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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Nick Ridley, Animal Photography
This medium to large-sized spaniel is sweet and gentle, with a deceptively laid-back appearance and a wicked sense of humor. Despite his sporting breed roots, he doesn’t require a lot of exercise, but he’s also no couch potato. The Clumber’s two caveats: He sheds and slobbers.
Some pretty important Brits were enamored with the Clumber Spaniel: Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, as well as Edward VII, were both fans of the breed.
With his soulful eyes and big head, it’s only fitting to assume that the Clumber Spaniel must be a cross between a Saint Bernard and a Bloodhound. But he’s actually a true spaniel, who will happily beat his way through thick cover to flush birds for his hunter. In the right circumstances, he’s also a loving family dog. When a Clumber is raised with children, they get along really well, although puppies may be too rambunctious around toddlers.
Nicknamed the retired gentleman’s spaniel, the Clumber appears to be laidback and lumbering, but looks (and nicknames) can be deceiving. The Clumber is not only intelligent and playful, but he’s also mischievous and prone to get into all sorts of trouble. Clumber owners have been known to keep garbage cans, pantries, and refrigerators under lock and key to foil these intrepid canine raiders. Since Clumbers will eat just about anything, including dish towels and chew toys, they’re frequently the victims of intestinal blockages that ultimately require surgery.
In general, this is not an ideal breed for the house proud, because the Clumber slobbers and sheds. And like most dogs, he can become bored when left to his own devices -- and wreak havoc on an empty household. In fact, it’s best not to give him the run of your home until he’s reached a trustworthy point in adulthood. Another tendency to keep in mind: Clumbers are generally easy to housetrain, but some of them are prone to submissive urination.
The Clumber walks at a slow pace and doesn’t require intense levels of exercise. He’ll be content with moderate to long strolls or hikes -- he’s not the right sidekick for a jogger or a runner -- and his versatility and athleticism suit him to a number of dog sports. Case in point: You’ll be inspired to sign him up for agility once he leaps over a baby gate for the first time. The breed also excels in hunt tests, freestyle, obedience, rally, and tracking. Clumbers pick up retrieving quickly, making them valuable to hunters, as well as kids who like to play ball. Once these dogs reach maturity, Clumbers also make excellent therapy dogs, thanks to their calm demeanors.
Little is truly known about the breed’s origins, but legend has it that Duc de Noailles of France delivered his beloved spaniels to his English counterpart, the Duke of Newcastle, to save them from the horrors of the French Revolution. The dogs were then sent to the Duke’s Clumber Park estate, where they subsequently acquired their breed name. Based on paintings from that era, Clumbers haven’t changed much in the intervening two centuries: The dogs still have a somewhat reserved temperament, as well as a sensible, rather than showy, appearance. The Basset Hound and a dog known as the Alpine spaniel probably figure into their genealogy.
Interest in the breed continued through the 19th century, and Clumbers were even exhibited at an early dog show in 1859. Clumber Spaniels also became popular with the British aristocracy. Royal fans of the breed included Prince Albert and Edward VII.
In 1844, a British officer brought the first known Clumbers to North America via Halifax, Nova Scotia. There was already a studbook for the dogs by the time the American Kennel Club was founded in 1884, at which point the Clumber became one of the nine breeds first recognized by the AKC. Today, the breed ranks 131st among the dogs registered by the AKC.
According to the breed standard, the Clumber Spaniel is loyal and affectionate with his family. He can be reserved with strangers, but is usually never aggressive or shy. Good words to describe him include steady, reliable, kind, and dignified -- but don’t let his dignified demeanor fool you. The Clumber is highly intelligent, determined to get what he wants, and more agile than he looks. During his puppyhood, which typically lasts until he’s three or four years old, he can be a wild dog who tears through your house at warp speed and gets into plenty of trouble. (For some, the getting into trouble part never ends.) On the plus side, the Clumber also tends to stay young at heart well into his senior years.
If they’re raised together, Clumbers and children can become fast friends. If you don’t have kids yet, make sure your Clumber meets your friends’ children often and from an early age, so he can become accustomed to loud screams and quick movements. The Clumber also gets along well with other dogs, and he’s friendly toward cats, ferrets, and other small pets -- as long as he’s familiar with them. Due to his sporting nature, he considers furry or feathered critters that live outdoors fair game. In other words, your Clumber is more likely to swallow a wild baby bird whole than to gently nurture it.
On a walk, the Clumber rolls along at a slow, steady pace. He doesn’t have the high energy levels of many other retrieving and pointing breeds, but he does have a tank-like ability to plow through any kind of brush that’s in his way. Plus, he possesses endless stamina, so he’s a great hiking and hunting companion, who picks up retrieving quickly and enjoys the water. To stay in shape and out of trouble, he needs 20- to 30-minute walks twice daily. If you have a fenced yard, don’t assume he’ll exercise himself. Like the rest of us, the Clumber needs the motivation of a friend to get up and go.
The Clumber is an independent thinker, so he can be stubborn. Training your Clumber requires patience and the ability to convince him that doing what you want is actually all his idea. He’s a good problem-solver; the issue is that the problem he often solves involves doing something forbidden. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking -- and the Clumber is no exception. Some Clumbers are naturally quiet, others bark at everything, and some of them fall somewhere in the middle. If you live with, say, a terrier, expect that your Clumber will learn to bark a lot.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Clumber Spaniels are generally healthy, but they are susceptible to some conditions, including eye problems such as entropion and ectropion, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye, and cataracts. Clumbers may also be prone to hip dysplasia and an inherited condition called pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphatase 1 deficiency, which can lead to exercise intolerance as well as heart and lung problems.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
The Clumber Spaniel Club of America (CSCA) participates in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), a health database. For Clumbers to achieve CHIC certification, breeders must submit hip and elbow evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF), and a pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphatase 1 (PDP1) test from the University of Missouri. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database, which can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic disease, and only breed the best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy can develop one of these conditions. In most cases, he can still live a good life, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine. That said, not every visit to the vet involves a genetic problem. Clumbers love to eat things, so it’s not unusual for them to develop gastroenteritis (garbage gut) or require surgery to remove random objects from the intestines, like hand towels and toys.
And remember that you have the power to protect your Clumber from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping him at an appropriate weight is a simple way to extend your Clumber’s life by preventing such problems as hip dysplasia.
The Clumber’s feathered, white coat requires a moderate amount of grooming: If you want him to look pretty, bathe him once a month, and brush or comb his coat for 10 to 15 minutes, up to three times a week, to avoid tangles and remove dead hair. You should also trim his feet, ears, and feathering.
Clumbers shed at a moderate to heavy rate year-round, so buy a good vacuum cleaner; regular brushing will also reduce the amount of hair floating around your house. For additional grooming tips, consult the Clumber Spaniel Club of America’s breed information booklet.
The rest is routine care: Trim his nails every few weeks, and keep his hanging ears clean and dry to prevent infections. You should also brush his teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Selecting a respected breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. Reputable breeders will welcome questions about temperament and health clearances, as well as explain the history of the breed and what kind of puppy makes for a good pet. Don’t be shy about describing exactly what you’re looking for in a dog -- breeders interact with their puppies daily and can make accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
Lots of breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags to look out for: multiple litters on the premises, puppies always being available, having your choice of any puppy, and being offered the option to pay online with a credit card. Breeders who sell puppies at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the American Kennel Club.
You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
To start your search, check out the website of the Clumber Spaniel Club of America and choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the CSCA’s code of ethics, which specifies that members not place puppies prior to 12 weeks of age, prohibits the sale of puppies through pet stores, and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances before breeding.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Clumber Spaniel puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, the sex of the puppy, the titles that the puppy’s parents have (field titles are preferable to prove they are good specimens of the breed), and whether the puppy is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Clumber Spaniel may better suit your lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a good deal of time and effort before they grow up to be the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training, and he’ll probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Clumber in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Clumbers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Clumber. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Clumbers love all Clumbers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Clumber Spaniel Club of America can help locate the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Clumber rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Clumber home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Clumber, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Clumber to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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