Ten Things You Know If You Own A Spaniel


Working Cocker Spaniel wearing a handmade poppy bandana


Spaniels are pretty amazing dogs. They are the smallest working breed of dog and many do incredible work as sniffer dogs detecting drugs and other contraband.

Some specialise as search and rescue dogs and some can even sniff out cancer. The first cancer detecting dog was a cocker spaniel called Tangle. In 2004 his detection rate was 54% but with practise he became more and more skilled and was able to correctly detect cancer in 80% of people who were found to have the disease.

Spaniels are excellent gun dogs and hunters too. In Charley’s case she has shown real skill in sniffing out discarded chicken nuggets in the undergrowth near our local bus stop and has found and sadly eaten baby birds that have fallen from their nests. She is brilliant at flushing ducks and pheasants out of the fields but she’s too scared of loud noises to train as a gun dog.

Since she invaded our lives we have made several observations about spaniel character so here's what to expect if you chose a spaniel to be your four legged friend.


1. They have great intelligence but are rarely sensible.

Charley is a smart girl as she understands a lot of words we use in conversation. In an attempt to prevent a lot of excited barking we started spelling out words like OUT and WALK and GARDEN but we are both convinced that Charley is either a mind reader or she can spell because she still knows what we mean! She has also begun to associated me giving myself a spritz of perfume before leaving the house with the possibility of going out so the minute I pick up my perfume bottle the barking starts!

Charley, when she does settle down,  cleverly positions herself between us and the door so she can tell the moment that we move if we have any intention of going outside. We simply can’t get out without her knowing and joining in!

2.Tennis balls are life.

If a ball is in the vicinity barking will commence and continue until said tennis ball is thrown!

To Charley every foray outside brings the possibility of someone throwing a ball for her so she will happily carry one around and drop it strategically to try to get someone to engage in play. If that fails to prompt any human interaction she will bark to get someone to play.

Even if she’s in the garden alone she will carry a ball around, dropping it at regular intervals, only to pounce on it excitedly when she finds it again after chasing every pigeon that dares to land on the lawn. Tennis balls are her favourite thing ever!


Spaniel running through water

3. Every walk is embraced with ecstatic enthusiasm and possibly a lot of barking.

I know generally dogs love walks but Charley would stay out all day if we had the time and energy. She gets so excited every time she goes out and just loves sniffing out wildfowl on the canal towpath. She’s a country girl for sure and I can see why her previous owners in inner city Birmingham couldn’t cope with her. She needs the freedom  to be outdoors as much as possible.

4. There is no off button.

Just like the Duracell bunny spaniels are full of beans and can keep going on and on and on and on …..

We decided a spaniel could be a good companion for Leo because he was a very active dog before his spinal condition became problematic.

We also thought a smaller dog would pull less and be easier to handle than a second Labrador but we wanted a dog who could keep up with all his activity.

It was quite a surprise to find that Charley has way more energy and stamina than Leo and she can out pace him any day. Her acceleration has to be seen to be believed! If she’s on a mission there’s no stopping her, as we found out once at Talacre Beach in North Wales. She spotted a low flying seagull at the water’s edge and started to chase it along the beach.

In the blink of an eye, with my husband in hot pursuit running as fast as anyone can on soft sand, she became a speck on the horizon. I really thought we might never see her again as she didn’t respond to our calls or whistles. She was found eventually, frolicking in the sea with another dog, about a mile down the beach!



5. Their recall can be absolutely terrific unless they spot a deer, a rabbit, a pheasant or a seagull!

There’s no sound quite like a spaniel chasing a pheasant! It’s a continuous high pitched squeal. They can chase stuff for miles and they run like the wind so get your running spikes on and follow the sound of that distinctive noise!


6. You don’t just get a tail wag …. You get a whole body jiggle jiggle!

Charley’s whole back end wags along with her tail. It is super cute and very funny to see.  She saves this signature move primarily for visiting family and friends but has been known to jiggle jiggle when a ball is about to be launched too!



7. They are total muck magnets.

Charley is always filthy. Grit sticks to her belly and all manner of muck seems to be attracted to her.  Mud and snow can be a nightmare as they attach themselves to spaniel paws with ease and can cause pain when they clump into balls on the fur between the pads on their feet.

In summer Charley often comes home from a walk covered in every conceivable seed and burr. Last year she came home plastered in stuff. I actually pulled out the Cleaver seeds one by one and counted them. There were a huge number!  I counted 1477!

Her paws get so muddy that we decided to fit an outside hot and cold mixer tap with a shower head to make post walk clean up a bit easier. We also invested in a raised bath recently so all the cleaning can be done at a height that doesn’t break my back as I’m no spring chicken!


8. Anything wet is for swimming (or rolling) in.

If you have a spaniel you will find out that they love water, be it a stream, canal, the sea or a murky looking puddle. It doesn’t matter if it’s smelly and stagnant or full of green slime, they love it!

They also like rolling in fox poop, goose poop and well….. actually every kind of poop you can find in the country. Charley has an affinity with cowpats and has returned home positively glowing green with the stuff. So my advice would be to invest in a good dog shampoo that can neutralise revolting odours as well as cleaning the poop out of spaniel fur. Their coats need a lot of attention so you will most definitely become best friends with your local groomer!



9. If you find the sunniest spot in the house and garden you will find your spaniel, soaking up the sunbeams.

After all the frenetic activity, poop rolling, guarding the home from pigeon invaders and barking at dangerous leaves blowing around the garden, a spaniel’s next favourite activity is finding the warmest spot, usually to lounge about drying off. It could be on the sofa, your bed, or just anywhere the rays land.  Charley favours finding piles of washing just out of the tumble dryer and will happily settle down on top of a pile of clean towels if my back is turned for 30 seconds. She's also quite partial to roasting by the fire in winter.


10. Your personal space is their space.

Spaniels have a poor perception of personal space. Your space is their space and they won’t hesitate to get up close. So if you like snuggles a spaniel will fit the bill.

Charley loves to be in the thick of things. If anyone is visiting she will be the first to greet them. If we are doing something in the house she her nose will be in the middle of it.

If I bend down to put on my shoes I can guarantee that I will get a nose boop from her. She is liable to get under our feet and can be a trip hazard at times but she just loves to be wherever we are. She is a really sociable dog.

She is also a very affectionate dog who loves to snuggle up next to my husband on the sofa each evening. When it’s time for bed she jumps up and settles herself at the foot of the bed until we get in. Once we do, she will choose one of us and then deposit herself on the feet of the chosen one. She will stay there all night and not make a sound. If there is a hot water bottle in the bed she will hog that too!

She sleeps really well, probably because when she’s awake she is active for a large part of the day. She will stand on us, lean on us, jump on us and cover us with kisses whether we want them or not…… but we love her to bits and wouldn’t change her crazy spaniel behaviour for anything.

A spaniel will change your life in unexpected ways and before you know it they will have wrapped their furry paws around your heart and become the centre of your world.




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