Sussex Spaniel Guide

Sporting Dog Breeds

The long, low, "rectangular" body, coupled with a muscular and rather massive physique, allows the Sussex to penetrate dense cover when hunting. Its movement is deliberate and rolling because of its short legs and comparatively wide body, a gait that emphasizes power over speed. The abundant body coat is flat or slightly wavy, giving protection from thorns. A distinctive feature is the long feather between the toes, which should be long enough to cover the toenails. The expression is somber and serious, even frowning, but the wagging tail belies its true nature. The Sussex tends to bark when hunting, which helps the hunter locate it in thick cover.

The Sussex spaniel tends to be less playful and demonstrative than other spaniels, with a lower energy level. This makes it better suited for city life, but it still appreciates the chance to take to the wilds and hunt up birds. It tends to bark when hunting, which has made it less popular with hunters than other breeds; some also bark or howl when not hunting. At home it is calm, steady and easygoing, although it may be aggressive to strange dogs. Its somber expression is misleading because it is quite cheerful.


FAMILY gundog, spaniel



ORIGINAL FUNCTION small game tracking and flushing

TODAY'S FUNCTION bird flushing and retrieving

AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 13-15 Weight: 35-45

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 13-15 Weight: 35-45


Energy level Medium energy

Exercise needs Medium

Playfullness Moderately playful

Affection level Very affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Very friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Friendly

Ease of training Easy to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Moderately protective

Grooming needs Moderate maintenance

Cold tolerance Medium tolerance

Heat tolerance Medium tolerance

The Sussex needs daily exercise, but its needs can be met with a good walk on lead or a short romp in the yard. Given the chance, it will appreciate a longer foray into the field. It can live outdoors in temperate climates, as long as it has a warm shelter, but it generally does better as a house dog that also has access to a yard. The coat needs brushing and combing two to three times a week, plus scissoring every few months.
• Major concerns: none
• Minor concerns: intervertebral disc syndrome, otitis exerna, heart murmur and enlarged heart
• Occasionally seen: none
• Suggested tests: cardiac
• Life span: 12 – 14 years
The "spaniels of Sussex" are mentioned in a sporting publication of 1820 as good working dogs. The name was adopted from Sussex, England, the home of the first important kennel (established in 1795) of these small land spaniels. The breed soon became popular among the estates around Sussex County. They were adept as upland shooting dogs, slow working but with a good nose and apt to give tongue when on scent. This latter trait hurt the breed at field trials in the early 1900s, when quiet hunters were preferred. In addition, American hunters usually preferred a faster hunter. Although one of the first 10 AKC-recognized breeds and among the earliest breeds to compete at dog shows, the Sussex has never been a particularly popular or competitive show dog. Perhaps because of these reasons — the Sussex spaniel has been perilously close to extinction throughout most of the 20th century. At times the breed has had so few individuals that inbreeding had to be practiced to a greater extent that otherwise desirable. In 1954, a successful cross was made with the clumber spaniel in an effort to expand the gene pool. The Sussex gene pool remains limited because the breed is still among the rarest of AKC breeds.