Clumber Spaniel: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Side profile of adult Clumber spaniel

 CaptureLight / iStock / Getty Images

For a calm and steady companion by your side, look no further than the well-bred and well-mannered Clumber spaniel. This breed is often described as dignified and determined; they make excellent family pets and reliable hunting dogs.

The largest of the game flushing spaniels, the Clumber is a solidly built dog whose low stature belies its substantial size. Built to barrel through underbrush and overcome tricky terrain, the Clumber spaniel is not keen on speed but is unstoppable on the scent of a bird.

Today, the Clumber spaniel is a relatively rare breed in the United States but is beloved by a community of canine enthusiasts. The appeal of the Clumber lies in its versatility and even disposition. With sufficient exercise and attention, they’re at home in an apartment or self-assured enough to thrive in an active, outdoors environment. 

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 18 to 20 inches (males); 17 to 19 inches (females)

Weight: 70 to 85 pounds (males); 55 to 70 pounds (females)

Coat: Medium-length straight coat

Coat Color: White with yellow or orange markings

Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Characteristics of the Clumber Spaniel

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Clumber Spaniel

The origin of the Clumber spaniel is subject to speculation, but either France or England can likely lay claim to this stately spaniel. The breed has definitely been in existence since the 1700’s when it was in high demand with nobility looking for a hunting companion to flush birds. It’s thought that the breed as we know it today was first developed from Alpine spaniels (now extinct), Basset hounds, and Saint Bernards. Looking at the Clumber’s hound-like features and spaniel-like tendency to flush and retrieve bird game, combined with the breed’s steady and devoted St. Bernard-like disposition, it’s not hard to see how this heritage is within the realm of possibility.

The Clumber spaniel gets its name from Clumber Park, located in Nottinghamshire, England. The Duke of Newcastle relied upon these gun dogs and his gamekeeper, William Mansel, played a significant role in advancing the breed. Clumbers were kept by British nobility and breeding was restricted to these estates.

How the Clumber came to England, however, is up for debate. One popular, but unsubstantiated theory, is that the Clumber spaniel was a French breed exported to England for safekeeping during the tumult of the French Revolution. But there are some conflicting opinions on the validity of this theory, including a painting of the Duke of Newcastle hunting with dogs that bear a strong resemblance to Clumber spaniels that’s dated to 1788, which is a year before the French Revolution erupted.

Regardless, one thing that all breed historians agree on, is that the Clumber spaniel was a much-loved and well-guarded gun dog among the nobility of England. In fact, no one except for wealthy estate owners bred Clumber spaniels. That began to change during the mid-1800’s, and the Clumber spaniel was first exported to Canada in 1844. After that, the Clumber quickly became an integral—but not prolific—part of North American dog breeding with its inclusion among the original 9 dog breeds first eligible with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1878.

A serious setback in the breed’s development occurred during World War I, when breeding virtually ceased. Slowly but surely—much like the dog’s pace in the field—the Clumber spaniel revived from this setback. Today, these dogs are still a relatively rare sight in North America, but many breeders agree that they’re a well-kept secret—which isn’t so different from the breed’s early history as treasured companions on English estates. 

Black and white illustration of Clumber spaniel hunting
 NNehring / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

Clumber Spaniel Care

The Clumber spaniel is an adaptable and easy-going companion, but it wouldn’t be totally accurate to describe the breed as an ‘easy-keeper.’ To be happy and healthy, you’ll need to understand and fulfill this breed’s grooming, exercise, and social needs.

While the breed isn’t a heavy shedder, the medium length hair is prone to shedding all year long, with heavier fallout during the winter and spring. Brush your Clumber with a slicker brush several times a week to keep shedding to a minimum.

One thing you may not know about the Clumber is that this breed is known for drooling. Clumber kisses come with plenty of slobber, thanks to the breed’s flappy flews (the canine equivalent of upper lips). However, the dog hair and occasional dollop of drool are the most significant considerations when it comes to Clumber spaniel care. With an occasional (perhaps weekly) bath, and an average amount of exercise with abundant love, you’ll have a well-balanced and healthy dog to share your home with.

Bred to be in the field working, these spaniels enjoy putting their mind and body to work. While they’re not likely to be speedsters, they can enjoy competing in agility, obedience, and rallies. They’re also avid retrievers, so a solid game of fetch will put this birding dog in its element. Provide the Clumber spaniel with at least one long walk a day, or two shorter walks, and they’ll be content to lounge indoors. Take note that while these dogs are confident and self-assured, they were bred to be hunting companions that work in a pack. As such, they’re not well-suited to be left alone outdoors all day. In fact, if you leave your Clumber alone for excessively long periods, they can become anxious or destructive.

As with any dog breed, provide proper socialization for your Clumber spaniel early in life to ensure that they’re amicable with people, children, and other animals. These dogs are often noted for being loyal and patient with kids, but their sturdy size could inadvertently knock down small tots so proper supervision is necessary. When it comes to stranger danger, the Clumber spaniel isn’t overly shy about new faces but also isn’t quick to sound the alarm. In fact, Clumbers are a relatively quiet breed that isn’t known for barking often.

Clumber spaniel puppy sitting down
Hannah Taylor / EyeEm / Getty Images 
Young Clumber spaniel with toy lying in the grass
Adolescent Clumber spaniel.  Corey O'Hara / iStock / Getty Images
Up close portrait of adult Clumber spaniel
Clumber spaniel with typical white coat and orange markings. Mazz Hannah / EyeEm / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

A breed with a long pedigreed history, the Clumber spaniel isn’t overly plagued by health problems but doesn’t have some common conditions you should be aware of. Some of these concerns can be mitigated with testing, like hip and elbow evaluations, an ophthalmology exam, and PDP1 testing for a rare genetic enzyme deficiency.

You should also know that the Clumber spaniel has an affinity for carrying things in its mouth, thanks to its bird retrieving instincts. This can easily lead to the dog ingesting a foreign object that causes health complications and may even require surgery. Teach your Clumber not to chew on household objects and only provide safe toys for your pet to play with or chew on.

Here are some of the other most common health problems encountered in Clumber spaniels:

Diet and Nutrition

Ask any Clumber spaniel owner, and they’ll likely tell you that these dogs are opportunistic feeders. They’ll take advantage of food left unattended on counters or tables, and despite their somewhat short stature, these dogs are surprisingly good at overcoming vertical challenges to steal a snack.

Feed your Clumber spaniel in moderation, with a quality dog food. They’re food-motivated, so treats can be an effective training incentive—but don’t overfeed these dogs. Especially with a long, low stance, weight gain can cause excessive strain on the back and lead to problems like IVDD or joint strain. 

Pros

  • Adaptable and well-suited even for apartments

  • Docile nature with little aggression

  • Easy to train

Cons

  • Drools and sheds considerably

  • Tendency to ingest foreign objects

  • Prone to variety of health concerns

Where to Adopt or Buy a Clumber Spaniel

While the Clumber spaniel is a relatively rare breed—it ranks at the 143 spot of the AKC’s 193 breeds—there is a devoted and committed community of Clumber spaniel breeders in North America. While litters are limited in the United States, it is possible to find a Clumber breeder and secure a position on a waiting list.

The Clumber spaniel community is also committed to caring for its own, and rescue groups exist to house and re-home these gentle spaniel giants. It’s worth investigating local or national rescues to help a Clumber in need.

Here are some groups to get you started:

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you’re considering the Clumber spaniel, you’ll likely benefit from further research on this dignified but delightful breed. Owners of Clumbers, along with breeders and rescues, can provide insight on the day-to-day of life with this breed.

Also check out these related dog breeds: