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A medium-sized dog, the Field is probably one of the lesser-known spaniels. Interestingly they were never bred for work, but rather they were developed with the show ring in mind. However they began to be modified to have longer legs and became more suited to field work such as hunting and shooting. The Field spaniel is currently recognised as a vulnerable native breed by the Kennel Club.
This breed was developed by owners wanting to create an all-black show animal although some of their methods were heavily criticised by other breeders who questioned the purity of the dog's bloodlines.
They were not popular with hunters or shooting parties as their short legs made the early types slow and cumbersome. However by 1909 the breed was becoming much lighter and with the introduction of elements of the bloodhound, the longer legs began to appear, which helped the Field develop speed and agility.
Other breeds in the Field Spaniel's heritage include the Cocker spaniel, the Sussex spaniel and the English Water spaniel.
Average height to withers: 17" - 18"
Average weight: 18 - 25kg
Its size means the Field spaniel sits somewhere between the English Cocker and the English Springer spaniels in stature. The breed standard requires a solid colour in liver, black or roan and the fur is silky and lacks an undercoat. The coat is smooth, but can wave and feather - especially around the back of the legs, chest, belly and ears. White markings can occur on the throat or on the chest and although the coat is not as long as that of a Cocker Spaniel, it will require regular grooming to prevent it becoming matted.
As one of the larger spaniel breeds, the Field is reasonably stocky with good 'bone'. They are very good feeders with a very healthy appetite so care should be taken when planning the diet of Field to avoid overfeeding which can lead to weight gain.
A true country dweller, the Field spaniel is happiest in wide-open spaces where he can roam, play and indulge his love of following a scent. He is loving, sensitive, noisy, energetic, inquisitive and jolly and loves to please his owners - even to the point of making them laugh.
The Field is certainly not a dog for city dwellers or for those who work full-time and would have to leave him on his own. If left for long periods the Field would certainly alleviate his boredom by destroying your house.
He loves to be with people and is happiest when with the family; however, as working animals they can adapt quickly to kennel life providing they have adequate living and exercise space and preferably a friend to lark about with. The Field is not naturally obedient - in fact, they can be downright mischievous, and they can be slow to learn. However patient, consistent training from an early age can yield great results. Harsh discipline is not recommended. If he is naughty a few sharp words will usually do the trick.
It is important to remember that just because he is well-mannered and obedient one day; it does not follow that he will be the same the next day. The importance of good training cannot be underestimated if you are to work in partnership with your Field spaniel.
The Field spaniel is prone to a number of ocular conditions. Retinal atrophy involves complete degeneration of the retina leading to impaired vision and often complete blindness, while the symptoms of retinal dysplasia usually include excessive growth of retinal tissue forming folds or 'rosettes'. The dog is also predisposed to cataracts, a hereditary condition that leads to clouding of the lens and eventual blindness.
The Field can also present with hip dysplasia, where the head of the femur becomes dislocated due to malformation of the hip joint. This can lead to severe pain and pronounced lameness. Older Fields have also been seen to suffer with seizures, indeed neurological problems such as late-onset seizures and epilepsy are one of the biggest killers of Field spaniels.
A recent survey by the Kennel Club shows the primary cause of death in the Field spaniel to be cancer, with old age the second most frequent cause. The breed has a higher-than-average lifespan at 11.8 years.
As already mentioned, it is important not to overfeed your spaniel. He has an enormous appetite and will eat whatever he is offered, so it's vital that manufacturer's guidelines are followed when you have decided on an appropriate diet. Equally, it's important to remember that he is not a Cocker spaniel and he should not be fed like one unless you want an underweight, sickly animal.
His appetite for exercise should also not be underestimated. He is utterly tireless and requires lots and lots of fresh air and off-lead time, which is why it's usually recommended that Fields go to country-dwelling owners. Any outside space should be totally secure as this breed has escapee tendencies and may disappear to hunt if given the opportunity.
He should be given ample opportunity to spend time with the family and loves nothing more than rushing round trying to make you laugh. As a natural clown the Field can often forget that he might have a job to do and veer off task to do something completely unexpected and totally absurd just to raise a smile and some appreciative words from his owner.
Many Fields are very keen travellers and have even been known to thoroughly enjoy sitting in the car even when they're not going anywhere. Due to their silky, single-layer coat they are easy to keep looking smart, with a brush through once a day and foot, hock and ear trimming only needed when necessary. They can be very vocal and must be taught to stop barking when asked or risk becoming a nuisance to family and neighbours.