Historically, Spaniels were bred to be compact, athletic and enthusiastic hunting companions. They excel at finding, flushing and retrieving game across a wide variety of terrain and from water too. These types of dogs are still used for hunting today, but they're also popular companion breeds.
Most Spaniels are medium-sized and have distinctive pendulous ears. Although Spaniels, in general, are known for being smart, loyal and affectionate, typical breed traits and temperaments can vary considerably.
If you're considering introducing this type of dog to your family, our list of eight of the most popular Spaniel breeds could help you understand which might be best suited to your household.
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American Cocker Spaniel
The American Cocker Spaniel is one of the most popular dogs on this list. The smallest breed in the Sporting Group, their compact size, merry personalities, and sweet expression endear them to dog lovers worldwide.
Smart, athletic and eager to please, this people-orientated and playful breed enjoys the company of respectful children. They usually get on well with other dogs too.
As is common with Spaniels, the Cocker can be prone to separation anxiety if left on their own too much. Their coat is also high-maintenance and will require regular grooming, unless it's kept clipped short.
Height: 13.5 to 15.5 inches
Weight: 20 to 30 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Sturdy and compact with a chiseled head and long ears; silky, flat or slightly wavy coat that has profuse feathering on the ears, chest and legs; come in a wide variety of solid and parti-color patterns
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Another Spaniel native to the United States, the Boykin isn't as well known as it's Cocker Spaniel relative. Recognized as the Official Dog of South Carolina, Boykins, with their athletic physique and webbed-toes were developed to retrieve from swamps, lakes and rivers. If you live near a lake or the ocean, this water-loving breed could be a good match.
The breed is known for being gentle, friendly and enthusiastic. They respond well to positive training methods, tend to be very sociable and love being active. Providing they get enough exercise and enrichment, at home they're usually mellow and snuggly.
Height: 14 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 25 to 40 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized with a medium-length distinctive rich liver, brown or dark chocolate colored coat that ranges from straight to slightly wavy
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Despite only being recognized officially by the AKC in 1995, the Cavalier King Charles has a long and noble heritage. Today, they're the most popular Spaniel in the United States. Their popularity can be attributed to their typically affectionate, sociable, happy-go-lucky, and eager to please personalities.
Although still active, they're also less driven than most of the dogs on this list. They were originally bred as companions for the British nobility. They aren't going to need as much exercise as your average Spaniel. Cavaliers, as part of the Toy Dog Group, are smaller than most Spaniels. Their lesser exercise requirements and compact size makes them a popular choice for apartment living.
You will, however, have to allow for daily grooming to keep your Cavaliers coat mat free and, unfortunately, the breed is associated with several inheritable health conditions. If you're looking for a puppy, it's important to find a reputable breeder who performs health screening on prospective parents.
Height: 12 to 13 inches
Weight: 13 to 18 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Long, sleek, silky coat with feathering around the legs, ears, chest and tail; long ears and soft expression
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The biggest Spaniel on our list, the Clumber is known for being less busy and calmer than many of their other working relatives. Despite their bulk, Clumbers tend to be biddable and mellow around the home. Although they can be determined once they get a scent, they aren't as fast or active as the likes of Cockers or Springers.
They can be a bit warier around strangers and new dogs than your average Spaniel, 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 may need to go on a waiting list to secure a Clumber pup from a reputable breeder.
Height: 17 to 20 inches
Weight: 55-70 pounds (female); 70-85 pounds (male)
Physical Characteristics: Long, low-set and bulky dog with a medium-length, dense straight coat. White with yellow or orange markingsContinue to 5 of 8 below.
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These compact, enthusiastic and agile Spaniels were once prized as Woodcock hunting companions. This is thought to be where their name was derived from.
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.
Although they share a lot of similar characteristics to the American Cocker, the hunting drive in English Cockers 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.
English Cockers have grooming intensive coats, unless they're clipped short, and they can be prone to ear infections. Making sure their ears are kept dry and clean, especially after swimming, can help minimize any issues.
Height: 16 to 17 inches (males); 15 to 16 inches (females)
Weight: 28 to 34 pounds (males); 26 to 32 pounds (females)
Physical Characteristics: Silky, medium-length coat with feathering on ears, legs and chest; long, pendulous ears, long snout and softly contoured body
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English Springers are another very popular Spaniel type. One of the busiest, driven and active of all the dogs on this list, they aren't going to be suited to a sedentary household.
English Springers thrive when they get the opportunity to use their fantastic scenting abilities, and they love having a job to do. This is why they're often selected as drug and bomb detection dogs for the police and military.
Affectionate, sociable, eager to please and very trainable, the ESS can also be exuberant and easily over-aroused. An active but calm household employing consistent, reward-based training methods will help this breed to thrive.
Height: 19 to 20 inches
Weight: 40 to 50 pounds
Physical Characteristics: 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; long ears, a gentle expression and usually a wagging tail
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You might be surprised to learn that the Papillon is part of the Spaniel group. Also referred to as the Continental Toy Spaniel, the breed used to always have drop ears, before the erect butterfly-like shape they're more commonly associated with was introduced.
They might be the smallest dog on this list, but the Papillon is far from just a lapdog. One of the smartest of all the toy breeds, these feisty little characters are known for being friendly, alert, and active.
The Paps intelligence means they're highly trainable and are often masters at performing tricks. They can have a stubborn streak though so you'll need to keep things motivating and interesting for 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.
Height: 8 to 11 inches
Weight: 6 to 10 pounds
Physical Characteristics: 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
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The Welsh Springer Spaniel is closely related to their English counterpart. Although they're much less common than the ESS, the Welshie is every bit as affectionate, active and happy.
Welshies are a little smaller than the ESS, and they're only found with red and white markings. They're also known for being a bit more laid back around the home and a little less busy when outdoors.
A typical Spaniel, this breed develops strong bonds with their families. They really need to be living in a household with company for most of the day to prevent them from becoming distressed. They can also be a little warier around strangers than the ESS, and more prone to alert barking.
Height: 17 to 19 inches
Weight: 35 to 55 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-sized dog, tapered head and muscular and athletic body; they have a soft, straight, flat coat, with some feathering and in red with white markings
If you can offer an active and enriching home, Spaniels can be affectionate and fun-loving companions.
The dogs on the list above are some of the most well-known Spaniel types. You may wonder why we haven't featured the Brittany. Despite their name and appearance, this popular breed shares more traits with Pointer dogs. The AKC even dropped the 'Spaniel' part of their name in 1992, although they're still commonly referred to as the Brittany Spaniel.