The quick-learning, beautiful, and practical English Springer Spaniel is both an excellent house pet and expert hunter.
This dog’s strong body, sharp mind, and loving nature make it the ideal member of any family or outdoor enthusiast.
The Springer is a lively and athletic dog that continues to warm the hearts of many. As a member of an active family willing to devote much love and attention to their dog, the Springer will truly excel.
History of the English Springer Spaniel
This avid hunting dog was given its name because of the way it “springs” at its prey in the field. Even before hunting with guns was around, Springers were used to “flush” prey out of cover so that other methods could be used to capture the birds or small animals.
From the 16th century to present day, Springers have found a place beside many regular hunters. Tracking, springing, and flushing preyout comes completely naturally to this breed.
Initially, Springers fell into the same classification of other dogs in the Spaniel family. They weren’t differentiated from English Cocker Spaniels until 1902 when the English Kennel Club finally recognized Springers as their own breed.
Just over ten years later, the English Springer Spaniel was showing up in homes all across the United States. It was in the 1920s that the breed was given its official Standard by the American Kennel Club, at which time it also become one of the most commonly registered dogs in America.
Physical Traits of the English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel generally weighs between 40 to 50 pounds with an average height of 18 to 22 inches tall from the shoulder.
This breed has a very athletic body with noticeable muscle mass that enables it to hunt and run efficiently. The Springer’s powerful body moves smoothly with a clear ease of agility.
This medium sized dog is sturdy and compact with a fairly short coat, although show dogs tend to have slightly longer hair.
While their outer coat can be flat or somewhat wavy, the undercoat is thick and soft, which protects them in the brush while out hunting.
Springers have coats that are either black and liver colored, blue or liver roan, ortri-colored. They often have different colored markings on their eyebrows, cheeks, ears, and tails as well.
Breed Standard of the English Springer Spaniel
While the Springer can be found with any of the above characteristics, their Breed Standard is much more specific. Some Breed Standards for the Springer are:
- 20 inches tall for males and 19 inches tall for females (from the shoulder) with a variance of no more than 1 inch above or below
- A 20 inch Springer will weigh about 50 pounds and a 19 inch will weigh about 40 pounds
- A body length slightly larger than the height at the withers
- A similar head and neck length from a profile view
- Deep set, medium, and oval shaped eyes
- Dark hazel eyes in liver and white dogs
- Black or brown eyes in black and white dogs
- Ears that hang close to the cheeks and do not stand up or out
- A smooth and effortless gait with a long stride
- No dipping, reaching or rolling in the stride
Coloring Standard of the English Springer Spaniel
- Springers can have a combination of black, white, and liver colors. The dog can be black or liver with white markings, or mostly white with black or liver markings.
- The breed can have a blue orroan (an even mix of white and pigmented hairs with nograying or fading)color .
- Tri-colored Springers can be black and white or liver and white, both with tan markings that generally appear on their eyebrows, inside their ears, on theircheeks, and under their tails. Any white on their coat can haveticking (flecks of color on white areas), but cannot show lemon, red, or orange colors.
Colors that fall under the AKC’s standard for English Springer Spaniels are:
- Black and white
- Black, white, and tan
- Liver and white
- Liver, white, and tan
- White and black
- White and liver
Temperament of the English Springer Spaniel
This obedient, friendly, and playful dog ranks 28th most popular breed by the American Kennel Club, and for good reason.
Springers tend to be even tempered and social dogs that interact with other people and animals well with the right socialization and training.
While the English Springer Spaniel makes an excellent addition to a family, this breed needs regular, stimulating, and engaging exercise.
The Springer is almost always enthusiastic about life. This dog is extremely happy to please and is up for any type of physically involved activity outdoors. Running, swimming, and playing in the mud are all in the Springer’s wheelhouse.
As natural born hunting dogs, Springers might not handle inactivity and time alone very well. Without regular exercise, love, and play, this breed has a tendency to become bored, tireless, frustrated, and destructive. Feelings like this can become overwhelming for a Springer, sometimes causing them to resort to excessive barking. Like any dog, though, with enough activity and engagement, the Springer will thrive.
Springers have been known to resort to “alpha” behavior if nobody else in their family steps up to the role. However, with clear rules, boundaries, and training, this dog will live a content, obedient, and enjoyable life.
Traditionally, Springers are bred for two distinct purposes - field work and show.
Dogs that were bred to hunt tend to have a higher level of energy, thus needing a slightly increased amount of daily exercise to remain calm and content.
While Springers bred for show still require regular exercise, their needs aren’t quite as demanding.
Springers thoroughly enjoy being outdoors, swimming and getting muddy. With correct training, they usually get along well with other people, pets, and children. If shown genuine care and affection, Springers will be forever loyal to their family.
Physical Abilities of the English Springer Spaniel
Hunting is in a Springer’s blood, and this dog will take to the task quickly and without much need for in-depth training. As their name implies, they have a knack for “springing” on prey in the field.
These dogs are so attuned to hunting that it’s wise to keep them on a lead while out on walks to prevent them from running off on a hunt of their own.
The English Springer Spaniel’s thick undercoat acts as protection from thorns and thick brush, which enables this breed to power through the field for hours on end. Springers can maintain their energy all day long if necessary.
If not raised to be hunters, these dogs love to engage in obedience activities, agility games, and tracking. They equally enjoy going for swims and retrieving (and can do so as long as their companion is willing to throw).
With such a draw to physical exercise, Springers appreciate the opportunity to act as a full-time work partner. However, if their place in the home is as another regular member of the family, they will find joy in having a large yard to play in, going for runs, and participating in an activity-filled life.
Springer Spaniel Health Issues
Springers have a general lifespan of about 12 to 14 years. While they tend to be very healthy dogs, there are some potential health concerns to be aware of.
Serious health concerns for English Springer Spaniels can include:
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - This retinal degeneration disease can progress over time starting with night blindness and possibly developing into daytime blindness.
- Phosphofructokinase (PFK) Deficiency - PFK is an enzyme that allows a Springer’s body to metabolize sugar to use as energy. A dog that is deficient in this enzyme may become ill, hyperventilate, catch a fever, or suffer muscle atrophy.
- Retinal Dysplasia - While most cases do not have a serious effect on the dog’s vision, Retinal Dysplasia can lead to vision loss. It is generally detected in puppies.
- Entropion - This condition is seen when the dog’s lower eyelid folds in toward its eye, which can cause lasting irritation. The condition can be fixed with surgery.
Lesser health concerns can include problems like:
- Hip dysplasia - Hip dysplasia is a degenerative joint disease that can cause pain and an inability for the hip to properly function.
- Skin Conditions and Allergies - An inherited skin disease or allergies could cause skin infections, itching, and hair loss.
- Ear infections - The breed’s long ears make them commonly susceptible to infections of the ear. These can be treated with antibiotics.
Caring for your English Springer Spaniel
It’s vital that your dog comes from a reputable breeder to avoid bad practices and health concerns later on. It’s also just as important to schedule routine visits to the vet.
Being proactive about your dog’s health will greatly reduce the chance of developing any health issues down the road.
English Springer Spaniels need to have their ears checked routinely (at least once per week). Because of the dog’s long ears, air circulation gets blocked and can lead to frequent infections.
Be thorough and consistent when checking your dog’s ears. Have your vet recommend a cleaning solution, and use it with a cotton swab to wipe the visible area of the ear.
Depending on whether your English Springer Spaniel was bred to be a field dog or a show dog, grooming requirements are lesser or more extensive. Springers bred forshow have a coat that necessitates more frequent brushing, washing, and clipping.
Of course, dogs bred for field work tend to get a bit dirtier while playing outside, so regular cleaning and grooming is required regardless.
Springers are prone to shedding. Routine brushing, however, will lessen the effects. Aim to brush at least three times per week.
The recommended amount of food for the average size Springer is 1 ½ to 2 cups of quality dry dog food per day. Of course, consulting with a vet for each individual dog is important because dietary needs can range from one dog to the next.
Training your English Springer Spaniel
Springers require a high attention to training as puppies. While they are quick learners, inadequate training can lead to bad behavior in the future.
Springer Spaniels need an authority figure in their life. If none is present, they will likely attempt to take the role, causing them to become hard-headed and stubborn.
At the same time, Springers are sensitive dogs and don’t do well with harsh training. An abundance of positive reinforcement will keep a Springer progressing quickly through their training.
It’s important to consider the tone of voice when training a Springer. This breed can see right through a trainer who lacks authority and will deter it from making progress.
A strong voice and stature will teach your dog who the leader in the family is. When given the role as companion - not boss - Springers will remain devoted and obedient.
Be adamant about socializing Springer Spaniels when they’re young. Some lines of Springers have been known to show aggression due to fearfulness or shyness. Avoid these tendencies by exposing the dog to friends and other pets from a young age.
While this breed is mostly friendly and happy around other people, the right training and exposure can ensure an even better experience for both the dog and humans later on.
As hunters, Springers will likely take the chance to chase after nearby birds. Avoid accidents by keeping them on a lead when outside the home.
When they’re inside the home, keep them from barking at strangers by teaching a simple “quiet” command. Springers are intelligent dogs and will catch on to a trainer’s desires quickly.
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Why you should love English Springer Spaniels
The English Springer Spaniel is an amazingly loyal companion for both hunters and families alike.
This dog will thrive in a family that values outdoor life. While it will enjoy spending time right alongside its family, the Springer will be just as happy entertaining itself in a large yard.
Expect frequent check-ins from this affectionate dog, but don’t be surprised after an hour goes by and it’s still full of energy and having fun.
Whether you’re going for a swim or run, enjoying some outdoor gardening, or spending the day hunting, your Springer will remain lovingly devoted at your side.