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.
English Springer Spaniel
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. Maybe you’ve heard of Dr Dennis Fetko – ‘Dr Dog’ as he’s more widely known? He has a book available which will help you tackle any of these problems head on. See what you think: Dr Dog’s Fast, Easy, Fun Behaviour Solutions.
(c) 2010-11 Phil Marks