Welsh Springer Spaniels

The Welsh Springer Spaniel is distinguished from his cousin the English Springer Spaniel by his coat of rich red and white, a somewhat more laidback personality, and his slightly smaller size, ranging from 35 to 55 pounds. He's a versatile hunting dog with excellent retrieving abilities on land and from water, thanks to his slightly webbed feet. He has many excellent qualities, but he's not the right breed for everyone. Here's what you need to know if you're considering acquiring a Welsh Springer Spaniel.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

If you don't want a dog that sticks to you like Velcro, don't get a Welsh Springer Spaniel. He possesses the traits common to all spaniels: He's affectionate, gentle and intelligent, not to mention devoted to his family.

With his moderate size, he can be a good choice for families with children: not so big that he could hurt youngsters by stepping on them and not so small that he runs much risk of being hurt by them. He also gets along well with other pets such as cats if he's raised with them. He is reserved with strangers, but shouldn't be shy or unfriendly. His alert and protective nature makes him a good watchdog.

In the field, his job is to flush birds from heavy cover and then retrieve them. Even if you don't hunt, he'll still take every opportunity to flush feathered game and do his best to go after it. Unless you're in a traffic-free area, keep him on leash or you'll lose him to the chase.

Plan to give a Welsh Springer Spaniel daily exercise in the form of a long walk or hike or a half-hour run. He's also a super competitor in dog sports such as agility, obedience and rally, and his excellent nose makes him a natural at tracking.

Train the Welsh Springer Spaniel with firmness and consistency to overcome his occasional tendency to be stubborn. For best results, use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards.

Brush the Welsh Springer Spaniel's medium-length coat two or three times a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles. You may also need to trim it for neatness every couple of months. A bath every six weeks or so doesn't go amiss. In addition, trim the nails as needed, brush the teeth, and keep the ears clean and dry to prevent infections.

Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Welsh Springer Spaniel needs to live in the house. It's an unhappy Welsh Springer Spaniel who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Health Issues Common to Welsh Springer 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 in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Welsh Springer Spaniels have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, autoimmune thyroiditis, and eye diseases such as entropion, glaucoma and hereditary cataracts.

The Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Welsh Springer to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA or PennHIP certification for hips, an OFA thyroid evaluation at ages 2, 3, 5 and 7, an OFA elbow evaluation and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC's website to see if a breeder's dogs have these certifications.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Entropion Medium $300-$1,500
Elbow Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$4,000
Cataracts Medium $1,000-$5,000
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Welsh Springer Spaniel Puppy

To find a list of breeders, visit the website of the Welsh Springer Spaniel Spaniel Club of America. The breed is not common, so there may be a bit of a wait before a puppy is available.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Sometimes health problems aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Welsh Springer Spaniels can live 12 to 15 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Welsh Springer 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.

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.

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 Welsh Springer Spaniels

Pet insurance for Welsh Springer Spaniels costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Welsh Springer Spaniels are 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 many of the breed-specific conditions to which Welsh Springer Spaniels are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Welsh Springer 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.