You’ve found a breeder that you like and trust, and it’s time to think about your puppy. You might have to wait weeks or even months for the “right litter” to be whelped (born), but it will be well worth the wait. You may be asked to make a down payment, or “deposit,” on the litter of your choice if the puppies are not yet ready to be sold. This protects your interests as well as the breeder’s. It is not uncommon for a choice litter to be entirely sold by the time the puppies are only a few weeks old.
Make sure that the breeder knows your particular requirements, if you want something more than a canine companion. Be sure to inform the breeder if you are looking for a show prospect, a dog for obedience work, a field trial prospect, and/or a hunting companion.
There are two distinctly different English Springer Spaniels — the field bred, and those bred for conformation.
Field bred Springers display more variation in size and markings, as they are bred for function rather than appearance. In general, they are smaller, finer boned dogs with shorter ears and very modest feathering. They display great variety in their marking patterns than most show Springers, often being predominantly white with liver or black markings and the “ticking,” or “flecks,” so familiar to all who know and love Springers.
These dogs have been bred for generations for their hunting ability (desire, nose, retrieving, quartering instincts) and trainability. They range from being quite submissive to moderately bold, but all should be outgoing, friendly, and responsive. Prospective buyers should investigate the field bred Springer if their primary interest is in field trials or hunting.
Field bred Springers can be placid around the home to highly energetic; often the more energetic dogs make the best hunting dogs for those who want to hunt hard day after day. The more placid dogs are wonderful companions for those who want a pet which will be hunted occasionally.
Some field breeders will not sell puppies to pet homes where they won’t be regularly hunted and trained, as they feel the dogs need regular exercise and training as functional gundogs.
Conformation, or show bred Springers, have been bred primarily as companions, and for their adherence to the breed’s written standard. Therefore, they display more uniformity in structure and appearance. Some show breeders have worked to maintain hunting instinct and ability in their breeding programs. Their dogs may have parent club Working Dog titles or AKC Hunting Test titles as proof of their capabilities. These dogs are not, however, of field trial performance caliber.
Breeders of conformation-competitive show Springers are eager to find excellent homes for pet quality puppies, and occasionally have older puppies and dogs available. Conformation-bred Springers are excellent family pets, and show lines can sometimes produce hunting companions. If you are interested in hunting, and you are investigating a show-bred litter, inquire thoroughly about the hunting ability of the dogs. Evidence includes American Kennel Club hunting titles and ESSFTA Working Dog certification, but do some research on the requirements to earn those titles so that you understand what they mean. You’ll find further information in the “Versatility” section of this website.”
Almost all Springer puppies are appealing; you must look beyond your first impressions. They should be sturdy in build, with straight, strong legs. They may be very active when first picked up, but should be willing to relax and accept being held and cuddled for a short time. Coats should be clean and glossy; eyes, nose and ears free of discharge or irritation; and the puppies should not be “potbellied,” which might indicate the presence of internal parasites. Gums should be pink, not pale. Pigment in the nose and eyerims should match the color of the dog (either liver or black). Lack of pigment in the nose is undesirable in a showdog but will not affect the puppy’s usefulness in the field or as a pet.