Are Spaniels Swimming Dogs?by Jane Meggitt
The English springer spaniel makes a great companion in or out of the water.
You know that it's difficult to keep a Labrador or other retriever types out of the water, but if you love water sports, certain spaniels can fill the bill. Originally bred as sporting dogs, many spaniel breeds take to water as naturally as ducks. Some spaniel breeds have water repellent coats and even webbed feet. Renowned for their good natures, many spaniel types today are bred more for companionship than hunting ability.
American Kennel Club Spaniel Breeds
Although distinguished by their long, floppy ears, spaniel breeds come in various sizes, hair coats and colors. Small spaniels, such as the English toy or the Cavalier King Charles, are better known as lap dogs than hunters, but they like to swim. Not every spaniel exhibits an innate desire to get wet. The medium size but less active Clumber spaniel is not known for a love of water, nor is the Tibetan spaniel.
Two spaniel breeds include "water" in their name. The rare American water spaniel originally was bred specifically to retrieve from boats. This medium-sized brown spaniel with a wavy coat excels as a companion and sporting canine. The Irish water spaniel, referred to as the "clown of the spaniel family," by the American Kennel Club, boasts a hypoallergenic, poodle-like coat with a bare, "rat" tail. The breed's exceptional swimming ability is aided by his webbed feet.
Springers and Cockers
Springers and cockers, the best known of the spaniel breeds, were once the same dog. The cockers concentrated on woodcock, while their larger siblings "sprung" game. Today's cocker spaniel, the smallest of the AKC's Sporting Group, is primarily a pet. However, cockers love water and make a good small hunting dog. The English cocker, a larger and separate breed, is used for hunting in heavy cover. The English springer spaniel might like the water, but the web-footed Welsh springer spaniel is built for swimming.
Lesser Known Spaniels
The rare Field spaniel, an offshoot of the cocker spaniel, originally was bred as a water and heavy cover hunting dog. The brown Boykin spaniel -- South Carolina's state dog -- is a relatively modern breed specifically developed for turkey hunting in the Palmetto State's Wateree River Swamp. The long, low Sussex spaniel was bred to hunt upland game, not waterfowl. Although not born to the water, he does produce a lot of it -- Sussex spaniels are notorious droolers.
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