Are they really
Springer spaniels are in general active, loyal, affectionate and biddable.
‘Biddable’ means that they are ready and willing to follow commands, as you
would hope and expect from a retriever. The level of activity can be high in some dogs - they love exercise and
need to be moving about. Of course this may not suit all owners, and if that is the case then the dog will be
unhappy. There are slight differences between the Welsh and English Springers (their genes diverged several
centuries ago); there are even slight differences between the show dog and working lines of the English Springer.
Let’s have a look at each in turn:
Welsh Springer Spaniel
The Welsh Springer Spaniel (“Welshie”) has the soft-eyed faithfulness of spaniels
in general, and are very devoted to their families. They are high-spirited and good-natured companions. They are
people-orientated dogs but can be a bit shy with strangers at first. However, they will never show any aggression,
except perhaps in the company of other dogs of the same gender. They mix well with children and other household
pets, but can be boisterous so a rough and tumble with very young children is not to be encouraged (though I never
had any problems with my 1, 2 and 4 year old daughters. They are family dogs and need company, so they are best
treated as part of the family.
The typical English Springer is an extrovert by nature, friendly, eager to please,
easy and quick to train and willing to obey. Springers continue to develop and mature until they are 2 years old.
Aggression and dominance are not common but can be a problem if not handled carefully when young. Generally English
Springers are good companions and family dogs, well-behaved and quick to learn and respond. Some of the less
well-bred dogs of this breed can be stubborn or timid. It is said that some even resort to nipping and growling so
check a pup’s parents before you buy, if you can. If you are considering a rescue dog then you should check the
dog’s behaviour carefully, though this is not always easy. This behaviour is the exception, and I never observed it
in my dogs (I’ve kept both English and Welsh Springers), but some people do report such problems. The show dog line
of the English Springer appears to be less excitable and more placid than the working strain - but that is what you
would expect. Excitable show-dogs are not easy to handle in a show ring, and you certainly don’t want a lazy dog
when you are flushing game and retrieving.
The other aspect common to both breeds is their love of fun. This is really good in
a family environment, and their love of play is great for children. Do avoid games like tug of war with very young
children for reasons mentioned earlier.
Their temperament does not make them the best guard dogs, but their shyness with
strangers does mean that they will raise the alarm; in the last analysis their loyalty also means that they will
defend the family.
In summary then their temperament makes them great family dogs, but they do need
lots of exercise. They are happiest when not left alone all day, and with some garden or yard space to move around
in. If you have behaviour issues with your dog - maybe chews the furniture, barks excessively, digs up your
flowerbed, jumps on visitors, soils indiscriminately (the list goes on) - then there are solutions. They are too
detailed to go in to here.
© 2010-11 Phil Marks
Phil Marks, June
|The author has been a long term owner of both English and
Welsh springer spaniels