Taking the spotlight as the Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 2009, Sussex spaniel breed earned its new fans. Despite being a guard breed, the Sussex makes a good show dog or a pet, is adaptable, and is good with children. Considered as bird dogs, it has a rectangular body sporting its trademark—an abundant, feathery-rich, golden liver coat. Sussex has its own association solely supporting the breed. However, it is considered as a vulnerable native breed having very few registered pedigree puppies with the Kennel Club every year. The Sussex, with its frowny-looking face, contradicts its cheerful and energetic nature.
The Sussex spaniel originated in the eighteenth century in the UK. Mr. Augustus Elliott Fuller, a rich British landowner, was recognised as the Sussex founder. For fifty years, they were kept as working dogs on his large estate. Its breeding was limited mainly to Sussex County, and the spaniels were occasionally inbred with field spaniels.
There were other Sussex spaniel breeders; however, their numbers dropped during World War II. Since breeding was discouraged during wartime, their numbers dwindled and only about five to seven known Sussex spaniels were left. Gratefully, through the hard work of breeder enthusiasts, Mrs. Joy Freer in particular, saving the lovely breed was a success. The breed is recognised by Kennel Club in the UK.
For the protection of the breed, the Sussex Spaniel Association was formed in 1924. The breed was soon identified by the Kennel Club in 2004 as a vulnerable British breed with only about fifty registered dogs in 2016.
Appearance and Grooming
Considered as bird dogs, the Sussex spaniel has a long, rectangular body and sporting its trademark—an abundant, feathery-rich, golden liver coat. In comparison with the rest of the spaniel breeds, Sussex yields a very unique look. Its head is wider, having a defining curve between its ears. It is strongly built and moves with a distinctive roll.
The breed has hazel eye colour showing off a soft and a gentle expression. It has thick, fairly large ears set moderately low. One of the noticeable features is visible around its neck, full of long, slightly-wavy ruffles.
Round in shape, its feet are well built with feathering in between. The tail is pleasantly feathered, set low, moderately long, and couldn’t be carried way above its back.
The Sussex spaniel is distinctive with its abundant coat. Its ears are covered with soft, wavy hair. Its body is moderately well-feathered, with golden liver as the only accepted breed colour. Gold is the predominant colour.
This well-feathered breed needs regular grooming to keep its coat untangled and flea-free. Trim the hair at the bottom of the feet to avoid slipping.
Temperament and Intelligence
In contrast to its sombre and frowning expression, it is actually a friendly, cheerful dog. It makes such a good companion because it loves being around people, hence, joining into any activity with its tail wagging with enthusiasm. It doesn’t like to be left alone. It is very communicative through barking when it finds something unusual or exciting. It can be a good choice for first-time owners as it has a laid-back nature and is always willing and eager to please the owner. Bear in mind that as a gun dog, this breed needs exercise routine or regular walks. Though compared to the other hunting dogs, the Sussex moves at a slower pace.
The Sussex spaniel is known to be intelligent and is easy to train. Owners are encouraged to train their dogs as early as eight weeks old. With late training, the breed tends to do things its own way and could develop some unwanted behavioural issues.
As this canine is intelligent and trainable, it is also sensitive particularly on 'voice' commands. Therefore, using the technique of raised voice doesn’t always end up with a desired positive result for this breed. The best choice is to use positive reinforcement during training.
Nutrition and Feeding
It is important to have a feeding schedule and provide the same food your Sussex is used to in order to avoid stomach upsets. However, if you need to shift to another type of high-quality food, do so gradually. This helps your canine to adjust accordingly without complications.
Its nutritional requirement will largely depend on its age and size. However, as it is a very slow-growing breed, it is best to feed it with high-quality dog food. You can add some extra meat source such as hamburger, beef liver, or chicken. It’s also essential for dogs to have the right amount of exercise to avoid obesity.
Health and Exercise
The average Sussex lifespan is ten to twelve years. This breed is known to be affected by the following health conditions:
- Hip dysplasia
- Heart problems
- Otitis externa
- Deafness and eye problems
As a very energetic dog, the Sussex spaniel should be exercised for at least two hours every day. However, the more tired this pooch is, the happier it will be, so going beyond the minimum time is a welcome treat.
Cost of Ownership
Purchasing a Sussex Spaniel puppy means going on a waiting list as this breed is rare in the UK. A well-bred Kennel Club-registered pedigree puppy can cost from £500 to £600. To ensure it stays healthy at whatever age, you will need to feed your dog high quality dog food and treats, which can set you back £30-£40 a month. You would also need to spend on dog accessories such as leads, collars, eating bowls, crates, beds, and toys. The combined initial cost for these things is estimated at £200.
Moreover, you need to consider paying for pet insurance to offset veterinary bills in case your dog suddenly falls ill or gets into an accident. Depending on where you live and your dog’s health and age, a time-limited cover can cost £24 a month while a lifetime one can cost up to £45 a month. Generally, insurance companies do not cover routine veterinary consultations, initial vaccinations, boosters, and neutering or spaying, so you may also have to spend an additional £1000 annually for these services.
On average, the minimum cost to care for a Sussex Spaniel is £60-£90 per month depending on your pet insurance premium. This estimate does not include the rates for other services such as walking and grooming.
Sussex Spaniel Breed Highlights
- The Sussex spaniel loves to please its owners.
- The breed keeps its eyes on its owners. It has a strong guarding instinct.
- The breed has a unique colour—its golden liver coat is its crowning glory.
- This breed needs regular brushing (2–3 times a week) and probably professional grooming.
- The Sussex spaniel is good with children.
Are you sure the Sussex Spaniel is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.
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