by Jenny Mee // September 2017

Dog Spotlight – “Silly Spaniels”

Here at Dog School East Midlands we see lots of Spaniels – both pedigree and cross-breed dogs. They are a popular choice as a family pet, due to their cute faces, affectionate natures and relatively small size. But its important to remember that spaniels are ultimately a working dog – originally bred as working gundogs, and often still retaining that drive and work ethic.

As a proud owner to two “silly spaniels” myself, Betsy and Bailey, and resident Dog School “Spaniel Lady” I am usually the first to make a beeline for any spaniels in classes. And when an owner speaks to one of the team with issues to do with their spaniel, they are usually sent my way! So I thought I would give you an honest critique of this special type of dog, and advice on how best to train them.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

Don’t be fooled by the angelic eyes and floppy ears, these dogs are no lap dog! Like all dogs they will have their good and bad points, and whilst every dog is an individual, below is a generalisation of what many spaniels are like!

The Good : Affectionate, loving, busy, active, loyal and intelligent.

The Bad : They NEED to be kept busy. Without appropriate training, exercise and stimulation they can become bored, unruly and destructive. And they usually love water……oh, and mud!!

The Ugly : They usually like to pick things up in their mouth – it is what they were bred for, after all! But if not taught what is appropriate to hold, this can become problematic!


We do see a fair few spaniels come into rescue, usually because an owner didn't realise how much mental and physical stimulation their new friend would require, or wasn't prepared for the fact they might have training needs.  However, it is not all bad! They do make AMAZING pets for a busy, active owner who can give them the training and work that they need. You will never be lonely if you have one of these dogs in your life, and life will never be boring with a spaniel around! 

Training Tips

  • Train, train and train some more! Make use of that busy brain to teach the right behaviours. Don’t just assume that if a dog is clever they will teach themselves……as they will most likely teach themselves the wrong things!
  • Discover their motivation – toys, treats, fuss? Then use this to train behaviour you want.
  • Use positive training methods only! At Dog School we only advocate positive methods, and spaniels can be very sensitive little dogs. A raised voice or pull on the lead may not seem much to you, but it can severely upset your dog and ruin their bond with you.
  • Have fun! Vary your walks, play games and encourage natural behaviour. It is far more mentally stimulating for a spaniel to use their nose and find treats or toys hidden on a walk than it is to just mindlessly and repeatedly chase a tennis ball.
  • Teach a swop – if your dog picks up something you don’t want them to have, whether that be a favourite shoe or an animal carcase on a walk, resist the urge to chase them and prise it off them! Instead show them something they really like – a handful of treats or a favourite toy - and wait for them to engage in that before quietly removing the original object.
  • Find your dog a hobby! Just like people, many dogs benefit from finding something they enjoy to keep them busy. So after you have trained the basics, explore what your dog loves to do. There are lots of sports and clubs out there, but bear in mind your dog may not enjoy the same as you! Betsy loves doing gundog training and agility with me, but Bailey is more of a people dog so we volunteer as a Pets as therapy dog visiting a local hospital. So make sure you give your dog the freedom to choose what they really love to do.

As for puppies…

  • Don’t buy a spaniel or spaniel cross puppy and expect them to sleep all day and walk perfectly on the lead straight away! They can be hard work as a puppy, but the hard work is worth it in the end!

So before you consider buying your Cockapoo puppy or taking on a rescue Sprollie (Springer cross Collie!), remember that as cute as they may be they are ultimately a working breed of dog and will most likely need more than a quick walk round the block once a day!  However, what you put in so far as effort and exercise, you will most likely get back ten-fold in terms of love, loyalty and kisses!


For more information on training, or to find out about our classes and one to one training, contact the Dog School team:

01509 882316