While there are several different kinds of spaniels, they all have a friendly, energetic, and loving personality in common. Spaniels are primarily part of the American Kennel Club's sporting group; dogs originally bred for hunting and field activities. While some spaniel owners still participate in these activities, most spaniels are companion dogs. They are good-natured canines who make fine family pets. Spaniels range in size from toy to large, although most fall into the medium range.
English Cocker and Springer Spaniels
There's a reason the English cocker spaniel and the English springer spaniel resemble each other so much. They were once the same breed! These dogs were developed to hunt game in densely covered areas. England's Kennel Club recognized them as distinct breeds in 1892. The English cocker spaniel matures between 15-and-17-inches high at the shoulder, while the springer spaniel matures between 19-to-20-inches tall. While acceptable colors overlap to some degree, with both breeds allowing tricolors, black and white, liver and white, and liver and blue roan, only the cocker spaniel may appear in solid shades.
American Cocker Spaniel
The American cocker spaniel is somewhat smaller than his English cousin, standing between 13.5-to-15.5 inches at the shoulder in adulthood. He can still hunt, eagerly flushing and retrieving game, but is more often found as a house pet. Acceptable colors include black and "any solid color other than black." White and other colors, known as "parti-colored," and solid colors with tan points are permitted.
Welsh Springer Spaniel
The web-footed Welsh springer spaniel makes an excellent companion and hunting dog. He adores his people and wants to be with them all the time. Standing between 17-to-19-inches high at the shoulder when full grown, he boasts a flat, red and white coat.
The good-natured field spaniel easily becomes a member of the family. Descended from the cocker spaniel, the modern field spaniel is larger, maturing between 17-to-18-inches tall at the shoulder. Like their cocker ancestors, field spaniels appear in a variety of colors, with ticking in the white areas.
American Water Spaniel
The rare American water spaniel does happen to be Wisconsin's state dog. This brown, curly coated canine is both an excellent sporting and family dog. A medium-sized breed, American water spaniels stand between 15-to-18-inches tall at the shoulder at maturity, with females usually smaller than males. They also make fantastic, kid-friendly, family dogs!
Irish Water Spaniel
This tallest of spaniels is also the goofiest but in a good way. The Irish water spaniel's tight liver-colored curls resemble those of the poodle, but he also sports a distinctive rat tail. Energetic but eager to learn, he's easily trained. At maturity, the Irish water spaniel stands between 21-to-24-inches tall at the shoulder, with females smaller than males.
This South Carolina native spaniel and state dog is a medium-sized, brown canine ranging from 14-to-18-inches tall, with males larger than females. This active dog gets along well with kids and other canines. Recognized by the AKC in 2009, this web-toed breed excels as a waterfowl dog. While easily trained, Boykins require a great deal of exercise and prefer to have a job.
The Clumber doesn't possess the typical spaniel build. Instead, this larger white spaniel with orange or lemon markings is low-slung. The Clumber stands between 17-and-20 inches tall at the shoulder. He's built for endurance, not for speed, but makes a good hunting dog, nonetheless. While he makes a good family pet, he does tend to drool.
The Sussex spaniel's coat is "golden liver," a shade not seen in other spaniels. His appearance is identical to those of his 18th-century ancestors. Standing between 13-to-15-inches tall when full grown, he's a low-slung dog. Good with kids and other pets, he does require a fair amount of grooming.
Two types of spaniel — the Cavalier King Charles and the English toy — are in the AKC's toy group. These are small companion dogs and not hunting stock. The Cavalier King Charles stands between 12-to-13-inches tall when fully grown. Very much a family dog, the Cavalier appears in a variety of colors. These include the classic red and white Blenheim, solid-colored ruby, black and tan, and tricolor. The English toy spaniel breed standard doesn't have a height limit but does specify a range of 8-to-14 pounds for adult dogs. Permitted colors are similar to the Cavalier King Charles.
Personality and temperament
While each of these Spaniel breeds has unique personalities, they are all also extremely bright, energetic, and loving dogs. Most are gentle, while some, like the American water spaniel, can be a little stubborn. Because Spaniels are intelligent, they respond very well to training and activity. Most have been bred with hunting in mind, and may enjoy running, swimming, and retrieving in the great outdoors.
Health and life expectancy
Spaniels, like many purebred dogs, are prone to several health issues such as retinal (eye), elbow and hip dysplasia, and other eye-related illnesses. Despite the possibility of illness, healthy Spaniels live an average of 9-to-15 years, depending on the breed.