By Wendy Jordan
From the Official Standard for the Welsh Springer Spaniel: “The Welsh Springer Spaniel is an active dog displaying a loyal and affectionate disposition. Although reserved with strangers, he is not timid, shy, nor unfriendly. To this day he remains a devoted family member and hunting companion.”
What does all this mean for a family about to get its first Welsh Springer? There is certainly more to be said about the temperament of the breed.
Let’s start with “active”. In many dogs this means they would love to have 30-60 minutes of vigorous play time every day. They don’t care if it is raining or if they have to leap through snow drifts to find the tennis ball you tossed for them. They love their exercise and may become bored and destructive without it. A fenced yard is ideal; for those who cannot fence their yards, long walks on a lead that allows the dog plenty of mobility is a must. Welshies are a flushing spaniel and they will “quarter” the ground in front of you hunting for a bird or squirrel to flush. Quartering is the habit of ranging back and forth in front of you from the far right side to the far left side of your path. This had been bred in to them through the generations and they will get frustrated if not allowed to do it. Should you teach your dog to heel and move quietly at your side? Of course. But also allow him to do what comes naturally on your walks.
A “loyal and affectionate disposition” can mean many things. Many Welsh Springers will follow their owners from room to room in the house and would really like to be in the bathroom with you while you are in the tub. They want to be with their family members above anything else. Expect to have your dog draped across your lap as you watch television. In extreme cases you may find your dog wants to sit on your feet while you do the dishes – this can be limiting to your own movement but it is a symbol of how much your dog wants to be with you.
Typically the Welsh Springer is reserved with people he doesn’t know and this CAN lead to timidity if not recognized and dealt with when the puppy is young. Take your puppy for walks in your neighborhood or town. Let people bend over him and play with him, as they will naturally want to do when they see how adorable he is. Take care that he is not unduly frightened by children who may not realize how easily they can scare a puppy with a friendly hug. Getting your puppy out and about in new situations is essential when they are young so that they will build the confidence within themselves to accept new situations when they are older. If the local kennel club offers “Puppy Kindergarten” consider taking part in one to expose your puppy to other young dogs and, most importantly, other people who love dogs. It is wise to speak with your veterinarian about what shots your puppy should have before he is exposed to a number of other dogs.
The fact that Welshies were bred to be “hunting companions” has a lot to do with your new puppy’s behavior. Squirrels beware! Most Welsh Springers will jealously protect their yard from encroachment by squirrels and other furry creatures. A Welsh Springer is easily distracted by birds but, especially when young, may find anything with wings equally appealing. Expect to see your puppy chasing butterflies too. Bred to have soft mouths, you may be surprised by your puppy proudly coming to you with a live baby bird, or squirrel or turtle in his mouth. He will be very sad if you shriek in horror or display other agitated behavior. It’s hard some times, but it is always best to praise your puppy and encourage him to give it to you when he brings you one of these unexpected gifts.
And always keep the number of your breeder handy and call them if you see any behavior that concerns you. Your breeder should be able to advise you on what to expect and how to deal with any problems.