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Sussex Spaniel (Dog Breed Information)

Sussex Spaniel Puppy

Sussex Spaniel – A Serious Face With The Hear Of A Clown

When you look at a Sussex Spaniel, you may think he is sad or severe, but his somber face belies his friendly, clownish, good nature. This happy, hearty dog has loads of character. His abundant, golden-liver colored coat is unique to the breed.

Sussex Spaniel At A Glance

  • Breed: Sussex Spaniel
  • Temperament: Even-tempered, friendly, jovial
  • D.H.T. Outdoor Ranking: 9/10
  • Worldwide Popularity: Low
  • Breed Origin: England

General Information and History

This cheerful, affectionate, loyal dog is commonly mistaken for a serious and somber expression with such sad eyes. They have a classic spaniel like head and fur with short, strong legs. The abundant feathery coat is a golden liver color and is unique to the breed. 

Augustus Elliot Fuller came up with the Sussex Spaniel to fill the role of a hunting dog that would retrieve and scout out wild game birds. The spaniel emerged in the late 1700s in West Sussex, from which it derives its name.

The idea was to breed a dog that could handle the rough terrain, heavy soil, dense undergrowth, and thick hedgerows common to the hunted waterfowl areas.

And since the environment made it difficult to see the dogs in the high grasses that covered the hunting landscape, they wanted a dog that would “give tongue” when they found their prize as this wasn’t a trait common to the spaniels they usually used while hunting.

So the Sussex Spaniel created a language of their own consisting of barks, babbles, and yelps to communicate with their handlers. 

The Sussex Spaniel is one of the oldest recognized breeds. It was one of the first breeds registered to the UK Kennel Club when in 1872. Even though it’s an old breed, it is a rare breed.

On The Brink Of Extinction

This dog was quite popular when it first introduced; however, the number of these dogs decreased and nearly reached extinction during World War Two, when breeding dogs were discouraged.

A single breeder by the name of Joy Freer brought them back from the brink of extinction. However, they were designated as a vulnerable native breed by the Kennel Club of Great Britain in 2004.

Even today, the numbers are still low. In 2009 a Sussex Spaniel named “Stump” won the Westminster Kennel Club dog show at the ripe old age of 10, though these dogs can live up to 16 years. It was the first time a dog of this breed had ever won this prestigious show.

It was a sweet victory for this lovable dog as he had retired from showing in 2004 after a serious and mysterious illness almost ended his life. 


The Sussex Spaniel stands between 13 and 15 inches at the shoulder and can weigh between 35 and 45 pounds. He has a rectangular outline with a long, massive, and muscular body. He is longer than he is tall due to having short, strong legs. 

The head and expression of this spaniel are essential features for this breed. Their large, soft, melancholy, hazel eyes look at you with a sad, serious expression. Heavy brows exaggerate this sad, frowning expression.

Their thick ears sit relatively low, falling just above the outside corners of the eyes. These dogs have a long, full skull with a longer center indent than their broad and square muzzle, which typically measures around 3 inches.

Their nose is liver-colored as well, with well-developed nostrils just above pendulous lips. They should have a scissor bite.

Their neck is short, muscular, and slightly arched, but they don’t carry their head much above the level of their back. They have a low, long body, with a level topline. Their back and loin are muscular and broad with deep back ribs and a deep rounded chest.


The Sussex Spaniel has a lot of hair! Their abundant coat can be flat or slightly wavy. The hair on their legs can are feathered above the hock. They have long, soft, wavy hair on the ears and a full, thickly feathered tail as in most spaniels.

Their fur is also quite full around their necks. Their coat’s golden liver color is the signature of the breed, and color variations are not acceptable. Dark liver, puce, and any white at all are all considered faults. 

Legs and Feet

The Sussex has laid back shoulders set on short, heavy boned forelegs. Their legs can be straight or slightly bowed and positioned in a manner so that the legs are set well under the dog’s body. Their feet are large and round with short hair between the toes. 

Tail and Hindquarters

This muscle-bound little bird dog has a heavy boned, strong, and well-rounded hind. The legs sit parallel with each other as widely set as the shoulders, and the hocks are straight facing. The legs are short from the hock down and also heavily boned, but not overly bent at the hock. 

Their back feet are the same as the front, round and large with short hair between the toes. Their tail sits low and is also carried low, but is lively and docked from 5 inches to 7 inches. 

Differences Between Female And Male

Aside from the obvious ones, there aren’t any specific features that differentiate males from females in this breed.

General Statistics

  • Life Expectancy: 13 – 15 years
  • Male Height (at the withers): 13 inches – 15 inches ( 33 cm – 38cm)
  • Female Height (at the withers): 13 inches – 15 inches ( 33 cm – 38cm)
  • Male Weight: 35 lbs – 45 lbs ( 15 kg – 20 kg)
  • Female Weight: 35 lbs – 45 lbs ( 15 kg – 20 kg)

The recommended dog house dimensions for the Sussex Spaniel can be found on the dog house dimensions charts for 440 recognized breeds which include this dog breed. But to save you time, here are our dog house minimum size recommendations:

  • Door Height: 18.7 inches (47.4 cm)
  • Door Width: 11.9 inches (30 cm)
  • Inside Ceiling Height: 23.0 inches (58 cm)
  • Interior House Length: 37.4 inches (94 cm)
  • Interior House Width: 23.8 inches (60 cm)

Expected Costs

Breed Average Puppy Cost: $1,500 USD

Starter Costs: $2,500 USD

This is our estimate for initial purchase, shots, and a few things like food, a bed, leash, that sort of thing.  Basically, this will get you set up but the costs will be greater once the dog is old enough to get spayed or neutered.

Anticipated Annual Care Cost: $500 – $1,100 USD

How Sussex Spaniels React To: 


This loving family dog is excellent with children and can be very protective of their families, if not overly so. They have a calm and gentle demeanor. It may be important to note that Sussex puppies can be very demanding as they are growing up, so raising a Sussex with children may be challenging.

They need early socialization and can be very stubborn, so they need lots of attention while training, but they are intelligent dogs that catch on to what you are teaching them. They are calm, friendly dogs, both traits that make them well suited to be therapy dogs. 

Other Dogs

The Sussex spaniel does get along well with other dogs; however, early socialization is the key to successful inter-pet relationships as with most dogs. They are strong-willed individuals challenging the others in their pack for dominance and will often end up being the pack leader. 


The Sussex Spaniel gets along well with other animals, including cats though they tend to be a little bossy, and there may be the occasional squabble over who’s the king of the mountain. 

Other Pets

The Sussex Spaniel’s original purpose was that of a birding dog, so it may not be advisable to have one in a home with feathered family members. Their original hunting instincts may well be hard to curb. 

Care Requirements


Moderate exercise is all these easy-going dogs require to stay fit and healthy. They’re not lazy dogs, but they are less energetic than most spaniels. Because the Sussex Spaniel is so slow to mature, they should not do any strenuous exercise within their first year.

Vigorous exercise may damage the growth plates. So as puppies, only self-regulated independent play is suggested.

As adults, swimming and long walks are great forms of exercise for these happy dogs. Any activity that allows them to be outdoors and with their humans is ideal.

Their perfect day would be one that allows them to be outside with plenty of winged critters to chase.

Also, be mindful that agility and jumping sports shouldn’t be introduced until they are 18 months old or more. They’re not speedy dogs, but they are strong and maneuverable. 

Grooming And Coat Info

Regular brushing 2-3 times a week will keep your Sussex Spaniel’s coat healthy and looking good. You will have to brush the coat more often during their biannual shedding seasons.

If neutered, you’ll find their coat can become fuzzy, almost the texture of cotton candy. Therefore, making it a little more challenging to care for as it becomes more prone to tangling.

If possible, avoid shaving down the Sussex Spaniel as it takes a long time for the coat to recover after. The fur on the pads of their feet should are to be neatly trimmed and clipped regularly. 

Health And Nutrition


The Sussex Spaniel is known to have heart problems and are prone to cancer in their later years. Puppies are at risk and fragile until they reach about two weeks in age.

This dog breed is particularly difficult to breed, and the mother’s more than often than not require C-sections at birthing time.

Breeders will screen their pack to make look for any health issues in order to prevent breeding unhealthy pups.


The Sussex Spaniel is not a big eater and will only eat what it needs. Therefore, these dogs are rarely overweight, and you do not have to worry as much you would with other breeds in regards to becoming overweight.

This dog will do well on either a high-quality dog that is store-bought or a good homemade recipe. Always remember that the portion of food should be in line with the dog’s age and weight.

If you want to feed your dog human food as a treat make sure you know which foods are safe and which are not. Fresh water should always be available to your dog.


This happy, easy-going, loving, family dog can also be extremely stubborn! This breed needs early socialization and requires zen-like patience and repetition while training. They are very sensitive dogs, reacting very poorly to negative or rough handling. They will stop responding if treated harshly.

You’ll find that clarity and praise are the best methods for training a Sussex. The Sussex Spaniel is a very vocal dog; after all, they were bred to talk to their handlers while in the field!

A trait no doubt inherited from the hound, So you may want to train this to your advantage and use this instinct to protect their territory and their family.

However, you may find your neighbors would prefer you discourage them from being overly talkative.


  1. The Reader’s Digest Illustrated Book of Dogs: Second Edition. Random House
  2. American Kennel Club 
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Sussex Spaniel Club of America
  5. Canadian Kennel Club
  6. “10-year-old Sussex spaniel wins Westminster show” CTV News 

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