14 Spaniel Dog Breeds for Canine Lovers

These breeds are known for their affection and loyalty

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lying down in the grass

Tara Gregg / Getty Images


Historically, spaniels were bred to be compact, athletic, and enthusiastic hunting companions. These canines excel at finding, flushing out, and retrieving game across a wide variety of terrain, including water. Spaniels continue to be used for hunting and they're also popular as companion breeds.

What is a spaniel?

Traditionally bred as hunting companions, spaniels are a medium-sized athletic dog breed. They are often characterized by breed features like drooping ears, a broad muzzle, and wavy fur.

Breed Characteristics

Most spaniels are medium-sized, have distinctive drooping ears, a broad muzzle, and a curly or silky, wavy coat on their ears, tail, and legs. They typically appear in colors like liver and white, red and white, black and white, sometimes deep brown or black. Breeds with long hair will likely need regular grooming to keep their coats mat-free—those with long, hanging ears are also more susceptible to ear infections. In general, spaniels are known for being intelligent, loyal, obedient, and affectionate. They tend to be prone to separation anxiety if left on their own too much.


Spaniels tend to be high-energy, agile, and driven. Because of this, they're generally best suited to living in an active household. Problem behaviors can quickly surface if they don't get enough exercise and enrichment. These breeds often make fantastic hiking, canicross, or competitive dog sports partners.

These are 14 of the most popular spaniel breeds full of affection and fun-loving companionship.

  • 01 of 14

    American Cocker Spaniel

    American Cocker Spaniel profile in front of a blue sky

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    The American cocker spaniel is one of the most popular spaniels. It is the smallest breed in the American Kennel Club Sporting Group. Their compact size, lively personalities, and sweet expression endear them to dog lovers worldwide. Smart, athletic, and eager to please, this people-oriented and playful breed enjoys the company of respectful children. They usually get on well with other dogs too. Their coat is high-maintenance and will require regular grooming unless kept clipped short.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 13.5 to 15.5 inches

    Weight: 20 to 30 pounds

    Coat and Color: Silky, flat, or slightly wavy coat that has profuse feathering on the ears, chest and legs; comes in a wide variety of solid and parti-color patterns

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 02 of 14

    American Water Spaniel

    American water spaniel

    Kelly Hays / Flickr

    This rare medium-sized breed originated from the Great Lakes region of the United States during the 19th century from several other breeds, including the Irish and English water spaniels. They are known for their strong water retrieval skills. They make excellent family pets, although they require plenty of exercise to meet their high energy levels. These spaniels are intelligent and lively, developing strong bonds with their family members.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 15 to 18 inches

    Weight: 25 to 45 pounds

    Coat and Color: Thick double coat, which can be wavy or tightly curled, comes in three shades of brown: solid liver, brown, or dark chocolate and may have white on their toes or chest

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 14 years

  • 03 of 14

    Boykin Spaniel

    Boykin Spaniel in the field

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    Another spaniel native to the United States, the Boykin is the official dog of South Carolina. Its athletic physique and webbed-toes were developed to retrieve fowl from swamps, lakes, and rivers. If you live near a lake or the ocean, this water-loving breed could be a good match. The Boykin is known for being gentle, friendly, and enthusiastic. They respond well to positive training methods, tend to be very sociable, and love being active. If they get enough exercise and enrichment, then they're usually mellow and snuggly.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 14 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder

    Weight: 25 to 40 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium-length distinctive rich liver, brown, or dark chocolate colored coat that ranges from straight to slightly wavy

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

  • 04 of 14

    Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

    Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in front of some daisies

    Tanja Walter / Getty Images

    Despite only being recognized officially by the AKC in 1995, the Cavalier King Charles has a long and noble heritage. They're the most popular spaniel in the United States today. Their popularity can be attributed to their typically affectionate, sociable, happy-go-lucky, and eager-to-please personality.

    Although they're an active breed, their energy is more subdued. They were originally bred as companions for British nobility. They will not need as much exercise as the average spaniel and are a popular choice for apartment living. Cavaliers are a member of the AKC Toy Group and are smaller than most spaniels.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 12 to 13 inches

    Weight: 13 to 18 pounds

    Coat and Color: Long, sleek, silky coat with feathering around the legs, ears, chest, and tail; long ears and soft expression

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

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  • 05 of 14

    Clumber Spaniel

    Clumber Spaniel

    Volofin / Getty Images

    One of the biggest spaniels on our list, the Clumber is calmer than many of their other working relatives. Clumbers tend to be mellow around the home. Although they can be determined once they get a scent, they aren't as fast or active as cockers or springers. They can be wary around strangers, but they respond well to positive training and socialization. Clumbers are notoriously jowly. You'll need to be prepared to clean up a fair amount of drool. Relatively rare in the United States, you might need to go on a waiting list to secure a Clumber pup from a reputable breeder.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 17 to 20 inches

    Weight: 55 to 85 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium-length, dense straight coat in white with yellow or orange markings

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 06 of 14

    English Cocker Spaniel

    English Cocker Spaniel sitting in a forest

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    Compact, enthusiastic, and agile, cocker spaniels were once prized as woodcock hunting companions, likely the source of the breed's name. Nowadays, English cockers are a popular, active companion breed. They have a silky coat and soft eyes that will melt the heart. They also love spending time with their human family. Often described as Velcro dogs, they're best suited to a household where they'll have company for most of the day.

    They share similar characteristics to the American cocker, although their hunting drive tends to be more pronounced. You might need to work harder on recall training, and you'll have to ensure they get plenty of exercise and stimulation around the home.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 15 to 17 inches

    Weight: 26 to 34 pounds

    Coat and Color: Silky, medium-length coat with feathering on ears, legs, and chest; long, pendulous ears, long snout, and softly contoured body

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 07 of 14

    English Springer Spaniel

    English Springer Spaniel leaping through a field

    Nigel_Wallace / Getty Images

    English springers are another famous spaniel. One of the busiest, driven, and active spaniels, they aren't suited to a sedentary household. They thrive when given the opportunity to use their fantastic scenting abilities, and they love having a job to do. English springers often work as drug and bomb detection dogs for the police and military. Affectionate, sociable, eager to please, and very trainable, these dogs are exuberant and easily over-aroused. Reward-based training methods work well with this breed.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 19 to 20 inches

    Weight: 40 to 50 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium-length flat or wavy, glossy topcoat, and a short, profuse, and soft undercoat; ears, legs, and chest often have longer feathering; commonly seen in white and black or white and liver coloring

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 08 of 14


    Papillon lying on a beige sofa

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    You might be surprised to learn that the papillon has spaniel ancestry. This toy breed used to have dropped ears before it was selectively bred to have ears that form the upright butterfly-like shape they have now. Papillons are also known as continental toy spaniels. They are one of the smallest spaniels but are far from just a lapdog.

    One of the toy breeds' smartest, these feisty little characters are known for being friendly, alert, and active. Intelligent dogs are highly trainable and are often masters at performing tricks. They can have a stubborn streak, though, so keep things interesting to motivate them. These little dogs can have a big voice. You'll want to work on rewarding quiet behavior and avoid leaving them on their own for long periods.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 8 to 11 inches

    Weight: 6 to 10 pounds

    Coat and Color: Petite yet hardy toy with a straight, long, single-layer coat with frills, and a butterfly-like appearance of its erect ears and alert demeanor

    Life Expectancy: 14 to 16 years

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  • 09 of 14

    Welsh Springer Spaniel

    Welsh Springer Spaniel heashot sitting with long grass in background

    TayaCho / Getty Images

    The Welsh springer spaniel is closely related to its English counterpart, although a little smaller. They only have red and white markings. The Welshie is affectionate, active, and happy. They're also known for being a bit more laid back around the home and a little less busy outdoors. This breed develops strong bonds with its families. They need a household with people around for most of the day to prevent them from becoming distressed. They can also be a little warier around strangers and are more prone to alert barking.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 17 to 19 inches

    Weight: 35 to 55 pounds

    Coat and Color: Soft, straight, flat red and white coat with some feathering

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 10 of 14

    English Toy Spaniel

    Cavalier King Charles spaniel
    Swanlake / Getty Images

    The English toy spaniel is known for its sunny personality and cuddly nature. It looks a lot like the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, and like that breed, it is a beautiful companion dog. It is devoted and very much attached to its family and will gladly shadow you wherever you go. They are fantastic cuddlers, happy to occupy your lap. This breed cannot be left alone for too long. Its small size makes it easily portable. They only need moderate exercise—a couple of walks a day will suffice.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 9 to 10 inches

    Weight: 8 to 14 pounds

    Coat and Color: Straight to slightly wavy; silken and glossy; colors: blenheim (white with deep red or chestnut markings), Prince Charles (tricolor), King Charles (black and tan), or ruby (rich mahogany red)

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 11 of 14

    Field Spaniel

    A Field Spaniel sitting in tall grass.

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    Closely related to cocker and springer spaniels, field spaniels hunted game in England's vast fields. They have abundant energy and are playful, loyal, and intelligent. They bond tightly with their family and make an excellent fit for an active household. They need plenty of space to run around and aren't recommended for people living in apartments, condos, or homes without backyards. Without proper exercise, they can become bored, mischievous, or even destructive.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 17 to 18 inches

    Weight: 35 to 50 pounds

    Coat and Color: Dense, water-repellent single coat (long and wavy or straight); color: black, liver, golden, golden liver, or roan

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years

  • 12 of 14

    Irish Water Spaniel

    Merlin, an Irish Water Spaniel is parade
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    The Irish water spaniel—also called the rat tail spaniel for its distinctive, smooth tail—is a medium to a larger-sized gun dog used for retrieving waterfowl like ducks and geese and flushing and retrieving upland game like quail and pheasant. They are solidly built, athletic dogs that are loving, devoted, and affectionate with their families, but they can be standoffish with people they don’t know. They are alert and curious. They have a unique and charming appearance with loose cascading curls on the head.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 21 to 24 inches

    Weight: 41 to 68 pounds

    Coat and Color: The crisply curled coat may be rich liver (brown) to dark liver with a purplish tinge (a hue that’s sometimes called puce liver)

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

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  • 13 of 14

    Kooikerhondje (Kooiker)

    Kooikerhondje dog outdoors in nature
    Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

    The Dutch kooikerhondje, or kooiker for short, is a petite spaniel with an easygoing temperament. This dog's compact size and friendly nature accompanied duck hunters for centuries, but today they’re masters of canine competition, such as flyball and agility. The kooiker is a low-maintenance, alert family companion but can be wary of strangers. Their distinctive white and orange (or red) coat is eye-catching, but one of the kooiker’s most notable features is the long black hair feathering or "earrings" on its ears.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 14 to 17 inches

    Weight: 20 to 35 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium length straight coat with feathered ears, legs, and tail; color: white with orange to deep red patches

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 14 of 14

    Sussex Spaniel

    OTHER: FEB 11 Westminster Dog Show
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    The Sussex spaniel is less commonly seen than its other spaniel relatives. During the late 18th to early 19th century in England, the breed was developed to be built low to the ground to navigate thick underbrush and for barking to mark its location. Around World War II, they nearly went extinct. They're affectionate, happy, intelligent, and have lots of stamina. They aren't as energetic or fast as some other spaniels, but they are typically loyal family companions, craving attention and a deep bond with their family.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 13 to 15 inches

    Weight: 35 to 45 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium-length flat or wavy single coat, with feathering on the legs; color: rich, solid golden liver, occasionally there is white on the chest

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Breeds to Avoid

Some dogs with "spaniel" in their name are not spaniels. Brittanys are commonly called a Brittany spaniel, but the AKC dropped the word "spaniel" from its name in 1992 since this dog shares more traits in common with pointers. Brittanys physically resemble spaniels with long pendulous ears, a long, wavy coat, and its high-energy hunting drive; however, they point out their prey. The Tibetan spaniel and the Japanese chin (also called the Japanese spaniel) are two toy breeds that technically do not have enough traits to qualify as spaniels; the primary reason is that they are not hunting dogs.

  • Why is my King Charles spaniel so big?

    The size of your dog will depend largely on their lineage and how big their parents were. If your King Charles spaniel is the product of two larger parents, chances are they are going to be above-average in size. That being said, this breed is also prone to obesity, so make sure you are feeding your dog the proper amount of food and contact your vet if you suspect an issue.

  • How do you train a cocker spaniel?

    Cocker spaniels are eager to please their owners, so it is usually not difficult to train this breed. Start by enrolling your puppy in basic obedience lessons from a young age and couple any training efforts with plenty of positive reinforcement. Harsh training methods will not go over well with this sensitive breed and may contribute to undesirable behaviors like submissive urination or separation anxiety.

  • What is a sprocker spaniel?

    A sprocker spaniel is a fairly new hybrid breed that combines an English springer spaniel and an American cocker spaniel. The breed is thought to have been established around 20 years ago and sprocker spaniels have many desirable traits, such as being family-friendly and adaptable.