Spaniels are a group of different breeds that were originally bred as gun dogs, or that are descended from breeds that fulfilled gundog-retrieving types of working roles. While most of us could probably name a couple of spaniel breeds off the top of our heads, few people could cite a list longer than five-although there are in fact well over twenty different recognised spaniel breeds extant today, and they are hugely popular all over the world.
Every spaniel breed is of course different, and there is quite a lot of variation across the group as a whole, in terms of sizes, appearance, temperament and main traits-but spaniels also have a lot in common, in that they tend to have a kind appearance, soft mouth and generally, very sweet personalities.
They are also outgoing, loving and friendly dogs, which is what has continued to make them popular today, long after a large number of their traditional working roles no longer exist.
If you have decided that you would like to own a spaniel but are not really sure which specific breed is the right choice for you, it is important to do lots of research, meets lots of different dogs of each breed, and make an informed decision. However, if in the first instance you are looking for a short primer or some insight into the different breeds, and which ones fit what types of living situations, read on to find out more!
If you are looking for a common, popular breed that is an excellent all-rounder that fits happily into a family home, the cocker spaniel may be the right choice for you. Cocker spaniels are small to medium sized dogs, which are fairly energetic and do need at least one good hour long walk every day, but that do not have as onerous exercise requirements as some of the other other spaniel variants.
They do need grooming and attention and of course, will not thrive if left alone for long periods of time-but if you are looking for a popular spaniel breed that is a good all rounder for families, the cocker could be the best idea.
If you’re looking for a slightly taller spaniel breed that is highly energetic, very lively and always full of beans, your best choice may well be the springer spaniel. Springers are fun loving, lively and very active dogs that are also intelligent and quick to learn, making them a great choice if you want to get involved in canine sport, or just like to keep active!
If your ideal dog is a petite, delicate-looking spaniel that likes nothing more than cuddling up in your lap and spending time with you, consider the King Charles spaniel. The King Charles is also sometimes known as the English toy spaniel, and they are small, very affectionate and completely cute!
However, they also share a lot of other spaniel traits such as being lively and inquisitive, so they cannot be classed as a little couch potato!
Looking for a stunning head-turner, or have aspirations to enter the dog show world? How about the American cocker spaniel, this year’s Best in Show winner at Crufts. A close relative of the English cocker spaniel, the American cocker has a much longer, thicker coat as well as slightly different conformation. If you love grooming your dog and fussing over them but also want a dog that is smart and lively, this might be the best pick.
Hybrid dog types like the cockapoo and the Labradoodle are hugely popular in the UK today, and there is one variant that is all spaniel-the Sprocker, which is a cross between a springer spaniel and a cocker spaniel. If you want to find out more about this type of dog and what makes them popular, check out our previous article.
Looking for an exotic breed that isn’t very common in the UK, you may want to look to some of the spaniel breeds that hail from abroad-like the Kooikerhondje, which hails from the Netherlands. This breed has a very spaniel-like head and conformation but they are rather finer and lighter than most of our UK breeds, with a more pointed muzzle and generally lighter build.
Finally, did you know that some of our native spaniel breeds in the UK are now bred in such small numbers that they are in danger of dying out entirely? If you want to support the ongoing viability of endangered breeds as well as of course owning a fulfilling and distinctive dog of your own, consider the Clumber spaniel. The Clumber spaniel is muscular and rather stocky compared to most other spaniel breeds, which means that they also tend to be rather more laid back and not quite as energetic!