English Springer Spaniel

This "Springing Spaniel" Makes an Excellent Family Pet

English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel: This "Springing Spaniel" Makes an Excellent Family Pet

The English Springer Spaniel was originally used for flushing out and retrieving game. Today, as family dogs, these excitable and eager-to-please pets are affectionate with family members and very loyal to their owners.


In 1576, Dr. John Caius described the Spaniel in his book, “The Treatise of Englishe Dogs,” which was the first publication to detail specific breed by function. In 1801, Sydenham Edwards thought that the Spaniel should be split into two different kinds, the "springing, hawking, or starter" Spaniel, and the Cocker Spaniel.

In Edwards' time, Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels were not different breeds. They were often, in fact, born of the same litter. The entire breed was used for hunting, but the smaller dogs were used to hunt woodcock, and the Springer spaniels would flush or "spring" the game bird into the air, thus giving them their name the "Springer Spaniel."

The 1800s were a time of Spaniel breed development, with many different Spaniel breeds coming from different counties or developed by noble owners. During this time, larger land Spaniel breeds were developed, and these were called the "true Springer type." These Norfolk Spaniels and the Shropshire Spaniels were ultimately shown together by the 1850s as "Norfolk Spaniels."

In 1880, the American Spaniel Club was formed, and further gave Springers their distinction. At that point, any Spaniel over 28 pounds was designated a Springer. In 1924, the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association was formed, with field trials held for the first time in that year. These dogs are highly intelligent, ambitious, and excellent at tracking, hunting, protecting, obeying and performing tricks.

In 1902, the English Springer Spaniel breed was officially recognized by the English Kennel Club as a separate breed from the Cocker Spaniel, and the American Kennel Club similarly recognized it as its own breed in 1910. The first English Field Champion, FTC Rivington Sam, was crowned in 1914. His dam, Rivington Riband, was a Cocker Spaniel; today, FTC Rivington Sam is still considered a foundation sire for modern field lines.


English Springer Spaniel puppies grow to be medium-sized dogs, compact and athletic. The coat is often long with a slightly wavy texture, and there can be feathering on the tail and legs. English Springer Spaniels can be both field and show dogs, but their appearances are markedly different. Gene pools remain completely segregated and have been so for about 70 years. The field-bred English Springer Spaniel's attributes focus on physical ability, speed, and stamina. A show dog's "winning" characteristics focus on physical appearance.

A field-bred English Springer Spaniel has a shorter, coarser coat than a show-bred dog, and field dogs also have smaller, less pendulous ears. English Springer Spaniel field dogs are wiry and can even look "feral," as compared to Springer show dogs. A field-bred English Springer Spaniel may have its tail docked just a few inches, as opposed to the much more significant docking of the show Spaniel.

English Springer Spaniel puppies look much like the English Cocker Spaniel, but the English Cocker Spaniel is smaller. The English Springer Spaniel also has higher set and shorter ears, as well as a longer nose, as compared to English Cocker Spaniels. The English Springer Spaniel’s coat is not as thick and generous, and the eyes are also less prominent.

English Springer Spaniels usually only shed in spring and summer months, and have long, "feathery" coats if bred as show dogs, or shorter, coarser coats if they are field dogs. The coat is brown or black with white markings, or mostly white with brown or black markings. They may also be lemon and white, orange and white, or red and white. They can also be tricolor, with white and black or brown and white with tan markings, and they may have ticking flecked throughout.

The English Springer Spaniel stands between 18 and 21 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 38 to 55 pounds in adulthood.


The English Springer Spaniel is an excellent family pet and will get along well with just about anyone – except for birds. Because this dog’s natural instinct is to flush out and retrieve birds, you won't have much luck getting your otherwise very obedient pet to listen to you if you tell him to leave your parakeet alone! Therefore, it's never safe to have an English Springer Spaniel and any kind of pet bird in the same house. However, in most other respects, English Springer Spaniels are extremely obedient, very concerned with your approval, very smart and incredibly loyal to those he or she loves.

One of the most often used words to describe the English Springer Spaniel is "cheerful." Indeed, this happy, energetic dog will bring lots of joy to your household. Your pet can be prone to poor behavior if you don't provide firm boundaries and a calm, assertive, authoritative manner so that he or she knows you're in charge, but if you do, you'll develop a very happy and well-behaved pet indeed.

There is one particular behavior "problem" with the English Springer Spaniel that isn't really a problem as long as you give your pet the companionship he or she craves. If you leave your pet alone for extended periods of time, he or she can be very destructive to property simply because he or she is bored and anxious. This is a pet that needs to be around family. If you can't provide nearly constant companionship, you should choose another, more independent breed instead.

A note about "rage syndrome"

Although rare, there is something called "rage syndrome" that has been seen in Spaniel breeds, most often the Cocker Spaniel. Nonetheless, even though it is exceedingly rare and almost never seen in the English Springer Spaniel, it's worth noting here because the English Springer Spaniel shares some recent ancestry with the Cocker Spaniel.

With rage syndrome, the dog seems to go into a rageful "trance," with a glazed look in its eyes, and can attack suddenly. This "fugue” state can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, and then the dog will return to normal as though nothing is wrong. No one knows quite why this happens and there is no proven treatment for it as yet, although it's being studied. It also appears that only show-bred and not field-bred lines are affected, so if your pet is a pure field-bred English Springer Spaniel, you should have no worries.


This is a hearty, sturdy, and very active dog, and you can expect your pet to have a long life. English Springer Spaniel puppies can live between 12 and 14 years on average. Hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy have been seen with the breed, and ear infections are also a problem because of the dogs' floppy ears. Your vet can instruct you on how to clean your pet's ear canals weekly in order to avoid these infections.


The English Springer Spaniel's coat is relatively easy to maintain: Field-type English Springer Spaniels need to be brushed with a stiff-bristled brush weekly, and show Springer coats need daily brushing. Bathe or use dry shampoo only when necessary. Feathering on the legs and feet should be trimmed regularly.


AKC MEET THE BREEDS®: English Springer Spaniel.

Retrieved May 27, 2012.

English Springer Spaniel.

Retrieved May 27, 2012.

English Springer Spaniel.

Retrieved May 27, 2012.

Questions people often ask about English Springer Spaniels...

  • +Do English Springer Spaniels like to cuddle?

  • +Is the English Springer Spaniel easy to train?

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