The soulful eyes on any spaniel will steal your heart, but understand that these dogs have a distinguished history and energy to spare. Spaniels were developed as gun dogs, to assist hunters in flushing and retrieving game. The dogs are alert, agile and they strive to please. However, today's spaniels are primarily pets, and although their beautiful coats disguise them as glamour dogs, they still retain their hunting instincts.
Spaniels are among the sweetest-looking dogs, and their distinguishing characteristics -- long ears, a rather broad muzzle and thick, wavy hair -- are shared by the spaniel breeds. Long tresses are typically found on the ears, tail, legs and rear of the dogs, which requires regular grooming. Colors can vary from the popular liver, to red, black or brown with white. The dogs can be one, two or three colors, often giving the dogs great expression. The working spaniel breeds are medium-sized, and several toy spaniel breeds have developed as lapdogs.
Dog breeds have developed throughout the world to assist man with his many needs. Spaniels were selectively bred during the last few centuries to accompany the hunter into the field in his pursuit of small game. The dogs served two purposes: to flush game out of brush and to retrieve waterfowl from lakes and ponds. Eventually the spaniels became specialists, and land spaniels who pointed game differed from the hearty water spaniels who charged through the wetlands. Working varieties include the gorgeous English and Welsh springer spaniels, both English and American cocker spaniels, field spaniels, Sussex spaniels, Clumber and Boykin spaniels, Irish water spaniels and others throughout the world. These are handsome dogs, and many have a history associated with royalty.
Because of the endearing qualities of these dogs, several smaller versions of the working dogs were developed over the years. Nancy Reagan's Cavalier King Charles spaniel led to popularity of the breed, but other adorable top spaniels share the couch with dog lovers around the world. The English toy spaniel is a stocky little dog, compared to the French-native papillon. The Japanese chin has roots in spaniel bloodlines, as do the Pekingese and Tibetan spaniels from China. The Russian spaniel is a diminutive dog who is still able to hunt.
Breeding and Showing Spaniels
Spaniels make wonderful pets. They are especially affectionate and intelligent, but they require regular grooming and daily exercise. These dogs possess a great share of intelligence, and they like to keep busy with work or games. Unfortunately, a few spaniels have been known to develop temperament problems, so it's especially important to purchase a spaniel from a reputable breeder who has worked to eliminate physical and temperamental problems from his line. Spaniels make great companions, but remember to start training and socializing them early to ensure that your dog becomes a good canine citizen.
Connie Jankowski began writing in 1987. She has published articles in "Dog Fancy" and "The Orange County Register," among others. Areas of expertise include education, health care and pets. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Pittsburgh.