What to Know About the Sussex Spaniel

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on June 22, 2022
6 min read

The Sussex spaniel hunting dog is one of the first nine breeds to be identified by the American Kennel Club, even though today it is quite rare, as there are only about 600 of these dogs in the United States. 

Built low to the ground with a frowning expression, this dog has a funny appearance but a very loving and loyal personality. 

Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about making the Sussex spaniel a part of your family.

So, what is a Sussex spaniel? This breed is unlike any of the other spaniels since it moves rather slowly even though it is quite energetic. It has a compact, powerful body and stands between 13 and 15 inches at the shoulder, weighing between 35 to 45 pounds. 

With a heavy build, the Sussex spaniel is ready to work hard, as it was developed to flush and retrieve game. Sussex spaniels have deep chests, heavy bones, and large heads, all while staying pretty low to the ground.

The Sussex spaniel has very thick skin to protect its body from brush and undergrowth while retrieving game. The skin is loose all over the dog’s body. The Sussex spaniel has a large, wide head and large, thick ears that hang low and close to the skull. This dog has large, hazel eyes that show little expression. Sussex spaniels have muscular legs, well-padded feet, and strong jaws, all of which help them when it comes to hunting.

One of the most unique things about this dog is the Sussex spaniel’s colors. It has a rich, golden-liver-colored double coat all over its body. Its undercoat is weather-resistant, and the outer coat has medium-length hair that’s wavy on the ears. The Sussex spaniel’s coat is feathery, but the covering of the tail is thick and unfeathered.

The Sussex spaniel temperament is friendly and cheerful even though it has a very serious expression. This dog is very even-tempered and makes a good family housedog since it’s very calm, loyal, and affectionate. Like other spaniels, this dog is a natural companion and loves to be around humans. A Sussex spaniel loves to entertain and play and can be quite goofy at times. 

Even though Sussex spaniels love the company of their families and people, though, not all enjoy living with other animals. This is something to consider if you have pets or want to add more pets to your home in the future.

Part of caring for your Sussex spaniel dog is maintaining its beautiful coat. Unlike other spaniels, its coat doesn’t need clipping but should be groomed a few times a week. You can use a brush and comb to remove dead hair and keep your dog’s coat looking shiny and healthy. It will also need an occasional bath and trimming of key areas. 

You’ll need to trim the hair around your dog’s feet so that it has good traction and doesn’t slip. Your dog’s nails also need to be trimmed or clipped regularly. 

Trimming the hair around your dog’s ears helps to keep them clean and to keep air circulating around them.

One thing to note is that the texture of the Sussex spaniel’s coat changes if the dog is neutered. It becomes fuzzier and a bit harder to manage. Another thing to keep in mind is that you should avoid shaving your Sussex down since it will take a long time for its coat to recover.

To keep your dog’s teeth healthy, you should brush them every day. Make sure to use a toothpaste that’s for dogs and never human toothpaste. Lift your Sussex spaniel’s upper and lower lips and gently brush along the gumline.

When you get a dog, you need to talk to your vet about preventative measures that you can take to keep it as healthy as possible. Heartworm prevention is very important for dogs, as this disease can be fatal. Your vet can recommend several medications to prevent infection, including spot medications and monthly chewable pills. Many vets recommend a prescription shot that’s given every 6 to 12 months.

When it comes to pests like fleas and ticks, check your Sussex spaniel each time it comes in after being outside, especially near wooded areas. Some vets might recommend products like special collars or topical treatments. An effective method is the flea and tick pill, or oral insecticides, which your vet can prescribe. There are different kinds that have specific ingredients used to control, treat, or prevent fleas.

Your Sussex spaniel will need several initial vaccinations, followed up by booster shots every 1 to 3 years. Required dog vaccinations include:

  • Rabies
  • Distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza 

While not required, your vet will probably recommend other vaccines to keep your dog healthy, including:

  • Bordetella
  • Influenza
  • Coronavirus 
  • Lyme disease
  • Leptospirosis

Sussex spaniels aren’t very sensitive to certain weather and can actually live outside in temperate climates if it has a warm enough shelter. Even so, most prefer to be in the home except when going out to play.

The Sussex spaniel is a generally healthy dog that has an average lifespan between 11 and 13 years. However, there are some problems to be aware of.

Allergies. Some Sussex spaniels have skin problems that are related to food allergies, particularly chicken, beef, and wheat. If you notice that your dog has red, itchy ears, try eliminating these foods from its diet. Other, environmental allergies that can cause skin problems include dust, grass, or insect bites, and these causes can be better isolated once a food allergy has been eliminated as a possibility.

Ears. All spaniel breeds have ear problems, including polyps and infections. Check your dog’s ears regularly and clean them with an ear cleaner. When you first get your dog, check its ears routinely so they get used to the feeling.

Bloat. Like other deep-chested dogs, the Sussex spaniel is more susceptible to bloat. Sometimes, when dogs eat, the stomach fills with air and causes pressure to build up. If the bloated stomach twists (a condition known as gastric dilation-volvulus), this cuts off circulation. This sends the dog’s body into shock. The pancreas doesn’t have any oxygen and creates toxic hormones that are often fatal.

If you notice signs of bloat, take your Sussex spaniel to the vet immediately. Signs can include:

  • Restlessness
  • Retching
  • Salivating
  • Stomach pain
  • An enlarged abdomen

Spaniels are sporting dogs and need a good amount of exercise each day to stay healthy and fit. Puppies who are less than 18 months old should avoid strenuous exercise, as simply playing is enough. Adult dogs love to swim and go for long walks. If you live near a field or open space, Sussex spaniels enjoy running freely.

Sussex spaniels can live in smaller houses as long as they have access to a garden, yard, or place to play. They are better adapted for living in the country than in the city, though. If you live in an apartment, adequate exercise is even more important since this spaniel can get noisy or into trouble when it’s bored or has too much energy.

When it comes to training, Sussex spaniels can be stubborn. They need positive reinforcement and techniques since they don’t respond well to roughness and won’t forget it, either. Let your dog know clearly what you want them to do and be sure to give them lots of praise when they perform the task well.

The Sussex spaniel is named after the county in England that it originates from. The breed dates back to 1792, when A.E. Fuller of Rosehill Park in Sussex began developing a spaniel that could handle the local weather and terrain. Dealing with lots of undergrowth and rough terrain, he wanted a dog that could work in different conditions. The Sussex spaniel was developed to make noises when working, a trait that other spaniels don’t have. This lets the owner know where the dog is when it’s out of sight.

Even though this was one of the first breeds to be recognized by the American Kennel Club or the UK Kennel Club, the Sussex spaniel saw a sharp decline in popularity by the 1940s, and breeding was actually discouraged during World War II. One breeder, named Joy Freer, saved the breed from extinction.

By the end of World War II, there were more Sussex spaniels in the United States than in the UK. In the early 1970s, the breed saw a new peak of interest, and there was an increase in breeding. Today, it’s recognized by several registries around the world, but the Sussex spaniel is most popular in the UK and the United States.