Breed breakdown: An in-depth look at the English Springer Spaniel
The vet’s office
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
Whether for field, performance, show, or companionship, the English Springer Spaniel can probably fit the bill. The English Springer Spaniel is a medium-sized, energetic, easily trained dog. The dogs’ enthusiasm should be monitored around children and other pets. However, many Springer owners are sold on the breed and cannot imagine life with another.
The Springer Spaniel gets its name not from the way it runs but from how it hunts. These dogs were bred to “spring” up birds for hunters. Originally, hunters used falcons to get the birds. With the use of guns, the Springer has adapted to retrieving as well.
Originally, the Cocker and Springer Spaniels were related, sometimes even in the same litters. The smaller dogs were used mainly for woodcock hunting, thus the name “Cockers.” In the mid 1800s, the Cocker Spaniel was officially separated as a breed.
The English and Welsh Springers were originally known as Norfolk Spaniels. Early 1900 field trials with various Spaniels led to physical standards and breed descriptions of many breeds. The English Springer Spaniel was officially its own breed.
Springers have long ears, a kind expression, a docked tail, and feathering of the legs, chest, belly, and ears, making them easily identifiable. There is a slight division between the “field” lines and “show” lines. The show lines have longer, fuller feathering and tend to be thicker boned. The field lines are seen with more diverse color patterns.
Springers can be liver or black with white, sometimes with tan highlights, making them tricolored. Some are white with liver or black patches. The white areas can be flecked with color to the point of roaning. Many Springers have a white blaze up the muzzle.
The distinctive ears of the Springer can be troublesome. Prone to wax buildup, regular cleaning is essential to help prevent ear infections. Some Springers also have allergies, increasing the chance of infection. Regular grooming to prevent fur matting is necessary.
Other health concerns include hip and elbow dysplasia and retinal dysplasia leading to blindness. Phosphofructokinase deficiency that does not allow proper digestion of carbohydrates can be found. Mostly in the field lines, genetic tests are available to try to eliminate the disease.
“Springer Rage Syndrome” has been classified as a behavioral disorder. These dogs tend to be dominant and enforce that status with aggression, sometimes with little warning. Many affected dogs were found to have low levels of serotonin. Some pedigrees were more prone, and thanks to selective breeding, this syndrome is becoming rare.
Springers are happy, energetic dogs that can live up to 15 years. It is important to research breeders and carefully select your new furry best friend.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.