Sussex Spaniels are a very special, beautiful, delightful breed. They are charming, affectionate without being clingy or needy, loyal, quirky, funny - but they are most certainly not right for everyone.
Sussex are linear thinkers. They can appear stubborn because they just don't "shift gears" quickly. They must be trained early, but respond well to kind, positive methods. Mine seem to love learning and especially the one-on-one attention. As they age, they settle into "their" ways, take a lot of naps, and definitely need more motivation to do things. They retain information extremely well, and don't need boring repetitions or practice once a skill is mastered. (It's one of my favorite things about them.)
Sussex enjoy hunting. They were originally bred as gundogs, even have a bit of hound in their background, and they have amazing prey drive along with super sniffers. Whether it's a mouse or grouse, it's important to remember that they love to hunt, and can be tenacious range rovers. One of mine went off grid, tracked a rabbit for a mile in the snow, and scared me to death. They are very focused and tune things out. A fenced yard is an absolute must!
Sussex can be noisy. They can be barky and will occasionally sing and howl up a storm. The latter still makes me laugh and smile, but if you have neighbors, well...be prepared to explain it, they might not think it's as funny as we do. We have used bark collars on two of ours, with excellent results.
Sussex can be painfully slow to potty train. They have the worst rear end awareness of any breed I have ever owned. Although most of mine have fallen into the normal potty trainable range, and are reliable house dogs by 6 months old, I've had a couple that I battled with, even at age 2 years old. If you value your carpets and don't have another form of flooring to house a puppy on, this breed is NOT for you.
Sussex can be destructive. Or not. They shred anything made of wood and cardboard, and sometimes will dig holes, usually in the middle of your perfectly mowed lawn (for optimal visual effect). No stick, log or box is safe at my house! They are surprisingly kind to my shoes and rarely, if ever, destructive with other things.
Sussex require dedicated grooming. Once a week they must be groomed from head to toe. Ears can grow long and collect many things in the ends. Coats on spayed and neutered dogs can become fuzzy and unruly, and a challenge to manage. Shaving removes their insulation and protection from sun and cold weather. If you don't like coated breeds, get another type.
Sussex can drool. Or not. Warm weather and panting seems to bring it out the worst. I change out water buckets every day, and the saliva slime at the bottom is always a delight. Sussex snodge is a real thing, it can get on your clothes, walls, pillows. Just a fact you should know about.
Sussex are a resource guarding breed. They can be hoardish with their toys and possessive with their food in varying degrees. All of mine have been mild and easily diverted -knock on wood. I do my best to identify it and work with puppies before they leave, but the book Mine! By Jean Donaldson is required reading for all our puppy homes. READ IT.
Sussex can be same sex aggressive. Similar to terriers. This can be especially true with intact bitches. Both of my males get along just fine (probably unusual), but I've had one girl who likes to be alpha, bossy and seems to enjoy her squabbles. Most people will pair their second Sussex with one from the opposite sex. I've come to the conclusion this is probably a good thing overall, and limits the number of how many we can keep. :D
There is no health guarantee given or implied with this breed. I don't know anyone who gives a health guarantee. When I bought my first Sussex the only thing that was guaranteed was that the breeder would take back the dog at any time in its life. This is also the guarantee I give to my own buyers. We, who buy them, understand this. We, who breed them, do the best we can, while working with a tiny, ever shrinking gene pool. Any issue that is identified in our puppies is fully disclosed prior to being placed.
Sussex have health issues. With a tiny gene pool, heart defects plague the breed and breeding parents must be deemed sound by a specialist. Puppies must be screened prior to being placed. (Ours are checked multiple times) Low level murmurs are relatively common, and rarely (if ever) lifestyle changers. PDP disease is autosomal recessive, and all breeding Sussex must be screened with a simple DNA test. Joint dysplasias are relatively common, although they rarely (if ever) present with painful of clinical symptoms due to their strong body frames and stout, short legs. Eye issues can vary from retinal folds to cataracts, both issues can be screened for by a specialist and all breeding adults should have this done. Deafness is a real thing that can occasionally pop up in this breed - no one really knows why. It can run in bloodlines and be idiopathic. BAER testing of all breeding parents is mandatory. Umbilical hernias are common, cosmetic defects (we also get them in springer puppies) - they are not health issues and can be easily repaired during a spay or neuter, should you choose to do it. There are other issues that we cannot test parents for at all, most are uncommon, but none the less should be mentioned: human biting and aggression disorders (like rage syndrome), late onset seizures, diabetes insipidus (in varying degrees), dental issues, cherry eye, lymphomas and cancers, PLE (protein losing enteropathy), IBD, bloat, even vaccine reaction and hemolytic anemia.
Sussex are expensive. Why is that you ask? They are one of the rarest breeds in the world, mostly because they are hard to breed and even harder to place in the right homes. They are riddled with reproductive challenges, are bred through artificial insemination and usually whelp through c-sections. Neonate mortality rates can be high, litter size is almost always small. They are expensive to show and promote, requiring extensive travel to find other people to compete against. It costs a lot to propagate and promote them in every way. It is no wonder that the majority of people who have taken on this challenge, are older, with disposable incomes to watch disappear into the abyss. This is NOT a breed for the faint of heart. Our puppies are in the $2800-$3000 range...given what we go through to produce them, this is a bargain when compared to what people are paying for other breeds, even designer mutts and "doodles" effortlessly producing litters of 15. Buying one helps keep the breed from going extinct. The struggle is real!
If you have read through this page and are still interested - a Sussex Spaniel might be right for you! Feel free to contact us about our upcoming puppy plans. We have several females and usually produce one litter a year. Our litters have varied in size from 2-9 puppies.
We also occasionally place a young adult, usually an adult finished show champion that we have elected not to breed, or maybe a puppy that didn't work out as a show dog.