English Springer Spaniel: Dog Breed Profile

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

English Springer Spaniel running in a field

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If you have lots of energy and are looking for a fun and active family member, then the English Springer Spaniel could be a good match

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 19 to 20 inches

Weight: 40 to 50 pounds

Coat: Medium-length flat or wavy, glossy topcoat, and a short, profuse and soft undercoat; ears, legs and chest often have longer feathering.

Coat Color: Black or liver with white markings, or the opposite; blue or liver roan are also common; tricolor which includes black, white and liver or tan markings can sometimes occur

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the English Springer Spaniel

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

History of the English Springer Spaniel

Dogs similar to the English Springer Spaniel (ESS) are seen in artwork as far back as the 16th century, but it wasn't until the early 19th century that their specific history can be identified.

Cocker Spaniels and Welsh and English Springer Spaniels are all closely related, and in the early days of their history in Britain, they would be born from the same litter and then separated by size and color.

Originally the Cockers were used for hunting woodcock. The larger Springers would be used to jump up, or Spring, to flush the gamebirds up into the air for the hunters to then catch them with nets and, then later, the gun.

The first definitive strain of pure English Springer Spaniels can be traced back to 1812. A wealthy family called the Bougheys, in Shropshire, bred from a Spaniel called Mop I, and they continued to be passionate about the breed well into the 1900s.

The English Springer Spaniel gained recognition from the Kennel Club in the UK in 1902, and in 1913 the first ESS were imported to North America.

In 1927 the English Springer Field Trial Association (ESSFTA) was established as the parent club for the breed and, from here, their popularity grew quickly.

There are two types of English Springer Spaniel, although they aren't recognized as separate breeds. The Bench or Show ESS focuses on conformation, and they tend to be slightly larger with a heavier coat and a calmer personality. The working, field-type ESS is smaller, faster and more athletic, and tends to be busier than their larger relatives.

In 2018, the English Springer Spaniel was ranked as the 27th most popular breed by the American Kennel Club. Their fun-loving and affectionate personalities have won the hearts of many dog lovers, including Oprah Winfrey, George W Bush and Grace Kelly.

Because of their intelligence, sensitive nose and desire to work, they're also often used as scent work dogs for the police and for search and rescue missions.

English Springer Spaniel Care

If you lead a quiet and sedentary lifestyle, then the English Springer Spaniel wouldn't be the best choice of dog for you.

If you're looking for a dog that loves to be in the company of humans and dogs alike, is smart and has bundles of energy to join you on long hikes and adventures, then you could be a perfect match.

A quick leash walk around the block before you head to work isn't enough for this dog, and it could lead to behavioral problems as a result of boredom. They also thrive in company and are best suited to a household where there will be someone around most of the day. They can be prone to separation anxiety.

If you enjoy hiking, running or cycling, then your ESS will be thrilled to accompany you. They're enthusiastic canicross competitors and often excel in agility, flyball, scent work trials and other competitive dog sports.

They love to be busy, have a job to do, and are extremely eager to please. This means they respond very well to reward-based training methods. They're very smart and pick up commands quickly.

Clear direction and patience can be needed sometimes, as their enthusiasm can mean they try to take things a little fast and they can be prone to overexcitement. You may have to work on mastering things like jumping up, excitement barking, leash manners, especially around other dogs, and even toilet training, as they can be prone to piddling if over-excited.

English Springer Spaniels are often a popular choice for families with children or other dogs. They're very affectionate and are often regarded as 'velcro dogs', that always want to be close to their human companions.

Their natural excitement can mean they could be a bit boisterous for very young children, and you may need to work on encouraging them to keep all four paws on the floor, and even use management techniques like baby gates when you can't be there to supervise.

Their hunting background means they may want to chase small furries and care would need to be taken if you have small pets in the same household. You'll likely have to work on getting a rock-solid recall too.

An English Springer Spaniel won't have extremely intensive grooming requirements. The Bench or Show types may require extra brushing as their coat tends to be heavier.

They're moderate shedders, and a good weekly brush will help to keep loose hairs at bay and the coat in healthy condition. They can get mats around their ears and on their feathering more easily, and you should always pay extra attention to these areas when brushing.

Because of their pendulous ears, you should check these regularly to make sure they aren't becoming dirty, and this is especially true if they enjoy swimming. Dirt and water can get trapped more easily in their low hanging ears, and this can lead to ear infections if they aren't kept clean and dry.

English springer spaniel (Canis lupus familiaris) puppies
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English Springer Spaniel sitting looking out across a field
Sjur Martin Kleppan / Getty Images
A puppy english springer spaniel with a toy in its mouth
Dageldog / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

English Springer Spaniels are generally considered a healthy and robust breed. Like all breeds, though, they can be prone to certain genetic health conditions.

You can minimize the chances of your puppy developing these conditions by securing them from a reputable breeder that performs appropriate health checks on prospective parents. Some of the conditions it's worth being aware of include:

Hip Dysplasia: This is common in many breeds. A good breeder will perform hip score testing on parents. It involves the abnormal formation of one or both hip joints, and this degenerative condition can lead to mobility issues and pain. Depending on the severity of the case, surgery may be required to improve your dog's quality of life.

Eye Problems: The ESS can be prone to developing certain eye conditions, including Retinal Dysplasia, Entropion and, the more serious, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).

Phosphofructokinase (PFK) Deficiency: This is a relatively rare condition and one that is a recessive trait only developed if both parents have it. It can also be tested for by responsible breeders. This relates to a lack of an enzyme which is used to convert glucose into useable energy. It can result in dogs becoming weak and lethargic, and they may from symptoms like muscle cramps and anaemia.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, you should feed your English Springer Spaniel a high-quality and properly portion-controlled diet. If they're a particularly active dog, you may find they need a diet specifically formulated for working or high-energy breeds. This will ensure they're getting enough nutrients and proteins to help them retain a healthy body weight.

Pros
  • Smart and eager to please

  • Affectionate with people and other dogs

  • Can be prone to separation anxiety

Cons
  • Needs a lot of exercise and stimulation

  • Can be over-excitable

  • Can have a high prey drive

Where to Adopt or Buy an English Springer Spaniel

If you plan to get an English Springer Spaniel puppy, the importance of finding a reputable breeder can't be overstated. This will help to ensure that you have a healthy puppy that has received vital early socialization.

It also means you won't be inadvertently supporting the cruel, unethical and booming business of puppy farming. Popular breeds like the ESS are particularly prevalent in puppy mills.

A good place to start your research is through the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association.

You could also open up to your home to a dog in need and consider adoption. Reach out to your local shelters, or contact a breed-specific charity like English Springer Rescue America.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you love Spaniels but want to consider other types alongside the English Springer, you could also consider the following:

There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there. By doing your research, you'll find one that will be best suited to having a forever home with you.