Independent, yet mild-mannered and sweet
Solid liver or black, sometimes with tan markings or speckled
Long, silky, feathered and water-repellent
Consistent year round, though minimal if professionally groomed
Despite the fact that the Field Spaniel was developed exclusively for the show ring, they still maintain a strong hunting instinct. They are extremely people-oriented and become quite devoted to their families. Said to be the most docile of all the Spaniels, they are sweet, well-mannered and sensitive. They are willing to be friends with almost everyone, but may be slightly standoffish with strangers at first. Field Spaniels are very alert and will bark to announce the arrival of strangers, and thus make good watchdogs.
The Field Spaniel is patient and playful, an excellent companion for children. But children should be taught to not take advantage of the dog’s giving nature or play too roughly, otherwise it may become withdrawn. They also enjoy the company of dogs and other household pets. But most of all, they enjoy the company of their human companions, often choosing one member to whom they become particularly loyal. They can become quite neurotic if kenneled or left alone for long periods.
Although they can be independent thinkers, the Field Spaniel is intelligent and easy to train, but the training should be kind and consistent. They are very sensitive to vocal tones and may become fearful if a harsh voice is used. Early socialization is recommended to avoid excessive timidity or dog aggression later in life.
This breed likes to roam and is not recommended for apartment life. They will do best in a home with a large fenced yard. Field Spaniels need a tremendous amount of exercise and are not appropriate for a sedentary household. They enjoy jogging with their owner or going for a swim, and often excel in hunting and field trial events. Field Spaniels are natural retrievers and enjoy a game of fetch, but they also have a tendency to carry household objects or toys around in their mouths.
In a seeming contradiction to it’s name, the Field Spaniel was the first spaniel developed exclusively for the conformation ring. The coloring of most of the birding Spaniels of the 1800’s was a base color with white markings, and when dog shows came into vogue, breeders wanted a solid color dog. The Field Spaniel was developed from large English Cocker Spaniels, and was an instant hit upon it’s introduction. But this quick rise in popularity gave way to overbreeding and a myriad of health problems. With the introduction of the Basset Hound and Sussex Spaniel, a breeder named Phineas Bullock of England developed a dog of incredible body length and lowness to the ground, along with tremendous bone, which culminated in a grotesque caricature of a spaniel. This breed’s popularity fell almost as quickly as it had rose, and by the end of World War II, there were very few specimens available for breeding stock; in fact, the lineage of all modern Field Spaniels can traced back to four individuals. Breeders in the U.S. encountered considerable difficulty when establishing the modern Field Spaniel, due to the lack of pure breeding stock and the need to introduce Springer and Cocker blood in order to eliminate Bullock’s extreme exaggerations.
The Field Spaniel has been a part of the American Kennel Club since it’s inception in 1884, although the breed standard has changed considerably during this time.
Body Structure and Composition
The Field Spaniel is a balanced and well-proportioned dog, solidly built with moderate bone and firm muscles. The long, feathered ears are set low on the skull, and the muzzle slopes downward slightly to the tip of the nose. The sloping neck leads down to a level topline, ending in a low-set tail, which is sometimes docked, although this is not necessarily a breed standard. (Tail docking has been outlawed in many countries). The coat is feathered on the chest, underbody, backs of the legs, and the buttocks.
The primary medical issue affecting the Field Spaniel is Hip Dysplasia, a condition that occurs when the head of the thigh bone no longer fits into the cup provided by the socket, causing lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. Thyroid problems also occur in this breed with relatively significance, and can cause lethargy, weight gain, skin infection and hair loss, cold intolerance, chronic ear infections or severe behavioral changes. Responsible breeders will have their breeding stock certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) prior to producing a litter to help prevent the spread of these diseases.
Eye abnormalities and ear infections also plague the Field Spaniel. Entropion (inward-turning eyelids), Ectropion (outward-turning eyelids) and retinal folds are common problems in this breed. Responsible breeders will have the eyes of their breeding stock checked annually to help prevent the spread of this disease (eye exams are available for puppies at 8 weeks of age, as well). Be sure to check the ears regularly, particularly after a lot of outdoor activity, to help prevent infection or infestation.
Brush a Field Spaniel once or twice a week, or after they have romped in heavy brush, in order to prevent matting and remove any burrs. Straggling hairs should be trimmed periodically, as should the hair on the underside of the ears. Show dogs should be professionally trimmed four times per year.
Field Spaniels are still relatively unpopular in the United States, largely due to the popularity of the Cocker and Springer Spaniels. According to registration statistics from the American Kennel Club, the Field Spaniel was ranked in the 130’s out of 157 dog breeds between 1997 and 2007.
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