Information about the English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel is a breed 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-19th century, the breed has diverged into separate show and working lines. The breed suffers from average health complaints. The show-bred version of the breed has been linked to “rage syndrome”, although the disorder is very rare. It is closely related to the Welsh Springer Spaniel and very closely with the English Cocker Spaniel; 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.
The English Springer Spaniel is a medium sized compact dog. Its coat is moderately long with feathering on the legs and tail. It is a 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 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 response to training 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.
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 colours and tend to be slightly smaller.
Field-bred dogs tend to have shorter, coarser coats than the longer furred show-bred dogs. They 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; 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.
Males in the show dog line average approximately 18 to 20 inches (46 to 51 cm) at the withers and weigh on average 50 to 55 lb (23 to 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 to 19 inches (43 to 48 cm) and usually 35 to 45 lb (16 to 20 kg). Working types can be lighter in weight and finer in bone.
English Springer Spaniels make good family dogs.
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.
It is a sociable breed 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 tend to get wet whenever they have the chance.
They are one of the breeds in which rage syndrome has been recognised. It is normally reported in Cocker Spaniels, however due to the Springer’s relatively recent ancestry with that breed, it is also affected. It is described as when a dog attacks suddenly, often with a glazed look and appearing to be unaware of its surroundings. It can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, with the dog immediately returning to normal afterwards. There is no clear theory as to the source of rage syndrome, and treatment that works on one dog may not work on another. Cases are very rare and research is ongoing. It is only the show bred lines that seem to be affected, as there have been no reported cases in pure field-bred lines.
As in most breeds, there are some health problems that are more likely to occur. 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. Another problem can be elbow dysplasia. 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 for which both lines of the English springer spaniel should be screened 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.