Temperament: Friendly, Merry, Even-Tempered
- Height: 13-15 inches
- Weight: 35-45 pounds
- Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
- Group: Sporting Group
"Placid, affectionate, even-tempered, true-blue, loyal" — all are words used to describe the Sussex Spaniel, a slow-but-steady hunter and congenial housedog. His frowning expression is delightfully at odds with a typically cheerful nature.
Its short legs, massive build, long body, and habit of giving tongue when on scent made the breed ideally suited to penetrating the dense undergrowth and flushing game within range of the gun. Strength, maneuverability, and desire were essential for this purpose. Although it has never gained great popularity in numbers, the Sussex Spaniel continues today essentially unchanged in character and general appearance from those 19th century sporting dogs. The Sussex Spaniel presents a long and low, rectangular and rather massive appearance coupled with free movements and nice tail action. The breed has a somber and serious expression. The rich golden liver color is unique to the breed.
About the Sussex Spaniel
Sussex are long, low-built bird dogs of great strength and endurance. Topping out at just 15 inches tall at the shoulder, Sussex are nonetheless described as “massive,” with a deep chest and heavy bone. Their trademark is an abundant, feathery coat of rich golden-liver. The classic spaniel head, with its wavy-coated ears and big hazel eyes, projects a somber, frowning expression delightfully at odds with the Sussex’s innate cheerfulness.
NUTRITION Sussex Spaniels are a very slow-growing breed. The Sussex Spaniel should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Intact Sussex are almost never overweight, as they tend to only eat as much as they need. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
GROOMING General grooming for the breed is simply bathing, brushing, and combing. The hair on the bottoms of the feet should be trimmed to keep the dog from slipping. If the dog is neutered, the coat becomes fuzzy and cotton-candy like, and is much harder to deal with. The Sussex should not be shaved down unless absolutely necessary, as it takes a long time for the coat to recover. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly.
EXERCISE The Sussex Spaniel should not have strenuous exercise before he is at least a year old. Sussex are slow growing, and exercise too early can damage the growth plates. Puppies should be allowed to self-exercise by playing. Adult Sussex love swimming and long walks, but jumping and agility-type work should not start until the dog is at least 18 months old.
TRAINING Sussex can be stubborn; they have long memories and will never forget nor forgive rough handling. Sussex owners should strive to convey to the dog clearly what they want, and give the dog lots of praise when he gets it right.
HEALTH Sussex are difficult to breed, and bitches often skip seasons, re-absorb puppies, and need C-sections. Puppies are fragile until about two weeks of age. Responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as heart problems. Bloat can affect some Sussex, and cancer occurs in mostly older dogs. A genetic test is now available for pdp1, a heritable metabolic, allowing breeders to identify carriers and avoid producing affected offspring.