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What Are the Different Types of Spaniel Breeds, and Which Is Best for Me?

Shelter worker, animal rescuer & advocate, Jan has become a well-regarded source of insights & know-how on pet care & behavior nationwide.

Spaniels

With over twelve different dogs included in the spaniel breed, we can be sure that there are many overlapping traits, qualities, and even issues among the group as a whole.

That being said, as with any group, it is still made up of individual dogs and therefore there are many differences as well as exceptions to the ‘rule’ so take the information provided as a general background to give you the basic starter information you need in your search for the perfect dog for you and your family.

Now let’s dive into this sporting group of canines and see what we can find...

The Different Types of Spaniel Breeds

BreedOther NamesPhysical CharacteristicsPersonality Characteristics

American Water Spaniel

American Brown Spaniel, AWS

Strong quarters, muscular. Curly, dense, wooly coat (solid liver, brown, dark chocolate w/white spots on toes/chest)

Natural lover of water, fun loving, friendly, faithful, sensitive, can be timid, adaptable

Brittany

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Toy Spaniel, Charles Spaniel

Ears very sensitive, largest of toy breed, medium length silky coats, feathering on ears, chest, legs, feet & tail. Coat colors: (Blenheim)chestnut on white, Tricolor, Black & Tan, Ruby.

Devoted, affectionate, happy lap dog, social breed, intelligent, loves to travel, amiable, quiet, body wiggle, eager to please, loves to explore.

Clumber Spaniel

Retired Gentleman’s Spaniel

Large by weight, medium by height. Powerful. Long & low. Primarily white with sparse lemon or orange markings. Not the fastest.

Outdoorsy. Sweet, affectionate. Smart & eager to please.Wary around strangers, but friendly. Likes routine. Easy going, relaxed.

Cocker Spaniel

Cocker

Coat colors: black, lemon roan, red. Coats are silky, flat & smooth. Have tendency to become overweight

Gentle, affectionate, amiable, sweet. Playful, cheerful, energetic. Loves to please. Inquisitive.

English Cocker Spaniel

Called simply ‘cocker spaniel’ in the UK.

Small enough to be lap dog. Compact body w/deep chest & short back. Med/long flat (or slightly wavy) coats. Colors: white/black, liver, red, black/tan, liver/tan, blue roan, lemon roan, orange/white.

Tail waggers, super active. Tireless. Eager to please. Affectionate, cheerful, loyal, devoted. Sensitive.

English Springer Spaniel

Compact build. Slightly longer than tall, but with fairly long legs. Build suggests strength, agility and endurance

Cheerful, playful, overly enthusiastic, alert, trusting

English Toy Spaniel

Charlie

Toy breed, large domed head, long lush ears, chubby cheeks. Coat colors: black/tan(king charles), white black & tan (prince charles), red (ruby), red/white (blenheim)

Regal, proud & willful. Extremely discriminating. Bright, loving, energetic. Curious at play. Easy trainers. Playful & attentive.

Field Spaniel

Some can be somewhat sloppy. Longer than tall. Solidly built.

Happiest with a job to do. Independent. Devoted, sensitive, willing to please. Docile. Reserved with strangers.

Sussex Spaniel

Long, low rectangular body. Muscular physique. Short legs. Wide body. Coat is flat or slightly wavy.

More laid back than other spaniels. Can be noisier than other spaniels when hunting.

Tibetan Spaniel

Tibbie, Little Lion

Pushed in faces. Small dog (toy group). Wide expressive eyes. Thick mane around neck (little lion). Double coat comes in any color/color pattern. Portable size

Assertive, independent, bold, stubborn. Happy, playful. Extremely loyal. Amiable w/other dogs/animals.

Welsh Springer Spaniel

Welshie

Slightly longer than tall, compact. Powerful stride. Coat is flat, straight & dense

Steady & easy going. Devoted. Independent. Reserved w/strangers. Some may be timid. Sensitive breed.

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The Tibetan Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with pets/animals

Assertive, Independent, bold, stubborn

Minimal exercise needs

No major issues

Suited for apartment life

Affectionate & protective of children

Amiable with other dogs and animals

Happy, playful

Needs can be met with games inside or in yard

Minor: patellar luxation, cataracts

Should not live outdoors

Best suited for homes with older kids as they can get hurt during rough play

Extremely Loyal

Fastidious House dogs can live anywhere with plenty of human attention

We will get this one out of the way up front: the Tibetan Spaniel is not technically a spaniel. You heard that correctly. They are a small dog coming from Tibet and may have been given the spaniel moniker due to its slight resemblance to the lap size versions of hunting spaniels (like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel).

They are assertive, independent, bold, and stubborn. But they are also happy, playful, extremely loyal, and enjoy games with their families. They make great house dogs and can live just about anywhere as long as they have plenty of contact and attention from their humans.

They are affectionate and protective of children while being reserved towards strangers. They tend to be empathetic to their owners and they try to match moods with the owner's mood.

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The English Toy Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of living conditionsGood with KidsGood with Pets/Animals

Regal, proud, willful

Not overly active

Major: patellar luxation

Temperamentally totally unsuited to live outside away from its family

Usually do well with children as long as not a home with busy/very active children as noise/excitement can overwhelm them

Generally get along well with other dogs

Discriminating

Exercise needs can be met with minimal effort

Minor: early tooth loss, lazy tongue

Bright, loving & willing to please

Curious at play

Affectionate, exuberant, curious

Devoted to family - reserved with strangers

This regal and proud dog is extremely discriminating and can be willful, but is also bright, loving, and willing to please. They are energetic, exuberant, and curious while also being well-behaved and easy to train. These dogs are playful, attentive, and devoted to their families while being a bit reserved with strangers.

English Toy Spaniels do well in apartments and adapt to just about any lifestyle as long as they are not left alone for long periods of time. They are also not temperamentally suited to live outside away from their families.

The breed comes in several different coat colors including black & tan (King Charles); white, black & tank (prince Charles); red (ruby); red & white (Blenheim). If you’re looking for a friendly, loving dog for your family the English Toy Spaniel = lap dog par excellence.

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The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with other animals

Devoted, Affectionate, Eager to please

Needs moderate exercise

Genetic heart disease

Ideal house pet

Work well with children

Gets along with other dogs & pets

Friendly to strangers

Middle ear infections

Should not live outdoors

Happy lap dog

Major: mitral valve insufficiency, CHD, syringomelia

Loves to travel

Minor: patellar luxation, entropion

Sweet, gentle, playful

Loves to explore

One of the better-known spaniels, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is devoted, easy to train (though likes shorts sessions), and is smarter than some others. They are affectionate, work well with children, and get along well with other dogs and pets. This is a social breed so they need a lot of interaction with their families.

This breed is very intelligent, loves to travel, has an amiable personality and is friendly to strangers, and is famous for the ‘body wiggle’. Aggression & shyness are very rare in this breed. They love to explore, sniff around & chase things.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel comes in four coat colors: chestnut & white, tricolor, black & tan, and ruby. They live between 10-14 years on average and will fill your family's life with love and joy the entire time.

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The Welsh Springer Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with Dogs/Animals

Steady and easy going

Needs plenty of hard daily exercise

Major: CHD

Does best dividing its time between indoors and outdoors

If they grow up with or are exposed to children while young they tend to be gentle with kids

If raised with them they are generally good with other pets

Devoted to family

Makes a good hiking companion

Minor: glaucoma, otitis externa, epilepsy

They may see pet birds as prey

Independent in nature

Reserved with strangers

Some may be timid

Sensitive

The Welsh Springer Spaniel is a bit less exuberant than the English Springer and some may be timid and reserved with strangers. This is a sensitive breed that requires ample socialization from an early age.

They are also steady, easygoing, and devoted to their family. They are gentle around children that they grew up with or were exposed to while young and the same holds true for their interactions with other dogs and pets. Though they may see any bird pets as prey.

Welsh Springer Spaniels have flat and straight coats that are dense enough to protect them from thorns, etc in the brush. They are slightly longer than they are tall and are compact dogs with powerful strides.

With a life span between 12-15 years, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the companionship of this Spaniel breed.

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The Sussex Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with other dogs/animals

More laid back than most other spaniels

Needs daily exercise

Major: CHD, intervertebral disk disease

Well suited for city life

Ideal for owners with children as they are gentle & relaxed

Generally get along well with other pets and dogs

May be noisier when hunting than most spaniels

Needs can be met with a walk or short play in yard

Minor: otitis externa, heart murmurs, enlarged heart

Likes the chance to ‘take to the wild’ on ocassion

Although they must be socialized with (exposed to) lots of dogs when young or they can become aggressive towards dogs they don’t know

Calm, steady & easygoing at home

Does best as house dog with yard access

Somber expression, but basically a cheerful dog

The Sussex Spaniel is one of the more laid back of the Spaniel breed. They are even well suited for city life, though they still should be given the chance to go outdoors for some field play or hunting for birds.

Not all hunters use this dog as they can be stubborn when it comes to training and may be noisier than other spaniels when they are out hunting. Though, the extra noise they make does help to keep track of where they are in the field.

Sussex’s coats are straight (or slightly wavy) and should be brushed 2-3 times each week. Along with brushing, this dog should have daily exercise which can easily be met with just a walk or short play session in the yard.

Their life span is generally 11-13 years which is within the general span of most dogs in the Spaniel group.

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The Field Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with other dogs/animals

Independent

Needs daily exercise

Major: CHD

Does best when can divide its time between indoors and outdoors

Due to docile nature (and size) they make good pets for families with children

Gets along with pets if raised with them

Devoted, sensitive, willing to please

Happiest when they can run and explore

Minor: otitis externa, hypothyroidism

Thrives on human companionship

Generally cheerful & affectionate

Ears should be checked and cleaned regularly

Docile

Somewhat reserved around strangers

The Field Spaniel seems happiest when they have a specific job to occupy them. They are independent, devoted, sensitive, and willing to please. They are generally cheerful dogs and affectionate with their families.

These dogs have the bodies and the stamina to hunt in both dense cover and water. They need daily exercise to keep them happy and calm and do best when they can live in the house with their family while getting plenty of yard time.

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Their coat is flat (or slightly wavy) and moderately long and needs brushing twice weekly. You should also clip the hair inside their ears and between the footpads. While you’re at it you can check & clean their ears and you should be good to go with their basic care.

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The English Springer Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with other dogs/animals

Cheerful, playful & energetic

Needs daily mental & physical exertion

Major: otitis externa, CHD, elbow dysplasia

Does best if can live indoors with family and have access to a yard

Ideal family companion

They should be socialized with other dogs/pets from early age to ensure they get along

Does everything with gusto

Hunting is the first choice that satisfies both needs

Minor: phosphofructokinase deficiency, PRA, retinal dysplasia

Usually does well with children if brought up with them

Can be overly enthusiastic

An outing in the field, long walk, obedience lessons can also help

Alert, kindly & trusting

The English Springer Spaniel is cheerful, energetic, and playful. It tends to do everything with a bit of gusto and can get overly enthusiastic at times, especially if not give plenty of exercise.

They make an ideal family companion and are alert, kind, and trusting. They tend to do well with kids as long as they are brought up with them and the same goes with other pets (Socialize, socialize, socialize).

This breed lives between 10-14 years and should be given daily mental & physical challenges/exercise. Hunting seems to be their first choice and that would satisfy both needs.

They have medium-length outer coats that either lies flat or wavy with a soft and dense undercoat which should be brushed 1-2 times per week.

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The English Cocker Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with other dogs/animals

Balanced temperament

Daily exercise a necessity

Major: PRA, patellar luxation

Could physically live outside in temperate to warm weather

Friendly, fun-loving & gentle they do well with children (especially if they’re brought up with them)

Do well with other dogs & pets

Eager to please

Minor: cataract, CHD, kidney disease (familial nephropathy), hypothyroidism

But is so social that it does best living inside & playing outside

May chase birds and small animals outside

Merry, affectionate, cheerful

Deafness is a major concern in particolors

Loyal, demonstrative, devoted

Inquisitive, curious

English Cocker Spaniels tend to be balanced in their temperament, merry, affectionate, cheerful, loyal, demonstrative, devoted, playful, friendly, and always eager to please.

They are inquisitive, curious, like to investigate, and are tireless in their pursuits which makes them excellent in the field. They are also excellent retrievers with delicate mouths for bringing back their prey.

With a life span of 12-14 years, lots of stamina and energy along with their friendly, loving natures, they make great family dogs that are small enough to be lap dogs.

As a side note: English Cocker Spaniels are taller and larger than their American cousins. English Cockers have medium-length coats to their American cousins' longer coats. The English Cocker has a much stronger prey drive as they are still used for work in England (where their American cousins are bred more for companions and show). The English Cockers also tend to be more energetic and active than their American cousins.

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The Cocker Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with other dogs/animals

Gentle, affectionate, amiable & sweet

Very active, want to play all day

Problems with ears (infections) - needs cleaned daily

Can live in apartment or house with big yard.

Sociable with kids when properly familiarized

Friendly towards other dogs & pets as long as socialized

Energetic, playful, cheerful

Hyperactive - need at least an hour of exercise daily

Also clean eyes

They’d prefer the house with yard

Loves to please owner

Need mental challenges/stimulation

Familial nephtopathy - defect on kidney (fatal, genetic)

Inquisitive

Tendency to become overweight

Progressive retinal atrophy (causes complete blindness)(genetic)

Committed, extremely loyal

Major: cataract, glaucoma, PRA, patellar luxation

Tends to be sensitive to strangers - easily stressed to unfamiliar environments or people

Minor: CHD, ectropion, entropion, allergies, seborrhea, otitis externa, liver disease, urinary stones, cherry eye, cardiomyopathy, hypothyroidism

The American Cocker Spaniel is gentle, affectionate, amiable, and sweet. They love to please their owner, make great companions, and are extremely loyal and committed. They are very active dogs and want to play all day.

They tend to live between 12-15 years, but even with as active as they like to be they can tend to become overweight so make sure to give them plenty of exercise and room to run.

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The Clumber Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHeath IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with other dogs/animals

Sweet & affectionate, agreeable

Needs 20-30 minutes of daily exercise

Major: intervertebral disk disease

One of the few sporting breeds suitable for city life (although still relishes walks & outings)

Patient, sturdy playmates

They can get along happily with other dogs/pets, but early socialization is always recommended

Smart & eager to please

Great walking companions, but not suited to accompany joggers

Minor: ectropion, entropion, otitis externa

Wary of strangers (but friendly)

Easy to train, likes routine

Patient, easy-going, relaxed (among the most low-keyed of sporting breeds)

Quiet & may need goaded into exercise

The Clumber Spaniel is quite the outdoorsy dog. He enjoys walks, swimming, and fetching among other pastimes. The Clumber is definitely a hunter at heart. He is large by weight and medium by height, his body is long and low and his coat is primarily white with sparse lemon or orange markings. They shed and drool and sometimes snore.

They are very sweet, affectionate dogs who are easy to train and eager to please. They can be wary around strangers, but still friendly. They tend to only bark when they have something to say.

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The American Water Spaniel

TemperamentExerciseHealth IssuesTypes of Living ConditionsGood with KidsGood with other dogs/animals

Natural lover of water

Gets bored without regular training/exercise

Major: mitral valve disease

Does best dividing time between living indoors & playing outdoors

Friendly with children

Generally good with other dogs in household

Fun loving

Needs daily exercise

Minor: PDA, pulmonic stenosis, CHD

Some can be aggressive towards strange dogs

Friendly, faithful, willing to please

Hip Dysplasia

Sensitive

Allergies

Some can be timid

Hypothyroidism

Adaptable

The American Water Spaniel is a skilled retriever and a versatile hunter and loves, you guessed it, the water. This dog is fun-loving, friendly with kids, faithful, and willing to please, although he can sometimes be timid.

Barking can be an issue with this dog and some of them whine and/or drool. They are not great at being alone and get bored without regular training/exercise.

This dog, with a life span of 10-13 years was ‘made’ in Wisconsin.

Other Spaniel Dogs

  • Blue Picardy
  • Boykin
  • Drentse Patrijshond
  • German Spaniel
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Kookikerhondje
  • Markiesje
  • Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)
  • Phalene
  • Picardy
  • Pont-Audemer
  • Russian Spaniel
  • Stabyhoun

Lots of Variety

As you can see, the spaniel breeds have several traits in common, being affectionate and eager to please, are some of those traits. They also have their own unique combinations of traits that lead to various personalities among this sporting group of dogs.

They range in physical size from small to medium, but the personalities of all of them are large and lovable.

How much do you know about spaniels?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which Spaniel breed is known as ‘The Comfortable Spaniel’?
    • English Cocker Spaniel
    • Welsh Springer
    • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  2. Which Spaniel has the nickname the ‘Continental Toy Spaniel’?
    • Tibetan
    • Papillon
    • Boykin
  3. Which Spaniel breed almost went extinct at the beginning of the 20th century?
    • American Water Spaniel
    • Sussex Spaniel
    • English Springer Spaniel
  4. Which Spaniel breed is the dog on the Coppertone bottle?
    • Cocker Spaniel
    • Tibetan Spaniel
    • Field Spaniel
  5. What Spaniel bred was President Ronald Regan’s Rex?
    • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
    • American Water Spaniel
    • English Cocker Spaniel
  6. Which Spaniel was bred to retrieve from boats?
    • Clumber Spaniel
    • Sussex Spaniel
    • American Water Spaniel
  7. George Clooney has which Spaniel breed as a pet?
    • Welsh Springer Spaniel
    • Cocker Spaniel
    • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Answer Key

  1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  2. Papillon
  3. American Water Spaniel
  4. Cocker Spaniel
  5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  6. American Water Spaniel
  7. Cocker Spaniel

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Jan Kelly

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