Russian Spaniel

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Russian Spaniel

A small and stocky Spaniel, the Russian Spaniel was developed in Russia under a hundred years ago, when breeders were aiming to create a long-legged gun dog with a friendly and gentle disposition. A keen hunter, this dog works well in a variety of conditions, typically hunting birds, waterfowl and rabbits.

Similar in appearance to their predecessors, the English Springer Spaniel and English Cocker Spaniel, they differ from them only when it comes to small details, such as body size and ear and coat length. They are a high-spirited breed with a joyful personality and they get on very well with children. A working dog, it is important that they are sufficiently exercised, particularly if kept in small homes.

About & History

During the 1900s in Russia, the English Springer Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel (as well as a variety of other Spaniel breeds), were bred together to create the Russian Spaniel. While gun dogs already existed in Russia, mainly used for hunting birds and other game, the Russian hunters required a dog with longer limbs in order to navigate the varying terrain and deal with the, at times, harsh weather conditions. By the 1930s, hunters were developing Spaniel mixes to meet these criteria, but it was not until after the second world war that the breed standard for the Russian Spaniel was officially developed.

The Russian Spaniel enjoys working and is a natural born flusher and retriever. They have a superior sense of smell, as well as impressive endurance and willingness – all essential traits for a successful hunting companion. While their hunting instincts are an important breed characteristic, it is also imperative that the dogs are affectionate and well-mannered, making good companion animals. Many owners will keep their Russian Spaniels in small apartments and homes with their family, only working them occasionally.

While popular within their native land of Russia, it was only in 2002 that the first American Russian Spaniels club was started, with the aim to increase international recognition of the breed. While not currently recognised by any major kennel clubs, the FCI do acknowledge the breed. Very popular in Russia, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world catch on to this charming, multi-purpose little Spaniel.


Russian Spaniel Large Photo

Bearing a close physical resemblance to the English Cocker Spaniel in particular, if it weren’t for the longer and sleeker ears, shorter fur and the lengthier body of the Russian Spaniel, it would be very difficult to tell the two apart. They are a small and robust dog with well-muscled limbs and a sturdy body. The tail is commonly docked short, especially in working dogs.

Breed members weigh between 13 and 18kg and measure around 38 to 45cm; similar dimensions to the Cocker Spaniel. Their fur is soft and tight fitting, though longer and ruffled on the ears and the backs of their legs. Their coat is typically white with coloured spots and other markings, and the ears and head tend to be dark in colour. Accepted coat colours include:

  • White & Black
  • White & Brown
  • White & Red
  • Tri-coloured

Character & Temperament

Often a beloved pet, the Russian Spaniel is known for its friendly and sweet nature as well as its high tolerance of children and desire to play. They make very good companions for the young family and will form strong bonds with their owners. Known to be good watch dogs, they are quick to alert the household of any unwanted house guests by barking.

Russian Spaniels get on very well with other dog breeds and practically always want to make friends when given the opportunity. It is important, however, not to forget that they are a gun dog, and with this accolade comes a great scenting ability, a real athleticism, and a determination. They also have a natural prey drive, so care must be taken with small animals, such as birds and rabbits, and off lead work should be avoided in certain unsafe situations.


Photo of Russian Spaniel puppy

A people pleaser by nature, the Russian Spaniel is known to be an easily trained dog that is always keen to behave well, and just loves to be praised. Hyperactivity and over-exuberance can sometimes lead to a dog failing to adequately respond to commands, so Russian Spaniels need a firm trainer who is willing to take the time with them that they often require. Trainers must be consistent and use the same methods repeatedly in order to achieve good results.


With few reported medical conditions, and a lifespan of 12-14 years, the Russian Spaniel typically enjoys good health. Owners should be aware of their propensity for the following:

Ear Infections

Unfortunately, Russian Spaniels are prone to developing ear infections, and an individual may well develop many infections throughout their lifetime, some of which might well take a while to clear up. Grumbling, chronic ear infections can be incredibly frustrating for vet, owner and dog alike. The natural shape of the ear means that infections set in easily and can be difficult to effectively clear.

Often, a ‘culture and sensitivity’ test of the ear debris will be ordered by a veterinarian to better analyse the type of infection present, so treatment can be as effective as possible. Ear cleaners should be used in combination with medicated drops as drops work best in a clean canal. In severely affected animals, they may need a general aneasthetic to thoroughly clean and flush the ear before treatment is begun. Treatment may need to be implemented for several weeks before the infection finally clears.

Skin Allergies

Reportedly the number one reason for a dog to visit the vet in the UK is for itchy skin. Allergies often cause severe itching, which may manifest as shaking, scratching, licking or rubbing. Astute owners may notice white fur on the feet has turned an orange-red colour due to the saliva staining that occurs from licking itchy paws. Unfortunately, finding the specific cause of an allergy can be very challenging.

Food, mites, trees, moulds and grasses are the top culprits, but an animal can react to practically anything in their environment and is often allergic to a number of things. Managing the symptoms is the priority, which is often achieved with medicated shampoos, creams and tablets. Blood tests and intradermal allergy tests are available and can help in determining what an animal is allergic to.


Russian Spaniels are prone to obesity, though this is an avoidable condition. As obesity can lead to a variety of diseases, and almost always reduces quality of life, it is to be avoided. Providing your Russian Spaniel with plenty of exercise and feeding them appropriately should prevent obesity. Many veterinary clinics will offer weight loss programmes for those that are struggling.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Born to be a gun dog, the Russian Spaniel has a relatively high exercise requirement and should be brought on one or two vigorous walks or jogs a day. Playful by nature, they will never say no to a game of chasing or fetch and will happily keep children entertained for hours.

Well-suited to living indoors, many owners keep Russian Spaniels in small homes or apartments without any issues. Keeping them occupied while indoors through the use of toys, puzzles and games will help to reduce the potential for destructive or nuisance behaviours to develop.


As anyone who has ever owned a Spaniel dog will be aware, Spaniel ears require the most upkeep of all, and the ears of the Russian Spaniel are no exception. Ears must be constantly checked for infection, and often will need regular cleaning to remove matted fur and debris. The canals too should be cleaned every 1-2 weeks to rid them of excess wax.

The coat itself is not known to be difficult to maintain and requires brushing a few times a week. Excessive shedding does not tend to be an issue. Over-bathing the coat of the Russian Spaniel may cause it to lose its weather resistant qualities and is not advised.

Famous Russian Spaniels

With no breed member quite reaching celebrity status just yet, the Russian Spaniel is currently not in the limelight. There are, however, some gorgeous examples of the breed on Instagram, which is always a good place to start for someone researching the breed, as you can gain valuable insight into the lives of Russian Spaniels and their humans.


Of course, the Russian Spaniel is a cross of the English Cocker Spaniel, the Springer Spaniel and other Spaniel breeds. To date, there are no popular Russian Spaniel cross-breeds.

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