniel should have a quick pick up, return to the hunter and deliver the prize with a soft mouth.
Famous English Springer Spaniels
Notable English Springer Spaniel champions
- F.T.Ch. Saighton's Stinger, 1965 English National Field Trial Champion, Mr. Talbot Radcliffe
- 1980 NFC 1980 NAFC 1979 & 1980 CNFC Saighton's Scud, only winner ever of all three North American national field trial championships, breeder: Mr. Talbot Radcliffe, owners: Drs. Chris & Janet Christensen
- 1973 & 1975 NFC AFC CFC Dewfield Bricksclose Flint, two time US National Open ESS Field Champion, breeder: Jim Locke, owners: Drs. Chris & Janet Christensen
- 1987 NFC FC Pondview's Left in the Light, US National Open ESS Field Champion, breeder and owner: Ray Cacchio
- 2005 NFC FC AFC BJ's Dan of Danville, US National Open ESS Field Champion, owner Doug Miller, trained by Doug Miller and Dan Langhans
- Fergus, Charles. Gun Dog Breeds, A Guide to Spaniels, Retrievers, and Pointing Dogs, The Lyons Press, 2002. ISBN 1-58574-
- Riepenhoff, John P. The Gwibernant Gefni Story, Spaniel Journal
- Christensen, Janet. NFC AFC CFC Dewfield Bricksclose Flint, Spaniel Journal
- DeMott, John. Memories of Scud, His Littermates and Associated Stories, Spaniel Journal
- Baughan, Loretta. 1987 NFC FC Pondview Left in the Light, Spaniel Journal