“Placid, affectionate, even-tempered, true-blue, loyal,” all are words used to describe the Sussex Spaniel, a slow-but-steady hunter, and congenial housedog. His frowning expression is delightfully at odds with a typically cheerful nature.
Looking a bit like a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a torpedo, Sussex are long, low-built bird dogs of great strength and endurance. Topping out at just 15 inches tall at the shoulder, Sussex are nonetheless described as ‘massive,’ with a deep chest and heavy bone. Their trademark is an abundant, feathery coat of rich golden-liver. The classic spaniel head, with its wavy-coated ears and big hazel eyes, projects a somber, frowning expression delightfully at odds with the Sussex’s innate cheerfulness.
Sometime in the 1700s, sportsmen in the English county of Sussex developed a spaniel whose short legs and burly torso were perfectly suited to hunting feathered game while plowing through the region’s heavy clay soil, dense underbrush, and thick hedgerows. Because the dog was built so low and the cover was so high, Sussex developed a language of barks and babbling to mark their location to human huntsmen. And to this day, Sussex tend to be more vocal than other spaniels.
Temperament: Friendly / Merry / Even-Tempered
Height: 13-15 inches
Weight: 35-45 pounds
Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
Sussex are difficult to breed, and bitches often skip seasons, re-absorb puppies, and need C-sections. Puppies are fragile until about two weeks of age. Responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as heart problems. Bloat can affect some Sussex, and cancer occurs in mostly older dogs. A genetic test is now available for pdp1, a heritable metabolic, allowing breeders to identify carriers and avoid producing affected offspring.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- No recommended health tests
General grooming for the breed is simply bathing, brushing, and combing. The hair on the bottoms of the feet should be trimmed to keep the dog from slipping. If the dog is neutered, the coat becomes fuzzy and cotton-candy like, and is much harder to deal with. The Sussex should not be shaved down unless absolutely necessary, as it takes a long time for the coat to recover. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly.
The Sussex Spaniel should not have strenuous exercise before he is at least a year old. Sussex are slow growing, and exercise too early can damage the growth plates. Puppies should be allowed to self-exercise by playing. Adult Sussex love swimming and long walks, but jumping and agility-type work should not start until the dog is at least 18 months old.
Sussex can be stubborn; they have long memories and will never forget nor forgive rough handling. Sussex owners should strive to convey to the dog clearly what they want, and give the dog lots of praise when he gets it right.
Sussex Spaniels are a very slow-growing breed. The Yorkshire Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Intact Sussex are almost never overweight, as they tend to only eat as much as they need. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.