Overview of the English Springer Spaniel
The name English Springer Spaniel has been used since 1900. The English Springer Spaniel is a hearty, medium sized dog. Their tails are usually docked in American lines, and undocked in European lines. There is a major divide in the two types of springers: the field bred or working springer, and the show or bench bred springer.
Field bred springers are bred with the original purpose in mind, to hunt. There is not much room left for looks or even a standard. They are usually smaller and more compact than the show bred dog, with a much thinner, shorter, and coarse coat. The ears are smaller and less pendulous. They are dominantly white with a liver or black face and some ticking. This makes them easier to spot in the field. Field bred springers have more energy, making them more able to work. A well bred dog will be able to settle down in the home to save his energy for work, making them an excellent companion as well as a hunter.
Show bred, or bench bred springers are bred to place in the conformation ring. While some are able to hunt, the majority have had most, if not all, hunting instincts bred out of them, or they are too laid back to be able to hunt efficiently. Bench bred springers are heavier and are thicker boned than field bred springers. Their coats are much longer and thicker, making them more aesthetically pleasing. They are usually dominantly black or liver, with little or no tickings. The ears should reach all the way to the top of the nose when pulled forward. Eye color depends on coat, ranging from hazel to dark brown. Yellow eyes are a fault. The tails on the show bred dog are docked shorter than the field bred.
The original spaniels started to appear as early as the 1600’s. Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels were considered the same breed until the 1800’s. England started to divide the dogs into two groups. The Cocker Spaniels were considered under 25 lbs and used for woodcock, and the English Springers were considered about 45 lbs. Their purpose was to “spring” a game bird into the air, and a hawk would retrieve it. This was before guns were used. Today’s springer spaniel’s flush and retrieve their game.
In the mid twentieth century, the English Springer Spaniel started to divide into two groups, the field and show bred dog, while still being considered the same breed.
The English Springer Spaniel’s outer coat is of medium length, flat or wavy, and sometimes curly. The undercoat is short, dense, and soft. The ears, chest, legs, and belly are furnished with a moderate length of feathering.
Colors such as lemon, red, orange, or sable, are faults and would be disqualified in a show ring. Such colors come from inbreeding and are not considered genetically healthy.
The typical English Springer Spaniel is a happy go-lucky and eager to please dog. They should be friendly, sociable, playful, and gentle, making them an excellent family dog. They are extremely intelligent and can learn very quickly.
Although the typical springer spaniel loves children, any dog that is not socialized with them from puppy hood will not act predictably around them. Puppies should be handled by children from birth, and taught to always be gentle and easy.
English Springer Spaniels are very comical dogs. They are known to entertain their owners during their play. Rolling in mud, jumping into water, chasing after birds, and giving lots of kisses are among a few activities springers enjoy. Even more known among springers, is their endless tail wag. Some even wiggle their butts when they are happy.
Springers should never be shy, timid, or aggressive. During their “teen”years, they can be very testing and will want to establish dominance. The handler should have knowledge on how to remain a pack leader. NILIF, or Nothing in Life is Free training, should begin when the dog is a puppy. This means the dog must work for everything: food, toys, going outside, playing, etc.
The English Springer Spaniel will take as much exercise as you can give it. They need lots of time to run off leash and play. The English Springer Spaniel was created to stay close to his handler, so off leash walks in the woods or fields are a great form of exercise, if the dog has been trained to recall of course. Most enjoy a long swim and retrieving games. They need more than the average leash walk around the block to keep them satisfied. Hunting, agility, tracking, and obedience are popular sports among the springer breed, to keep them physically, as well as mentally, stimulated.
If not exercised enough, the Springer Spaniel will gain weight, will become bored and sometimes destructive. The dogs some people describe as “hyper” are usually just not being exercised properly.
Some people like to use laser lights to entertain and exercise their dogs. The springer spaniel is known to become obsessive with such a “toy” and it is highly recommended by many breeders and trainers that you not use one with your dog. Many springers become obsessive compulsive after a laser light is used for some time with them. They will literally bounce off the walls and chase after any light, including headlights on cars. There are many other ways to exercise your dog. Playing with a frisbee, fetch, jogging, going swimming, and hiking, are just a few ideas.
English Springer Spaniel’s are considered a very intelligent, skillful, and obedient breed. With such traits, they are very easy to train. Their alertness and attentiveness make them an ideal hunting companion, performance dog, or family pet.
Springer Spaniels are a very emotional breed and their feelings are easily hurt. They need to be trained with positive reinforcement. Forceful or negative training will lead to a dog unwilling to please. Springers can also pick up on your mood, becoming agitated and impatient just as you do. Keeping a positive attitude will make it much easier to train your dog.
Because the springer spaniel is such an intelligent dog, they need mental stimulation from training. Whether you teach them a wide variety of tricks, perform in events such as agility, flyball, obedience, tracking, and field trials, or train them into service or therapy dogs, your spaniel will flourish from it. Through training, you develop a strong bond with your dog, and he will respect you more for it. A dog left untrained will become bored, and look for ways to entertain himself, such as becoming destructive, obsessive, or overly energetic.
Many children join in on training their springers through junior handling. Being an adaptable breed, springers will work for adults and children alike. Most clubs allow children to compete with their dogs in any and all events, including conformation showing.
Springers are dogs that easily pick up on language. If you speak to them enough, they can understand commands through casual talk. The more you talk to your dog, the more he will understand.
Overall, springers are an easy breed to live with if you train them and exercise them properly. They have the potential to become just another enjoyable member of the household.