It’s amazing how many roles springer spaniel working dogs fulfil. When you mention it, many people think of the traditional definition of a working dog as one which is used in the field – that is, for flushing and retrieving game. Springer spaniels are probably the most versatile in this respect, as they can work over and in water.
Certainly, labs and other breeds can work well with water too, but I believe the springer is best in this respect, and makes the best all-round sniffer dog. However, this breed works in many other ways too, not just in the field – even, believe it or not, in wildlife protection.
Search and Rescue Dogs
Traditionally, many organisations (especially police forces) have used German Shepherd dogs for searching. However, this breed can make rescued people apprehensive, or even very frightened, so springer spaniels are now being trained for this purpose – for example by Devon and Cornwall Police in the UK.
Springer spaniels are used extensively as sniffer dogs in security operations, by the police, bomb squads and armed forces – on the front line, searching for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in Afghanistan, for instance; also for pre-event security searching – for example where senior politicians or VIPs will be in attendance. Not that VIPs need protection per se, but because they are targets for terrorists and other people are also threatened.
At harbours and airports particularly, springer spaniel sniffer dogs are widely used for detecting illegal drugs. The air cargo business has been increasing at a high rate, particularly for high value/low volume cargoes – and drugs fit well into this bracket; air freight also removes the need to dupe genuine travellers or pay couriers to carry it, which increases risk. People and their luggage, or freight, the springers can sniff it all.
Dead Body Search
Good sniffer dogs can detect human scent easily at a hundred yards and much more (depending on wind speed and direction), but also the gases escaping from decomposing flesh underground.
In Scotland, a springer spaniel is used to locate dead bodies underwater, in the River Clyde. Apparently, the decomposition gases can be detected on the surface by the springer spaniel.
In Australia, the New South Wales Parks Department has a springer spaniel sniffer dog which has been trained to detect Small Penguins. The breed is under threat as the number of breeding pairs has fallen, and a springer spaniel is used to locate and track them so that an accurate count can be kept.
Preservation of Ancient Buildings
In South Korea, ancient monuments – many of which are made of timber – are threatened by termite attack. Three springer spaniel sniffer dogs are used to detect termite nests and potential infestation. The dogs are taken around the various monuments regularly, checking against the threat.
Why Are Springer Spaniels Used as Sniffers?
They have one of the best ‘sense of smell’ of any breed, able to detect one billionth of a gram of explosives or drugs. With a very high workrate they cover ground very quickly. They are compact in size and can therefore get into nooks and crannies in ships and planes that would be inaccessible to larger breeds. Besides size, their agility is a great benefit in searching. Compare a springer to a bloodhound! Many are trained in the UK Search Dogs and the International Rescue Training Centre in Wales.
It’s amazing isn’t it, what these marvellous dogs are used for? And when you see the films of them in action, they enjoy their work so much – it seems to be so much fun to them! And yet, their purpose is often serious.
Do you know of any other interesting work that they do? If you do, email me with details.
Simply, springer spaniels rescue dogs are springers which have been abandoned – either in the street and then captured by a Dog Warden and taken to a pound, or have been handed in to a Dog Rescue Centre as they are no longer wanted.
Taking on a springer spaniels rescue dog requires careful thought and preparation. You may find that you will be carefully interviewed and assessed by the rescue organisation before you are allowed to adopt a dog. So, there are several things you need to consider carefully in preparation for the trip to the rescue center. This will ensure that when you take that dog home, it is the right dog for you and yours is the right home and family for that particular springer spaniel.
What is a Springer Spaniels Rescue Centre?
Usually a kennel run by a charitable organisation, though there are still local authority or city (dog catcher) pounds. Life expectancy for dogs is short in such pounds, and hence charities have grown.
There are rescue centres which specialise in Springer Spaniels.
Why Springer Spaniels Rescue Dogs are in a Rescue Centre
Dogs may be in the care of a rescue center for several reasons:
- the dog is an unwanted gift (thankfully very rare these days);
- there are concerns about behaviour with young children;
- the owner is unable to afford to keep the dog due to changed finances;
- the owner is moving away, perhaps abroad;
- the dog has been caught by a dog catcher or perhaps police patrol on a motorway or highway;
- the owner is unable to train the dog;
- an uncommitted owner, unable to exercise the dog;
- the owner’s changed working circumstances;
- the owner died and the next of kin are unable to look after the dog;
- the dog has an illness and the owner cannot afford the treatment cost;
- the dog has a problem personality;
- the dog barks too much
These are just a sample of the reasons why a dog is given up to rescue.
Some rescue organisations actually expect you to enter into a contract with them, and this may permit them to take the dog back if they are unhappy in any way with its treatment.
Generally, most charitable rescue centres will be able to give you a health report on a dog, if only verbally. Depending on cost then the dog may be undergoing treatment at the centre.
Disadvantages of Rescue Dogs
If you are looking for a dog to breed from or to show, then a rescue dog is not really an option. Most do not have the pedigree registration paperwork that is necessary and some rescue centres prohibit using the dog for breeding or for profit, even if the paperwork is available.
Springer spaniels rescue dogs may not have been trained properly, or perhaps not trained at all and could therefore present a challenge; their background is usually an unknown.
If they have come from a difficult or abusive family, then they may have behavioural problems, but the rescue centre should be able to advise you about this.
Springer Spaniels Rescue Centres
If you can find a local rescue centre which specialises in the breed, then this is a clear advantage. Dogs are more likely to have come from good backgrounds with owners who care and are therefore seeking, for good reasons, to have the dogs placed in good homes via a specialist rescue centre.
A really good pedigree Springer Spaniel will cost several hundred dollars from a reputable registered breeder; charity rescue centers cost money to run. So, if you have found the perfect springer spaniel for you at a rescue center, then at least give them a reasonable donation to help with their ongoing rescue work. You have saved one dog, help them to save more!
I have had the joy of rescuing an English Springer Spaniel from a police pound and we were together for many years. He was well balanced, intelligent, great fun and a loyal companion. I would definitely recommend it as a course of action if your circumstances are suitable.
SpringerRescue.org (no relationship)