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Sussex Spaniel

Nicole Cosgrove

Sussex Spaniel

The Sussex Spaniel is a medium sized purebred from the UK bred to be a field hunting dog in the late 18th century, specifically it would go into thick undergrowth and flush out game birds. It would babble and bay to let its human hunter know where it and the quarry was. Its name comes from the area of England where it was bred, the county of Sussex in the south of England. Today it is one of the UKs rarest spaniels and actually is more popular in the US.

The Sussex Spaniel at A Glance
Name Sussex Spaniel
Other names None
Nicknames The Sussex
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Medium
Average weight 35 to 45 pounds
Average height 13 to 15 inches
Life span 11 to 13 years
Coat type Thick
Hypoallergenic No
Color Brown, red
Popularity Not popular – ranked 172nd by the AKC
Intelligence Excellent– understands new commands very quickly
Tolerance to heat Excellent – can live in even very hot climates
Tolerance to cold Excellent – can handle even extreme cold weather
Shedding Average to above average – there will be some hair around the home
Drooling Average – prone to some slobber and drool
Obesity High – loves to eat and will gain weight if food is not measured and it is not well exercised
Grooming/brushing Moderate – needs regular brushing
Barking Frequent – will bark a lot! Training can help control it on command
Exercise needs Fairly active – needs a good amount of exercise and mental stimulation to be healthy and happy
Trainability Easy to train – eager and listens well
Friendliness Excellent – approachable and sociable
Good first dog Excellent – no experience needed
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization, can be bossy
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Very good with socialization though can be wary at first
Good apartment dog Very good – the barking could be an issue if not controlled
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone, can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Somewhat healthy but a few issues include heart problems, back problems and hip dysplasia
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $535 a year for basic training, grooming, license, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1140 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,500
Rescue organizations Several including Sussex Spaniel Rescue and Sussex Spaniel Rescue and Adoption
Biting Statistics None reported

The Sussex Spaniel’s Beginnings

The Sussex Spaniel was bred in Hastings, East Sussex in the UK in 1795 and then was developed through the 1800s. It was used as a field hunting dog and also kept as a companion. It was likely crossed with other hounds and spaniels in its development including the Springer Spaniel to give it its strength, good nose and stamina. It was Augustus Elliot Fuller owner of the estate where they were mostly developed, Rosehill Park, who is credited with developing them into excellent field dogs around the mid 1800s. Then in 1882 Moses Woolland also became involved with it and at a time when dog shows started his Sussex Spaniels were extremely successful. He was also successful at breeding field spaniels as well as show ones. Another person key to its development was Campbell Newington. He was not involved until 1887 but along with Woolland worked to refine the breed and make sure there was consistency in type and quality in the Sussex Spaniels they bred.

For a while the Breed did very well but then when Woolland died and Newington was left alone to promote and breed it became less popular. It would have disappeared at this point if not for J Kerr who in 1909 also started his own kennel. For a while its numbers stabilized somewhat but with the arrival of World War I things changed. There was not as much resources or time for breeding and also how people were hunting changed around this time. Instead of needing a low to the ground spaniel people wanted an all rounder who also had speed. Then World War II came and the Sussex Spaniel faced being lost completely at least in the UK.

New Lease on Life

The fact that it held on and survived is thanks mostly to a breeder called Joy Freer who spent 60 years of her life saving and breeding the Sussex Spaniel. During the 2nd World War she had and managed to keep fed 8 dogs, in fact most of the Sussex Spaniels in the UK today can be traced back to her dogs.

In the US it is believed it first came there some time in the mid to late 1800s as it was recognized by the AKC in 1884, and in fact was one of the first 10 breeds to be entered into the AKC’s studbooks. However it dropped in popularity during World War II. After the war it had a small revival there and in 1969 some more were brought from the UK to the US. Today in there the Sussex Spaniel is not common but is not in danger anymore, in fact it is doing better there than in the UK where it was placed on the vulnerable native breed list in 2004 by the UK Kennel Club. In the US its popularity is ranked at 172nd by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Sussex is a medium sized dog weighing 35 to 45 pounds and standing 13 to 15 inches tall. It is a strong dog with an almost rectangular body that is long and low to the ground and has a topline that is level. It has short legs and is longer than it is tall. It has a short and slightly arched neck and is compact and muscular. It chest is deep and the tail is low set and usually docked to about 5 to 7 inches in places where docking is still allowed, and left natural where it is now banned. The skin on a Sussex Spaniel is loose and its coat is slightly wavy or flat, thick with a soft undercoat that is weather-resistant and a silky outer coat that is typically golden, red and liver colored. Around the neck there is a frill and there is feathering on the legs, ears and chest. Its skull is a little on the heavy side, large and broad with a moderately long muzzle that is squared and a liver or brown colored nose. Its eyes are hazel and large and expressive. Its ears are set low and are long and hang down. They are covered in wavy soft hair.

The Inner Sussex Spaniel


The Sussex Spaniel is alert and will bark to let you know if someone is trying to break in or if someone is approaching the house, or really at pretty much everything, it is a frequent barker plus it is the only baying spaniel too. So if you want a quiet dog this is not the one for you and you should train it to stop when you tell it to. It is a breed new owners can take on with some commitment. It is a sensitive dog though so is best in homes where there is not a lot of shouting and tension. This also means it is not good being left alone for long periods and can develop separation anxiety. It is best in a home where someone is in more often than out or it will become anxious and depressed.

In the right home it is a friendly and happy dog, calm indoors when it is getting enough exercise. It is not as outgoing, energetic or exuberant as some other spaniels but it is still a good companion breed, can be playful at times and while it looks somber it can have a sneaky sense of humor it exhibits when it wants to. It is very loyal and when it is time to work or go out on a hunt if it is being used as such it is enthusiastic about it. It is not a fast dog though, it is steady and slow paced even outside walking, and then is charming and gentle and laid back indoors.

It will expect to be a part of family activity and is very affectionate. It loves to have its time lazing around on the couch when it is chill time, but will need people who take it out several times a day as it does come from a history of being out working in the field all day. With strangers it tends to be aloof at first which is unusual for spaniels but it is still polite when socialized.

Living with a Sussex Spaniel

What will training look like?

The Sussex Spaniel is a quick learner, intelligent, inclined to listen and obey for the most part so hopefully there will be less need for repetition. For experienced owners with the right approach you should find it easy to train. Be firm and consistent, patient and keep it positive and calm. Offer it treats to motivate it and give it lots of praise and encouragement. If you are a new owner you may find it a bit more challenging as it can be stubborn but the same approach is still needed, it may just be a bit more gradual. Once rules have been set do not bend them for any reason, or it will question your leadership and challenge it. Once basic obedience is achieved a good way to keep it mentally and physically stimulated is to enroll it in something like flyball or agility. Part of that training should include a command to be silent when you need it to be, as it does like to bark and howl.

Early socialization is just as important as starting its training early too. It needs a good amount of exposure to different people, animals, sounds, places and situations. It is more likely to grow up to be confident and well rounded, and more able to deal with strangers. It also helps to stop them from being overly possessive of their things and their family members.

How active is the Sussex Spaniel?

The Sussex is a fairly active dog so needs owners who are also fairly active so it gets what it needs without causing any resentment. It will enjoy a good couple of moderate to long walks a day, it needs access to a yard to play in and then it needs to be taken where it can go safely off leash and run and ply games with you, for example a dog park. Make sure when walking that it is on a leash as otherwise it may run after small animals and birds. It also likes to retrieve things, roaming through fields and woods and even going swimming. While it is considered to be a slow dog when out hunting, it can still give you a good chase if it takes off after something. Plenty of different activity opportunities and mental stimulation will mean it does not become bored, restless and destructive.

Caring for the Sussex Spaniel

Grooming needs

This breed will need moderate maintenance and regular grooming to keep it looking good. It sheds an average to above average amount so there will be hair around the home to clean up. Brushing two to three times a week can help reduce how much loose hair is around the home and it helps keep the coat healthy and clean. It may need occasional trimming by a professional groomer. It may need some of the hair in its ears plucking, and the hair in the pads of its feet trimming. Bathe it just when it needs one to avoid drying out the natural oils in its coat. Keep in mind this dog does slobber some, especially when it is drinking so will need some wiping down through the day and may track some mess on the floor.

Its ears should be checked weekly for signs of infection like irritation, sensitivity, redness or a wax build up. Then they should also be cleaned weekly using a dog ear cleanser and cotton balls or a warm damp cloth. Just wipe the easy to reach parts of the ear, never insert anything into it. Because of their heaviness and length it is important to take good care of its ears, to make sure they are dry after bathing or walking in the rain or swimming as they can be prone to ear infections. Its nails should be trimmed if it does not wear them down with its activity. There are proper dog nail clippers to use, and care needs to be taken not to cut too far down as there are nerves and blood vessels there. Should you cut or even nick there, it will cause bleeding and pain. If you are unsure of doing it yourself you can have a vet or professional groomer do it. The other important thing to do regularly is brush its teeth. This should be done at least two to three times a week using a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste.

Feeding Time

The Sussex Spaniel needs about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, and that should be split into at least two meals. This dog does like its food and does gain weight quickly if allowed to overeat or if it does not get enough exercise. How much a Sussex will eat can vary from one to another depending on its size, health, age, metabolism and level of activity. Avoid giving it too many treats or letting its pleading eyes con you into table scraps. Always make sure it has access at all times to water that is freshened often.

How is the Sussex Spaniel with children and other animals?

This breed is good with children, especially with socialization and if raised with them. It is happy to play with them and explore with them, and is also affectionate and loving towards them. It is best with older children past the toddler grabby stage just because it can be possessive of its things, and young children rarely understand that. Young children should be supervised and all children need to be taught how to safely and kindly touch dogs and play with them. Around other pets it can get along with them when its been socialized and if raised with them in the home it tends to accept them though it is best not in a home with pet birds. With strange animals though it may see them as prey and it likes to chase birds. With other dogs it is usually friendly with socialization but can be pushy with strange dogs in terms of determining dominance.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concern

Sussex Spaniels have a life span of about 11 to 13 years. It is not an especially healthy dog as there are several issues it can be prone to. These include back problems, heart problems, obesity, deafness, ear infections, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, cancer, eye problems, problems with whelping, patent ductus arteriosus and PDA.

Biting Statistics

In reports that look st dog attacks on people that caused bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 35 years, there is no mention of the Sussex Spaniel as being an instigator. It is not a people aggressive dog though if it is being attacked by people or its family is it may act to defend. There are no dogs that would never attack a person. While some are more aggressive or less, and some can deal more damage any dog can have an off day, be teased or mistreated or drawn into something by other dogs. Make sure you choose a dog suited to your lifestyle and commitment level, train and socialize it well and give the attention and stimulation it needs. These things will not eliminate chances of aggression but they certainly minimize them.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Sussex Spaniel puppy will cost about $1500 from a decent breed for a pet quality dog. If you want to buy from a top breeder of show dogs this will cost a lot more. It is possible that since this is a rare breed you will have to wait on a list for reputable breeders. Avoid speeding it up by turning to ignorant or cruel breeders from pet stores, puppy mills or so called backyard breeders. These cannot be trusted and the less people spend with them, the more that will go out of business. Another option is to look at local shelters or rescues. While purebreds are not often found there, it is worth checking out to see if there is a dog there you can bring home if you are not looking for a show dog. They have a lot to offer and you would be giving it a chance at a new forever home. Adoption can cost between $50 to $400.

When you have decided on where you are getting your dog and it is coming home there are some things you need to get for it. It will need a collar and leash, crate and carrier, bowls and such and these will cost about $200. When it is home you should book a vet appointment straight away to have it check over and go for some tests. The vet will draw some blood, deworm it, vaccinate, do a good physical exam, micro chip, spay or neuter and such. These will cost about $270.

There are also ongoing costs. Feeding, toys, training, health care, there are several things to be covered on an annual basis. Basic health care like flea and tick prevention, shots, check ups and them pet insurance will come to about $460 a year. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats will be about $145 a year. Then other costs like miscellaneous items, toys, basic training, license and grooming come to another $535 a year. This gives a starting figure cost each year of about $1140.


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This is a medium sized dog but it is heavy so may not be the best lap dog! It is loyal, affectionate, gentle and sweet in the right home. It is a lot steadier than most other spaniels but it is vocal and it is active so needs a home ready for that. It will need regular brushing and it will slobber so needs some maintenance. It is a smart dog but it can also be stubborn!

Featured Image Credit: rebeccaashworth, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.