The Sussex Spaniel is a native British breed with a wonderfully cheerful, relaxed and gentle temperament. Originally used as a slow-but-steady gundog, the golden- liver-coated breed eventually gained popularity as a good-natured companion dog. Good with children, relaxed within the home and a lover of family life, the Sussex Spaniel is a great choice of dog for an active family household.
Key facts about the Sussex Spaniel
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Origins and history
The Sussex Spaniel originates from, you guessed it, Sussex in the UK in the early 1800’s and is actually one of the oldest native British breeds around. A famous Sussex Spaniel enthusiast called Mr. Fuller bred the Sussex Spaniel for 50 years, allowing the breed to flourish. However, breed population dropped significantly after WWII, with only 7 Sussex Spaniels left in known existence. Thankfully, breed enthusiasts got their game on and managed to save the breed from extinction - however, numbers are still relatively low to this day.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 8 - Retrievers - Flushing Dogs - Water Dogs
Section 2 : Flushing Dogs
Physical characteristics of the Sussex Spaniel
Female : Between 15 and 16 in
Male : Between 15 and 16 in
Female : Between 44 and 55 lb
Male : Between 44 and 55 lb
The coat is an intense golden brown.
Type of coat
The coat is abundant, feathery, thick, and weather-resistant.
The eyes are hazel or brown.
The Sussex Spaniel is a medium-sized dog which, although similar to other Spaniel breeds in appearance, is distinguishable by its larger head. This is a low-built yet robust and sturdy breed with muscular limbs, deep chest and well-muscled back. In fact, just by glancing at the Sussex Spaniel’s frame, it’s easy to see that the breed is built for strength and endurance. In terms of the head, the Sussex boasts adorable wavy-haired floppy ears, large brown eyes and a signature ‘frowny’ expression that belies this breed’s very cheerful nature.
Good to know
The stunning golden-liver colour of this breed’s coat is completely unique to the Sussex Spaniel. Yep, it’s truly one of a kind!
The Sussex Spaniel is loving, loyal and affectionate towards its family and loves being within their company. This is a true friend for life!
This cheerful breed is often described as ‘clownish’ and enjoys playing with family and goofing around with kids.
Providing the Sussex Spaniel's exercise needs are met, it’s a very placid, gentle and calm dog to have in the house.
Like most Spaniel breeds, the Sussex Spaniel is highly intelligent and therefore, very trainable. However, this intelligence does mean the breed gets bored easily and will require plenty of mental stimulation.
As a working gundog breed, the Sussex Spaniel is a hunter by nature. However, since this dog is highly trainable, a strong recall and heel command usually prevents any problems. Until this breed is well trained, keep it on a close lead in areas with livestock or wildlife.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Because of the Sussex Spaniel’s naturally protective nature, it can be fairly wary of unfamiliar faces. It’s essential to socialize this breed thoroughly as a puppy to help it become calm and relaxed around strangers. However, you’ll be pleased to learn that, despite this breed’s slight suspicion of strangers, it’s never aggressive.
The Sussex can be rather independent and needs an owner who knows how to firmly but fairly establish themselves as a leader.
Behaviour of the Sussex Spaniel
This sociable breed thrives on company and is highly likely to become depressed if left alone all day, every day. Absences must be short and well-prepared, with exercise catered to and plenty of diverting toys.
Easy to train / obedience
The Sussex Spaniel is highly trainable and capable of becoming an extremely obedient pooch with patient and consistent training to set firm boundaries. This breed, like many Spaniels, is rather sensitive in nature and won’t react well to negative or harsh training methods. Kind, gentle and positive training sessions are the way forward.
The Sussex Spaniel was bred to let its master know when it had discovered game. Barking is embedded in their working temperament, meaning it’s a rather vocal breed.
Tendency to run away
With a high prey-drive, the Sussex Spaniel may be tempted to run after any potential prey in its sights. However, if you train this dog well, a strong recall should be all you need to prevent problems.
If the Sussex Spaniel becomes bored or feels lonely (which, with its high energy and superb intelligence, happens quite easily), destructive behaviours are likely. However, if you can meet this breed’s needs, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Greedy / Gluttony
Using food-based rewards during training sessions can be helpful, but try to stick to healthy and low-calorie rewards for the majority of the time.
The Sussex Spaniel makes a fair watchdog, howling and barking at suspicious intruders if its owner isn’t around to approve them.
This breed is extremely people-orientated and rather docile, so could make a good choice for first-time dog owners. Adopters of this breed will need to lead a very active lifestyle and be able to dedicate time to training, in order for the dog to thrive.
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Sussex Spaniel in a flat
If this dog has grown accustomed to apartment life from a young age, it may be fine. Otherwise, with such high energy levels, it’s likely that that the Sussex Spaniel will get bored and restless within a flat. It is perfect, however, for countryside and rural settings, or at least a house with a large garden.
Need for exercise / Sporty
In a perfect world, it would have plenty of outside space to roam and play freely throughout the day. If this dog has enjoyed a nice long run, it should be calm inside for a while. Ideally, you’ll walk, run, jog, hike or play sports with a dog of this breed for some time every day.
Travelling / easy to transport
The Sussex Spaniel is a medium-sized breed and will fit in larger cars. Remember to take regular walking breaks on long journeys - otherwise, this active breed might become vocal and restless.
Sussex Spaniel and cats
The Sussex Spaniel can live peacefully alongside cats if socialized with them as a puppy and beyond. However, unsocialized Sussex Spaniels might be tempted to chase. This is a hunting breed, after all.
Sussex Spaniel and dogs
If brought up in a multi-dog household, this breed will, most likely, be content around other dogs. However, this breed can sometimes be quarrelsome around new dogs, especially if unsocialized.
Sussex Spaniel and children
Known to be playful, gentle and protective with kids. Some may even call it the perfect family companion!
Sussex Spaniel and the elderly
The Sussex Spaniel may suit a very active elderly owner with prior dog-ownership experience.
Looking after a dog of this size typically costs between £60 to £90 a month, including food, medical/insurance, and incidental expenses.
This breed is quite high-maintenance in the grooming department, which is something to consider before taking one on. The Sussex’s gorgeous coat will need brushing daily, with special attention given to the ears, armpits and groin areas, which can become tangled and matted very easily. The ears are prone to infection and require regular checks and cleaning.
Shedding is moderate for this breed.
Nutrition of the Sussex Spaniel
Feed this energetic breed a high-quality, complete and balanced dog food which is specifically formulated for active dog breeds. The Sussex Spaniel grows slowly (up to 3 years), so it would be useful to seek a vet’s advice on helping this dog to develop properly.
Health of the Sussex Spaniel
The average life expectancy for this breed is 13 years.
Strong / robust
In comparison to other medium-sized breeds, the Sussex Spaniel is very robust.
Although the Sussex Spaniel prefers colder climates, this hardy breed can tolerate warmer temperatures as long as water and shade are available.
The Sussex Spaniel has a thick, weather-resistant coat and is highly tolerant of cold temperatures.
Tendency to put on weight
As long as you make sure to exercise your dog well, and measure out food portions correctly, this breed should stay in a healthy weight range.
- Hip dysplasia
- Phosphofructokinase Deficiency (PFK)
- Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Phosphatase Deficiency (PDP1)
- Multifocal retinal dysplasia (MRD)
- Congenital deafness
- Ear problems