the English Springer Spaniel
The Bench and Field-Bred Varieties
About English Springers
The Differences, Why, and Why Not
The English Springer Spaniel was developed to flush game (mostly birds and rabbits) from cover for the net, the greyhound, or the falcon. With the advent of guns and their availability to the modern hunter, the Springer also became a retriever, first flushing game and then bringing it back to the hunter once it is shot. This method of hunting is ideal for the upland game hunter in pursuit of such game as grouse or pheasant. Despite not having been developed for water, Springers also make excellent water fowl retrievers.
The CKC describes the temperament of the English Springer as "friendly, eager to please, quick to learn and biddable." I have found all of these statements to be true of my Springers and in fact find this somewhat of an understatement. They are also funny, sensitive, and persistent.
While all of the above statements are true of the breed in general, upon research, you will find that the breed has factioned into two distinct varieties: the Bench (show) dog and the Field Bred (working) dog. Both varieties are fully recognized as English Springer Spaniels. You will find that the Bench variety is likely the image that comes to mind when you think "Springer Spaniel". They are a medium sized dog, have long, pendulous ears, a thick, wavy coat and are either black or liver along their backs and sides with white feet and muzzle. While the soulful eyes are the same across varieties, you will find that the Field Bred Springer is much lighter in build and coat with perhaps shorter ears and much more spotting and freckling. At MASH we breed the Field Bred variety. Our dogs are made to hunt and sport. They love nothing better than to have a common goal with their people and work hard toward it.
I have found that Field-Bred Springers are a deeply sensitive dog. They care about their people and want nothing but to please them. This has made living and working with them something that I very much enjoy. They are not an aloof dog - in fact, mine love nothing so much as laying close to me on the couch in the evenings. The loving disposition is not confined to only one person: the tolerance of children and other dogs is boundless. Field-Bred Springers are made for outdoorsmen and their families: they hunt any time you want to go and love every second, then come home and lay by the fire and allow the kids to climb all other them. They win the hearts of everyone they meet. Field-Bred Springers also make ideal sporting dogs. They are beyond eager to learn and please their people and tackle physical challenge with gusto. Many Springers have gone on to do such important jobs as detecting drugs and other contraban, working with Search and Rescue organizations, becoming service or support animals, and even becoming cadaver dogs. More recently in Europe they were trained to detect COVID-19. The possibilities are endless.
A major consideration of owning a Field-Bred Springer is their energy level. These dogs need to burn some energy every day - be that mental energy, physical, or both. A Field-Bred Springer alone and unstimulated all day may lead to you finding that dog on top of your refridgerator (it only happened to me once). It is completely doable to burn that energy every day and if you're serious I'd be more than happy to help you come up with a plan on how to meet that need. Another hurdle you may find is that often walking on leash can be challenging as your dog is constantly trying to follow his nose into any and all cover he finds on the side of the road. That powerful nose has also helped my dog find his way into my garbage can a time or two. These dogs are also highly sensitive and a correction that is to hard can cause them to shut down completely and quit what you are working toward. This can cause major set backs. Also, training must be fun for a Springer! Mine have never responded overly well to a manner that is strictly serious. Everything needs to be a game. A final note on owning a Springer: they are always wet. I often feel as if my dogs could go outside in the middle of a record drought and still come in damp.
If you have weighed your pros and cons and still find that you are interested in a Field Bred English Springer Spaniel, I would love to help you find the perfect one for you and your lifestyle.