The English Springer Spaniel belongs to the Gun Dog or AKC Sporting group.
They are a compact, hearty medium-sized dog with long pendant ears. They should be sturdy and neither too light nor too heavy. Trixie weighed about 35 pounds as an adult. The tail is generally docked (and wagging!). The dog should have a proud bearing, with a level back approximately the same length as the height at the withers (never longer). The front legs should be straight.
Trixie was rescued from the Humane Society and therefore I had no AKC papers or anything like that, although, I was assured she was a pure bred. I was fine with that since I didn’t plan to competitively show her. I was just thrilled to have an English Springer Spaniel in her new forever home.
The long, wide, pendant ears hang close to the cheeks and reach the nose when pulled forward. The ends of her ears were always a magnet for burrs and branches she’d pick up from sniffing around outdoors and I was always needing to carefully remove them and regularly brush out her ears. Grooming wasn’t difficult but needed to be done to keep her hair from matting.
It was those ears that caused about the only health problems I had with her as she grew up.
Generally, these dogs love water and may constantly get themselves wet and muddy, and Trixie was no exception.
While she was not a huge fan of water, she was not afraid of it and still liked rollicking in it when I took her to a nearby lake. She wouldn’t go in so deep she had to swim but she enjoyed running in shallow water.
Because the ears were long, they would cover her ear canals that when wet would often develop into an ear infection.
She was not very tolerant of me cleaning her ears and I had to resort to taking her to a local pet shop where the owner would graciously clean her ears and put in medication. Later, my veterinarian would clean her ears and apply the medication. It was a recurring problem, albeit about the only health issue Trixie had.
When allowed to grow longer, Trixie’s coat was medium in length with feathering over the legs, ears, cheeks and brisket. Her coat color was liver and white, while some other ESS’s might be black and white. The white areas of her legs had some ticking. The liver color would really stand out when outdoors at sunset.
English Springers are even-tempered, gentle, friendly, and sociable dogs. I’ve heard them described as “Velcro” dogs because they always want to be around their owner. Sure enough, Trixie would always follow me around from room to room and always wanted to be near me. When human guests were around she had to participate and wanted to be part of whatever we were doing. She would often lie at my feet when I was working on the computer.
At the adolescent age Trixie could be extra high-energy and all over me, testing and challenging the leadership position. Adolescent Springers need a lot of authoritative guidance and are best when they are with people who can provide them with some kind of consistent structure where the rules are made clear. It took me a while to train her not to jump up on me all the time. Her sharp little nails caught more than one piece of clothing; tearing them. After many hours of training her jumping somewhat slowed as eventually she learned that “OFF!” meant to stop jumping on me, even though I couldn’t always curb her enthusiasm to jump up on other people.
Trixie also had another disturbing behavior that needed to be tamed. I don’t know if I was being too meek with Trixie or didn’t provide enough daily mental and physical exercise, but we did have some aggression issues.
One issue we had during the first few years was that at unpredictable times she would become aggressive – what I called her Jekyll and Hyde personality. It seemed at times, perhaps not seeing me as a strong authority figure, she figured it was her job to take over the leadership role and keep me in line. Sometimes when I approached her, she would snarl at me and take a very aggressive pose. If I continued to approach her, she would lunge at me as if to bite, but she never bit.
After doing some research I learned this breed sometimes exhibited what is called “Springer Rage Syndrome”. Springers apparently appear to be much more likely to suddenly bite than the average breed. Some people feel that this is just an extreme example of dominance aggression that occurs in a few breeds including springers. After discussing it with her trainer, we concluded she likely didn’t have the syndrome and training would improve the situation.
Dealing with this behavior was a first priority as I was concerned about the potential danger to friends and family, especially children. I tried to always make a point of close supervision when she was around kids. Sometimes, even if Trixie were to approach first and interacting well, she would suddenly become aggressive.
At first I attempted verbal and visual cues to stop her aggression. I would stand firmly and point my hand to her as I loudly said “NO!”. I tried using a spray water bottle or water squirt gun to spray her face when she lunged at me, but that didn’t seem to work. Reluctantly, I turned to more harsh discipline by swatting her on the nose with a rolled up newspaper when she came at me. That was something I remember my dad doing with our dogs when I was a kid. It worked!
Trixie also had a definite food aggression. I learned early on to let her alone when eating. I did try to train that behavior out of her by hand feeding her. I would put her kibble in my palm and she would have to eat from my hand. That seemed to improve the behavior but I remained cautious when she was eating.
I soon discovered rawhide chews were another trigger for aggression. If I approached her while chewing and I suppose believed I intended to take it away from her, she would noticeably signal for me to back off. I noticed, too, that even after a period after chewing on that rawhide, she would exhibit that Jekyll/Hyde personality. Eventually I stopped giving her rawhide chews and those episodes quit as well.
She could also be pretty possessive of discoveries like dead animals or unknown matter she found laying around the yard. To get things away from her I would have to either quickly “snatch” it out of her mouth or distract her with something more yummy or appealing.
Oftentimes, Springers may become destructive and start to bark a lot if left alone. At one point I had set up a remote camera so I could watch Trixie when away from the house. (Now those are handy devices.) Trixie didn’t bark but she did whine a lot, jumping on furniture to see out the window, and roamed from room to room looking for me.
Barking really never was a problem with Trixie and the only times she’d bark was to let me know there was somebody outside the door or in her yard. I did notice, though, that after she lost her hearing, she barked more as if needing to get attention.
Trixie was intelligent, skillful, willing and obedient and a quick learner. In keeping with her name, I wanted her to learn some tricks. But, before we could do that, basic obedience training was in order. I took her to training classes at Chisholm Creek Pet Resort where we learned basic commands and socialized with other dogs. I always enjoyed those classes and was happy Trixie learned to come, sit, stay, and heal. That was nice when we would later take walks around the neighborhood. We also used a Gentle Leader training collar that seemed to work quite well. She would walk at my side without pulling and when I stopped walking she would patiently sit next to me. Of course, she knew too that meant a “goodie” was coming which I always carried in a pouch on my belt when we took walks.
Training a young puppy is not as hard as you may think as they are like a blank sheet of paper waiting to be written on. The way and things that that they are taught will stick to them and will influence them later on in life, although training isn’t forever so you need spend a few minutes every day just to keep reminding them what to do.
Trixie was affectionate, good natured and sincere; she loved everyone. She was always so excited when I had visitors and I did have some issues with her jumping on people to welcome them. Once calmed down she did okay and just wanted to be around us and be part of whatever was going on. A good belly rub was always welcome.
Trixie was such an adorable and intelligent creature. She had the tremendous capacity for unconditional love and I know she loved me. She was a family member. Nobody can compare with the dog in its loyalty.
She always enjoyed visiting Janet’s home where there were numerous other dogs for her to play with. I didn’t have to leash her when we arrived at Janet’s as Trixie knew exactly where the front door was and would run there waiting to be let it. Janet and Dave were dog lovers themselves and would always lavish love and goodies on Trixie. And, Janet had a great stairwell going to the basement where she could get lots of exercise and burn off energy running up and down those steps.
Another thing I remember fondly about her is when she would come out of the house onto the back porch, instead of stepping down the two steps to the yard she would take a flying leap.
Although I didn’t have long stairs in my house, when we visited my sister or someone who had a longer stairwell, Trixie loved running up and down those steps.
Usually Springers are good with other pets. She seemed to get along well with my sister’s Golden Retriever and was always playful around other dogs. There were a few times when I was fostering another puppy she had to assert her dominance when those puppy’s would jump on her or pull on her long ears. She mostly tolerated their playfulness but I always made a point of constant supervision when around those fostered puppy’s. I would have to sometimes step in and separate them before any harm occurred.
English Springer Spaniels adapt well to town or city life. They will do okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised. Fortunately, I had installed a doggie door where she came and went whenever she wanted. That gave her access to a medium sized yard whenever she wanted and she enjoyed many hours of playing outside. When she came indoors, she pretty much chilled out and was relatively inactive.
Springers enjoy as much exercise as you can give them and they need lots of it to be happy. Although not as consistent as I could have been, I tried taking her on regular walks where we would practice her heeling training. She did very well heeling beside or behind me, never in front. I would sometimes take her to a local park where she enjoyed running and playing off the leash.
The life expectancy for English Springer Spaniels is about 12-14 years. Trixie did begin showing noticeable signs of aging at around 12 years. By 14 she began losing her hearing and not too longer after that became blind. Afraid she might injure herself stumbling down the back steps, I fabricated a temporary ramp to help her go up and down the steps.
Trixie lived to be over 16 years old with what I believe was a full and satisfying life. She was never neglected or abused, only loved and coddled. She was family and went almost everywhere I went as she experienced new and different adventures.
Her last days were difficult as she had lost over 10 pounds and was eating less and less. She never really adjusted to her blindness as she would bump into things head first or find herself standing in a corner confused of where to go. When she found herself disoriented outdoors, and sometimes indoors, she would walk in circles until she bumped in to something.
It was difficult to watch as she seemed to lose most her energy and not very interested in playing. She spent more time sleeping and wandering slowly around the house.
Ultimately, I had to make the difficult and unwanted decision to end her life and she went peacefully on September 17, 2021 at about 5:30 p.m.
I miss her deeply and thank God for the years of companionship and enjoyment we shared together.
Rest in peace my sweet baby.