springer spaniel

How to Train an English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a sweet-faced, lovable bird dog of great energy, stamina, and brains. Sport hunters cherish the duality of working Springers: handsome, mannerly pets during the week, and trusty hunting buddies on weekends. Built for long days in the field, English Springer Spaniels are tough, muscular hunters standing 19 to 20 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 40 and 50 pounds. The double coat comes in several colors and patterns, the ears are long and lush, and the kindly, trusting expression of the eyes is a cherished hallmark of the breed. Springers move with a smooth, ground-covering stride. Bred to work closely with humans, Springers are highly trainable people-pleasers. They crave company and are miserable when neglected. Polite dogs, Springers are good with kids and their fellow mammals. They are eager to join in any family activity. Long walks, games of chase and fetch, and swimming are favorite pastimes of these rugged spaniels.


During the long history of Britain’s land spaniels, dogs described as “cockers” or “springers” were often born in the same litter. It would take many generations of careful, purposeful breeding before such sporting spaniels as the English Springer Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, and Field Spaniel could be sorted into the distinct breeds we know today.

England’s springer-type spaniel first emerged centuries ago to work on upland game birds. Before the invention of the wheel-lock firearm in the 17th century, springing spaniels worked in tandem with hunters who brought down their quarry with nets, falcons, or bows, or some combination of these. After the hunting rifle revolutionized the sport, springers quickly earned a reputation as eager and reliable gundogs.

The English Springer’s job is to detect game birds in high grass or bramble, flush or “spring” the birds from their cover, then point and retrieve the downed bird. Breed literature tells us that Springers will work relentlessly all day in the field and then, in the words of one historian, “retire to the easy companionship of family, hearth, and home after a good day’s hunt.”

At the first British dog shows, in the 1870s, English and Welsh Springer Spaniels were exhibited as the same breed. This held until 1902, when the Kennel Club (England) recognized the two Springers separately. English Springers gained their first great North American fame in the 1920s, and they soon made their mark as a tough but stylish gundog in the bird fields of America and Canada. The English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association, the breed’s AKC parent club, held its first meeting in 1924. In recent years, the breed’s trainability, durability, and keen nose have been used to great advantage in K-9 detection work.

Quick Facts

Temperament: friendly / playful / obedient

Height: 19 to 20 inches

Weight: 40 to 50 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Sporting Group


English Springer Spaniels are generally healthy dogs, but there are there are several health and genetic screening considerations specific to the breed. Conditions sometimes seen in the breed include elbow and hip dysplasia and eye conditions. Responsible breeders will screen their stock for conditions the breed can be prone to. The Springer’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
  • Hip Evaluation
  • PRA Optigen DNA Test
  • PFK Disorder DNA Test
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation


Weekly brushing will help to remove dirt and loose hair and keep the Springer’s coat healthy, shining, and free of mats. Any tangles can be worked out with a slicker brush or metal dog comb. The Springer can be trimmed by the owner or taken to a professional groomer for clipping and neatening-up of the coat, particularly the feet, the areas around the head and neck, and under the tail. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can be painful to the dog and cause problems walking and running.


While they are happiest living indoors with their human family, English Springer Spaniels enjoy outdoor activities and make great companions on long walks or hikes. With proper exercise the breed can be suitable for owners living in a small house or apartment, although a home having a large, fenced yard where the dog can run or engage in play-sessions with his people is probably ideal. Daily exercise will help keep the Springer healthy and happy. This can come in the form of long walks and play sessions. The breed also exercises mind and body by participating in obedience, tracking, agility, rally, and other activities that can be enjoyed by dog and owner.

Early socialization and puppy training classes are important and help to ensure that the Springer grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion. Springers are lively and highly intelligent, and continued training and gentle guidance are vital. The owner should be sure to be in control at all times, because the Springer is an active and forward explorer of his environment. The Springer wants to be with his family, and undesirable behaviors can result if he is regularly left alone for long periods of time.


Feed the Springer a high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) and activity level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with overly high fat content. 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.