Are English Springer Spaniels Easy To Train?

are english springer spaniels easy to train

The English Springer Spaniel was originally bred as a working gun dog, used to flush out birds and retrieve game for the hunter. Today, they have become a very versatile breed that are a popular choice for families that want an energetic, friendly pet that is great with kids and other dogs.

Are English Springer Spaniels easy to train? Yes, Springer Spaniels are very easy to train. They are a very intelligent, eager to please breed that love attention and praise. This along with their love of treats, makes them very easy to motivate and train.

English Springers are amazing companion dogs. They make a great working dog or a family pet. They respond very well to commands, and are always eager to carry out jobs for their owner. This has made them a very popular choice as sniffer dogs for law enforcement agencies around the world. 

Why Are Springer Spaniels Easy to train?

Springer Spaniels are very easy to train. This is mainly down to their history as hunting dogs, and the fact that they were bred to obey many specific commands during a hunt.

English Springer Spaniel lineage can be traced as far back as the 16th century in England. There were originally two types of spaniel. The first type, the “springing”, starter spaniel, who’s job it was to startle the game and flush them out. The second type was referred to as the cocking, or “cocker” spaniel. Both were considered to be highly trainable, companion dogs that were bred to assist when hunting.

Over the years, many different related breeds of Spaniel were bred, leading to a more specialised breed that has very specific characteristics and skills that make it a highly trainable working dog.

For example, during when hunting birds, the English Springer Spaniel is used to follow hunt and flush out wild game. There are numerous commands that he must obey to carry out these tasks. These include quartering, scenting, flushing, blind retrieval and retrieve to hand of the wild game. All of these skills require extensive training and use of commands.

Are Springer Spaniels Intelligent?

Yes, Springer Spaniels are very intelligent.

So how does the Springer Spaniel rate on the dog intelligence test? The dog intelligence test is based on a dog’s willingness to work with people and is described by professor of canine psychology, Stanley Coren in his 1994 book, “The Intelligence of Dogs”.

In his book, Coren describes three aspects of dog intelligence; instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working and obedience intelligence

English Springer Spaniel doing agility weave poles
English Springer Spaniels are intelligent dogs that love to work and play

Instinctive intelligence refers to a dogs innate skills that relate to its breed. For example, these can include its ability to guard, herd, assist or follow a scent. Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to respond to its environment and solve problems as they occur. Working and obedience intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to be trained.

Dogs that were bred to work closely with people and are more eager-to-please, generally rank higher on the overall scale of intelligence. Some breeds were bred to work more independently of humans and they are typically the “stubborn” dogs that are lower on the scale. However, these breeds are amazing at what they were bred to do.

Essentially, the dog intelligence scale is not about intelligence at all, but instead is is all about trainability. The higher the dog rates on the scale, the easier he is to train. 

The working intelligence of the Springer Spaniel is what interests us the most, as this relates to his ability to be trained. Spaniels are ranked 15th when it comes to “working” intelligence. They usually learn commands pretty quickly (on average after 10-15 repetitions), and will usually obey a command the first time around 85% of the time.

​So clearly, the English Springer Spaniel is a very trainable breed.

Tips For Socializing A Springer Spaniel

If you’ve just brought home a Springer Spaniel puppy, you should really start training him straight away. One of the most important aspects of training any puppy, is socialization.

By properly socializing your Springer in the first 3 months of his life, you are helping to form his personality, and shape how he will react to the world around him for the rest of his life.

Socialization is getting your dog used to all sorts of people, places, sounds, sights, smells, animals, surfaces, being touched and so on. It’s important that your dog not only experiences these things, but also has a positive experience with them.

springer spaniel socialization

Socialization is key to a well-adjusted adult dog, regardless of size or breed. Socialization starts with the breeder, so be sure to ask your potential breeder about their socialization practices. Socialization is a life long process, constantly moving your dog and you out of your comfort zone. Ultimately this builds a strong bond and an exciting life for you and your best friend.

Springer Spaniels can be a very reactive, excitable and often shy and nervous breed. It’s important to take it slow when introducing your Springer to new experiences. Let him take the lead (no pun intended!) when it comes to exploring new things. This will help him to build his confidence, and will allow him to take a step back if he’s nervous or overwhelmed.

Socializing a puppy Springer Spaniel is different to socializing an adult Spaniel. Springer puppies are very inquisitive, and often fearless, so it can often be a case of trying to hold him back in new situations, rather than persuading him to partake. 

Here are a few tips for socializing a Springer Spaniel puppy.

1. Make every experience a positive one.

Positive training is the only way to train a Springer puppy. In my experience, Springers are very sensitive dogs and it only takes one bad experience to stop them wanting to do something again. Springers also love praise and food. Both of these can be used to your advantage when trying to make a new, ‘scary’ experience a good one that he’ll want to do over again.

2. Take it Slow

Some people make the mistake of overwhelming their puppy with too many new experiences, too quickly. Springers can be shy and nervous, and a new environment with new smells and sounds can often be a mentally draining experience for them. You should aim to keep new experiences to one a day, and only train for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, especially when they are a puppy.

3. Enrol in a training class

Puppy training classes are a great way to not only socialize your Springer Spaniel, but you can also teach him a few tricks too. Bringing your Springer to a training class will expose him to other dogs and people in a controlled environment. It also helps to form a bond between you and your puppy from an early age. This is vital for lifelong training and increases the likelihood of your Springer responding to you, even when he is distracted or doesn’t feel like it.

Springer Spaniel Training Tips

Springers are full of energy and have a very active personality that often needs constant attention and can become destructive and bored if they are not trained and exercised regularly.

Training, just like socialization, is a life long process. The best way to form a loving, mutually respectful relationship with your Springer Spaniel, is through training. Even though they are people pleasers, Springers can become dominant and destructive if left to their own devices. It’s important that you lay down  the ground rules from day one and consistently enforce them. 

This will let your Springer know that you are the leader in your household, and will teach him the boundaries that he needs to be happy and relaxed.

When it comes to training a Springer puppy, it can be difficult to control his over excitement and to get him to focus on you and whatever it is you are trying to teach him. There are lots of really good books and YouTube videos out there that will show you how to teach your dog to sit, stay etc. Springers are fast learners and they will easily pick up the basics in a few weeks.

Here are a few tips that I have learned by training dogs, and my own Springer Spaniel Alfie.

1. Plenty of Exercise is Key

2. Be consistent and Repeat daily

3. Keep training sessions short

4. Treats are a key motivator

5. Crate train your Springer Spaniel

How long does it take to train a Springer Spaniel?

Springer Spaniels are fast learners, but just like any other dog breed, it takes some repetition and hard work to train them.

Most Springer Spaniel pups will pick up the basics very quickly. In my experience, you will be able to teach him to sit, stay, lie down and wait for food within a couple of weeks.

Recall, especially when outside and off the leash will take a bit longer, but Springers love responding to your call when outside and are very easy to teach recall to. The best way to teach a Springer to come back to you when you call is to reward him with some food or a treat. You won’t need to always entice him with a treat, but it’s the quickest way to help to form the habit. 

Whilst Springers are fairly bright dogs, don’t overdo it with the training, especially at the beginning. I would recommend keeping the training sessions to around 5 minutes in length. Any longer than this and you will lose his attention. Over time, dogs learn to hold your attention for longer.

It’s also a good idea to keep it simple and don’t try to teach too many commands at once. Most Springers will learn a command after a few tries, but it can take a few weeks to really get it to stick. I always recommend teaching just one command during a training session so as not to confuse the dog. As the pup gets bigger, you can always try a few training sessions spread out during the day, with a different command taught at each session.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Springer_Spaniel

https://www.yummypets.com/mag/2014/06/24/39237/stanley-coren-dogs-intelligence-ranking

https://www.gundogmag.com/editorial/training_the_spaniel_whisperer_122210/175675

Emer Thomas

Emer has been around dogs all of her life. At a young age, she learned all about caring for dogs from her father, a top Irish breeder. She is now a dog breeder, former champion show dog handler and cup secretary of the Cairn Terrier Association of Ireland. She currently has two dogs, Lady Millie the Border Collie and Alfie the Springer Spaniel. Her interests include dog social training, dog nutrition, and dog metacognitive studies.

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