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. Overview
The low-slung Sussex Spaniel has a compact, rectangular body and weighs 35 to 45 pounds. He stands out for his coat color of rich golden liver and his large, sad eyes, so typical of the spaniel family. In the field, he’s slow but steady, beating his way through thick cover to flush and retrieve birds for a hunter on foot. He’s also a super family dog for people who can give him the exercise and firm, but loving guidance he needs. One Sussex recently put the spotlight on the breed, taking Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 2009 and earning the breed some new fans. He’s highly intelligent but can be stubborn, so he’s not always easy to train. That said, if you find the right motivation — like making use of his super scenting ability — you can teach the Sussex to do almost anything. Train him with positive reinforcement techniques. He is particularly fond of food rewards. Be patient when it comes to housetraining. It can take a long time for a Sussex, especially females, to be trustworthy in this regard. 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.
Other Quick Facts
The Sussex is an uncommon breed, with only about 75 puppies born each year, so you may experience a wait of six months or even a year or two before a puppy is available.
The Sussex has a small gene pool, which can make it difficult to avoid some health problems.
His golden-liver coat is the Sussex’s crowning glory, and the color is unique to the breed.
In 1795, Mr. Fuller of Rosehill Park, Hastings in East Sussex, England began breeding gun dogs to work in districts where the terrain was rough and the undergrowth very dense which meant that a spaniel was needed which could give tongue or to alert the hunter on his quarry. Fuller crossed various breeds such as the liver and white Norfolk Spaniel , the Field Spaniel, and possibly some early English Springer Spaniels. The Sussex was bred specifically to inherit the barking ability that was not common in most Spaniel breeds during this era.
Sussex Spaniel circa 1915
The Sussex Spaniel was one of the first ten breeds admitted into the stud book by the American Kennel Club in 1884, but lost what little popularity it had achieved in the 1940s. During World War II, breeding was discouraged but the Sussex saved from extinction by English breeder Joy Freer. All modern Sussex Spaniels are descended from the dogs she saved. In 1947, only ten Sussex Spaniels were registered in the English Kennel Club.
In 2004 the breed was identified as a vulnerable native breed by Kennel Club of Great Britain which are described as having annual registration figures of less than 300 per year. In 2008, only 56 puppies were registered.
In 2009 a Sussex Spaniel named “Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee,” call name “Stump,” won best in show at the 133rd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. At 10 years old, Stump is the oldest dog to win this title.
The breed is more popular in the United States than any other country. It is recognised by the Continental Kennel Club, Fédération Cynologique Internationale, American Kennel Club, Kennel Club of Great Britain, Canadian Kennel Club, National Kennel Club, New Zealand Kennel Club, and the American Canine Registry.
Sussex Spaniels are gentle, easy-going, affectionate dogs who enjoy being active participants in family life. They are happy to be lazy on the couch for a relaxing Sunday afternoon, but when they are outdoors the Sussex springs to life, running, leaping and playing like a puppy. These hunting dogs were designed to withstand long days in the field, working in rough terrain and all types of weather. This background gives the Sussex energy to spare, so don’t take this little dog for a couch potato. He needs several walks a day and plenty of time to run, but as long as the activity involves the people he loves, he is happy. The Sussex Spaniel is good with older children, gets along well with other family pets and makes an all-around fine family companion.
The average life span of the Sussex Spaniel is 12 to 14 years. Breed health concerns may include congenital deafness, ear infections, distichiasis, retinal dysplasia, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, patent ductus arteriosus, prostate cancer, pulmonary stenosis and Tetralogy of Fallot.
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.
The Sussex Spaniel will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is moderately active indoors and a small yard will be sufficient. This breed can live outdoors in temperate climates as long as it has warm shelter, but it generally does better as a house dog that also has access to a yard.
The Sussex is an easy going spaniel, but can be difficult to train. Breeders encourage owners to begin training as soon as you bring your puppy home, at about 8 to 12 week of age. Positive reinforcement and treats are the best method use in order to get your Sussex to respond. Harsh discipline will cause your dog to simply ignore you. They are little dogs but they can exhibit dominance, so leadership is an owners 24 hour responsibility. If you bend the rules just once for a Sussex, he will take that as an invitation to walk all over you.
Though they can be a handful to train, once leadership has been established and basic obedience has been mastered, you should enroll your Sussex in advanced activities like agility or flyball to keep him on his toes mentally and physically.
Because the Sussex Spaniel is a hunting breed, it requires a fair amount of daily exercise. Sussex Spaniels should be given a daily walk as well as plenty of outdoor play time. Lack of exercise for this breed can lead to the development of behavioral problems.
The Sussex has an abundant coat that is flat or slightly wavy with feathering on the legs and tail and a pretty frill beneath the neck. The coat can be cared for by brushing at least once or twice a week to remove tangles or mats and distribute skin oils. Bathe him as needed. The Sussex sheds moderately, and daily brushing will reduce the amount of hair that lands on your floor, furniture and clothing.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, and keep the hanging ears clean and dry. Good dental hygiene is also important. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
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.
Did You Know?
The Sussex is named for the county in England where he was favored as a hunting dog. He was mentioned as early as 1803 in a magazine called “Sportsmen’s Cabinet.”