The Breed History
The origins of this ancient breed trace back to the British Isles, where records describe a "springing" type dog. This refers to their talent of springing or flushing hidden game. Concise breed records date from the 1600s. The English Springer Spaniel may be closely related to the Welsh Springer Spaniel. First AKC recognition came in 1906.
Breeding for Function
A solid retriever valued for gun and bow hunting, they were tireless in the field, and particularly excelled at water work. They also excelled in scent tracking and springing game. They were also used to drive cattle and to herd sheep.
Height at Withers: female 17-18" (43-45.5 cm), male 18-19" (45.5-48 cm)
Weight: 35-45 lb (16-20 kg)
Coat: The red and white silky haircoat is flat, straight and soft, and feathering is moderate. Note that the white areas may be flecked with red.
Longevity: 12-14 years
Points of Conformation: They possess a compact build and are sized between larger English Springer Spaniels and smaller English Cocker Spaniels. The head is more long and refined than other spaniels and is a distinctive characteristic for the breed. The skull is slightly domed, stop is distinct, muzzle is square, nose is black or brown. The neck is long, not throaty, and is slightly arched. The face is well chiseled, the eyes soft in expression and darker colored eyes are preferred (range is from medium to dark brown). Dark palpebral margins are preferred and the nictitans should not show. The eyes are moderately deep set and medium in size. Ears are pendulous and they narrow towards the lightly feathered tip. They are shorter and narrower than English Springer ears. The topline is level,the thorax is deep and ribs are well sprung. The tail is high set, carried approximately level to the back and may be docked. Limbs are medium in length, straight boned and possess good muscling. Dewclaws may be removed in front, and are usually removed on the hind limbs. Feet are compact and round with well knuckled up toes and thick pads. The limbs have short metacarpals and metatarsals. The gait is smooth, long, and ground covering.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Breed attributes include: Good bark alert dog, good with children, loyal and tireless worker, good with other animals, good at obedience training, and a high activity dog. They are friendly with family, but aloof with strangers. They generally possess a steady temperament, and need close human companionship. Early socialization is important. They have high exercise needs, and if off leash, need to be in a fenced enclosure. They have a moderate shedding tendency and moderate grooming needs.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 11.9% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 2.6% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Welsh Springer Spaniels have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Shaking Pup/Dysmyelinogenesis: Rare, X-linked recessive disorder, where affected males begin with tremors between 5-14 days of age. If maintained, affected dogs develop seizures between 4-6 months, and extensor rigidity and spasticity between 9-12 months. None survive by 2 years of age. Caused by a lack of myelin in the brain and CNS white matter.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 20.24% of Welsh Springer Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 13.9% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 11.08% of Welsh Springer Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Inherited Epilepsy: Inherited seizures can be generalized or partial seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Average onset 3 years of age. Male predominance, with possibly a major autosomal recessive gene involved in its inheritance. (See WSSCA website.)
Cataracts: Anterior cortex punctate and generalized cataracts predominate in the breed. Onset 8-12 weeks, with complete cataract by 1-2 years. Suggested autosomal recessive inheritance. Identified in 2.22% of Welsh Springer Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Welsh Springer Spaniel with a cataract.
Corneal Dystrophy: Epithelial/stromal form causes a bilateral non-inflammatory corneal opacity (white to gray). Identified in 1.77% of Welsh Springer Spaniels CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Retinal Dysplasia: Retinal folds, geographic, and detachment are recognized in the breed. Reported in 1.77% of Welsh Springer Spaniels CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Welsh Springer Spaniel with retinal dysplasia.
Entropion: A rolling in of the eyelids that can cause corneal irritation and ulceration. Entropion is reported in 1.33% of Welsh Springer Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Glaucoma: Primary angle closure occurs in the breed. Onset 10 weeks to 10 years. Can also predispose to lens luxation. A female predominance is seen in Welsh Springer Spaniels. Screen with gonioscopy and tonometry. Suggested autosomal dominant inheritance. CERF Does not recommend breeding any Welsh Springer Spaniel with primary angle closure.
Prognathism, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Juvenile Polyarteritis Syndrome: Two full-sibling Welsh springer spaniels presented at 8 and 18 mo of age with rapidly progressive ataxia, recumbency, and pyrexia. The spinal cord contained extensive subdural hemorrhage and, in one dog, suppurative and necrotizing arteritis in the dura. The findings suggest a familial form of canine juvenile polyarteritis syndrome.
Azoospermia: Case report of two intact male Welsh Springer Spaniels with an absence of sperm production.
Tests of Genotype: None
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination (at 2, 5, and 7 years of age), and thyroid profile including autoantibodies (at 2, 3, 5, and 7 years of age). Recommend patella examination and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Springer Spaniel, Welsh, Land Spaniel (historical), Welsh Cocker (historical)
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 122 (240 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America: www.wssca.com
Welsh Springer Springer Spaniel Club (UK): www.wssc.org.uk
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