Friday, 19 November 2010

Springer time

© Stephen Ward
There's a fab pic of an English Springer Spaniel on the banner image of the Kennel Club's homepage at the moment (above), selling "happy, healthy dogs".

It's selling a lie, though, because a dog like this would never win in the KC show-ring.

Here's the English Springer Spaniel that won BOB at Crufts this year, Sc Ch Trimere of Allenie.
© The Kennel Club

What does the breed standard say about the coat on an English Springer Spaniel?
"Close, straight and weather resisting, never coarse. Moderate feathering on ears, forelegs, body and hindquarters."


For goodness sake, this is supposed to be a working dog!


  1. One thing I never understood about the PDE show was the whole ''photo comparison'' if a single black and white pic represents an ENTIRE breed from the good ol' days.

    I think its shocking and possibly libelous that you have critised a specific dog by name and inferred that he is unfit for purpose. Regular grooming promotes a coat such as this......I'm sure that if he were working in the field the briars and twigs would sort the extra bits out.

    I'm all for your supposed ''cause'' of educating the ignorant masses about dog health, but you are regularly verging more and more onto radical extremist territory....very PETA.

  2. Hmm. Is it possible to libel a dog?

    You reckon you could groom the working springer in the top pic so that its coat grew like this? Nonsense. It's been selected for and it would be a dreadful hazard in the field.

    I've only inferred that the coat is unfit for purpose, incidentally, not the dog. The dog may be able to do a day's work. In a bramble-free zone.


  3. I'm sure a solicitor could argue that you are potentially damaging a breeder's puppy sales and a specific dog's reputation as a show dog and stud dog by printing that he represents something ''unfit'' to the general public.

    I reckon the Springer in the pic on top is most likely a bitch, age I couldn't say, and I also reckon there are many show-winning Springer bitches who look just like that, particularly after a season when they lose most everything.

    So whilst you might be once again trying to put spin on a photo to ''prove'' something, it really is nothing more than spin.

    I suppose you were also sending angry letters to John Lewis over their advert?

  4. This is a good example of the divide between the working type and the show type. The top picture shows an athletic working type, with little feathering, the kind of dog you see on the beating line.
    The bottom pic is of the typical show springer, which has a very different body and much more feathering. It is taller and narrower and note the way its back slopes down to the tail.
    I've never seen one of these dogs on the beating line!!
    They are not fit for purpose as gundogs, though they may be lovely dogs otherwise, simply because they have not been bred for it and they have diverged too much from the type of dog required for shooting. But they are obviously fit for purpose for the show ring, ie that is the look the show people want.
    Interestingly, you see less and less of the show type nowadays, and many more of the working type, and I'm talking about everyday life, not out shooting.
    Jemima, I'd like to point out to the anonymous person, was only making an observation that happens to be true. It's as clear as daylight to anyone interested in spaniels. It's not a question of spin.
    I think the two types have diverged so much that the show version should not be labelled a gun dog any more. Ditto the show cockers. It's not fair on them to be called gundogs when they are not.
    Julia Lewis, spaniel owner

  5. To above poster, I agree totally that there is a different ''type'' found amongst Spaniel breeds...and also dogs used for other types of field work (ie Pointers and Setters) to name a few.

    My point is ''what's the big deal?'' Different strokes for different folks, but WHERE is the harm here?

    Why single out a specific animal by name for criticism? There are LOTS of dogs who would seem inapporpriate for their original role....Bobtails, Hungarian Puli, the list is a long one..........but what is the BIG DEAL about someone wanting to keep a dog who fits a different ideal than you personally prefer?

    Get over it already.

  6. ...And particularly the American cocker. Should be re-classified as a toy. But of course many show-breeders of spaniels, setters, labradors and collies labour under the misapprehension that all you need to do is show these dogs a gun or a pheasant or a sheep and...da-daa..

    That's not to say that there aren't some dual purpose dogs. There are, and they are to be celebrated.


  7. I have Afghans. I know for damn sure that grooming doesn't make coat grow more or longer than it is genetically programmed to do. It is certainly true that dogs that no longer 'work' have no reason to have a working coat, but most pet owners don't want to deal with too much coat. Breeding for loads of coat and then selling off pet quality pups as pets is ridiculous, just like breeding dogs that require special diets to be healthy and placing them as pets is ridiculous. Pet owners deserve to have dogs that are *pets* and don't take special care and diets and medications to make them in to normal dogs!

    You want to talk about libel? I was libeled, in the UK Saluki breed club magazine. Because I hate what the show ring has done to my beloved Afghans so much, that I won't breed pure Afghans. I chose to crossbreed to Salukis to reduce coat to a practical level. And for that, I was showcased (though not by name, they simply included my e-mail address and web site) and the world was told that "I don't care about purebred dogs."

    I love them too much to breed them the way they are. So sue me.

  8. Jess, I would love to see a pic of your Afghan/Saluki crosses - and any picture references to how Afghans have been changed by the show-ring.


  9. Anon wrote: "My point is ''what's the big deal?'' Different strokes for different folks, but WHERE is the harm here?"

    This is a valid point. Where there isn't a welfare cost to the dog (and unfortunatelyquite often there is), I'd agree that there's no real harm done.

    What I find irritating, however, is the way show breeders claim their dogs are the "correct type".

  10. When we say a coat is fundamentally "improper" for field work, it's not about length, but about density and fiber. What you want to avoid is a linty-coat that cannot hold heat and shed water.

    My dogs are short (smooth) coated, and do fine in cold weather (they are outside most of the time) but a long-coated coat dog is also fine if it is of the right type of coat.

    Type of coat is important, but a coat that is too long and which is also of the right type, is quickly-fixed with scissors.

    Does that mean a dog that does not look like a Barbie doll will win in the ring? No, probably not. But if a long-haired dog with a good proper-type coat is given to a hunter, they can fix it right for the field in only a few minutes and with no more equipment that a decent set of scissors..

    Dense coats, of course, are rarely long.

    As a general rule, as you move away from "fur" and towards "hair," the ability to shed water, mud and brambles goes down.

    The hard water- and mud-shedding guard hairs on a dog, which are brittle and do not grow too long as a consequence, disappear and a dog is likely to have its "hair" matt up and cold spots made, with water-in-the-coat retained.

    Border terriers and Bedlingtons are a good examples to use when talking about good and bad coats. The old Bedlingtons and most of the good working Borders are (or were) "slape coated dogs" where water, mudd and briar rolled off. The show ring crowd have now wrecked the Bedlington coat by making it soft and linty so it cannot hold heat or shed water. Some of the show Borders also have crappy soft coats which are hidden from view by only showing the Borders in a stripped-down coat. Of course very few people hunt Borders now! Any why would they, when a good working Paterdale or Fell with a decent slape coat can be had for a handshake and a promise among the serous digging men?


  11. Re JHs last post about being irritated when others claim their dogs are the correct type: isn't that precisely what you are doing?

  12. My blog:

    The first few posts are about inbreeding so purity hardliners might want to avoid.

    First crosses:

    Backcrosses (75% Afghan):

    Vintage Afghan images (I have a specific interest in native Afghans and patterned dogs so these are mostly patterned):

    Native Afghans in Pakistan (the little bitch at the top is owned by a friend of mine):

    Afghans in Afghanistan:

    "Aboriginal" Afghans in Russia, these dogs were bred from Afghani dogs imported in the seventies and eighties:

    The so-called Khalag Tazi (these dogs share ancestry with the ancestors of the Russian Aboriginal Afghans, the Swedish kennel club would not allow them to be called Afghans):

    Modern show Afghans (any Google search will net you plenty of pictures of these):

    Modern racing Afghan hounds (contrast with the show dogs):

    Note that the division between the so-called 'mountain' and 'desert' types in native dogs is fairly bogus; a look at both dogs of the past and modern native dogs shows mountain and desert and everything in between, there is no hard division, that is a construct of early fanciers who were arguing about who had the 'correct' type. No one bothered to ask the native breeders, of course.

    For comparison, Salukis in their countries of origin, including Tazis in the Eastern part of the range (ignore the lack of hair and note the conformational similarities with COO Afghans):

    Sorry for the links and for diverting your thread!

  13. It would be wonderful to see the working type in the ring, a gorgeous healthy happy dog with natural hair and shorter ear length.
    Ears may seem like a superficial feature of the breeds, but visit a vet practice in the spring and record which breeds are coming in with grass seeds in their ears and which breeds are more likely to have ear infections and its clear to see a shorter ear is far more welfare friendly.

  14. Jess, your dogs are beautiful. May I blog them as a separate post?


  15. To the anonymous post, of course it's not a big deal and there is no harm in having two types of springers (and two types of cockers), it's just a bit dotty when they are described as gundogs, and paraded at Crufts as though they are the dogs used for shooting, when they most definitely are not.
    Someone who didn't know anything about spaniels might go out and buy a show type, thinking it was the thing to get, then find it was of little use out in the field.
    Julia Lewis

  16. A little OT maybe, but I'm just wondering if you're sure that the dog in the banner is an English Springer Spaniel...? Looks a lot like Kleiner Münsterländer in my eyes...

  17. Jemima, maybe you have done more good than you reckon - the KC does have a less extreme type of spaniel on it's banner, not the long-haired show type, right?

    I don't know if you have American Cockers over there like we do here. Our show type has hair so long that no light shows under the belly - the whole area beneath the dog is hair, both from the dog's belly, and sides, as well as growing back from the front legs. And the Cockers would be even hairier looking, if it weren't for the hair on their backs being clippered short.

    Not that that is so terrible, but it is more work than what most people want in a pet. To get hair that is easier to care for, several people here breed cock-a-poos - they have been a popular crossbred since the 1960s.

  18. I dont see how breeding a cocker to a poodle results in a better coat. poodles have huge coats that require regular grooming and the added disadvantage of fur around their eyes and mouth.
    I worked in a groomers and no one ever brushed their poodles , they thought having them shaved ever 4 months was enough( I had the pleasure of removing the matts so they could be trimmed properly)

    I do however agree that show coats are unpractical and unfair on the dogs who are sold to pet homes and neglected.I dont see the point of a dog who is kept in wrappers year round and only look "good" for a few hours on show days.

    regarding springers , until recently I groomed a working type springer ( his soft long coat got smelly when he went out on shoots and in ponds so they shaved him) he was huge with short little legs and had surgery for elbow displacia as a youngster.
    The last time I saw him he had heart failure and was expected to die in a few months, He was only 6.

  19. Jess, thanks for a very interesting and encouraging blog! Particularly liked the post on the MHC. And your dogs, they look as if they could run with the wind...Oh, if there were people like you in my breed!

  20. How about the Irish Setters? It all 'coat, coat, and more coat' hear that some poor dogs aren't even allowed to run in woods or long grass just so as they keep the coat!!!
    Doesn't matter what is underneath either;

  21. Correct type is exactly what breeders are aiming for. Honestly, how many structurally sound working Springers exist today, especially of American field lines? How many working Springers actually exhibit correct type? Not many.

    Feathering is the least of problems in a working dog as that can be quickly modified with shears or even sprayed down with products to reduce thorns and bramble from getting caught. A correct coat type isn't prone to getting caught and tangled anyway. My Spaniel has moderate silky feathering and burrs slide out easily from his hair.

    I can appreciate both types within the ESS breed, but there are many other sporting breeds that do not have a split in types and I wonder why the same can't be said of this breed.