For those of you who like a little variety in their lives and to have something that is unique, there are four uncommon spaniel breeds to consider.
The Clumber Spaniel is physically an awesome dog. Standing only 17 – 19 inches, they weigh from 65 to 85 pounds. The ponderous head is very British. The expression of the face—and of the stubby tail—tells the discerning observer much about the remarkably English character of the breed: reserved, mellow, friendly, yet determined. And yet they can be very animated. While their short legs tend to keep them within gun range, they definitely hunt hard and enthusiastically. They hunt intelligently to both sides, retrieve nicely and enter the water eagerly. Clumbers track so naturally that some believe that a Basset may have successfully wooed one of the bitches used in the development of the Clumber. There are physical and mental similarities between the breeds.
The slow maturing Field Spaniel is a soft, affectionate breed that enjoys constant human companionship. Playful rather than hostile, neither aggressive nor territorial, yet reserved with strangers. They want nothing more than to please the boss, are easily trained and controlled, and love to retrieve. This country is full of hunters who would be happier with the Fieldie than with any other dog. They would suit upland hunters who work small areas of heavy cover, hunters who want their birds flushed close to the gun and retrieved to hand. Fieldies would suit upland hunters who hunt areas with ponds and streams. Most of all, Fieldies would suit upland hunters with families. All but the most serious would enjoy the Fieldie’s occasional practical jokes, too.
The Sussex Spaniel is small and calm enough for apartment living, devoted enough to be a family pet, protective enough to keep the uninvited away, unusual (and attractive) enough to garner its share of oohs and aahs, and naturally talented enough to help Dad fill his game bag each fall without much formal training. Like most soft dogs, the Sussex wants to please its master. However, it shows just a trace of independence, even stubbornness. The Sussex makes a good journeyman bird finder/flusher without much formal training. The breed is a natural in the field. A good Sussex will work as though possessed. Extremely birdy, with its outstanding nose naturally close to the ground, the Sussex goes into a world by itself while hunting. It can wiggle through and under the most impenetrable tangles as it tracks a running bird. The Sussex that retrieves naturally or through force-breaking will retrieve from water, too, after it discovers that it can swim. The breed doesn’t seek water naturally but adjusts to it reasonably well.
A marvelous little all-weather ducker, the American Water Spaniel can also bust the nastiest cover in the uplands to flush and retrieve birds for the boss. The dog’s small size and placid temperament make him ideal in a duck skiff. His methodical thoroughness in the uplands makes him a delightful companion. The character of the AWS is pure American. In fact, my one-word description of the breed is “opportunistic.” The AWS is physically tough, durable and healthy. Mentally tough, too, the AWS has enough aggressiveness for an occasional crippled honker. The AWS will hunt anything the feather-chase can stuff in his game bag. Some even use them for rabbits.
Excerpted from Hup! Training Flushing Spaniels the American Way, Second Edition by James B. Spencer