Clumber Spaniels

With his sad eyes and large head, you might at first glance take the Clumber for a cross between a Saint Bernard and a Bloodhound. He’s a true spaniel, though, happily beating his way through thick cover to flush birds for a hunter on foot. He’s also a super family dog, in the right circumstances. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring one of these dogs.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Clumber has a sweet, gentle personality. Most of the time. Nicknamed the retired gentleman's spaniel, he looks sort of laidback and lumbering, but both nickname and appearance are deceptive. The Clumber is also playful, mischievous, intelligent and prone to getting into all kinds of trouble.

Although you might think he's too short to reach it, the Clumber is a notable counter surfer and has no qualms about stealing food. Clumber owners have been known to keep the garbage, pantry and refrigerator under lock and key to foil their canine raiders. Because they will eat just about anything, including dish towels and chew toys, the dogs are frequently the victims of intestinal blockages, which can require surgery.

Like most dogs, Clumbers become bored when left to their own devices, and the amount of damage they can do is considerable. Don't give them the run of the house until they've reached trustworthy maturity. And keep your Clumber puppy busy with training, play and socialization experiences. A bored Clumber is a destructive Clumber.

The Clumber walks at a slow pace and doesn't require the frenetic levels of exercise of some other sporting breeds, but he's not a couch potato, either, at least not when he's young. He'll enjoy moderate to long strolls or hikes, although he's not the companion for a jogger or runner, and his versatility and athleticism make him suited to a number of dog sports. You'll be ready to sign him up for agility once you've seen his ingenuity at escaping over a baby gate. He is also found participating in hunt tests, freestyle, obedience, rally and tracking. Clumbers easily learn to retrieve, making them doubly valuable to the hunter, as well as a great playmate for the kid who likes to play ball. Their calm demeanor (once they reach maturity) makes them excellent therapy dogs.

Clumbers respond well to training. Teach them with positive reinforcement techniques. They are particularly fond of food rewards. He's generally easy to housetrain, but some Clumbers are prone to submissive urination.

When a Clumber is raised with children, the two generally go together like peanut butter and jelly. Clumber puppies may be too rambunctious for families with toddlers, however, and adult Clumbers who are unfamiliar with children may not find them all that delightful.

This is not a breed for the houseproud. The Clumber slobbers and sheds. Brush him thoroughly once a week to reduce the amount of hair he spreads around the house, as well as to prevent mats and tangles. Trim his nails every two weeks or so and the hair on the bottom of his feet monthly. Check the ears weekly and clean them as needed to prevent ear infections.

While he can be a bit of a mess, the Clumber loves his people and needs to live in the house. Don't get one if you want an outside dog. It's an unhappy Clumber who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Health Issues Common to Clumber Spaniels

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems her dogs have experienced and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Clumber Spaniels are healthy in general, but some conditions can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include occasional eye problems such as entropion and ectropion; a sort of shifting leg lameness during puppyhood called eosinophilic panosteitis; hip dysplasia; intervertebral disc disease, related to the Clumber's long, low body shape; immune-mediated hemolytic anemia; hypothyroidism; liver shunt; cardiomyopathy; and an exercise intolerance syndrome called pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency.

That sounds like a lot, but not all Clumbers will get all or even any of these diseases. Being aware of them, however, will help you in your search for a reputable breeder.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that at least one of a puppy's parents is clear of PDH deficiency (a carrier may be bred to a clear dog but not to another carrier) and that both parents have up-to-date health certifications for heart and hips from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and eye certifications from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. You can help prevent problems such as hip dysplasia or IVDD by not letting puppies get fat or grow too quickly and by keeping your adult Clumber at an appropriate weight. Liver shunts are rare and often can be repaired surgically.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Entropion High $300-$1,500
Cardiomyopathy Low $500-$1,500
Hip Dysplasia Low $1,500-$6,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Clumber Spaniel Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search for a good breeder with the Clumber Spaniel Club of America, and choose one who is committed to following the CSCA's Code of Ethics.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Clumber Spaniels aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Clumber Spaniels can live 10 to 12 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Clumber Spaniel to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Clumber Spaniels

Pet insurance for Clumber Spaniels costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Clumber Spaniels are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Clumber Spaniels are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Clumber Spaniel is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.