English springer spaniels are loving, lovable dogs. Originally bred as hunting dogs, they are alert, obedient, and hard-working. While this medium-sized breed lacks the large size and strength for assistance work like pulling a wheelchair or providing steadying physical support, it is increasingly common to see them trained as a hearing dog or for use as a service dog for people with medical conditions like epilepsy or diabetes.
If you’re looking to partner with one of these types of assistance dogs, put the English springer spaniel on your short list. However, if you need a large dog for more physically demanding assistance, start with Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and German shepherds.
To help with your research, below is some basic information about the breed to help determine whether it may be a good match for you. Obviously, there’s no one breed that’s best for everyone or for particular tasks; many individual considerations—your disability and assistance needs, your ability to provide daily care, your living situation, and the type of canine personality you prefer, just to name a few—must be taken into account.
Why English Springer Spaniels Make Good Assistance Dogs
As natural hunting and sporting dogs, English springer spaniels have a strong work ethic, the energy to carry out tasks, and the self-control to stay calm and focused. This includes around strangers, kids, and other animals; although the breed has a protective streak, it is friendly and people-oriented enough that this trait isn’t likely to cause problems in public.
English springer spaniels are highly intelligent, eager to meet challenges, and obedient. This is the right combination for relatively easy training. Add in their enthusiasm for pleasing loved ones and their go-getter attitude, and it’s no wonder the breed can work so well for certain types of service dogs.
Additionally, these dogs are known for their ability to seamlessly switch modes, as with going from the hunting field back into the home. They readily adapt to different situations, environments, and demands. This is a valued characteristic in a dog that must accompany a disabled individual to different places and perform a variety of duties wherever they go.
English Springer Spaniel Physical Characteristics
These medium-sized, compact dogs don’t necessarily look it, but they’re quick and agile with considerable stamina. They carry themselves with a proud, gentle air, standing a little over 1.5 feet tall, slightly longer than they are high, and typically weighing in around 45 pounds.
English springer spaniels have medium coats that get fluffy on the ears, legs, chest, and abdomen. Their coats come in a variety of colorations, commonly black and white or liver and white, and they have a dense, soft undercoat; they are notably weather-resistant, which is always useful for assistance dogs that may need to go out in all sorts of conditions.
English Springer Spaniel Temperament
Getting along with people is a strong suit of this affectionate, friendly breed, and English springer spaniels tend to do well around children and pets. They are smart, persistent, and loyal, crave a good deal of attention, and these born people-pleasers appreciate knowing that they’re appreciated. The breed loves to be outdoors and has a particular love of swimming or even just getting wet.
English Springer Spaniel Care and Health
As a breed, these dogs are best suited to individuals able to provide a high level of care. They need plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation, with daily opportunities to burn off energy. Otherwise, they may develop behavioral problems. Also, their coats require some regular maintenance, including daily brushings and occasional trims to prevent tangles and matting and to control moderate year-round shedding.
As for the average lifespan, English springer spaniels live around 14 years with a healthy diet, lots of exercise, and regular veterinary checkups and care. As with other breeds with long, hanging ears, otitis externa is a common concern, and it’s important to regularly check the ears for signs of infection, such as a foul odor, bleeding, crusting, discoloration, swelling, and itching. There’s also an elevated risk for of hip and elbow dysplasia and epilepsy.
If you’re still in the starting stages of figuring out which breed might be the best assistance dog match for you, it can seem a bit overwhelming. Start with this article, and then read about which breeds are most often trained for use as assistance dogs.