When purchasing or adopting an English Springer Spaniel, it is important to decide whether you are looking for a working dog or a show dog. For the last 70 years, the breed has been divided into two distinct categories, labeled field and bench. Some bloodlines are working dogs. Other bloodlines are breed for show. The two types can differ in coloring and body type.
English Springer Spaniels are great working dogs. They work as field dogs, hunting dogs and even police dogs. The breed's original purpose was as a hunting dog in the 1800s. Today, the dog is a proven hunting companion. They help hunt everything from duck and goose to waterfowl. They are excellent trackers. As puppies, they will require introductory field training. Later, they can go on to participate in field trials, which are competitions for working dogs. They test a dog's skill in the field.
Physically, field dogs have shorter coarser coats than show dogs and are mostly white, with patches of color. If you're looking for a field dog, look at their bloodline. Ask potential breeders specific questions. Are their hunting dogs in the puppy's bloodline? How did they perform? Field dogs are generally chosen for their trainability and hunting capabilities, rather than for their appearance.
Field dogs can also be housedogs. If used as hunting dogs, they will consider their hunting partner a friend and companion. It is important that field dogs be allowed to play and relax while at home.
Bench English Springer Spaniels excel as show dogs. Generally, they have longer fur than field bloodlines. They have thicker coats and less white, with dark blanket markings. They have pendant ears and dewlaps, a flap of skin beneath the jaw-line. They generally weigh more than field English Springer Spaniels. For shows, males should weigh between 50 and 55 pounds. Females should weigh approximately 40 pounds. Dales should be docked.
For show, grooming is extremely important. Nails should be clipped. Teeth should be brushed.
Bench English Springer Spaniels must be obedient. They must sit well for judging and exhibit showmanship while on a leash. They must also be socialized to remain calm around other dogs.
Many breeders specifically breed bench English Springer Spaniels. Prospective owners should seek out puppies with outstanding physical characteristics. Poise is also important.
At home, field and bench English Springer Spaniels differ very little in temperament. Both are good companions. Both make good family dogs. Both will listen if properly trained. When deciding between the two, an owner's main consideration should be whether they are looking for a dog to show or a dog to work.