Pretty calm and composed than his cousins, the Sussex Spaniel is an even-tempered and serious-looking dog, yet boasts a cheerful and congenial demeanor. Inside the home, he is an ideal canine companion who is devoted, gentle, and sweet towards his family. In the field, he never forgets his roots and continues to be an adamant hunting dog alongside his trademark baying. The combination of his strong expertise and mellow affability makes breed a delightful pal to have in any loving home.
Origins of the Sussex Spaniel
The Sussex Spaniel traces its roots to the historical country of Sussex in southeast England, which was a former medieval kingdom. In the late 18th century, the breed was developed through an avid sportsman and affluent landowner named Augustus Elliot Fuller. Fuller yearned to have a low-set, thick dog that can hunt feathered game in the regions’ rough terrain and dense undergrowth.
Though not much information is available, it is said that the Spaniel was crossed with certain hounds to create the breed. The resulting dog sports nearly the same build as the Clumber Spaniel but relatively slower than the English Cocker and Springer Spaniels.
As the Sussex Spaniel was low to the ground and usually hidden in heavy vegetation, the breed was also developed to have a distinct bark and babble to alert the huntsmen of their location. Today, the Sussex Spaniel remains to be more vocal compared to other Spaniels.
In 1803, the Sussex Spaniel was first featured in a magazine called Sportsmen’s Cabinet and was first exhibited in a dog show in 1862 at the Crystal Palace. In 1884, the Sussex Spaniel was one of the first ten breeds accepted in the newly-founded American Kennel Club.
However, as with other dog breeds, the Sussex Spaniel faced the brink of extinction due to World War II. Fortunately, the breed was saved by Joy Freer, who saved starving dogs in 1923 and began a program to protect and preserve the breed. With that, the Sussex Spaniel started to thrive again in the mid-1950s. Freer’s rescued Sussex Spaniels are believed to be the progenitors of most of the Sussex Spaniels we have today.
Characteristics of the Sussex Spaniel
Height: 13-15 inches
Weight: 35-45 pounds
Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
The Sussex Spaniel has a long, low, rectangular-shaped body, with a nice muscular body. Due to his short legs and relatively wider body, his gait is deliberate but intense, emphasizing power than speed. His large eyes are hazel-colored, with a soft gaze, giving him a dull, stony-faced, or frowning expression.
Meanwhile, his ears are thick, low-set, and coated in wavy fur. The neck is short, the chest is round and deep, and the shoulders are laid back. His abundant coat is either flat or relatively wavy and comes in a conspicuous golden liver color. Long feathering occurs between the toes, sometimes long enough to hide his toenails. Typically, his tail is docked and low-set.
Don’t let their dreary appearance mislead you as the Sussex Spaniel’s wagging tail reveals its true demeanor. Truth to be told, he is a delightful and friendly breed but relatively calmer, perfect for families looking for a canine with an easy-going disposition.
This breed loves playing, but not as exuberant and expressive as the other Spaniels. He loves people and children and fares well with other dogs and pets, as long as plenty of socialization is observed at a young age. If raised with kids, he gets along with them just fine but supervised play sessions are still suggested to ensure safety on both ends.
With his lineage, the Sussex Spaniel loves to hunt and would be glad to practice this outside. If trained properly, owners may use this innate desire to teach him and perform tasks. Though he would most likely fail in agility trials due to his slow and steady gait, he will ace other dog sports, such as hunt tests, freestyle, and tracking, with his versatility and athleticism.
A renowned barker with a distinct voice, the Sussex Spaniel is a vocal breed that can be an excellent watchdog for families that are not noise-sensitive. He is fond of vocalizing, alternating barks, and howl. Fortunately, he is brilliant and will respond well to training if an owner wants to control his barking tendencies.
Caring for the Sussex Spaniel
The Sussex Spaniel has a soft, medium-length coat that needs regular brushing at least three times a week to avoid tangles from forming. It is best to trim extra hair growing between the bottom footpads but retain the tuft growing on the upper feet. Excessive hair on the ears should also be trimmed regularly. He shed seasonally and requires more frequent brushing to keep loose hair at bay. As a drool culprit, bathing should be done at an interval of 6-8 weeks to avoid him from becoming odorous.
Other parts of his grooming routine include nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental brushing. Trim his nails every three to four weeks to avoid overgrowth and prevent painful tears, splitting, and cracking. Examine and wipe clean ears weekly to remove dirt and debris to prevent any infection. Brush his teeth regularly as well using vet-approved toothpaste and toothbrush to boost his dental health and avoid tartar buildup or gum disease.
Though a moderately active breed, the Sussex Spaniel still needs at least 30 minutes of daily exercise to keep him in tip-top condition. He will relish long walks or swimming than vigorous romps. However, as a hunter, he will be happy to go hiking and spend time with his beloved humans outdoors.
Training the Sussex Spaniel would mainly revolve around addressing their barking tendencies. He carries this trait from his hunting lineage to his home life as well. If not trained properly, he will bark at everything, even on those that are not unnecessary. Using positive reinforcements and rewards is the key to curtailing his barking behavior. He has a long memory and will never forget rough treatment.
In terms of health, Sussex Spaniels can be vulnerable to specific health conditions, such as bloat, cardiovascular disorders, eye issues, and hip dysplasia. Meanwhile, cancer is known to affect older dogs. The best thing to do is have your dog visit a reputable veterinarian regularly to monitor his health, get a proper diet plan, and take the necessary measures to ensure his optimum well-being and long life.