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Sussex Spaniel

Beware! This medium-size spaniel will outsmart you, test your patience, embarrass you, love you, and make you laugh.

Sussex Spaniel Breed Photo

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group
Sporting Dogs
Height
Weight
Life Span
11 to 14 years

Breed Characteristics

  • Details

    Adaptability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Trainability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Health & Grooming

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    All-around friendliness

    based on 4 ratings
  • Details

    Exercise needs

    based on 4 ratings
  • See All Characteristic Ratings


Summary

Long and low, with a unique golden liver color, the Sussex Spaniel dog breed was developed in Sussex County, England, to flush birds into the air for hunters. He has a reputation for being slow and sedate, but he livens up when he scents birds. With proper training and attention, the cheerful Sussex is an excellent companion.

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  • Overview

    This rare and unusual spaniel with the happy tail remains true to his heritage as a hunting dog, and he's often found in the field or participating in hunt tests. A deliberate hunter who moves at a moderate pace, he has lots of endurance and a "never give up" personality, characteristics that make him a good companion for people who might not be hunters but enjoy long walks or hikes with a nature-loving dog. If he's not used as a hunting dog, he'll be satisfied with such backyard prey as birds, butterflies, and insects.

    The Sussex stands out among spaniels for his voice. He's vocal about letting the hunter know how he's doing, and he carries that talkative tendency over to home life. The Sussex is likely to bark or howl at noises or visitors, so he makes a good watchdog. It's important, however, to teach him when to stop barking so he doesn't disturb the neighbors.

    Affectionate and companionable, the Sussex thrives in a home where he's not left on his own for hours each day. He likes to follow his people around and enjoys the company of other dogs as well. A Sussex bonds strongly to family members and can become anxious and destructive if ignored.

    This gentle, even-tempered dog does well with children when he's raised with them, but he's best suited to a home with older children who understand how to interact with a dog. Sussex puppies can be injured if they're dropped, hit or stepped on by young children, so supervision is a must.

    In general, Sussex Spaniels love people, but they can be possessive of their own family members, unwilling for other people to approach them. Early and frequent socialization is important to prevent this. Because of their sporting dog heritage, they usually get along well with other dogs, but if they're not socialized to other dogs at an early age, they can be aggressive toward dogs they don't know.

    The versatile Sussex is talented at many dog sports, including agility, tracking, and hunt tests, but he's moderately challenging to train. He has what's known as a soft personality, meaning he tends to be easygoing, but he can also be stubborn. Training a Sussex requires patience, kindness, encouragement, and a strong sense of humor. He responds well to praise and rewards but stops trying if he receives harsh corrections. Begin training as soon as you bring him home at 8 to 12 weeks of age, while he's still amenable to training. Despite his medium size, the Sussex is strong and powerful, so it's important for him to learn to listen to you before he becomes too hard to handle.

    Brush a Sussex daily to prevent mats from forming. Trim the feet and the inside of the ears monthly to keep them neat. The Sussex loves playing in water, so he'll need a good rinse or a bath any time he goes for a swim in a stinky pond or lake, a chlorinated pool, or saltwater. To prevent ear infections, keep this breed's floppy ears clean and dry.

    As a breed, the Sussex Spaniel has faced many challenges, including near extinction after World War II. It was only through the efforts of a dedicated handful of people that the breed survived. Although the Sussex is still uncommon, those who know him love him for his calm, even temper, deep howl, and social disposition.

  • Highlights

    Sussex Spaniels are known for stretching their back legs out behind them and dragging themselves forward, a behavior called kippering. It's not a disorder and is nothing to worry about.

    Sussex Spaniels are barkers.

    Sussex Spaniels can make excellent companions for older children who understand how to interact with dogs.

    Sussex Spaniels are intelligent and can learn quickly, but they're also stubborn and require a patient, consistent trainer.

    Sussex Spaniels need 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily to keep them fit and healthy. They enjoy walks and hikes.

    Sussex Spaniels can easily become overweight if their eating habits aren't managed.

    Sussex Spaniels shed moderately and should be brushed two or three times a week to keep loose hair under control and to prevent tangles from forming.

    Sussex Spaniels dislike being left alone for long periods and can become destructive or noisy if not given enough attention and exercise.

    Sussex Spaniels generally get along well with other pets and dogs, but if they aren't exposed to lots of dogs during puppyhood, they can be aggressive toward dogs they don't know.

  • History

    The Sussex Spaniel was developed at an estate called Rosehill in Sussex County, England, probably during the mid-nineteenth century. Two men are credited with shaping the Sussex Spaniel into the dog it is today.

    The first was Moses Woolland, who after obtaining his first Sussex Spaniels in 1882 went out and successfully bred both show and field lines. His dogs were not exactly like the Sussex of today, but they were very similar.

    The second is Campbell Newington, who began breeding in 1887. Newington's dogs were also similar to the Sussex Spaniel as it is today, and together both men began breeding dogs that were consistent in type and quality. The first breed standard was written during this time.

    For a time, the breed thrived, but after Woolland's death Newington was alone in his efforts to keep the Sussex Spaniel from becoming forgotten. In 1909, however, J. E. Kerr became interested in the breed and began producing litters of his own. Without the efforts of these two men, the Sussex Spaniel would have disappeared completely.

    After World War I, the Sussex Spaniel saw a further decline in numbers and popularity. Newington whelped his last litter in 1921 and it seemed that the Sussex Spaniel might pass into extinction, but the breed hung on by its dewclaws. The privations of World War II was another stumbling block, when breeding almost ceased in England. The breed's survival is mostly credited to the efforts of Joy Freer, who spent 60 years breeding and perfecting her lines.

    The first Sussex Spaniel arrived in the United States shortly before the Great Depression and more followed a few years later, just prior to World War II, but they were unsuccessful in attracting the attention of the public.

    In 1969, three Sussex Spaniels were imported to the United States and after that another 11 found their way to America. They remain rare, but through an understanding of the value of these gentle and cheerful spaniels, the breed has gained a bit of a respite from the threat of endangerment. Today, the Sussex Spaniel ranks 154th among the 157 breeds and varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club.

  • Size

    The Sussex Spaniel stands 13 to 15 inches at the shoulder and weighs 35 to 45 pounds.
  • Personality

    The gentle and affectionate Sussex Spaniel is an excellent family companion. In the field, he's full of energy and endurance, even though he's not as fast moving as other sporting breeds. He's friendly and cheerful but can be stubborn when it comes to training.

    Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner. Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.

    Like every dog, a Sussex needs early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when he's young. Socialization helps ensure that your Sussex Spaniel puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.

  • Health

    Like all dog breeds, the Sussex is prone to certain genetic or environmental diseases and conditions. While no dog is perfect and these ailments do not affect all Sussex Spaniels, it is imperative to do your research to find a Sussex who's been bred with health in mind. A reputable breeder will be proud to discuss the steps she's taken to prevent health problems and to show you the following health certifications for a puppy's parents: Orthopedic Foundation for Animals clearances for hips, heart, and thyroid, and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) that the eyes are normal. Because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity, health clearances aren't issued to dogs younger than 2 years old. Look for a breeder who doesn't breed her dogs until they're two or three years old. The following conditions are among those that may affect Sussex Spaniels:

    • Pulmonic Stenosis: This is a congenital heart disease in which blood does not flow properly through the heart due to a narrowing of the region between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery. This obstruction in the pulmonary valve causes the right side of the heart to work harder, eventually enlarging. Without treatment, it can lead to heart failure. Treatment depends on the severity of the disease and ranges from regular monitoring by a veterinarian to medication to surgery.
    • Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA): This common congenital heart disease is found in many different breeds. It occurs when a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosis, which connects the aorta and the pulmonary artery in a fetus, doesn't close after birth. If it remains open, blood begins to flow backward into the lungs, causing fluid to accumulate and resulting in labored breathing, fainting, dizzy spells, coughing, heart murmurs, collapse and heart failure. Patent Ductus Arteriosis can easily be corrected surgically.
    • Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Sussex Spaniels can be prone to back problems such as IVDD, which occurs when a disc in the spine ruptures or herniates and pushes upward into the spinal cord. This may be caused by moving or being picked up the wrong way, falling or jumping off furniture, or it can be an inherited condition. A ruptured disc is painful and can lead to weakness and temporary or permanent paralysis. Treatment includes anti-inflammatory medications, acupuncture or chiropractic, and surgery.
    • Hip Dysplasia: This degenerative disease occurs when the hip joint is weakened due to abnormal growth and development and is found in many breeds of dogs. It affects approximately 42 percent of Sussex Spaniels but is rarely debilitating.
  • Care

    The Sussex needs 20 to 30 minutes of daily exercise to keep him in best condition. He'll enjoy long walks or hikes, especially if they're through wooded areas where he can hunt for birds. He's a serious spaniel, not given to exuberant romps, but he enjoys spending time with his people in the great outdoors. He's best suited to living indoors but should have access to a safely fenced yard where he can keep a watchful eye on birds, squirrels, and other wildlife.

    Training a Sussex can be a challenge. Members of this breed have a mind of their own. Sussex Spaniels are intelligent and learn quickly, but they need consistency and patience to see the training fully succeed.

    One area that needs to be addressed at a young age is barking. Unlike other spaniels, Sussex Spaniels let their voices ring out when hunting. That carries over into home life as well. They will bark when people come to the door or just for the joy of hearing it. If you don't train your Sussex to bark in moderation, you will find yourself with a dog that barks at everything in excess. The Sussex is especially likely to bark and howl when left alone for long periods, so before acquiring one, consider whether you'll be home frequently enough to keep him happy.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 2 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.

    How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.

    Sussex Spaniels gain weight easily. To keep his weight at a normal level, feed your Sussex at specific times each day rather than leaving food out all the time. Measure food carefully, and cut back if it looks like he's putting on the pounds. He should have a waist when you look down at him, and you should be able to feel his ribs but not see them. If they're buried beneath rolls of fat, he needs to go on a diet. Dole out treats sparingly. Your Sussex will be just as happy to get a tiny-size training treat as a bigger biscuit.

    For more on feeding your Sussex, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

  • Coat, Color and Grooming

    The Sussex Spaniel has an abundant coat that's straight or slightly wavy but not curly. The tail and the legs down to the heel (called the hock) are adorned with moderate fringe of hair known as feathering. The ears are covered with soft, wavy hair, and the neck also has additional hair known as a frill. The coat color is a rich golden liver with no other color, markings or shades of liver.

    The Sussex Spaniel sheds moderately. Daily brushing helps keep the amount of loose hair to a manageable level, but you can get by with brushing the Sussex weekly. No trimming or clipping is required, but you may want to trim the hair on and around the feet to keep them looking tidy. Bathe as needed.

    Other grooming needs include dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your Sussex Spaniel's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the accompanying bacteria. Daily is better. Trim his nails once or twice a month, as needed. If you can hear the nail clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short nails keep the feet in good condition and won't scratch your legs when your Sussex jumps up to greet you.

    Begin accustoming your Sussex to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.

  • Children and other pets

    Sussex Spaniels have a calm demeanor and get along well with children, especially if they're raised with them. As with most dogs, they're best suited to homes with children that are at least six years old and understand how to interact with dogs. It's never appropriate to leave dogs and young children alone together. They should always be supervised to prevent any ear biting or tail pulling on the part of either party.

    The Sussex generally gets along well with other pets, including cats, although he's said to be a bit bossy. If Sussex aren't socialized as pupsters, they may be aggressive toward dogs they don't know, so don't neglect this important stage of development. On the down side, a Sussex may be a little too interested in getting to know pet birds, if you know what we mean.

  • Rescue Groups

    There are no known Sussex Spaniel rescue groups but the Sussex Spaniel Club of America may be able to direct you to Sussex Spaniels in need.

  • All Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability

    Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments

  • Trainability

    Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed

  • Health & Grooming

    Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home

  • All-around friendliness

    Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans

  • Exercise needs

    Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity

  • Almost always

    Adapt well to apartment living

    Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

  • Extremely

    Affectionate with family

    Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

  • A lot!

    Amount of shedding

    If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

  • Extremely

    Dog friendly

    Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

  • Very high

    Drooling potential

    Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.

  • Extremely

    Easy to groom

    Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

  • Extremely

    Easy to train

    Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

  • Moderate

    Energy level

    High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

  • Very high

    Exercise needs

    Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

  • Almost always

    Friendly toward strangers

    Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

  • Excellent

    General health

    Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

  • Almost always

    Good for novice owners

    Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

  • Very high

    Intelligence

    Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

  • Very high

    Intensity

    A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

  • Extremely

    Kid friendly

    Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

    **All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

  • Medium

    Potential for mouthiness

    Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

  • Very high

    Potential for playfulness

    Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

  • Very high

    Potential for weight gain

    Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

  • Very high

    Sensitivity level

    Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

  • Medium

    Size

    Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.

  • Very high

    Tendency to bark or howl

    Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

  • Fairly well

    Tolerates being alone

    Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

  • Very well

    Tolerates cold weather

    Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

  • Very well

    Tolerates hot weather

    Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

  • Very high

    Wanderlust potential

    Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

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