English Springer Spaniel shares its heritage with the English Cocker Spaniel; in fact, at one time, they were the same breed. In the 1800s, in a litter of Spaniel puppies, the smaller dogs would hunt woodcocks and were called cockers. The larger puppies in the litter were used to flush the game and were therefore called springers. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Springers and Cockers were finally recognised as two different breeds, both in England and the U.S.
Today in the U.S., there are two types of English Springer Spaniel: the show English Springer Spaniel dog and the field English Springer Spaniel dog. Although the breed standard describes the perfect English Springer Spaniel and applies to all English Springer Spaniels, those who breed for field performance tend to view those traits as much more important than the breed’s appearance.
The English Springer Spaniel is a medium-sized dog, between 18 and 21 inches tall and about 40 to 50 pounds, with female English Springer Spaniels smaller than male English Springer Spaniels. The head is classically shaped, with long, drooping ears made to look longer with the long, slightly wavy coat. The eyes are medium-sized, oval and alert, intelligent and expressive. The body is slightly longer than tall, the legs are long, and, when trotting, the dog covers ground effortlessly. The coat on the body is of moderate length, but there is profuse feathering on the legs and sides.
English Springer Spaniels may be black or liver-coloured with white markings, white with black or liver markings, blue or liver roan, or tricoloured. The tail is docked. Daily brushing and combing is needed to keep the feathers and long hair from tangling and matting. The coat will need to be trimmed every four to six weeks. If you wish to learn how to do the haircuts on your own Springer, talk to your dog’s breeder for guidance, or you can have a professional groomer do it for you. The long, heavy ears need to be cleaned twice a week to prevent ear problems. Bred to work hard in the field all day long, Springers need vigorous daily exercise.
English Springer Spaniels are very active and need a lot of exercise and playtime. They are very athletic, but beware of water; if any is at hand, they will be in it. Because they love water, swimming is great exercise, as is running, jogging, playing, or catch. Basic obedience training should be a part of every Springer’s puppyhood. Training has long been a part of the breed’s heritage, as field dogs had to be obedient.
English Springer Spaniels are affectionate and want to please. Many people interested in performance sports such as agility and flyball have found that Springers make great competitors; they want to learn and are fast and very athletic. English Springer Spaniels will bark when people approach their home but are not known for being protective.
The English Springer Spaniel breed is a wonderful family dog, patient with children, and tough enough to take some roughhousing. They are generally good with other pets, although they need to learn that chasing the cat is not allowed. They should not be trusted with the family bird; their heritage says that birds are prey! Health concerns include hip and elbow dysplasia, eye defects, and rage syndrome.