If you're considering a spaniel as your newest family member, you've got several sizes, colors and personalities to investigate. Praised by hunters in documents dating from the 14th century and adored companions of the English monarchy in the 1600s, today's spaniels typically find modern life an easy fit.
Basics of the Breed
Likely originating in Spain, breeders and hunters initially separated spaniel breeds into water dogs who fetched downed fowl from lakes or ponds and land dogs who flushed and retrieved game from dry land. The American Kennel Club recognizes 10 different spaniel breeds in its sporting group and one toy breed, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
The tallest of the spaniel breeds, the Irish water spaniel measures about 24 inches at the shoulder. This dog's curly, crisp hair is naturally hypoallergenic and colors range from liver to dark liver. The coat requires routine brushing and an allover trim every two months. Energetic hunters willing to flush land or water fowl, they need plenty of exercise but train easily and fit snugly into non-hunting families.
American water spaniels are rare but particularly revered in Wisconsin as the state dog. With his wavy to curly coat that comes in liver, brown and dark chocolate, this spaniel aims to please in obedience. He weighs in at about 30 to 40 pounds and has plenty of energy, but also considers lounging on the couch with his family time well spent.
The English Cocker and English Springer spaniels were originally from the same litters, separated only by size. Small dogs became Cockers, and the larger were Springer spaniels until 1902, when the Kennel Club of England recognized the Springer as a separate breed. On average, English Cockers stand 14 to15 inches tall and the English Springer 19 to 20 inches. Field spaniels, another English breed, fall between the Cocker and Springer in size. Their medium-length coat takes less grooming time than that of their spaniel cousins, getting by with weekly brushing and occasional light trims.
As the only toy in the group, the devoted Cavalier King Charles prefers laps to hunting, but was originally bred as a gun dog. The stocky Sussex spaniel loves children, but leaves a little drool wherever he goes. The Welsh springer spaniel rounds out the English group with his rich red and white coat, preferring above all to hang with his family.
The Other Spaniels
The Clumber spaniel hails from 18th century France, stands about 20 inches tall and weighs a hefty 70 to 85 pounds. Clumbers prefer daily walks to runs. Abundant drooling and year-round shedding make them a little messy, but their primarily white coat works well with any color bandana or bib. Not to be confused with the English Cocker, the energetic Cocker spaniel of American fame reaches about 15 inches in height. Its typically gentle and trainable nature meshes well with most families, but exercise is a must. The Boykin spaniel was developed in South Carolina. This liver or dark brown to chocolate spaniel stands 15 to 18 inches tall, can hunt all day and requires lots of companionship and activity.
- cavalier king charles spaniel image by Maria Bell from Fotolia.com