Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Sussex Spaniel
Average Cost to keep/care for a Sussex Spaniel
The Sussex Spaniel is one of the UK's vulnerable native breeds with only very few pedigree puppies being registered with The Kennel Club every year. They are quite heavily built dogs that boast a profuse golden/liver coat. Although not as popular as other spaniel breeds, they are highly rated as working gundogs in the field. They have a very unique look with wider heads than other spaniels which paired to their wrinkled brow adds to their overall charming appearance. The Sussex is known to be a kind natured dog and one that makes a great family pet being just as happy in a home environment as there are working in the field.
Sussex Spaniels are one of the oldest native breeds in the UK having been around since the early 1800's. One of the breed's main enthusiasts was a landowner by the name of Mr. Fuller who kept Sussex Spaniels and others at his kennels on his large estate. He bred Sussex Spaniels over a time span of 50 years as working dogs with great success. However, their numbers dropped by the end of World War II with only 5 dogs thought to remain during that time.
Thanks to the efforts and hard work of breed enthusiasts including one particular lady by the name of Mrs. Freer, the Sussex Spaniel was saved from extinction and the Sussex Spaniel Association was later formed in 1924. Slowly through careful and selective breeding, Sussex Spaniel numbers started to rise over the ensuing decades. However, even today, their numbers remain quite low with only around 60 to 100 pedigree puppies being bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. As such, these charming spaniels have been placed on the UK's native vulnerable breed list and were only recognised as a unique breed in the own right by The Kennel Club in 2004.
Height at the withers: Males 38 - 41 cm, Females 38 - 41 cm
Average weight: Males 16 - 20 kg, Females 16 - 20 kg
Sussex Spaniels are smaller, lower to the ground and they have larger heads than other spaniel breeds which gives them a very unique look all of their own. They are robust, strongly built dogs and when they are on the move, they have a very distinct roll about them. Their heads are wide with dogs having a rather distinct curve between their ears and an indentation in the middle. They have a very pronounced stop and noticeable occiput which adds to the overall balanced look of a dog's head.
Their brows are furrowed giving the impression that a Sussex Spaniel is always frowning and they have well developed nostrils with nice liver coloured noses. Their eyes are a nice hazel colour being quite large and having a gentle expression in them. Ears are quite large and lobular being set moderately low on a dog's head, lying close to their faces. The Sussex Spaniel has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Their necks are strong, long with a hint of an arch and dogs have a nice frill around their necks. They have sloping shoulders and strong, powerful, well-muscled, short front legs showing a good amount of bone. Chests are well developed and deep with dogs having nicely developed and muscular backs and loins having a good depth and width to them. Their back ribs are deep adding to the powerful appearance of the Sussex Spaniel's body. Back legs are strong, powerful and well boned.
Their feet are well padded and round in shape with a good amount of feathering in between their toes. Tails are set low and are moderately long which dogs carry level to their backs, but never above. Their tails are thickest at the root, but taper to the tip and are nicely feathered. When excited or alert, a Sussex Spaniels wags their tail in a very lively manner which is one of their endearing traits.
When it comes to their coat, the Sussex Spaniel has a profuse, flat top coat with a good amount of softer, denser undercoat. Their ears are covered with wavy and much softer hair with their forequarters as well as their hindquarters being moderately feathered too. The only accepted breed colour is as follows:
Unlike other gundogs, the Sussex Spaniel likes to let an owner know when they have found something or when they are excited about anything. As such they are known to bark which is something deeply embedded in their working psyche. They have a very calm and kind disposition and like to do things at their own slower pace which is another unusual trait for a spaniel. They love being part of a family and are just as happy in a home environment as they are working in the field which is one of the reasons why they make such wonderful family pets and companions.
They are intelligent dogs and as such they need to be given the right amount of mental stimulation or boredom would quickly set in which could lead to a dog developing some unwanted behavioural issues. Sussex Spaniels thrive on having people around them and are never happy when left on their own for any great length of time. As such they are a great choice for people who live in the country and in a household where at least one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out.
With this said, they are a great choice for first time owners thanks to their kind, placid, laid-back natures and the fact they are always willing and eager to please. But these spaniels are high maintenance on the exercise front and need to be given lots of "off the lead" time to be truly happy, well-rounded characters.
It's important for Sussex Spaniel puppies to be well socialised from a young enough age so they grow up to be more confident mature dogs. Their socialisation has to include introducing them to lots of new people, situations, noises, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. Their training also has to begin when they are still young in order to gently curb their rather strong hunting instinct. They can be a little wilful at times, but with patience and understanding this can easily be overcome.
In the right environment and with the correct amount of early socialisation and training, a Sussex Spaniel is a real pleasure to have around and they are more than happy to curl up on a sofa at the end of the day with their owners. Because they boast such kind natures, Sussex Spaniels are often seen working as PAT therapy dogs in schools, hospices and hospitals.
The Sussex Spaniel is known to be a happy, cheerful dog, but they do have their own particular ways about them. This includes doing things at their own pace. As such, they are not as fast when it comes to learning new things, but with patience and understanding, these charming dogs can be taught to behave nicely and to be obedient. It might just take a little longer for the penny to drop than it does with other spaniel breeds.
Like many other dogs, the Sussex Spaniel is sensitive by nature and in particular to "voice" commands. As such, it would be a mistake to use a raised voice to correct them. This would not achieve positive results and may even end up making a Sussex Spaniel a little on the timid side. They do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings out the best in these dogs. However, it's best to give fewer high value rewards than to give a Sussex Spaniel lots of lower value ones because they are prone to putting on too much weight far too easily which could end up shortening their lives considerably.
The Sussex Spaniel is a laid-back character and one that enjoys being part of a family and involved in everything that goes on around them. They are known to be particular good around children especially if they have grown up together. However, any interaction between younger children or toddlers and a dog should always be supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not end up getting too boisterous, especially when dogs are still going through their puppy stage.
If well socialised from a young enough age, they do get on with other dogs although they can be a little "off" with dogs they don't already know. When a Sussex Spaniel grows up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together, but they would not think twice about chasing off any cats they don't know. Care has to be taken when they are around small animals and pets because their prey drive might just get the better of them.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Sussex Spaniel is between 10 and 12 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Sussex Spaniel is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs, but on the whole they are a healthy, robust breed. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Sussex Spaniels need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Sussex Spaniel has a medium length top coat and a denser, softer undercoat which makes them high maintenance in the grooming department more especially during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when they tend to shed the most. Ideally, their coats need to be brushed every day paying special attention to feathers found on a dog's legs, chest, ears, abdomen and tail. Daily brushing helps prevent any knots or tangles from forming and to remove any debris a dog might have picked up.
It's also important to have their coats trimmed from time to time which makes keeping on top of things that much easier in between visits to a professional groomer. This is especially true of neutered and spayed dogs. Any long hair that grows in and around their paw pads should also be kept nice and short which is a task a professional groomer would be able to do when a dog is being trimmed.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections bearing in mind that Sussex Spaniels are prone to ear problems.
Sussex Spaniels are intelligent, energetic albeit laid-back dogs and they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise paired to as much mental stimulation as possible for them to be truly happy, well-balanced dogs. They are most suited to life in the country and with people who lead more active, outdoor lives. They need to be given at least 2 hour's exercise a day which should include as much off the lead time as possible.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these high energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Sussex Spaniel puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still developing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Sussex Spaniel puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again. It's worth bearing in mind that some puppies can be a little fussy about their food and if this is the case, the best course of action is to discuss things with a vet or dog nutritionist who would be able to offer the best and most reliable advice.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Sussex Spaniel, you would need to register your interest with breeders and be put on a waiting list because very few pedigree puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would also need to pay anything from £500 to over £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Sussex Spaniel in northern England would be £21.59 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Sussex Spaniel and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Sussex Spaniel would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.
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