Sussex Spaniel

Want to learn more about the rarest of the land Spaniels? Then take a look at the guide below for all the Sussex Spaniel information you need.

Sussex Spaniel Dog on grass

Height: 13-15 inches
Weight: 16-20 kilos
Lifespan: 13-15 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Check out the Sussex Spaniel in a bite-sized summary below.

Pros:

  • Family-friendly pet
  • Adaptable to different lifestyles and living spaces
  • Out of the Spaniel family, the Sussex is the best watchdog
  • Low grooming maintenance

Cons:

  • Sheds fur heavily
  • Prone to weight gain
  • Not ideal for first-time owners
  • Likes to bark/howl

Overview

The Sussex Spaniel is a calm, well-natured companion that ticks all the boxes for a great family pet. Unfortunately, they just haven’t been a hit with dog enthusiasts or hunters and they are now listed as a Vulnerable Native Breed. Other land Spaniels seem to be more appealing to those in the United Kingdom, in particular the Cocker Spaniel.

Sussex Spaniels love the company of their family and don’t cope well when left on their own. Destructive behaviors and barking will be shown as a result. The breed is known to suffer from separation anxiety more commonly than other breeds. For this reason, an owner or family member must be at home with them for most of the day.

This breed loves water so try to take them swimming whenever possible. It’s a great form of exercise! Whenever they become wet be sure to dry off their ears. The water, long ears, and lack of airflow into the ear canal can be a breeding ground for bacteria. It could lead to infection.

Although they aren’t the easiest to train, these canines do well in dog sports. Specifically tracking, hunting, and agility. Whilst they may be slow-paced, Sussex Spaniels do hold a good level of stamina. They may not be great runners but can walk long distances.

History

Sussex Spaniels originate from England and were bred in Goodwood, East Sussex in 1792. One man in particular, Augustus Fuller from Rosehill Park (close to Hastings) had a significant impact on the breed’s development. The Sussex Spaniel was bred to work in the thick terrain found on Fuller’s estate.

Unlike other Spaniels, the Sussex was developed to bark, alerting their human companions to the quarry. Their short legs and long body were just some of the features that made them versatile to the dense undergrowth. Sussex Spaniels were used to hunt small birds and animals. They’d flush the birds out of the trees allowing hunters a shot.

In 1872, the Sussex Spaniel was one of the first-ever breeds to be registered by the newly established Kennel Club. They were also amongst the first ten registered with the American Kennel Club. Unfortunately by 2004, Sussex Spaniels were listed as a Vulnerable Native Breed.

World War II caused a significant decline in numbers for many different breeds of dog. Fortunately, a lady known as Joy Freer managed to prevent the Sussex Spaniels extinction. Today all modern Sussex Spaniels, descend from the dogs Freer rescued.

In 2018, only 34 Sussex Spaniel puppies were registered with the Kennel Club. In 2019 there was a slight rise in numbers and 52 puppies were recorded. They are the rarest land Spaniel but despite being native to the UK, the USA holds the highest breed numbers.

Their lack in popularity didn’t stop Sussex Spaniel Clussex Three D Grinchy Glee who won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2009!

Related: Is the Karelian Bear dog as fearsome as it sounds?

Personality

Sussex Spaniels are pretty laidback and aren’t the high alert hunter you would expect from a working dog. Unless of course, they pick up the scent of a bird. In the past, they were known to guard which has led them to be more protective of their family in modern day life. Owners must be careful the breed doesn’t become possessive over them.

Indoors you should expect a loving, gentle companion that loves nothing more than the company of their owner. Their calm nature makes them an excellent choice for a therapy dog. They’re deeply intelligent and can make anybody in the household feel relaxed simply by their presence.

Are Sussex Spaniels Good With Strangers?

Socialization will have an impact on how the Sussex Spaniel behaves with strangers. Some are more protective over their family and will be instinctively suspicious of those they don’t know. Others that have mixed frequently with strangers will be friendly and welcoming. Both will naturally bark at the knock of the door.

Sussex spaniel dog walking with its owner

Are Sussex Spaniels Good With Children?

Yes, this breed is great with children. They’re gentle and relaxed indoors and enjoy the extra attention received from children. Ideally smaller children should be introduced to this breed as a puppy. Older dogs may feel overwhelmed by poking, prodding, and other toddler behaviors.

Are Sussex Spaniels Ok With Other Dogs?

Yes, provided they have received the right socialization. Sussex Spaniels play well with other dogs and are a fairly sociable breed. They can live alongside other canines and cats however smaller animals should be avoided.

Exercise

Despite their slow pace, the breed will need up to two hours of exercise each day. They love long walks with the family, especially in places such as the forest. Sussex Spaniels aren’t fast paced and won’t do well as a jogging or cycling partner. Avoid strenuous exercise until a Sussex Spaniel puppy is at least one year old.

The Sussex Spaniel is at high risk for weight gain. It is important regular exercise is maintained to prevent obesity. They have a strong sense of smell and will go wherever their nose takes them. For this reason, they shouldn’t be off-leash. A retractable lead will allow them to have some distance without them getting lost!

Recommended: Get everything you need to know about Show Cocker Spaniels and Working Cocker Spaniels in this guide.

Health

Check out the breed-related health issues of the Sussex Spaniel below:

  • Otitis Externa- The external ear canal suffers from inflammation leading to symptoms such as odor, head shaking, redness, swelling, and discharge.
  • Hip Dysplasia- Joint laxity is caused by the abnormal growth of the hip joint. The ball and socket fit loosely together, causing arthritis later down the line.
  • Pulmonary Valve Stenosis- A defect of the Pulmonic Valve will obstruct blood flowing from the heart to the lungs. It is a hereditary condition.
  • Spinal Disc Herniation- Pressure on the spinal cord caused by a slipped disc will damage the nerves. It could possibly cause bleeding inside resulting in further pressure to the nerves.
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus- The Ductus Arteriosus is an abnormal opening that allows blood to flow. This will lead to either heart disease or heart failure.
  • Bloat- This condition is life-threatening and urgent veterinary attention will be needed. The stomach fills with gas, pressuring the organs, and preventing blood from returning to the heart. (Gastric Dilatation)

Intelligence & Training

Sussex Spaniels are intelligent and pick up on training fairly quickly. Unfortunately, their stubborn side can cause issues. For this reason, an experienced owner will be needed for the Sussex Spaniel. Someone firm and consistent with household rules preferably with gundog knowledge.

Respect training is especially important so don’t let them push boundaries! As they were developed to bark, the ‘Quiet’ command should be taught as early as possible. Puppies can start learning from the age of 8 weeks. Don’t leave it too late as by the time they’re 6 months, they won’t be as impressionable.

Being too harsh on the Sussex will only make them react negatively. When rewarding your pet use praise and toys at the exact moment they perfect the task. Food meals and treats need to be monitored as they’re at a high risk of gaining weight.

Socialization around strangers is important due to the Sussex Spaniel’s potential to be possessive. Regular park walks, dog-friendly cafes and other public spaces are all great ways to introduce your dog to strangers. Why not try a group puppy class in your local area? Learn new tricks, meet new people and dogs!

Recommended: Read our guide if you are planning to have an emotional support dog.

Grooming

The Sussex Spaniels coat is generally straight or wavy. They shed an average amount and will need brushing multiple times a week, if not daily to manage this. Slicker brushes, bristle brushes, and wide-toothed combs are the type of grooming tools that should be used on their coat.

Grooming scissors will be needed to trim around the paws, eyes, head, ears, underneath the tail, legs, and chest area. Shaving isn’t recommended for this breed as it will take a long time for the coat to grow back.

Sussex spaniel dog on gray background

Sussex Spaniels shouldn’t be washed frequently. It can strip the coat of its natural oils which will lead to dull fur. Doggy odor doesn’t follow this dog around like other breeds so try to wait at least three months for each bath. A blow dryer can be used to dry the fur quickly. Occasionally owners could benefit from professional grooming.

Due to the Sussex Spaniel’s long furry ears, the breed is prone to ear infections. It is incredibly important these are cleaned and checked weekly to prevent health conditions such as Otitis Externa. Trim their nails every 14 days and don’t forget about dental hygiene. Use a doggy safe toothpaste and brush their teeth multiple times a week.

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