The Welsh springer spaniel is a medium-sized sporting dog from Wales with floppy ears, red and white fur, and a soft, silky coat that is typically kept long on its legs and chest. For owners looking for an active, happy, and affectionate family member, the Welsh springer spaniel could be a perfect match.
The Welsh springer spaniel is a close relative of the English springer spaniel, and these two types of dogs share an ancient history. The Welsh breed is slightly smaller and is only found with red and white markings, but it has several similar personality traits to its English cousins.
Height: 18 to 19 inches (males); 17 to 18 inches (females)
Weight: 40 to 55 pounds (male); 35 to 50 pounds (female)
Coat: Soft, straight, flat coat with some feathering
Coat Color: Red with white markings
Life Span: 12 to 15 years
Temperament: Happy, energetic, intelligent, playful, trainable
Characteristics of the Welsh Springer Spaniel
The Welsh springer spaniel is known for being hard-working, energetic, enthusiastic, and affectionate. While they generally get along very well with other pets, these dogs are people-orientated. They're a great choice for families with children, and thanks to their amiable personalities, they also welcome strangers as new friends.
Welsh springer spaniels were bred to hunt with their owners, and this companionable temperament is still present in the breed today. This also means that these dogs aren't suited for homes with owners that leave the house often. They don't do well on their own, and as true "velcro dogs," they form strong bonds with their families. If you're prepared for an active pet that wants to join you on adventures, the Welsh springer spaniel might just be the perfect match.
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History of the Welsh Springer Spaniel
It is thought that most spaniels are descendants of ancient hunting spaniels bred on the Iberian Peninsula. As this region is home to Spain, these breeds earned their name from the word "Spaniard." The Welsh springer spaniel is recognized as the oldest British spaniel according to the AKC.
While springer types can be traced back as far as the 16th century in the United Kingdom, records for the red and white variety specific to Wales began in the 18th century. During this time, they were popular with nobility and gentry and prized for their enthusiastic hunting skills. They were bred to spring upwards, pushing birds higher to be trapped in nets (before the use of guns became common). They have great scenting abilities, and their webbed feet make them strong swimmers that can also retrieve birds from the water.
The emerging English springer spaniel overtook the Welsh breed in popularity by the 19th century. In 1902, the Kennel Club in the U.K. formally recognized both spaniels as two separate breeds. Welsh springer spaniels were first imported to the United States in the late 19th century, then recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1906.
Not as popular as some of their other Spaniel relatives, World Wars I and II took a toll on Welsh springer spaniel breeding programs. Their population dropped drastically. It was thought that none remained in the United States after World War II, and it was only after more dogs were imported that passionate enthusiasts were able to revive the breed.
While their numbers have increased, Welsh springer spaniels are still relatively rare, especially in comparison to their English cousins (despite the Welsh breed being more laid-back).
Welsh Springer Spaniel Care
Welsh springer spaniels are loving family dogs, but they require significant exercise and training to be well-mannered companions. Since their coats are long and silky, it's also important for owners to keep up with their grooming needs to prevent tangles.
Welsh springer spaniels are very active, and they are best suited to households that enjoy lots of outdoor exercise. This energetic breed needs to be active for at least two hours per day. They can make great competitors in dog sports, and they are strong runners and swimmers. Making sure your dog has appropriate alternative forms of stimulation (like a designated digging sandpit or puzzle toys) can be especially beneficial.
Welsh springer spaniels are moderate shedders, and their coats will need a brush out at least once a week. If you keep the feathering around their legs and tummies longer, then you may need to brush them out more frequently. This is an important step to help prevent tangles. When the coat does become tangled or matted, use a detangling spray and comb it out with your fingers before following up with a brush.
Like other dog breeds, Welsh springer spaniels will also need to have their teeth brushed, nails trimmed, and ears checked for any buildups of dirt and debris to prevent infections. If the ears need cleaning, use a cotton ball and cleaning solution specified for the ears.
Begin training Welsh springer spaniels with basic obedience lessons when these puppies are about eight weeks old. Since they have plenty of energy and enjoy pleasing their owners, training can be a fun process for both owner and dog. Your intelligent Welsh springer spaniel will respond very well to positive reinforcement methods rather than punishment.
This breed is known for alert barking, so owners may find it helpful to reward good behavior when the dog quiets down and directs its attention away from barking. Welsh springer spaniels also retain their hunting instincts, meaning they need consistent training for a reliable recall and should not be allowed off-leash outside of a fence.
If this breed hasn't been properly socialized, it may be a little reserved around strangers at first. Thankfully, the friendly nature of these dogs makes it easy to get them accustomed to social situations. Once your dog has become comfortable with different people, it's likely to welcome strangers going forward.
Welsh springer spaniels generally have a gentle temperament and can be great companions to respectful children. However, they are known for their exuberance and tendency to become overexcited. Working on training to stop jumping and keep all four paws on the floor is a great way to prevent young children from being knocked over.
Common Health Problems
The Welsh springer spaniel is known to be a generally healthy dog, but like most purebreds, it is still susceptible to a few problems. Responsible breeders will perform health screenings on prospective parents to reduce the risk of puppies developing inheritable conditions.
Some of the health issues this breed are prone to include:
- Elbow and Hip Dysplasia: Dysplasia occurs when the joints form abnormally as the dog grows. This can lead to pain and mobility issues, and in severe cases, surgery can be required.
- Autoimmune Thyroiditis: This condition can cause the dog to develop hypothyroidism, preventing the thyroid gland from producing enough thyroxine (which controls metabolism). It can lead to problems with weight, hair, skin, and more. Once identified, it is possible to manage the condition with medication.
- Glaucoma: This condition causes pressure to build up in the eye as a result of fluid not draining properly, eventually leading to blindness. If found early enough, the condition might be prevented from progressing further.
Diet and Nutrition
Feed your Welsh springer spaniel high-quality dog food twice per day. The specific food your dog should eat depends on its age, as its nutritional needs will change over time. It's also important to monitor portions and treats, as these food-motivated dogs are likely to gain weight or become obese otherwise. Talk to your veterinarian to determine a healthy meal plan and portion sizes based on your dog's age, weight, and activity level.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Welsh Springer Spaniel
Since the Welsh springer spaniel is a relatively uncommon breed in the United States, prospective owners may not have much luck finding these dogs in shelters. Check out breed-specific rescues to give a Welsh springer spaniel a forever home, or visit your local shelter to adopt a similar breed that can be your next best friend.
If you're planning to adopt a puppy, prepare to join a waiting list or travel if needed. It's essential to research responsible breeders first—both for the health and wellbeing of your puppy and to help prevent the growth of backyard breeders. Your breeder should provide you with the litter's medical history, allow you to meet the puppies' parents, and show you the conditions their dogs are kept in. Puppies may cost anywhere between $1,200 and $3,500, but prices can vary depending on pedigree and availability.
The national breed club, breed-specific rescues, and the AKC can help you start your search:
- The Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America (WSSCA)
- WSSCA Breed Rescue
- AKC Welsh Springer Spaniel Breeders
Welsh Springer Spaniel Overview
Affectionate and forms strong bonds with their family
Intelligent and eager to please
Well-suited to owners with active, outdoor lifestyles
Prone to separation anxiety
Can be over-excitable without appropriate training
Known for digging and alert barking
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
If you love Welsh springer spaniels, you may also like these similar breeds:
There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to have a forever home with you!
Are Welsh Springer Spaniels Good Family Dogs?
Loving, playful, and ready to go on adventures, Welsh springer spaniels make excellent family dogs for active owners. These dogs are always up for new activities, and their high energy level is a great match for families that like to spend plenty of time outside.
What Is the Difference Between an English Springer Spaniel and a Welsh Springer Spaniel?
While they come from the same ancestors, Welsh and English springer spaniels have slightly different characteristics. The Welsh breed is the oldest British spaniel, and these dogs are a bit smaller with strictly red and white markings.
Are Welsh Springer Spaniels Rare?
In comparison to its English cousins, the Welsh springer spaniel is considered a somewhat rare breed in the United States. The population of these dogs severely declined after WWII, but thanks to dedicated responsible breeders, more Welsh springer spaniels are being born each year.