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Sussex Spaniel

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Origin / History The Sussex Spaniel is a breed of gun dog developed in East Sussex, England. A man known only as Mr. Fuller is credited for the breed’s creation around the in the late 18th century, when England’s dense, rough terrains called for a dog that could crawl through thick undergrowths. Fuller crossed several different breeds, including the Field Spaniel and the now-extinct Liver and White Norfolk, and came up with a short-legged, narrow-bodied dog—undesirable by spaniel standards but extremely valuable in the field.

As hunting on foot became the trend in England, the Sussex Spaniel enjoyed great popularity in its early years. However, damage from World War II brought them close to extinction. A breeder named Joy Freer is credited for reviving the breed; most of today’s Sussex Spaniels are descended from the eight dogs she cared for during the war. Today, the breed is more popular in the United States than in its home country.

Appearance The Sussex Spaniel has a long, muscular body covered with a rich coat with flat to slightly wavy (but not curly) fur, often feathered at the legs, tail, and undersides. Its skin is noticeably loose, and its ears large in proportion to its head. The eyes are framed by a wrinkled brow, giving it a sweet, gentle expression favored by many pet owners.

Colours The coat is a rich, distinctive golden liver; no other color is accepted. White markings may appear on the chest, but are considered faults in conformation shows.

Temperament Sussex Spaniels tend to be docile, calm and reserved; they are not as lively as other spaniel breeds. They are very affectionate with their families, but they won’t always show it. These dogs easily get bored. They are happiest when they’re at work—a Sussex will stick around people who always keep them occupied. They usually get along well with children and pets, but may be aggressive with dogs they don’t know.

Height and Weight The ideal size is 13 to 15 inches at withers; weight should range from 35 to 45 pounds.

Common Health Problems This breed is fairly healthy, but they suffer from the same problems as other dogs. Hip dysplasia and bone disorders are common because of their short legs. Sussex Spaniels should not be overfed, as they can easily become overweight. Other health concerns are otitis (ear infection), intervertebral disc syndrome, and heart disorders.

Living Conditions Sussex Spaniels will do well as indoor dogs, provided they get enough exercise and are allowed to go out regularly. They thrive best, however, in houses with at least a small yard where they can satisfy their hunting instincts. They may be a bit active indoors, so owners should make sure they have enough space to play inside. They can live outdoors as long as they have a warm shelter to sleep in.

Exercise Requirements This breed regular vigorous exercise; otherwise it will put on weight even if fed normally. A long daily walk or run should keep it in good shape and prevent behavioral problems. It’s important to get them used to exercise at an early age, when their bones are still forming. They greatly enjoy outdoor games, including swimming, but should be kept on a leash as they can wander off to follow sounds.

Training Requirements Sussex Spaniels learn pretty fast, but they can be quite strong-willed and impervious to training. Owners should be firm and consistent, but never repetitive or harsh. They like to bark and this can be useful during watchdog training; for instance, they can be taught to bark at the sight of intruders or when they smell smoke.

Life Expectancy Sussex Spaniels live an average of 12 to 15 years.

Grooming This breed need moderate grooming to keep the coat from matting, especially during shedding season. There is often excess fur between the pads; this should be plucked off, except between the toes. The ears should be kept clean and the feathering trimmed regularly.

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