English Springer Spaniel
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|Country of Origin:||England|
|AKC Group:||Sporting Group|
|UKC Group:||Gun Dog|
|Use today:||Bird dog, retrieving trials|
|Life Span:||10 to 15 years|
|Color:||Liver and white, black and white, tri-color with tan markings, blue or liver roan.|
|Coat:||Silky, glossy coat. Flat or slightly wavy, with long feathering on the ears, legs, underbody and under the tail.|
|Grooming:||Brush daily. Groom as needed.|
|Size:||Medium Dog Breed|
|Height:||19 to 20 inches at the shoulder|
|Weight:||40 to 50 pounds|
Springers are so named because they were used to spring game for the sportsman's net. Largest of the land spaniels, the English Springer is a sturdy, active, balanced sporting breed. Males measure 19 to 21 inches at the shoulder, females 1 inch less. The flat or wavy coat protects against harsh working conditions and may be liver or black and white; tricolor; or roan in blue or liver. Fanciers claim the coat is self-cleaning, but frequent and thorough brushing is needed to keep it lying close and free of dead hair. Some hand trimming is also required on head, throat and around feet to neaten the outline. Like all breeds with long, close-lying ears, the Springer's should be checked regularly. They are susceptible to injury, can pick up foreign bodies easily, and if not kept clean can become the focus of stubborn infections. An able field dog, the Springer enjoys life as a family pet and companion. It has a high activity level and needs a healthy dose of daily exercise. This breed is eager to please, willing to obey and quick to learn.
Active and affectionate, the English Springer Spaniel shows enthusiasm for both work and family.
By Lynn Hayner
Delighted to demonstrate her breed’s hunting heritage, 3-year-old English Springer Spaniel Cora proudly shows off "captured” toys to her owner, Nancy Johnson of Ennis, Texas, a longtime breeder and past president of the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association. "Cora is apparently aspiring for a world record of carried toys, since she picks up every toy she sees, no matter how many she’s holding,” Johnson says. "True to her breed’s name, Cora springs into action after any prey, including the squeaky or stuffed-toy variety.”
Hunters in 19th-century England bred Springers to flush, or "spring” birds from undergrowth. In the early 20th century in the United States, Springers served as all-around hunting and family companion dogs. As field competitions grew in popularity, the breed separated into two physical varieties: field and show. "While the field variety generally demonstrates more work intensity, both varieties display the breed’s renowned athleticism and friendliness,” Johnson says.
Today’s Springer appreciates families that offer double servings of activity and affection. "The Springer’s versatility allows him to hunt one minute and cuddle the next,” says Henriette Schmidt of Brookfield, Wis., a longtime breeder and American Kennel Club judge. A Springer often shadows the people he loves, and rarely chooses solitude over company. "I once bought an enormous desk so I’d have lots of legroom,” Schmidt says. "But because my affectionate Springers squish into the desk’s floor space to stay close to me, I find myself tucking my feet under me on the chair.”
People who celebrate such devotion, combined with a true hunting aptitude, will delight in the Springer. "As an oft-quoted early 20th century Springer owner, W.H. Gardner, so rightly clarified, ‘Coddling won’t affect the breed’s hunting ability one whit,’” Johnson says.
Energy to Spare
The sporty Springer watches, finds, chases, and flushes birds with zeal. "In hunt tests and fieldwork, Springers show great reluctance to come back without their birds,” Schmidt says. "A recall can be challenging when a Springer’s stick-with-it persistence comes into play about prey.”
In addition to field trials and hunting, a Springer may excel in sports such as rally and agility. "All Springers have plenty of energy, but some have a second helping,” Johnson says. "The energy level distinction, however, isn’t always simply between field and show lines.” Even as a puppy, Johnson’s agile and active Chloe, now 3 years old, tended to jump while the other pups ran, and run while the others walked. "I’m ready to try her in agility in addition to her conformation work, but we’re up against an obstacle,” Johnson says. "With her friendly exuberance, she’s as likely to jump up to greet the judges as to jump over apparatus.”
Although intelligent, inquisitive, and eager to learn, Springers don’t typically appreciate requests for repetition. "In an obedience class, 1-year-old Subtle clearly viewed my third requested recall with skepticism, so she offered an automatic finish, a Stand, and a Down instead,” Schmidt says. "Subtle’s message was clear: ‘You called, I came. You called, I came. Surely you must want me to do something else now?’”
Be My Buddy
Springers were bred to be friendly, and most seek out playmates of any size. "(Then 1-year-old) Brassy celebrated her first child play date with delight,” Schmidt says. "She acted as if the child was the one she’d been waiting for her whole life, and they played happily for hours.” Though well-intentioned, some Springers are too jumpy or enthusiastic for young children. "Springers can be mouthy, and sometimes pirate food or toys from children,” Johnson notes.
A socialized Springer gets along nicely with other animals, with the probable exception of birds. "Often hunting in pairs, Springers should display a general dog friendliness,” Schmidt says. "Consistent exposure to new dogs will keep a Springer from becoming suspicious or shy.”
Although some Springers bark to alert the family of newcomers, they’re not typically wary of strangers. "When (4-year-old) Colours barks at the gate, he’s asking newcomers why they’re on the other side of the fence, not playing with him,” Schmidt says.
A fenced yard keeps a Springer safe from his own curiosity and prey drive. "Springers will make good use of yard space, but they’re adaptable to many environments if they’re exercised regularly,” Johnson says. "Fourteen-year-old Adam, one of the Springers I’ve placed, lives and loves the high-rise urban lifestyle in New York City.”
Springers require baths every few weeks and brushing several times a week to remove the dead hair in the top coat, and to keep feathers free of mats. "Detailed tidying up, such as clippering the ears and throat area, is needed every six to eight weeks, but owners can wait longer if they don’t mind a bit of a ‘woolly’ dog,” Johnson says.
The coat of the Springer offers protection from the elements, and keeps stickers and thorns from hitching a ride. "Because the natural coat serves beneficial purposes, overtrimming or shaving a Springer isn’t recommended,” Schmidt notes.
Typically healthy, some Springers develop hereditary eye disorders, and the breed may be prone to ear infections. "Keeping the hair on the underside of the ear clipped down minimizes trapped moisture, lessening the chances of infections,” Johnson says. While a Springer’s life span averages 12 to 15 years, owners can enjoy puppyish behavior well into the senior years. "Twelve-year-old Chester’s not exactly a model of senior dignity, dashing around collecting silly toys to take out with him when I open the back door,” Johnson says.
From jogging to kayaking, the upbeat Springer’s ready for fun with his family. "I encourage prospective owners to imagine a Springer as a classroom student,” Schmidt — a former elementary school teacher — says. "When a Springer finishes his class work, he’s not going to ask the teacher for extra worksheets; he’s going to ask for a creative project or an early recess.”
Ask the Breeder
Should I get a Springer from a field or show line?
As show lines were bred distinctly from field lines in the early 20th century, physical differences arose. Field-bred Springers, for example, typically have coarser, shorter coats. "While competitive field trial Springers are superb performance athletes, competitive conformation Springers display soundness and symmetry in motion,” says Nancy Johnson, a longtime breeder. "To find a pup that matches your expectations, talk to breeders about your lifestyle, activity level, and interest in dog competitions.”
What health tests have been run?
"The puppy’s eyes should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist, and both parents’ eyes should be certified as normal within the last year,” Johnson says. "The breeders should also offer documentation that the parents’ hips and elbows have been X-rayed and read as normal.”
Will my puppy develop the perfect Springer blazed coat?
"Springers come in different colors, markings, ticking, and freckles, so there’s no one perfect color or pattern,” Johnson says. "Buyers do well to prioritize discussing temperament, health, and overall soundness with breeders.”
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