Spaniel Specialists -- Speak Up!

If you are wondering what is the right dog for you, this is the place to be. In this introductory forum we talk about topics such as breed vs. mix, size, age, grooming, breeders, shelters, rescues as well as requirements for exercise, space and care. No question is too silly here. This particular forum is for getting and giving helpful, nice advice. It is definitely not a forum for criticizing someone else's opinion, knowledge or advice. This forum is all about tail wagging and learning.

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Dr. Watson

Not a wiener- dawg!
Barked: Tue Jan 1, '13 12:03pm PST 
Well, the Cocker people and the English Springer Spaniel people speak very well of their breeds. I don't mind velcro at all, btw, as I have had Goldens, who can tend to sit on your lap! Thank you all for your info!

I would like a clever, trainable dog -- the field versions sound great!

I would really like to know more about the Field, the Boykin (must be some Southerners out there), and the Sussex -- as you can tell I like brown/liver. Please elaborate!
Trixie Bean!

none so blind as- those that will- not see
Barked: Tue Jan 1, '13 2:11pm PST 
"almost on the same level as Border Collies in their energy levels"

Almost? laugh out loud The working Cockers that I have come across seem to surpass border Collies on their energy levels shock.. I know one who is erxercised around 3 hrs a day, does flyball and agility a couple of times a week.. Still not enough for him, and he circles a LOT if he doesnt have something to occupy his mind!

Watson, ive only met a couple of Sussex spaniels but they seem a bit calmer than a lot of Spaniels- closer to the Clumber in behaviour, I believe? They still have that friendly, clown-like nature that comes naturally to most spaniels though. I think they tend to suffer more health-wise than other Spaniels, and as far as I can tell they seem to be a little less playful too! The ones I were met were lovely, sweet dogs but the difference in energy levels between them and say, a Cocker Spaniel was certainly noticeable.
Dr. Watson

Not a wiener- dawg!
Barked: Tue Jan 1, '13 3:29pm PST 
I don't think I want a Spaniel as low-key as a Clumber, nor as large. Not that I want a tiny dog either, but 25 lbs or more is doable for me.


The Muddy- Princess
Barked: Tue Jan 1, '13 4:38pm PST 
How about an American Water Spaniel? I think of them as a smaller liver-colored field Golden. And love those ears!
Dr. Watson

Not a wiener- dawg!
Barked: Tue Jan 1, '13 6:46pm PST 
I think American Water Spaniels are very attractive dogs. However, aren't they oily or 'stinky' like Labs? Also, it's my understanding that they are not human social outside their own families. thinking
Somerwynd- Tell Tail

Mr. Personality
Barked: Tue Jan 1, '13 7:01pm PST 
I have two Sussex spaniels and a Clumber Spaniel. This is my third Clumber and I am active in the breed so have a fair amount of clumber experience. Don't be fooled that Clumbers are laid back and low key - they are really high energy clowns. But they do have an off switch in the house which is nice. But they are large (many bitches even weigh in 70-80 lb range, males are larger and heavier). They have a lot of stamina and can just go all day, just not at a frantic speed. They drool and shed (24/7, 365 days a year). Really they shed a lot - it boggles the mind how much they shed. They are great with other dogs. They are very soft dogs personality wise - they crumble if you even raise your voice at them. They are quiet dogs and don't bark a lot (though they do grunt and woo). In fact if mine barked three or four times a year that is a lot. There is no breed split between field/show. Many top show dogs also hunt. At the last National they had eight dogs who were either CH or GCH who had MH titles. They do really well in tracking, though they don't typically excel in obedience smile I adore these big clowns and can't imagine my life without them.

I also adore my Sussex. They are a lot spicier in personality than the Clumbers. They are also very vocal - they bark a lot (and bay, and woo, and grunt). My Sussex have been a lot more dominant dogs than my Clumbers (who have all been laid back wooses). They are also high energy clowns with an off button. This is also a breed with no field/conformation split. They also do well in tracking and there are a number of search and rescue sussex out there. They also drool and shed (a lot!) so not a dog for a neat freak. They are soft personality wise, but not quite as much so as the Clumber. My Sussex are quick to learn but get bored easily with any repetition and then will "turn off". I hope to always have a sussex in my life. They can be very hard to find - you might need that long to get a puppy.

As for Boykins, we have quite a few in this area and I have seen them at hunt tests. I get calls from the local rescues because they know I have "rare" spaniels. IME, these can be very, very high energy spaniels, bordering on the neurotic. If you focus this energy they can be good dogs. But I have never met anybody who keeps one as a house dog. Rather they are hunting dogs and kept in kennels outside. The breeders I spoke to at hunt tests said they are just not placed as "pets". They really, really need a job.

And a note on English Cockers and English Springers. The dogs I have met at hunt tests are very, very different from conformation dogs of those breeds. They are very high energy and have little physical resemblance to what you see in the conformation ring. I wouldn't have even known the breed if I hadn't checked the program in many cases. And again a lot of the extreme field types are not suited as "house" pets. The breeders/handlers I talked to said they are really kennel dogs. That said there are some very nice ESS and EC of conformation type that still hunt and do dog sports. You just have to look to the right breeder.

I don't have as much experience with Field Spaniels, but I have been seeing a lot of nice ones lately.

I am a total spaniel lover - they are what makes my heart pitter patter. But I like velcro dogs who are very dog friendly, who I can do outdoor activities with, but have an off button. I also am not overly obsessed with neatness. They are great dogs if they fit your lifestyle.
Sarah, CWSR,- CWG1, CGC

Million Dollar- Mutt
Barked: Tue Jan 1, '13 8:29pm PST 
I've fostered several spaniels and spaniel mixes. I had two (apparently) purebred English cocker males and one (apparently) purebred American cocker female. Ive had several that were fairly obvious Springer mixes too. I L-O-V-E LOVED my English Cockers and my Eng Springer mixes too.

I did not like the American Cocker female. She was neurotic and OCD regarding the ball. She could smell them and hunt them down. If she couldn't get to the ball she would dig, chew, or force her way to the ball. I am sure she would even go to the point of hurting herself. She would not stop. Once I made the mistake of playing fetch with her in a lake. I had her on the retractable leash because it's not an off-leash park. I accidentally threw the ball beyond the reach of the leash and I had to drag her back to shore, with her fighting me the whole time. She guarded the ball from my other dogs and me. If she did not have the ball she was constantly searching for the ball, panicking. She would not go outside t potty if I wouldn't let her take the ball with. HOWEVER, she was a merle, and since that is not a standard color, I am assuming she did not come from good breeding.

My Springer mixes and my two Eng. Cockers have been just that perfect blend of happiness, energy, liveliness, and biddability that I want, with enough spunk to be a jerk every once in a while to keep you on your toes! My next dog is going to be some sort of Spaniel mix, I've already decided!
Isabelle the- Great

Nothing is- greater than an- Springer!
Barked: Wed Jan 2, '13 7:44pm PST 
Dr. Watson,

If you do some searching, there is a thread on Field Spaniels out there. I think the main difference between the field and the ESS is that the Field Spaniel tends to be more independent than an ESS, which isn't saying much because, as I understand, Fields are still fairly people dependent.

There is also an Irish Water Spaniel thread that I started about a year ago when I heard Toto was involved in the breed, I believe we also discuss the Boykin and I know you fairly active in that conversation.
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Wed Jan 2, '13 11:19pm PST 
One thing to remember is that springing spaniels all stem from the same root, known as field spaniels, and at a time came from the same litter, separated by size, the smaller being the Cockers, or woodcock, dogs. They share a lot in common, but then splintered.

The Duke of Norfolk favored a line of well sized (large-ish cocker type) spaniels who were liver and white. In more general circles, in the the larger they were black, those not were generally culled. Smaller fields were known as Cockers. While out in Sussex, with its dense brush, there was another spaniel, somewhat apart from these in type and function.

All spaniels share a reasonable size, merry disposition, natural charm factor and a true longing and appreciation for companionship. What you need to decide, in deciding the right spaniel for you, is what level of an extrovert you want, and the level of what I like to call "spaniel bounce." Spaniels may be soft, but some can fill a room like a big dog and be surprisingly bold.

English Springers made the most immediate strides, probably due to their well-to-do association. The Welsh Springer had similar function, but rather than being Wales' version of the ESS was probably more akin to the Brittany in terms of foundation. The English Cocker, probably due to its smaller size, was readily accepted and popular. The Sussex was admired for its type but rather specific....a slower, heavier and lower set dog used in heavy brush and used more voice in his work, often being out of sight of his master due to the cover.

In time, the spaniel world had its shifts within the dog fancy. The English Springer continued with his popularity. Across the pond, America had so typified its version of the Cocker that English and American versions were split into two different breeds, the American version having a meteoric rise. The Field Spaniel, who by this time was most stemming from the English Cocker, himself was left in the dust. For a time, early in the 1900's, attempts to salvage him included crosses to the Sussex so profound that he became low set and heavy. And the Sussex, as well, began to fall off the map. Type on the Field was in time rectified, but the Sussex doubtless would have fallen off the map were it not for having one very dedicated woman to ensure against this happening, working from a very small population. Meanwhile, across the pond, the American Cocker came to greater and greater rise as a show dog and entrenched in Americana as the all american pet. As the blacks thrived so spectacularly in the show ring, to maintain the other colors he was split into three varieties - black, ASCOB (any solid color other than black) and parti.

In terms of splits and types, bench to field, the most striking, by a country mile, is the English Springer Spaniel. He's got the most dynamic split, and the fields there are akin to the strong difference between a bench or field Lab. I find field Springers exhausting....they have really, really, REALLY crackhead sort of busyness and energy. The others, the splits are either reasonably close to non existent or moderate in type.

English Springers are the love junkies. One of the most affectionate of all breeds, and a true masters dog. They are "busy." You will like it, or you won't. As a kid some family friends bred them (show dogs) and I was in doggie paradise laugh out loud As long as you are giving them attention, they are on cloud nine. If they are not getting it, they are wanting it. There is a Norwegian Elkhound person...Tuck is the name I think....who has written a couple of anti odes to the Eng Spring. She "had" to live with them, I think her husband had them. Her reflections put me in stitches, such a humor as a breed matcher, for they are quite opposite to her breed and she finds them neurotic. Many don't....many love them to bits. But you have to like affection by its nature, and a busy dog whose obsession is you. And having willing to please replaced by desperate to please. My Cocker mentor calls them the "Good Do-Bees," I have also heard the phrase "Goody Two Shoes" a bit.

I do not know if you have owned a true field bred dog before...like a field Lab, etc. But if not, you really need to experience the energy and intensity of a field bred dog to decide if it is for you. They make me want to pop valium. There is a lot of distance between a bench bred with no work in mind and a field dog. In all honesty, I am not sure a strongly field bred dog is ideal for you. They are really on the wire. As I said....valium laugh out loud

Moderate bench breds (meaning with some working frame in mind) are one of the most perpetually positive natured dogs you can be around. They do not know a bad mood and are always trying to cheer you up. Silly, playful. Sort of the spaniel's version of the Irish Setter. They can be charmingly rambunctious and in-cred-i-bly social.

There are a lot of ill bred Springers out there. I have been around the best, and they are the ultimate good time charlies, BURSTINGLY outgoing although never forgetting who their master is.

The Welsh Springer Spaniel, is a bit lighter, in every way. Like the English, very people focused and wants to be around his people all the time, but more level and even. More practical. Not an extrovert, as the Eng Spring is. If you like a Brittany but consider them too emotionally vulnerable, I would consider a Welshie. They lack the boldness of the Eng Spring and are more generally reserved with strangers. As noted, it's easier to weigh the Welsh against the Brittany than against the Eng Spring, IMO. It's easier to weigh Eng Springs against Am Cockers.

The English Cocker thrives as a dog who was pushed out by his younger American cousin a long time ago. Not subject to the curses that come along with popularity. They are an even, soft dog and nicely moderate. Very willing to train, love everyone. Some timidity trends....you need to know your breeder...but generally temperamentally quite sound. Very easy to get along with, and a little less conniving than Am Cockers can be.

The American Cocker is the kingpin. An Americanized version who quickly was scooped up by the show world, and in an irony he carries that version back to the field, where it translates curiously well. Am Cockers are the good natured cocky residents of the spaniels....for showiness, they have been developed as a very front and center dog. They are soft, but they have a ton of bravado and jazz. Many field dogs are plucked out of show lines....field breeding is only starting to gather steam now-ish. They are the most bohemian dogs I have been around...oddballs with a lot of quirk. They love everyone. If I were to assign them the character of a Muppet....it would be Miss Piggie, not for foodiness but because they always have an agenda.

A few words in addition. This breed was terribly corrupted by overbreeding on all levels. You need to select your breeder or rescue carefully. They are, at their best, the least soft of these spaniels and having temper is NOT correct. Blacks are the cuddle bunnies are the most easy going, partis are the jokers, buffs are the silly wildmen. A lot of people don't know how to train Am Cockers. They are ok as a beginners dog, but people do struggle. Truth is that when OTCH came out, these were one of the first to advantage this. Am Cockers hate stress, but with proper trainer, being the natural ring competitors that they are, can take pressure better than most spaniels and thrive. The trick is expectable pressure. Like spaniels are typically, roughness or threat and they shut down. They also know how to gain advantage by being cute and making you smile. Over the head of many and way too spoilable, an Am Cocker in the right hands....not saying that's me, mine are spoiled silly laugh out loud.....has unlimited potential. I have found no spaniel quite as capable of their intensity of focus, and they love to show off and be proud of themselves.

Field Spaniels are closest to their sporting roots, having never really been scooped up by the pet craze. They are very merry and loyal, but have less naturally glee around strangers than spaniels typically do, and extending from this can be barkers and alert dogs. They are more inherently independent workers, but love to work and are very willing to please. They are very loyal, but with some propensity towards a comparative rate of one-personishness. Remaining quite a natural breed, if you want to hunt with a dog and appreciate spaniels for their companionship qualities but don't need them to be relentlessly outgoing, Fields may suit. They are merry dogs who can put their nose to the grindstone.

The Sussex has a different function and reflects as very much a spaniel, but still somewhat of a different dog. He's more stubborn, more dominant, more sure of himself. As companions, they are very merry and grand little jesters, but can show a hard headedness that can take those familiar with more traditional spaniels by surprise. Just by the cover he was bred to work through, this traits are highly linked to function. He's also one of the more loyal spaniels. As eluded to in the earlier description, barking is more second nature to him than most. He's also one of better spaniels for an off switch.
Dr. Watson

Not a wiener- dawg!
Barked: Thu Jan 3, '13 5:33am PST 
Thank you for your thorough response, Tiller. I have read up on the history of the Spaniel breeds a bit now, myself. Quite a sorting by size!

I have, in the past, owned a very drivey, fieldy, Golden Retriever, a mass of muscle and energy. And my next Golden will be from the field side of things, so I expect another drive monster. So I definitely want a dog with drive.

I am very concerned about the human social and dog social aspects of the Spaniel I choose. As a Golden person, I like to take my dogs out and about with me. I don't want a dog that is aloof to other people.

Having a Golden, and my new Toller mix rescue, I know what super-affectionate dogs are. I have never found that "needy" though. Ball or rope constantly dropped at feet, pet me, walk me -- that's normal enough to me. What is this "needy?" Now, whining and SA I can't stand -- my Lab/Pit mix does those.

Any propensity toward snappishness, aggression, DA, SSA, HA, SA, are deal-killers for me.

Stubborn and naughty dogs I love.

I just read that my beloved Boykins have a high rate of EIC. frown
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