Here is where you learn the nitty gritty quirks, foibles, and endearing attributes of Field Spaniels. You will also learn that they aren't always little angels. It may be that you just aren't the type of person that can put the time and energy it takes to succesfully rear a Fieldie so they become the wonderful lifelong companion they are meant to be.
Like any breed, there are pros and cons to having a Field Spaniel in your life. It is all in what you expect from your canine family member and how much effort you are willing to expend in their upbringing and training. Although Field Spaniels can be a sweet and affectionate breed, they can also be shy and require lots of socialization in non-threatening situations so they can become happy, well adjusted members of your family. Fields shed, and they have an affinity for the water bowl. Often as puppies you will find a Field Spaniel puppy splashing happily away in their water bowl, trying to "dig" out all the water. They never quite manage to become "dripless" dogs and seem to find great joy in sharing a mouthful of water with you when they get a drink. Expect it in your lap more often than not. They don't necessarily slobber, they simply forget to swallow sometimes.
If you have a Field Spaniel, they demand attention, and if they don't get it, they are apt to get into trouble, especially as puppies. You should always crate your puppy when you cannot monitor their activities, for their safety as well as the safety of your belongings.
Although you can certainly train a Field Spaniel to behave off lead, it takes work and diligence. Even in a fenced yard, they need supervision if left to their own devices for too long. Many will make attempts to reach China by doing gopher imitations. Field Spaniels are born problem solvers. Some Fields are very adept at "counter surfing", and some have even managed to learn how to open cupboard doors to get at food.
Well, now that you've heard the cons (which in my mind aren't really cons), you should also realize the pros of the breed.
Field Spaniels love their people. You can look at this as a plus, or a negative. It's all in how much you love your dog. They often have to be wherever you are and will follow you from room to room. They love to snuggle. Mine love to snuffle ears. If you decide to let them sleep with you, well, just expect to never change that habit. Some Fieldie owners swear their dogs sing or yodel. Some are very quiet and rarely bark at all.
Fields Spaniels are a rare breed flushing spaniel. They are a true sporting breed and they can be great hunting companions as well as the family pet. They do well in obedience, and many perform in agility as well. They are a very intelligent breed, but also sensitive. Harsh training methods do not bode well with Field Spaniels. They require a firm, but gentle hand and respond well to praise and positive training methods.
I truly believe that Field Spaniels have a sense of humor. I have watched my first Fieldie, Zoe flip her bowl of water, let me reprimand her and clean it up, and then...once the bowl is refilled she has looked right at me and done it again. I swear she was laughing at me !
I am certain there are many more endearing qualities and some "cons" that I have left out, but in my mind I take them all with no reservations. This breed is a joy to be around, and if you are willing to spend a little time and effort you will have a wonderful, devoted companion for life.
Health Issues in Field Spaniels
As in any breed, there are some conditions that can afflict a Field Spaniel. Hip Dysplasia was one of the major concerns in the breed, however careful breeding is slowly improving this in the breed. Another issue can be a thyroid condition. This is not life threatening and can be controlled with medication. There have been some occurances of heart murmers, PRA, and a condition called autoimmune hemolytic anemia as well. This latter condition can be quite devastating, but to my knowledge it is not evident in my pedigrees.
Another condition that crops up from time to time is something we are calling late onset seizure disorder. This is something that none of us knew too much about 10 or 15 years ago, but many of us now believe it may have a genetic componant. This issue doesn't show up until the dog is usually at least 7 to 10 years of age, so unfortunately, the dogs have already been bred by that time, and we have no genetic test to determine if the dogs carry for this problem, or even if it is genetic. Many of us also believe that, possibly the genetic link may be a reduced threshold or trigger point that may cause this condition to rear it's ugly head. The FSSA Health committee formed a sub-committee including myself, and we have been trying to gather information of dogs that have seized so we as breeders can make better breeding choices. I have had this issue in my own lines and in fact, the great-great grandmother of my line had this issue. Fortunately, to date I have not had this crop up again, but I cannot say with good conscience that it never will. What I do is investigate pedigrees and try my best to breed to a Sire that has not had this problem in their pedigree for at least a few generations. Unfortunately, this is difficult to find as late onset seizure dogs show up somewhere in most pedigrees.
As a long time member of the FSSA Health Committee, and recently appointed Health Committee Chair, I hope to help our breed, along with many others of like mind by investigating ways to not only help ourselves as breeders, to make more informed breeding decisions, but to help our breed as well through work with the Canine Health Fund and their research.
The best thing we can do as breeders is to cooperate and share information so we can breed healthy and happy dogs. We do the best we can.