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This medium-sized spaniel has many talents: He’s a smart retriever (both on land and from the water), an alert watchdog, and a loving, gentle companion who sticks close to family members, devotedly following at their heels.
The Welsh Springer’s iconic red-and-white coat isn’t the breed’s only distinctive trait. He also has slightly webbed feet, giving him an advantage when it comes to fetching waterfowl.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel is distinguished from his cousin, the English Springer Spaniel, by a flowing coat of red and white, a somewhat more laidback personality, and a slightly smaller size that ranges from 35 to 55 pounds. The Welsh Springer possesses traits common to all spaniels: He’s affectionate, gentle, and intelligent, not to mention incredibly devoted to his family. If you don’t want a dog that sticks to you like Velcro, think twice about getting a Welshie, as they’re commonly called.
With his moderate size, he can be a good choice for homes with children — the Welshie isn’t big enough to accidentally harm youngsters, and he isn’t small enough to run the risk of being hurt by overzealous kids. He also gets along well with other pets, and he’s friendly but reserved with strangers. His alert and protective nature makes him a good watchdog. The spaniel’s one caveat: Welshies can have a stubborn streak, so firm and consistent training is a must, along with positive reinforcement techniques like praise and food rewards.
In the field, his job is to flush birds from heavy cover and then retrieve them. Even if you don’t hunt, he’ll still take every opportunity to go after feathered game, so keep him on leash or you’ll lose him to the chase. The happiest Welshies get daily exercise, such as an hour-long walk or (overall health permitting) a half-hour run. He’s also a super competitor in agility and obedience and rally, and his sensitive nose makes him a natural at tracking.
Little is known about the Welsh Springer’s origins, but he’s considered a very old breed, with ancestors dating to Roman Britain. Tapestries from the Renaissance depict spaniels that closely resemble today’s Welsh Springer; similar red-and-white spaniels appear in a few 18th-century portraits. By the 19th century, the dogs were little known, except in the Neath Valley region of southern Wales.
The preponderance of dog shows in the late 19th century brought about renewed interest in the breed, which made an appearance at the first Kennel Club show, held in 1873. They were judged alongside black-and-white spaniels and white English Springer Spaniels. Eventually, the two breeds were separated.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Welsh Springer in 1906, but few people were interested in the breed. By the end of World War II, they were practically non-existent in the United States, until 11 of them were imported in 1949. A dozen years later, the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America was founded. Today, the Welsh Springer remains a well-kept secret, ranking 127th among the breeds registered by the AKC, down from 113th a decade ago.
Welsh Springers are loving, smart, quick to learn, and they are usually good at remembering what they’ve learned. Compared to many other spaniels, he’s protective of his family and property — and prone to bark at anything that catches his attention. The Welshie can become highly attached to his people, but a second dog can help give him an added outlet for his affection.
With strangers, however, the Welshie tends to reserve judgment. He is not inclined to be shy, timid, or unfriendly, but it does take some time for him to feel comfortable around new people. Kids and other pets see his gentle side, especially when he’s raised with them. But keep in mind that a boisterous Welshie can unintentionally knock over a toddler, so always supervise play with small children.
In the field, the Welshie is a hard worker capable of handling any terrain — and he’s more than happy to be outdoors all day, always staying within close range of his hunter. His scenting powers are excellent, and he can hunt any type of game. If he lives with a non-hunting family, two or three long walks daily will also satisfy his exercise needs.
When it comes to training, opt for praise, not force. Although he can be stubborn, the Welshie responds well to consistent training and rewards. Plan to begin training your puppy the day you bring him home. He’s able to soak up everything you teach him even at seven or eight weeks old. A young Welshie will test you to see what he can get away with, so try to get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 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.
Welsh Springer Spaniels are predisposed to some health conditions, including hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and such eye diseases as entropion, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, and hereditary cataracts.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard 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 these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America (WSSCA) participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program (CHIC), a health database. For Welsh Springers to achieve CHIC certification, they must have an elbow evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), an OFA or PennHIP certification for hips, an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF), and an OFA thyroid evaluation at ages two, three, five, and seven. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the 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 diseases. In most cases, he can still live a good life, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine. And remember that you have the power to protect your Welsh Springer from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping him at an appropriate weight is a simple way to extend your Welshie’s life.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel has a straight, silky coat that should be brushed and combed at least twice a week — and each time he comes back from hunting — to prevent tangles. The best tools for the task: a slicker brush and a stainless steel Greyhound comb. Brush out the feathering on the legs, body, and ears with the slicker brush to remove dead hairs; use the comb on the rest of the body. You should also ask your breeder to show you how to do detailed trimming with clippers and shears to produce a neat look. The Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America offers a how-to on grooming your Welshie to perfection.
The rest is basic care: Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. And keep the ears clean and dry, especially if your Welshie is a swimmer. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste 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 a great way to find 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 a website that offers to ship the dog immediately can be a risky venture — it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected.
To start your search, check out the website of the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America(WSSCA) and select a breeder who has agreed to abide by the club’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 Welsh Springer puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, the sex of the puppy, the titles that the puppy’s parents have, 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.If you put as much effort into researching your puppy as you would when buying a new car, it will save you money in the long run.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Welsh Springer 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 Welshie 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 Welsh Springers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org 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 Welshie. 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 Welshies love all Welshies. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America can help you locate a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Welsh Springer 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 Welshie 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 Welsh Springer 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 Welshie 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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