Acquired: Breeder (professional)
Training: Puppy, Socializing, Obedience, Gun dog
By Sue Davison
Posted October 25, 2016
I have shared my life with working Springer Spaniels since birth. My father shoots. To me, the dogs were my pets – my best friends in fact. As a family we discovered that Springers can be both the working dog and the family pet when you follow certain rules.
Happy. Happy. Happy. That’s a Springer natural persona. I’ve never had a Springer who can keep their tail still. Their main goal in life is to please. They lap up praise and a fuss. This is a wonderful trait that is also a great aid in training. Springers can be very needy with their love of attention though. Give it to them on a plate and you’ll have a demanding paw on your leg constantly. One of my first canine lessons in life was that you give your Spaniel attention on your terms, not theirs. It works.
Our dogs have always been kept in kennels. They can come into the house for short spells when invited or when convalescing. As a child that meant that I spent most of my time outside playing. Not a bad thing at all! Outside, I was free to build jumps for the dogs, run around with them, lounge on the grass with them and build on their training. I had strict instructions regarding how to play fetch, the words I had to use as commands and how to signal with hands and whistle. In essence, much of my playtime with the dogs consisted of basic retrieval drills. I was happy, the dogs were happy and my dad was happy.
Springers have a good lifespan. All 6 of the Springers in my life have lived into their teens. My father’s eldest is approaching 15. I did my growing up with Tilley and what a bond we had. Dad was always the ‘master’ though. Tilley paid no attention to my commands in his presence. She was awaiting instruction from Dad. As a child this annoyed and upset me but I got used to it and reluctantly accepted that he was the leader. It’s what Tilley needed to be the amazing working dog that she was and it’s what I needed to have respect for that.
When the shooting season arrives, life as a child with a working springer changes. There are days when your buddy isn’t around. She’s off having fun in the field, doing what she does best. When she comes home she’s filthy, tired and has a muzzle tinged with blood – the birds’, not hers. She goes straight into her kennel. No cuddles. That was another life lesson for me. Your loved ones can’t be with you all of the time and during those times you need to find other enjoyments in life. I became an awesome tree climber.
So, in my view you can have a working Springer as a family pet. No, it won’t be a lap dog or sleep at your feet at night. It will be a loyal, happy and playful companion that will teach you how to love and respect the needs of this beautiful breed.