Breed Group: Sporting
The Sussex Spaniel, like other spaniels, loves its family. They are normally quite accepting of children, especially when socialized with them. Some can be testy with other dogs or strangers, but once a new person is introduced, they are typically accepted. Other pets are usually looked upon as another member of the family. Although not as active as most spaniels making their adjustment to city life easier, those who expect a couch potato will be surprised. Although slower than the typical spaniel and in need of less exercise, they still need daily activity. This can include a walk around the block or a game of fetch in the yard. And don’t count them out as a playmate for the kids. They are as happy playing as they are snoozing at your feet. And if you have an interest, they will be happy to use a steady, methodical approach to search for small prey in the field. They bark less than the average dog unless left alone for extended periods of time when they can bark and howl excessively. But even given their quiet nature, they still make a good watch dog. They even make a reasonable guardian as many have a protective instinct unusual in a spaniel. Some are a challenge to house break.
An average size dog, the Sussex Spaniel stands 13 to 15 inches tall. But longer and heavier bodied than most dogs that size, they weigh between 35 and 45 pounds. Their silky, liver-colored coat is easy to care for, needing at most a modest effort to keep it clean and tangle free. They shed no more than most dogs with some shedding less than others. They do well in any reasonable temperature range.
A Sussex Spaniel needs at least an average effort devoted to socialization. Spending more time introducing them to other people and animals when they are young will reduce their tendency to be stand-offish with strangers and other dogs. Not an easy dog to train, use of anything other than positive methods will only result in widening their natural stubborn streak. Consistency in training is a must. A Sussex Spaniel makes a reasonable choice for new dog owners.
As a result of a small gene pool that has forced more inbreeding than is desirable, the Sussex Spaniel has some significant health issues. First and foremost among them is 4 in 10 dogs suffering from Hip Dysplasia with another 1 in 6 affected by Elbow Dysplasia. Some lines are susceptible to Hypothyroidism and cardiac problems including Heart Murmurs and an enlarged heart. And with their long back and heavy body, it makes sense to heed the precautions that go along with Intervertebral disk disease. A healthy dog lives to about the age of 12.
The least popular of all the spaniels, the Sussex is a rare breed. They rank 143rd in popularity among the American Kennel Club’s recognized breeds with fewer than 100 dogs registered in a typical year. Combining a small population with high puppy mortality rates virtually assures a wait for a puppy and prices higher than average.
The Sussex Spaniel traces its roots to Sussex County, England. The first important kennel for the breed was established in 1795 and the “spaniels of Sussex” are mentioned in an 1820 sporting publication. Even though the Sussex Spaniel was among the first 10 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, the breed has never achieved much popularity. In fact, the Sussex Spaniel has been perilously close to extinction as a breed since early in the 20th century. So few individuals have sometimes been available for breeding that an unhealthy level of inbreeding has sometimes been required. To reduce this problem and to expand the gene pool, in 1954 an outcross was made to a Clumber Spaniel. However, because of its rarity, the gene pool remains limited.
The National (US) Breed Club is the Sussex Spaniel Club of America.