English Springer Spaniels are an excitable, affectionate bunch of dogs. They’ve had a long history as valued companions on the hunt. Their name comes from their ability to “spring” game. Beyond their athleticism, these dogs are known for their charm and love of life. Their happy-go-lucky demeanors make them great family pets; Springers seem to bring cheer wherever they go!
These pups look different from dog to dog, and putting two Springers together can often lead to some raised eyebrows! Some Springers look different from each other because of how they are bred. Certain Springers come from a line bred for sporting, others are bred for working, and the rest come from a line of show dogs.
Regardless of which Springer you end up with, you will find them to be incredibly smart, loyal, and loving – it simply runs in the family! In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about the graceful, exuberant English Springer Spaniel. You’ll learn about their history, how they look and behave, and everything you need to know about their care.
The Spaniel-type dog is thought to have been around for many centuries. These dogs are named after where they are believed to have originated, Spain, though there is some debate about this. The earliest ancestors of the modern Springer were probably brought to Great Britain by travelers on merchant ships, possibly the Romans.
Regardless of who brought them to the islands, they found much popularity there, so much so that they received special mention in the laws of the land. There is mention of “Water Spaniels” in Irish laws from 17 CE. Later, in 300 CE, Welsh laws made another mention of the Spaniel.
We know that the breed was developed for helping out on the hunt. The most popular hunting book of the Middle Ages was the Livre de la Chasse (“Book of the Hunt”) written by French nobleman Gaston III, Count of Foix. In this book, the Count mentions Spaniels, and dogs who would flush out game for their masters, very similar to the English Springer behavior we know today!
As Hunting Dogs
The dogs, skilled at flushing out game both furred and feathered, gained even more fame in their talents with the invention of better hunting gear. The wheel lock firearm made “flying shooting” possible; this was made simpler with the help of the early Springer Spaniels. Later on, in the 17th Century, many dogs resembling the modern version of the breed appeared in paintings— a testament to the high stature Spaniels had in society, even beyond hunting.
Despite all their fame both on and off the field, it wasn’t until 1801 in the Cynographia Britannica that the breed was first described. In it, Sydenham Edwards names two kinds of Land Spaniels: “the Springing, Hawking Spaniel, or Starter; and the Cocking or Cocker Spaniel”.
It’s interesting to note that both these dogs were often born in the same litter! Both the Springer and Cocker Spaniels were used in hunting, only the smaller Cockers were used to hunt woodcock. The larger Springers, ever-adept at springing the game into the air, were also used for game retrieval.
In 1812, the Boughey family of Aqualate in Shropshire bred the first true Springer litter. Many other Spaniel breeds were developed in the 19th Century, but the Boughey family kept their strain in succeeding generations. Eventually, the strain whelped field trial champion Velox Powder, who won twenty field trial stakes throughout his lifetime– a hint at the illustrious future for the breed!
The name “Springer” was finally decided upon by the Sporting Spaniel Society of Britain in 1902. Later that same year, the English Kennel Club allowed a special place in their Stud Book for the breed, leading to breed recognition separate from the Cocker Spaniel.
The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1910, and listed in the sporting group. In 1927, the AKC had determined a breed standard for the English Springer, later revising it in 1932, “to foster the natural ability of the Springer, while encouraging uniformity within the breed.”
Today, the breed has two different types: bench and field. Bench dogs are used in dog shows, while field dogs are used in hunting work. The breed remains the most popular Spaniel for working in the field. Their ability as hunter’s aides is nearly unmatched. However, they have also found much success elsewhere.
As a breed, they have won the third Best in Show award at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, with a total of six. If this weren’t amazing enough, these unstoppable canines even have a talent for police work! Their incredible sense of smell and loyalty has earned them a good place in K-9 units all over the world.
There’s no doubt about it: this breed enjoys plenty of popularity. They are currently listed as #27 on the AKC’s popularity list out of 197 total breeds!
Once in the home, you’ll quickly notice that Springers are incredibly lively dogs! Springers possess an amazing sense of fun; their cheerful spirit is absolutely contagious. This makes them a great choice for families who need a little more sunshine in their lives, both figuratively and literally!
You’ll need to bring your Springer out for a lot of fresh air to keep them happy. Springers are very active dogs and need to be part of a family that can cater to their need for activity. They are better suited for less-busy families who have more time to dote on their canine companion.
English Springer Spaniels are great friends to pets and children if they are socialized properly. As they are naturally very playful, Springers will love spending time with kids, as long as everyone treats each other with respect! Springers get along with everyone, given their friendly personalities, but they will still need to be treated with care. Supervise your children when they play with the dog to make sure everyone is being fair to each other.
With regard to other animals who share the home with your Springer, sufficient introductions and supervised interactions are key to harmonious home life. Since the English Springer is a hunting dog, they retain a high prey drive. This might make sharing the home with smaller animals, such as birds and rodents, a difficult endeavor.
According to AKC breed standards, Springers should neither be aggressive nor excessively timid. They are non-threatening dogs who are pretty friendly towards strangers. While you cannot count on them to be guard dogs, they’re certainly capable of keeping watch. Springers are keen, alert, and able to let you know when someone new is present. This means that they can be noisy, so take care to teach them when it’s appropriate to be vocal!
Generally speaking, this breed is happier to be in the center of the action with everyone else. They are prone to separation anxiety, so do your best not to leave them alone for too long unless you want to make them very sad– or awaken their destructive tendencies!
The English Springer’s trainability and history as a hunting dog make it easy for them to adapt to many different kinds of work. Their great sense of smell lends itself well to police work, and many Springers still go out hunting to this day. Since they are eager-to-please, happy, and affectionate, Springers also do great as therapy and service dogs. They simply need you to tell them they’re doing a good job and give them a lot of love– which are very easy things to do!
Size & Appearance
Springers are a medium-sized breed. They have lithe, compact bodies that are efficient in movement; their legs are powerful and agile. The AKC describes the Springer as “a well-proportioned dog, free from exaggeration, nicely balanced in every part”.
Males stand at around 20 inches at the withers, while females are only a bit smaller at 19 inches. Male Springers weigh an average of 50 pounds, while most females weigh 40 pounds.
The breed is known to have heads well-proportioned to their bodies. They are known to be beautiful dogs with gorgeous, kind expressions. The AKC describes the Springer’s eyes as the essence of their appeal. They are oval in shape, at a medium size, and set fairly well apart. The color of the iris usually depends on the color of the coat, with the AKC hoping for harmony between the two. They require dark hazel in the liver and white dogs; black and white dogs must have black or deep brown eyes.
Springers have long, pendulous ears they are easily recognized by. These are fairly wide and stick close to the dog’s cheeks. The Springer’s muzzle is approximately the same length as their skull. Their cheeks are flat; the rest of the face is well-chiseled. Their noses are either black or liver in color; this is dependent on the coat color as well.
They have muscular, athletic bodies that allow for good movement speed even on rough terrain. Their necks are moderately long, gradually moving into their topline which slopes gently. They have deep chests that reach the level of their elbows. They have strong limb bones that are not too heavy.
English Springers’ forelegs are straight, with elbows lying close to the body. Their hindlegs are powerful, with well-developed thighs. Their feet are compact, in a rounded or slightly oval shape. The hind feet are often a bit smaller than the fore feet. A Springer’s tail is carried slightly elevated, or horizontally, and will have “a characteristic lively, merry action”.
Coat & Colors
Springers are one of the more popular breeds with a spotted coat. They have a double coat; the undercoat is short and dense, while the outer coat is longer usually of medium length, and either flat or wavy. Given the existence of the double coat, they are prone to shedding. Their dander can trigger allergies, so they are not a good choice for allergy sufferers.
Their coat is a marvel of their breeding. The double coat works to keep the dog safe from the elements, rendering them waterproof, weatherproof, and resistant to thorns and briars! This dog also has a nice feathering on the ears, chest, legs, and belly. Overall, the coat is clean and glossy.
The AKC accepts the following coat colors, though others may exist:
- Black or liver with white markings
- White with liver or black markings
- Blue or liver roan
- Black and white with tan markings
- Liver and white with tan markings
Exercise Needs & Living Requirements
Springers are very active dogs, as you’ll see by being around them for any length of time! It is a hallmark of the breed; the AKC even describes them as relentless workers. This will be true of them at any point in their life, though they’ll be far more rambunctious as puppies. Bringing home a Springer will require you to be on top of their exercise needs, which will require a lot of dedication.
This breed will need at least two hours of exercise every day. You can make this easier by bringing them out on their daily walk in the morning. This lasts an hour, and is a great way to get exercise in for you too! Besides that, you will need to give them a good amount of variety in activities.
Since the Springer is one of the smartest breeds in the world, you will need to make sure they are always mentally stimulated with enough playtime in order to prevent destructive behavior. Fetch and frisbee are great staples to add to your routine; toys they can play with by themselves are also a good investment.
If you have a good-sized yard, you can set up an agility course for them to show off their natural athleticism! Since English Springers love water, you can also take them swimming with you when the opportunity allows, as this is excellent exercise for them.
English Springers will be fine living in an apartment or condo, provided they get all their exercise in. Regardless, it may be a good idea to keep the more fragile items in your home in a place where they can’t be reached. These dogs are named aptly; they love to spring!
As bouncy as they are, they will benefit most from a space where they can move around freely, so small apartments may not be the best choice for them. They will also need a place where they can play with their toys and hang out with their loved ones.
The breed is well known to tolerate both warm and cool weather fairly well. It’s important not to expose them to temperatures that are too harsh. Make sure they’re toasty in the winter; sweaters in cold weather are a good idea. In the summertime, you should make sure they’re nice and cool and in a shaded spot. Always give them plenty of water to keep dehydration and heatstroke at bay.
Training your Springer is easy, given their high intelligence. This breed loves to please its owners, so they are highly agreeable to their training. Work on training them as soon as you bring them home so they can be off to a good start in your life together.
If you are training a puppy, there isn’t much difficulty, as you’re working before any stubbornness can set in. Regardless, be sure to use plenty of patience and positive reinforcement.
Do not be mean to your dog, or be visibly frustrated with them, as they can quickly become resentful of you. Instead, use praise, pets, and treats to make the process go by easily. This can also be much easier if you’ve allowed your Springer to exercise or play before getting down to work.
Socializing your English Springer is easy, too. They are naturally very sociable dogs and will love to get to know new people and animals. Still, it’s always a good idea to do new introductions slowly. Allow both your dog and the one being introduced enough time to get to know each other. If your dog seems wary, it’s a good idea to take a break from it and come back at a later date; this could mean separation if it’s someone your dog will be living with.
Puppy kindergarten classes are a great way to get your Springer used to behaving around other dogs, an important skill when at the dog park! Enrolling them in these classes can help them be more confident and less shy. This also helps curb aggression and mischief, stemming from their high prey drive. They’ll be less inclined to chase small dogs around if they’ve met a few beforehand!
Well-bred Springers are still very healthy dogs, but it’s important to understand the health issues they may run into. Getting your dog from a reputable breeder can help paint a good picture of their health. You’ll know what diseases they’re prone to, plus any other genetic problems they may encounter.
We’ve listed a few different health conditions to give you more information. Not all Springers will encounter these conditions, but it’s still good to know. Understanding your dog’s health is a great first step to forming a treatment plan together with your veterinarian. Your Springer is going to spend the next 12 to 14 years with you, so make those years as healthy as possible!
Bone & Joint Problems
English Springers are prone to a few disorders of the skeletal system. One of these conditions is patellar luxation, where the kneecap becomes dislocated from its normal position in the thigh bone.
This condition is often painless for your dog until it does enough damage that it begins to hurt them. As such, it can be a difficult condition to spot. You may see your dog kicking one or both of their hind legs in an attempt to “pop” the kneecap back into place. More severely, this condition can manifest as lameness in the hind legs. Patellar luxation is often treated with conservative medical management, or corrected through surgery, depending on severity.
Springers may also be susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, where their hip and elbow joints do not develop properly, creating stiffness in their bones. Your breeder will be able to tell you if your Springer is prone to these conditions. It will often manifest as strange posture, an uneven gait, or limping. This leads to much discomfort for them, and often arthritis later in their life. Discussing management with your vet is important to your dog’s quality of life.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Springers may also develop progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) later in their life. This is known as retinal dysplasia in the early-onset form, where the cells in the retina do not develop properly. This condition occurs with the degeneration of the retina, which leads to partial or complete blindness.
PRA is not painful, though it will be difficult for your dog to get used to vision loss. It’s important to manage the condition with your veterinarian to see what your options are, as well as understand what to do in the event of vision loss.
Your English Springer Spaniel’s diet will dictate much of their health throughout their lifetime. As such, they will need a high-quality diet through all life stages, with protein primarily from meat. This is best sourced from an all-natural, high-quality dry kibble. It’s important that they eat according to their life stage needs. They will depend on their nutrition for good development in their puppyhood, as well as proper health maintenance in their adult and senior years.
Being a medium-sized dog, it will not be difficult to find food appropriate for the breed, and its size. However, you will need to take their activity level into consideration when deciding their portion sizes.
Puppies will need calorie-dense food for proper growth and will have changing portion sizes as they grow. Adult English Springers are more active than many other dogs, and as such will likely need more food to give them energy. This even goes for senior Springers, who may still have that spring in their step in their old age!
Understanding how much to feed your dog can be difficult; this depends on their age, size, and activity level. Therefore, ask your veterinarian to help with portioning out your Springer’s food. Too much, and they can develop obesity. Obesity should be avoided at all costs, as it can pave the way for many preventable diseases.
English Springers are known to develop pickiness with their food, so you may have to try multiple dog food formulas to solve this. You’ll also need to be firmer about feeding times. Leave their food out for 30 minutes; if their bowl goes untouched, take it away until the next meal. Otherwise, you can try adding some wet food to your dog’s dry kibble, as this ups the palatability.
The English Springer Spaniel has a double coat that they “blow out” twice a year. Because of this, they are unfortunately not hypoallergenic dogs. Grooming can thus be intimidating, and the Spaniel’s trademark beauty only makes this more so. Many opt to bring their Springers to professional groomers. Still, grooming your Springer yourself does not need to be difficult, though it will require some effort.
Regular brushing is important in their grooming routine. This can help them shed less excessively. Try to give them a good brushing at least three times a week, increasing frequency in the shedding months. Pay special attention to the thicker, longer hair on the ears. Regular brushing will not completely eradicate their shedding, but it will definitely help keep it to a minimum.
Removing mats and tangles can be very difficult, so prevention is really your best option. In the event that your Springer’s coat ends up tangled, you can still salvage their coat if you do it gently. Pick apart the matted portions with your fingers, after soaking the affected area in a detangling solution. Once the tangles have come loose, you may comb as usual.
Trimming your English Springer Spaniel need not be difficult. Their wavy hair is feathered around the ears, chest, legs, and belly. You can cut away at the excess to keep them looking their best. Otherwise, it’s not a bad idea to ask a professional to help your Springer look sharp!
Bathing your English Springer does not come as often as you might think. Their coats naturally repel dirt, so you’ll only need to bathe them once every few months, or when they are very visibly soiled. When choosing a shampoo, use something gentle that will not damage the waterproofing on their coat.
Ear cleaning is imperative, as their ears tend to trap moisture. This can lead to infection if not treated promptly. Clean your Springer’s ears once a week with a cotton pad and a cleaning solution recommended to you by your veterinarian. Wipe gently at the parts that you can see, removing dirt and debris.
Take care to brush your Springer’s teeth a few times a week to keep their dental hygiene in check. This is done with a toothbrush and toothpaste specially made for dogs. Their nails must also be trimmed to prevent injuring themselves. The grooming process can be difficult for your English Springer, so it’s important to get them used to their new routine as soon as possible.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
Adopting an English Springer Spaniel from a reputable breeder is a great option, however, it’s best that you thoroughly research the breeder you will be making your purchase from. A responsible breeder is so important to the preservation of the breed.
Many unscrupulous breeders have puppy mills set up, where there is only profit taken into consideration. These operations often have very little respect for the animals and will abuse their dogs for the purpose of producing as many puppies as possible. Living conditions are often unsafe and unclean, with little access to fresh air and clean food and water. It is imperative that you stay away from these breeders at all costs; many of them will be advertising special eye and coat colors for the Springer Spaniel.
On the other hand, there are many wonderful breeders who take very good care of their animals. You will know this if your breeder is enthusiastic about showing you where their dogs live. It will be a comfortable, clean space with lots of engaging activities for your puppy.
Good breeders encourage getting to know your puppy before bringing them home to better transition into a harmonious home life. They will also be able to tell you anything you want to know about the breed. This will include certification from a veterinarian detailing any tests are done, plus vaccinations and deworming.
Finding a responsible breeder does not need to be difficult. You can start by asking your local veterinarian if they have any leads. Dog shows are also a great source of information; you can get the facts straight from the enthusiasts, especially if they themselves have an English Springer they love!
Online, there are many forums for dog lovers on social media and beyond; you can often find a dog in unlikely places here! Lastly, if you need extra help, the AKC has a great program for breeder referrals. Expect to pay around $1,000 for a pet-quality Springer, with show-quality dogs costing more.
Rescues & Shelters
While breeders are always good options to source your English Springer Spaniel from, we always recommend that our readers try to adopt from a rescue or shelter. It’s possible for you to find a wonderful English Springer or possibly a mixed-breed Springer up for adoption at your local animal shelter.
When picking out a Springer to rescue, ask the staff at the shelter anything you need to know about your new dog. Understanding your dog’s complete background, from temperament to health issues, is important in the quality of care that you can give them. Taking all their needs into consideration becomes much easier once you don’t have to do the guesswork!
Rescuing a dog is a heroic thing to do, but remember to be patient with the newest member of your family. English Springers are cheerful and happy dogs, but they might need some time to warm up to you, as they’ve lived a tough life prior to being brought home. Enough gentleness and affection are sure to bring them back to their bouncy, springy selves in no time at all!
As Family Pets
- English Springer Spaniels are high-energy dogs.
- They will need a family that can cater to their energy needs.
- With sufficient exercise, they can live in apartments.
- They are cheerful, sociable dogs.
- English Springer Spaniels are happy to live a life on the go.
- This makes them great for families who are often in the great outdoors.
- Springers also love swimming, as well.
- They have a high prey drive, so it may be best to not have smaller pets in the home.
- They are beautiful dogs, but grooming them isn’t very difficult.
- Springers can shed a good amount, making them a poor choice for allergy sufferers.
- English Springer Spaniels will need special attention paid to their ears.
- Keeping them clean is very important in preventing infection and inflammation.
We hope that this article has given you the insight you need for adopting and caring for your new English Springer Spaniel. Bringing one of these gorgeous, sociable dogs into your home is not without its speed bumps, but as long as their needs are met, they’re very well-behaved.
This breed can be a fantastic canine companion, both loyal and affectionate. Their love is as boundless as their energy, and they’re sure to spring their way into your heart in no time flat! Taking care of that love involves loving them back just as much, so be prepared to match that intensity.