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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
This medium-size flushing spaniel is lighthearted, sensitive, and affectionate. His great joy in life is flushing birds, but he’s also an excellent family companion.
In the United States, there were no Field Spaniels until the 1960s. The Field Spaniel Society of America was formed in in 1978.
The Field Spaniel is closely related to the Cocker Spaniel and the English Springer Spaniel. The three breeds were originally separated primarily by size. With a weight range of 35 to 50 pounds, the Field Spaniel is larger than the Cocker but smaller than the Springer. In addition to hunting, he competes in field trials and uses his excellent nose in tracking tests. This is an uncommon breed, but if you’re looking for a solid hunter as well as a family companion, the Field Spaniel is one to consider.
The Field Spaniel has the typical Spaniel traits of sensitivity, affection toward his family, and willingness to learn. With strangers, he is reserved, even shy if not well socialized, but his owners will experience a lighthearted, mischievous side. He can be vocal when inspired by sirens or music.
His medium size and docile nature can make him a good choice for families with children. He also gets along with pets such as cats if he’s raised with them. Pet birds may want to keep an eye on their tailfeathers, however. Even if you don’t hunt, the Field Spaniel will take every opportunity to flush feathered game and do his best to go after it. Unless you’re in a traffic-free area, keep him on leash or you’ll lose him to the chase.
The Field Spaniel is a dog who needs a job. He’s not the type to lie around snacking on dog biscuits all day. Give him a daily on-leash walk of at least an hour, take him to safe, traffic-free areas where he can run off leash, and sign him up for dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally, and tracking.
The Field Spaniel has a soft temperament and will wilt under a harsh training regime. To get the best out of him, use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards.
Brush and comb the Field Spaniel’s medium-length feathered coat once or twice a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles. You’ll also need to trim the hair between the footpads and inside the ears. A bath every six weeks or so doesn’t go amiss. In addition, trim the nails as needed, brush the teeth, and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections.
Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Field Spaniel needs to live in the house.
The Field Spaniel’s is a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when people try to breed sporting dogs for looks without taking their field use into account. In the early days of the breed — the 1700s and into the 1800s — spaniels were defined by size, and a field spaniel was considered to be any dog that weighed more than 25 pounds. Smaller Spaniels were known as Cockers, and both sizes could be born in the same litter. Their coats were usually liver, liver and white, red, red and white, yellow, or black and white.
The advent of dog shows in the mid 1800s motivated dog men to start considering appearance as well as function. Different was good. Thus was born the black spaniel. That went well, but unfortunately dogs that were long and low -- such as the Sussex Spaniel -- were popular in the show ring at the time. Breeders began to cross Field Spaniels with Sussex Spaniels. Because the size of the dogs was so different, the results were disastrous, turning the Field into a heavy, unattractive dog who could barely move. Still, the dogs with the exaggerated looks won in the ring!
Eventually, people saw reason, and the Field Spaniel fad ended. The dogs might have died out, but they were revitalized after World War I through crosses with English Springer Spaniels, which were more appropriate matches for the Field Spaniel’s size. Through careful breeding, they were brought back to a useful state as hunting dogs, with the ability to crash through brush that was too difficult for the Springer, and the speed that was lacked by the Sussex and the Clumber.
The breed wasn’t saved yet. World War II put a halt to breeding, and afterward only few good dogs remained. In the United States, there were no Field Spaniels until the '60s. The Field Spaniel Society of America was formed in in 1978. The dogs are still little known today, but they are no longer at risk of extinction. The Field Spaniel ranks 132nd among the breeds registered by the AKC.
The fun-loving Field Spaniel is an affectionate family dog with an independent and curious nature. He is a good friend to children when he’s not hunting. He can be reserved when he first meets people but should never be shy. The breed standard says that the Field Spaniel is unusually docile, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an active dog. He needs training and daily exercise to keep both his body and mind healthy.
The Field Spaniel is smart and takes well to training. Like most Spaniels, he has a soft temperament and responds best to positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards. He tends to mature slowly, so be patient and consistent. In the field he has a natural tendency to explore, which can be curbed by teaching commands such as “Come,” “Wait,” and “Stay.”
If you don’t hunt, the athletic Field Spaniel is good at plenty of other activities. Go hiking with him, take him camping, or get involved in dog sports such as agility, flyball, dock diving, and tracking. He’s also a great therapy dog.
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.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Field Spaniel, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur.
Field Spaniels have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious with your breeder selection. They include hypothyroidism and eye problems such as cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy and retinal dysplasia.
At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have thyroid clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and eye clearances from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.
The Field Spaniel Society of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Field Spaniel to achieve CHIC certification, he must have hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or PennHIP, an OFA elbow evaluation, an OFA thyroid clearance at two and six years old, and a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation when he is two, four, six, and eight years old. Additional certifications that are recommended but not required are OFA clearances for knees and heart. Breeders must agree to have all test results -- positive or negative -- published in the CHIC database.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas. A puppy may develop one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what are the most common causes of death.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a dog at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Field Spaniel has a single coat, meaning there’s no undercoat. The silky hair is moderately long and can be flat or slightly wavy. The front of the chest, the belly, the backs of the legs, and the rear end all have feathering like that seen on the Setter breeds.
The coat isn’t heavy and it’s easy to maintain. Brush it weekly and comb out the feathering a couple of times a week, or whenever the dog has been outside or has twigs or other debris clinging to his hair. Trim the hair between the footpads and inside the ears. Bathe the dog only as needed; regular brushing should keep him pretty clean. Field Spaniels shed moderately.
If you plan to show your Field Spaniel, ask the breeder for advice on presenting the dog in the show ring. He should look natural, but he may need a little more neatening with clippers, thinning shears, and stripping knives than a pet dog would receive.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. If your Field Spaniel loves to swim — and even if he doesn’t — keep the hanging ears clean and dry to prevent bacterial or yeast infections. Brush the 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.
Finding a quality breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life. .
Look for more information about the Field Spaniel and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Field Spaniel Society of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the FSSA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to provide buyers with written information on feeding, care and health. The club provides good information on what to look for in a breeder and a puppy.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will clear. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. 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.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include over availability, multiple litters on the premises, a choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
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 Field Spaniel puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show), and, ideally, field titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. 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 Field Spaniel might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult may already have some training and will 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 Field Spaniel 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 Field Spaniels 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 Field Spaniel. 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 Field Spaniels love all Field Spaniels. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Field Spaniel Society of America’s rescue networkcan help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Field Spaniel 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 Field Spaniel 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 dog. 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 Field Spaniel, 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, take your Field Spaniel 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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