Buying an English Springer Spaniel puppy is the first step on the long road of fun and companionship with these wonderful animals. So, it is important to get it right and these tips will help you do that. There is a saying “let the puppy choose you”, but that is all right up to a point, as you still want to be sure that the new puppy is basically healthy and up to show standard.
If you have done all the preliminary checks on the pup – parents’ pedigree, prize winners in last two generations and so on then we come to the finer points.
Because a puppy is by definition very young, then we will not know how it will grow, and have to rely on the look of the parents. The things we can check on the mother (and maybe the father too if he is around, though this is not always the case) without being show-judge experts are:
1. From the side, is the body basically square – height equal to length is good.
2. The forelegs – does the mother stand with pigeon toes or with paws splayed (‘five to one’ as on a clock), or ideally paws straight ahead.
3. Are the hindquarters muscular and strong looking and are the rear paws pointing forward. Judging the hocks and quarters is a matter for the expert eye, but the rear legs should have a moderate rake back, and should not be vertical or raked too much.
4. The base of the tail should run parallel with the dog’s back and not rise above it.
5. The paws should look like a continuation of the legs and the toes should not be splayed (which can lead to injury).
6. The coat should be glossy and healthy looking, but not coarse or curly. Feathering should not be excessive.
7. In addition to the basic liver and white or black and white colouring, some tan markings are ok, but only on the eyebrows, on the cheeks, inside the ears, under the tail, and sparely on the lower legs.
If the mother checks out ok in these respects, and has a good natural gait with the legs swinging straight forward then that should all be a good indicator for her pups.
On the pup, the checks should be as follows (besides the others listed in the second paragraph):
1. A liver colouring should be rich and dark.
2. A wavy coat in a pup is not a good sign for an adult show dog – check the coat behind the head and down the neck and back. Wavy now will be wavy later.
3. Deep blue eyes which are not running or weeping (deeper colour now means a deeper hazel colour in maturity).
4. A cold wet nose with no pink patches.
5. A coat which is smooth and glossy.
6. Check the teeth for correct bite – upper teeth have a close overlap on the lower teeth and the jaw is set square.
7. Check the testicles to see that they are both descended (this would be by 6-8 week of age).
8. The pup should not be too thin or appear fat, and a big tummy could point to worms.
These checks are generic, and if you are serious about winning prizes with your English Springer Spaniel then you should check the Breed Standard in more depth for your particular country, as Breed Standards are not completely consistent.
The above checklist is not exhaustive but will give a good general indication of the pup’s likely development.
This short article deals with some of the initial choices you will need to make, and how to go about finding a breeder when you decide to become an owner of one of these terrific companions.
You may have firm opinions on colouring, and with the English springer there are two main colourings – black on white or liver on white (chocolate). Either of these colours could be combined with tan markings. Wanting a particular colour will reduce your choice of breeders and may lead to a lot of travel. You should visit at least a couple of breeders before you decide. Then you will return when the litter and pup is ready, to bring your springer puppy back to your home.
Which – dog or bitch? Springers are loyal and affectionate, so the males are not a huge diffculty when it comes to going awol. With a bitch, you have to plan for the obvious – keeping her away from males when she is in season; there will be hygiene aspects to consider at home. Spaying has side effects, such as a tendency to getting fat. If you do want to breed springer pups, then there is only one way to go.
Working Dog, Show Dog or Family Pet?
Do you want a gundog or a show dog? For an English Springer Spaniel, these are distinct genetic lines and could influence your choice of breeder. Both types are good as family pets provided you are able to exercise them adequately. There is no lineage difference for Welsh Springer Spaniels.
How to Find your Springer Spaniel Pup
If you want a pure springer spaniel puppy with no doubtful genetic background then avoid ‘puppy farms’. This is important because all pure breeds are susceptible to hereditary conditions (the Springer is pretty good in this respect). So, you need to find a dog with a fully documented bloodline and pedigree certification which is not falsified. By choosing a fully certificated pedigree (which can usually be checked online), you would be able to show your springer in class at a dogshow – well, you never know, the kids might like that!
How to Find Breeders
The main ways to find breeders are through:
- Going to shows and talking to owners and breeders
- Specialist dog magazines and papers
- Online web search
- Newspaper advertising
- Kennel Clubs
- Yellow Pages
- Springer Spaniel Breed clubs
Do be cautious about the small ads in your local newspaper. ‘Springer spaniel puppy for sale’ may be genuine, or not. Make sure you see proper documentation.
Official Kennel Clubs usually operate a Breeder Accreditation scheme. Kennel Club websites or Breed Clubs will provide you with the Breed Standard (there are some differences from country to country). It is well worth reading up on these and preparing a summary, so that when you visit breeders you will be able to have informed discussions about particular pups and bloodlines.
Of course, the better breeders (those with the best show records) will want more money for their spaniel puppies, but that’s to be expected.
You might consider a Rescue Dog. Using a rescue centre requires more care and preparation, but can be a good way to go if you don’t want to go through the ‘house training’ stage.