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Welsh Springer Spaniel

Nicole Cosgrove

The Welsh Springer Spaniel is a medium purebred from Wales, the UK and has also been known over the years as the Tarfgi, Welsh Springer, Red and White Spaniel, Welsh Starter and the Welsh Cocker. It is nicknamed by owners as the Welshie and was bred to be a versatile hunting dog, good at retrieving and flushing out game on both land and water. In size it falls somewhere between the English Cocker Spaniel and the English Springer Spaniel. Its name games from its way of hunting where it will spring out from its hiding place to catch its game. Today it is still a great gundog, makes a great companion and family dog and does well in the field.

The Welsh Springer Spaniel at A Glance
Name Welsh Springer Spaniel
Other names Welsh Springer, Welsh Starter, Red and White Spaniel, Tarfgi, Starter, Welsh Cocker
Nicknames Welshie
Origin Wales
Average size Medium
Average weight 35 to 50 pounds
Average height 17 to 19 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Silky, medium
Hypoallergenic No
Color Red, white
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 123rd by the AKC
Intelligence Above average – understands new commands with 15 to 25 repetitions
Tolerance to heat Very good – can live with hot conditions but nothing extreme
Tolerance to cold Very good – can also live in colder weather but nothing too extreme
Shedding Average, will shed some so expect some hair around the home
Drooling Low – not prone to lots of slobber or drool
Obesity Very high – prone to weight gain so measure its food and give it plenty of exercise
Grooming/brushing Average to above average – prone to tangles so need regular brushing
Barking Occasional to frequent – training may be needed
Exercise needs Very active – needs plenty of activity
Trainability Easy to train – but can be stubborn so experience helps
Friendliness Very good – social dog
Good first dog Very good – can be suitable for new owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Good but socialization is needed to prevent them being over protective
Good apartment dog Very good with enough daily exercise, barking may be an issue in some cases
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for too long
Health issues Fairly healthy but a few problems can include ear infections, hip dysplasia and eye problems
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and medical insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $615 a year for basic training, toys, grooming, license and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1220 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,500
Rescue organizations Several including the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America, Inc
Biting Statistics None reported

The Welsh Springer Spaniel’s Beginnings

The Welsh Springer Spaniel at one time could be found in the same litter as the Cocker Spaniel and English Springer Spaniel back when the breeds were separated just by size and were allowed to breed together. The names of the dogs were about their hunting function not their breed. Breeders then started to separate spaniels into water ones and land ones with the WSS being in the latter group. It was also used in the breeding of several other breeds from the 1300s on including the Irish Water, the Clumber, the Welsh Springer, the Field and the Sussex. The current belief is that Spaniels originally came from Spain (hence the name) and then spread around the world.

Images from the Renaissance period show a dog that is very similar in appearance to the Welsh Springer. It was bred to spring out at game, particularly game birds and as they reacted the hunter would shoot with a bow and arrow or hunt with a falcon. Many artists captured their image during the 1700s, red and white spaniels as it was a popular dog with hunters during this time. However by the 1800s its popularity became more localized as the rest of Britain started favoring spaniels who were black and white or liver and white in color. In the late 19th century when dog shows became popular the dog’s popularity increased again slightly but not by much. Springers and Cockers were separated into different breeds, it was recognized by the Kennel Club in 1902 and some traveled to the US where it was recognized in 1906 by the AKC.

However with World War 1 came problems for many dog breeds in the UK including the Welsh Springer Spaniel. During the war many kennels were lost and after the war there were no dogs left with pedigreed parents that had been registered. The remaining dogs that were unregistered had to be used to revive the breed, and the modern Welsh Springer Spaniel comes from those dogs. In 1923 the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club was formed and registered dogs were slowly on the increase but then disaster struck again with World War II. Records were destroyed by air raids, kennels were lost again and the breed suffered terribly both in the UK and in the US. Between 1926 and 1948 no new WSS were registered in the US.

New Lease on Life

It was thought that there were in fact no more left in the US at that time so more were imported from England where there were still Welsh Springers in small numbers, having only fared a little better. Their survival is accredited largely to Harold Newman, a dog exhibitor. In the US in 1961 the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America was formed. It is not a particularly popular dog today in the US being ranked 123rd by the AKC. In the UK the English Springer and Cocker remain a lot more popular and because registered numbers fell under 300 in 2016 it was placed on the Kennel Club’s Vulnerable Native Breeds list.

The Dog You See Today

The Welsh Springer Spaniel is a medium sized dog weighing 35 to 50 pounds and standing 17 to 19 inches tall. Compared to the more popular English Springer it is lighter and smaller, however it is bigger and taller than the English Cocker. Unlike its two cousins it does not have a field type and a show type. It has a somewhat arched neck and a level topline. It holds its tail level with its back or a little above it. It is usually docked in places where docking is still allowed. This is a compact working dog with a solid build. Usually it is off square in shape so its length is just a little longer than its height but it can be squared. In some places dew claws may be removed. It has a double coat that is silky soft, straight (not wavy), weatherproof and comes in red and white markings with some ticking. Feathering occurs on the chest, belly, tail, ears and back of its legs.

Its head is somewhat rounded and in proportion with the rest of its body. Its muzzle is squared and is about the length of its skull. Its nose has nostrils that are open and is brown or black in color. Pink noses can happen but are not accepted by AKC show standards. Its eyes are oval shaped and are deep brown, hazel, and sometimes yellow though again the latter is not popular in show dogs. It has pendant long ears with light feathering that are set at the level of its eyes and hang close to its cheeks.

The Inner Welsh Springer Spaniel


The Welsh Springer Spaniel is fine for new owners though it does have an independent side to it that you need to be firm with. It is an affectionate and friendly dog, it loves to play and is very loyal. It makes a great family dog but it is a sensitive dog so it needs a home where there is not a lot of tension and raised voices. While it may not be quite as outgoing as its popular cousins it is energetic and has a great zest for life. It does bark occasionally and it is also quite alert so will bark to let you know if someone is breaking in. It can be shy with and wary with strangers though so is not likely to act to defend you. It tends to form very close attachments to the people it lives with.

Owners of the Welshie should be prepared for its bird stalking tendencies and that it is likely to track in some mud and such when it comes in from a good romp. It is hard get cross at it though as it is so happy and faithful. As long as it gets the exercise and stimulation it needs things will go well, without them it can be destructive, loud and hard to live with. It can be gentle, kind and good natured and prefers not to be left alone for long periods as it can suffer from separation anxiety. This means it can become clingy too. It is not the best breed for people who work long hours and are out more often than not. It wants to be a part of family activities and is eager to please. Be aware that in young Welshies there can be a problem with submissive urination which means when it gets anxious or over excited it can pee.

Living with a Welsh Springer Spaniel

What will training look like?

Welshies are moderately easy to train, they are intelligent, eager to please and love to spend time with you. They can have an independent side to them though which can make the process a bit more gradual. It is important to stay firm with them and be in control. You are their leader and rules you set need to be stuck to. Keep the sessions fun, short and interesting and use positive training methods like treats, praise and encouragement. Being very sensitive they do not respond well to harsh tones, or physical correction. Avoid sessions that are too long, boring and repetitive as this is a dog with attention issues! Be patient, consistent, calm and in control.

Remembering that the Welsh Springer is not as outgoing as the cousins, early socialization is very important for it to grow into a confident and happy dog. It needs to be exposed from a young age to different places, people, sounds and situations and learn how to respond to them. A Welshie that has not been properly socialized can be skittish, scared, anxious, hard to live with and even defensive.

How active is the Welsh Springer Spaniel?

Welsh Springer Spaniels are fairly active dogs so will need daily exercise both physical and mental to keep them happy and healthy. It was bred to be a working dog out for long periods so it has a lot of stamina and energy. It should be given a good couple of brisk medium to long walks a day at least a long with opportunities for play and time off leash to run. While it can adapt to apartment living it is best with access to a yard. It will try to dig though and the fence should be secured so it does not escape after a bird that caught its attention. Take it to a dog park where you can play doggy games with it and it can run safely off leash and socialize. Without enough exercise it is hyperactive and hard to live with being destructive, vocal, bored and rebellious. It can join you for a run, jog, cycle or hike and some Welshies even like to swim.

Caring for the Welsh Springer Spaniel

Grooming needs

The WSS takes a moderate amount of attention when it comes to grooming and maintenance. It sheds an average amount so there will be regular cleaning to do around the home to pick up loose hair. It should be brushed with a stiff bristled brush a few times a week to keep the coat in good condition and care needs to be taken especially with the feathered areas that easily tangle. Some professional trimming and clipping will be needed every couple of months. During seasonal shedding times it will shed more heavily and daily brushing is needed. Give it a bath just when it needs one to prevent damaging its natural oils. Only ever use a proper dog shampoo not a human shampoo for the same reasons.

Other needs include taking care of its ears, its teeth and its nails. Because it has ears that hang down they do not get good air circulation so they are more prone to ear infections. Check them weekly for infection signs such as irritation, redness, discharge and swelling. If they are clear then give them a weekly clean using a damp cloth or cotton ball with dog ear cleanser and wipe the areas that you can reach. Never insert anything into the ears. After bathing or swimming make sure you dry out its ears. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week. The nails can be clipped by yourself or a professional groomer. Take care not to go too low though as if you do you may cut into an area where there are blood vessels and nerves. This will cause pain to your dog and bleeding.

Feeding Time

Welsh Springers will eat about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. How much it needs can vary depending on its metabolism, activity level, age, health and size. Make sure it gets access to water that is kept fresh at any time.

How is the Welsh Springer Spaniel with children and other animals?

The Welshie is a good family dog and with socialization it makes a great playmate with children too. Together they can burn off energy and play indoors and out, and then are also affectionate and loving towards them too. It is gentle when socialized to be used to how children can be with sudden moves and sounds. That socialization also leads to it being peaceful and accepting of other pets in the home, though take care with birds. It gets along well too with other dogs.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This breed has a life span of about 12 to 15 years and is fairly healthy in general though some issues can include eye problems, ear infections, epilepsy and hip dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks causing bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 35 years, there is no mention of the Welsh Springer Spaniel. It is not an aggressive breed, and really along as it is well socialized and trained is very unlikely to attack either people or other dogs. However it has to be mentioned that while it is very unlikely, some dogs can have off days, and no dog is 100% safe all the time, they all have that potential to be triggered, sometimes by something obvious, sometimes by something we do not see. Make sure your dog is well exercised, challenged, fed, loved and cared for though and along with its socialization and training that can lessen the chances of it ever having such problems.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Welsh Springer Spaniel can cost around $1500 for a puppy from a decent and respected breeder. For a show quality dog from a top breeder you are going to pay more than that. They are not as common in North America as in the UK, and still even there you will need to do some homework on breeders that can be trusted to find what you want. Avoid taking the easier and quicker route of using pet stores, back yard breeders or worrying puppy mill sourced options. If you do not need a purebred, ie this is a companion dog not a show dog please consider checking out your local rescues and shelters. These mixed dogs have a lot to offer and there are so many that need forever homes. Adoption fees range from $50 to $400 and usually dogs come with medical needs dealt with too. While it is more likely you will find an adult than a puppy there is still a lot of love and devotion and companionship that can come from this option.

Depending on where you find your dog there are going to be certain initial costs to pay out. Health wise there are tests, procedures and checks to be done so it should go to a vet as soon as you bring it home. These will cost about $270 for things like micro chipping, a physical exam, deworming, shots, spaying, blood tests and such. There are also some things it will need at home like a crate, carrier, collar and leash and bowls and these will come to about $200.

There are also yearly costs to factor in when you are a pet owner. Your dog will need obvious things like food, health care and toys and less obvious things like pet insurance, license and miscellaneous items. An estimated yearly cost for being a Welshie owner is about $1220. This covers $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats, $460 a year for pet insurance and basic health care like flea and tick prevention, shots and check ups, and then $615 a year for grooming, license, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys.


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The Welsh Springer Spaniel is eager to please, devoted, loyal, happy and gentle. It can be independent but is also enthusiastic, forms deep attachments and is able to live with other pets and dogs (apart from birds). Give them early socialization so that it is not too wary around strangers and it will be a confident and friendly pet too. It is fairly easy to train but it does need owners committed to being active as it has a lot of energy to burn and needs more exercise than many family dogs. While it might be steadier and less exuberant than its cousins it is still a cheerful dog that will great you joyfully each day and be a strong part of the family.

Featured Image Credit: el-ka, 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.