Loyal, friendly, and easygoing
The Sussex Spaniel is a friendly and charming member of the Sporting Group. He is also incredibly rare. So rare, in fact, that most of us have only experienced the breed’s magic through the television while watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Who could forget “Stump”, the oldest dog in Westminster’s history to take Best in Show? He did so at the age of 10 in 2009. About a decade later, “Bean” made us laugh and stole our hearts as he took the Sporting Group at Westminster twice, both in 2018 and 2019.
The Sussex takes his name from the English county of Sussex, where he was developed to be a rugged sporting dog the hunter could follow comfortably on foot. Sussex are on low on leg. Depending on the gender, they should measure between 13 and 16 inches at the shoulder, but they are still described as 'massive’ as they have a deep chest and heavy bone. 1 Sussex males weigh around 45 lbs, and females weigh a bit less at around 40 lbs. They are adorable, with a sad face that is delightfully unlike their pleasant disposition. The Sussex has a full and feathery coat that is always golden-liver. Their long ears, big hazel eyes, and frowning expression will melt your heart.
Doug Johnson got his first Sussex Spaniel in 1983 and bred his first litter 2 years later. Doug, along with his husband Jamie Hubbard, have had successes in the show ring unimaginable to many. They have bred two Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show winners in two different breeds. Their Clumber Spaniel, “Brady”, won the Garden in 1996 and their Sussex Spaniel “Stump” won in 2009. The two also breed Welsh Springer Spaniels and English Toy Spaniels. When it comes to Spaniels, Doug Johnson is definitely the guy to talk to! I was delighted when he agreed to chat with me about the Sussex Spaniel.
What initially drew you to the Sussex Spaniel? I have always been drawn to dogs that are a bit different and not mainstream. I liked the heaviness of the breed, the massive bone and body.
Describe the Sussex Spaniel’s personality? The breed is a great deal of fun, mellow, and agreeable. They are very laid-back and calm.
How much exercise do they require? They are good with a yard to have free exercise. They do not need to run for miles each day. They are content to stay closer to home.
Can they live in an apartment? Sure. They would be good in an apartment setting.
Tell me about the coat and grooming requirements. The coat is low maintenance. It is also brown, so not difficult to keep clean. Typical of a correct spaniel coat, they will air dry and the dirt/dust will brush out. Because of the long coat, they do require regular maintenance brushing.
Any health issues? While low in registration numbers the breed is generally healthy. The challenge is fertility. They are difficult to get pregnant, hence the low population.
How long do they usually live? Sussex can live to 14 to 15 years old.
Which dog sports are they involved in? Sussex can do it all, but they have short legs, so they can have some physical limitations. That said, they are certainly willing to try anything you want.
Are Sussex Spaniels easy to keep with other dogs? Sussex are followers. They adapt to other breeds well and they will even learn behaviours from the other breeds they are with.
How are they with children? The Sussex has a very basic and simple approach to life. They are agreeable and kind to children. They make ideal family pets.
Who makes an ideal Sussex Spaniel owner? The Sussex is a hidden gem in the family of purebred dogs. They are suitable in most home situations. I would say a more relaxed environment works best. They are short distance runners, not long range. Retirees would be a great home for this breed.
Anything you would like everyone to know about Sussex Spaniel? Keep in mind this breed is a rare commodity. Owning a Sussex is owning one of the rarest dog breeds on the planet. Most years under 25 Sussex are registered in the American Kennel Club system.
The Sussex Spaniel might be the breed for you if:
You like to spend weekends walking in a park or reading a book. They enjoy walks on the beach or sleeping late in bed. They are agreeable and enjoy an easy life. They are comical and fun-loving. They enjoy being social.
The Sussex Spaniel might not be the breed for you if:
If you want a dog to go on a long distance run with you, this is not the dog for you. Additionally, there is some work to keep the ears in condition. They do require some coat care. They are also not as accurate in your training as other breeds are. They are B students, and are creative learners.
This blog would not have been possible without the help of breeder and Judge Doug Johnson. Doug’s Clussexx Kennel is the only kennel in history to breed two Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Best in Show winners in two different breeds. Clussexx is known across the globe and proudly breeds high quality Sussex, Welsh Spring, Clumber and English Toy Spaniels.
1 American Kennel Club, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/sussex-spaniel/