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The larger brother of the English Cocker Spaniel, the Springer is a lively, active and affectionate breed of gundog. The name is derived from the role it played in the field, where it would flush or 'spring' birds and fowl from the ground or hedge into the air. This is a breed of dog which loves being outside and will happily walk and run all day given its stamina then settle well at home with the family after a good days play! There are two strains of Cocker (the Working strain and the Show strain), and it is important to be able to tell the difference as each has different characteristics and abilities. The inquisitive and playful nature of these dogs coupled with its ability to learn and be trainability make them suited for many types of work, for example, being a sniffer dog.
All Spaniels can trace their origins back to a breed originating from Spain. The larger of this were the ancestors of today's English Springer Spaniel. In the 1800's the Kennel Club recognised Cocker and Springer spaniels as separate breeds even though they sometimes appeared in the same litter. Thus dogs larger than 11kg in weight were classed as Springer Spaniels. The Kennel Club of Great Britain granted breed recognition in 1902.
Average Height to withers: Female 46-51cm, male between 48-56cm.
Average Weight: Male between 20kg-25kg, female between 18kg-23kg.
Springer Spaniels, regardless of whether they are the Working or Show strain share the same almond shaped, deep set, dark eyes which can appear mournful but which hides a sharp intelligence! Primarily either black and white or liver and white, tan colours may also be seen on either type. Either way, hunters in the field prefer their dogs to have a larger amount of white on their coat as they are more easily seen under field conditions.
The coats of each strain are markedly different, with the Show strain having a verdant, luxurious and glossy coat with long feathers from the legs and around the trim whereas the Working strain displays a more practical and shorter coat. There is also a difference in the size and shape of the ears between the types. The ears of the Show strain are longer, lobular shaped ears with plenty of soft feathers on them. In the field, these beautiful ears would serve little purpose and as a result the Working strain has smaller, flatter ears with few feathers on them. The ears on a Spaniel serve the purpose to protect the workings of the inner ear when the dog enters the water, which, with its innate love of water, it will do whenever it has the opportunity.
The Springer is a beautifully proportioned dog which carries itself proudly, with a deep chest and a tail which is carried on a level to its back with the Working strain appearing finer of the bone and of a lighter appearance.
Friendly, quick to learn and willing to please, the adaptable and extrovert English Springer Spaniel is a great family pet as much as it is happy to work in the field. The Working strain requires more exercise than the Show strain and can happily cover a large amount of ground quickly with a grace and stamina displayed in few other breeds. Both types are intelligent and easy to train but can become easily bored without enough stimulation which can lead to mischievous or destructive behaviours in the home, especially when left alone for long periods of time.
The easy going but energetic nature of this breed make it a great choice for active families with children. Aggression and/or dominance, while not a common issue with Springers, can be problematic if not handled correctly when the dog is younger as it continues to grow to maturity at around 2-3 years of age. However, it is worth remembering that this is the case for many breeds of dog. One of the most biddable breeds of dog, it is easy to see why the Springer is a popular choice as a family pet.
As with Cocker Spaniels, the Springer has been associated in the past with 'Rage Syndrome' when occurrences of apparently unprovoked aggression have happened. Rage Syndrome is a serious but very rare and uncharacteristic behavioural problem that has been reported in several breeds. It is often incorrectly diagnosed as it can be confused with other forms of aggression, such as food guarding, and an assumption is too often made that any Spaniel displaying signs of aggression must have Rage Syndrome when this is not the case.
Springers, as with all other Spaniels and dogs with larger ears, can be prone to problems with them. A Spaniels ears are designed to protect the inner ear from water when working or playing in it. It is imperative to ensure that the ears are in good condition. In summer keep the hair on and in the ear short and check for burrs and seed pods caught up in the hair.
It is reported that Springer Spaniels are susceptible to a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. This is a disease of the connective tissue (collagen) in the skin, which produces fragile, loose skin which is more prone to tearing and is unable to heal itself as easily as it should. The severity of this can range from mild through to life threatening, however while there is no current cure, supportive treatment and corrective surgery can be available from your vet.
Due to the longer coat of Spaniels, especially the Show strain, they require frequent grooming, preferably each day, and may also benefit from professional grooming every few months by being clipped out or strapped for easier maintenance. In addition, due to the very nature of these nosey little dogs and their love of water and all things muddy, regular shampooing may be necessary. It is also worth clipping back the fur between the pads and on top of the feet as this can become very long and by doing this there is less chance of thorns and burrs getting stuck and making walking uncomfortable for the dog.
The Springer is a breed which traditionally had it tail docked; however, from 2007 this was effectively banned in the UK, with permitted exceptions, (as defined by the Docking of Working Dogs Tails (England) Regulations 2007 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006). This ban also extends to the showing of some dogs with docked tails, with the exception of dogs who are demonstrating their working skills. This is something to bear in mind when buying a puppy as heavy fines can be imposed if someone is found to be in contravention to these Regulations.