Sussex Spaniel: Dog Breed Profile

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

Sussex Spaniel Dog Breed Picture - Photo of Westminster Champion Sussex Spaniel Stump
Photo © Chris McGrath / Getty Images

The Sussex Spaniel is much rarer than some of their more popular hunting spaniel relatives. They're also known to be less busy, more strong-willed and a bit more talkative too.

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 13 to 15 inches

Weight: 35 to 45 pounds

Coat: Medium-length flat or wavy single coat, with feathering on the legs

Coat Color: Rich solid golden liver, occasionally there will be white on the chest, but this is not desirable as part of the breed standard

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Sussex Spaniel

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

History of the Sussex Spaniel

The Sussex Spaniel is thought to have been first developed by the Fuller family on the Rosehill Estate in Sussex, in South East England, in the late 18th to early 19th century. The focus was on having a spaniel that was sturdily built and low to the ground to help them negotiate the thick undergrowth of the region. Unlike other Spaniels, they were also developed to bark (give tongue) while working, to allow the hunter to keep track of them while they weren't visible.

The Sussex Spaniel was imported to North America in the late 19th century and were actually one of the first nine breeds that were recognized by the American Kennel Club when it was formed in 1884.

During the middle of the 20th century, their numbers dropped as some of their other Spaniel relatives were more in demand.

After World War II there were believed to be less than ten purebred Sussex Spaniels left in the UK, ironically, even less than in North America. A breed enthusiast, Mrs Joy Freer, was credited with saving the breed from extinction.

The breed is still rare to this day, but they have a small, devoted following in the Uk and North America, in particular.

Sussex Spaniel Care

The Sussex Spaniel has many of the normal characteristics seen in spaniels in general. They're affectionate, happy, intelligent and have lots of stamina.

Although they'll love to accompany you on long hikes and they can make great agility competitors, they aren't as busy or as fast as some of their Spaniel relatives. They're known for their mellow but cheerful personality, and they bond deeply with their family members. They're a typical 'velcro' dog that can quickly become your shadow.

They're also often more vocal than other spaniels. You'll quickly get used to their various communicative grumbles, mumbles and whines. They aren't guard dogs, but alert barking can be common. You may have to work on rewarding an alternative behavior to prevent this from becoming an escalating issue.

If left on their own for extended periods they can suffer from separation anxiety, and this can be accompanied by howling and destructive behavior.

Although not guard dogs, they can be protective of their family and territory, and resource guarding can become a problem if this isn't kept in check.

While Sussex Spaniels bond closely with their families, they aren't known for being particularly tolerant of young children. They would be better suited to an adult home or one with older children that are respectful of their space.

They can also be rather bossy, and this can create friction with other dogs if not handled carefully.

The breed is very smart and generally easy-going, but they can also be strong-willed and stubborn. Trying to force them to do something they don't want to isn't the best approach. Motivating them using reward-based methods isn't only the kindest but the most effective route to go when it comes to training.

The Sussex Spaniels coat, with its luxurious feathering, can require more maintenance than some spaniel-types. Regular brushing to ensure that tangles don't develop will be needed, especially if your dog enjoys walking in wilder terrain.

Because Sussex Spaniels have long, pendulous ears, you should also make sure that you inspect and regularly clean them out, particularly if they enjoy swimming. Dirt, debris and water can get trapped in the ear, and this can lead to infections if neglected.

Common Health Problems

Making sure you go to a reputable breeder that performs the appropriate health tests on prospective parents is important when you're looking for a puppy. No matter how good your research, though, every breed has certain inheritable conditions they can be more prone to.

Some of the conditions that Sussex Spaniels can be susceptible to include:

Hip Dysplasia: The abnormal development of one or both hip joint is relatively common in Sussex Spaniels. This is a degenerative condition that can vary in its severity. It can cause pain and mobility issues, and, in some cases, surgery is required to help maintain the dog's quality of life.

Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Deficiency: This is a metabolic disorder which can affect Sussex and Clumber Spaniels. It causes a build-up of lactic acid in the dog's muscles, and it can cause pain and exercise intolerance. There's a genetic test for this disorder, and it can also be managed with restricted exercise and certain supplements.

Genetic Heart Problems: Congenital heart disease, particularly pulmonic stenosis and murmurs, are sometimes a problem for Sussex Spaniels. Sometimes these conditions can be managed with medication, changes in lifestyle or surgery. Sometimes they will be static, and other times they can be more serious and progressive.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, you should feed your Sussex Spaniel a high-quality diet.

With their sturdy countenance, the breed can put on weight more easily than some dogs. Obesity is a major problem for dogs in North America. It can lead to several more serious health problems and can impact on your dog's quality of life.

Measuring out your dog's food, giving them an appropriate amount of exercise, and making sure they aren't given lots of unhealthy treats or table scraps can all help to keep your dog in top condition.

Pros
  • Mellow and affectionate

  • Less busy than some Spaniel relatives

  • Fun-loving

Cons
  • More vocal than most Spaniel-types

  • Can be prone to separation anxiety

  • Can be prone to resource guarding

Where to Adopt or Buy a Sussex Spaniel

Because Sussex Spaniels are so rare, it's likely that you'll have to travel a further distance and possibly go on a waiting list to secure a puppy.

To find a reputable breeder, you could start your research through the Sussex Spaniel Club of America.

It would be rare to find a Sussex Spaniel in rescue, but don't let this put you off considering adoption. It can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and many other spaniel-types are looking for forever homes in rescue shelters across the country.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you're interested in dogs similar to the Sussex Spaniel you could also consider the following breeds:

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.