Spaniel Dog Breed Explained: What is a Spaniel?

The Spaniel Dog Breed Explained

Over the years, many different breeds of dogs have served, not only as our favorite companions at home, but also in a wide variety of jobs functions. Terriers, for example, were excellent mousers and helped to keep granaries and dry storage free from pests. Shepherds were trained to be messenger and guard dogs during the war, running messages unseen between enemy lines and letting their owner know when danger was present. Collies and other shepherding breeds helped owners corral livestock, keeping them moving from field to pen. The Spaniel dog breed is another specific breed of working dog. Their job? To help us hunt.

Spaniel Dog Breed: What is a Spaniel?
Cocker Spaniel

By Land and By Sea

When it comes to understanding what a spaniel is, we have to understand that there are different classifications for spaniels, similarly to how there are different classifications of hounds. When it comes to spaniels, there are two different classifications, based off their physical characteristics. As all spaniels are a fairly hardy breed of dog, the area based on where they hunt played a role in shaping their physical features, making them more adept at their jobs. Water spaniels have a deeper webbing between their toes and are fantastic swimmers, and  were primarily used in hunting and retrieving water fowl. Land type spaniels have a particularly thick coat, which allows them to pass through brush and brambles to help flush quarry out from the thicket for their hunter. This makes land spaniels ideal for hunting rabbits, foxes, and woodland fowl.

The spaniel dog breed classification doesn’t just stop there. The two most common types of spaniels are the cocker and the springer types. These names weren’t just randomly assigned either, but are actually indicative of what they hunt. The cocker spaniel was bred to help hunters flush out woodcocks, while the springer spaniel breeds would “spring” partridge, pheasants, hares, and anything else that might be hiding in the field.

Springer Spaniel Dog Breed Explained
Springer Spaniel

Why a Spaniel Over a Different Hunting Breed?

When you think about it, there are a number of different breeds of dogs that were primarily used for hunting. Pointers, setters, hounds, beagles, and spaniels all have their own unique characteristics that make them a good fit for a particular type of hunt. Land spaniels are good for hunters who are afoot, as they don’t cover a large amount of ground at any given time, allowing the hunters to keep up with them. Another reason spaniels are coveted for hunting is their soft mouths. As they typically retrieved waterfowl from the marshes, it was important that the flesh wasn’t punctured or bruised. Spaniels are able to pick up duck, geese and the like firmly, but without bruising or ruining the flesh.

Spaniels as House Pets

Hunting isn’t quite as popular a sport as it once was, nor is it the necessity that it used to be, especially with the advent of the supermarket. That said, spaniels still have a place in our homes, as they do make for wonderful house pets. The thing to keep in mind with spaniels, as with any breed of dog with high energy, is that they need to have both the time and the space to play, otherwise they can be prone to destructive misbehavior. The spaniel dog breed is highly intelligent, easily trained, and eager to please, making them an ideal pet for families, especially those with kids.

Citations: Resource


Guest Writer:  Neil Kilgore is the Jack (Russell) of all trades at Greenfield Puppies in Lancaster Pa. He regularly blogs about dogs, breeders and puppies on the Greenfield Puppies website.

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Spaniel Dog Breed Explained: What is a Spaniel? Share on X

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