Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Spanador
Nashyboy /

A stunning example of a family pet that is particularly great around children, the Spanador encompasses the happy-go-lucky nature of the Labrador Retriever with the active, inquisitive nature of the American Cocker Spaniel. Affectionate and sweet-natured, the Spanador will melt your heart the moment you meet!

Most Spanadors are smaller and more compact than the Labrador, making them an attractive, medium-sized dog. Their fur does not grow particularly long and can be a number of colours, with black and red being the two most commonly seen. While their pendulous Spaniel-like ears add to their attraction, some dogs will be prone to ear infections, so owners should be sure to stay on top of things and clean out ear canals regularly.

About & History

The Spanador is thought to have been developed in the States towards the end of the 21st century. The Designer Dog movement began taking off in the 1970s and the demand for a new breed that made a good companion dog and was neither too big nor too small was soon met by the Spanador. While the Spanador does not yet have a long and colourful history, read on to learn more about its parents.

The American Cocker Spaniel

Spaniels have been traditionally bred to hunt, particularly alongside hunters with guns in the pursuit of birds. They were used extensively for this purpose within Europe and were admired for their work ethic and stamina. Over time, the Spaniels were classified into various groups and the ‘Cocker’ was named for its ability to hunt woodcock so well.

It was not until the early 1900s that the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel were separated into two different breeds, with the American Cocker being the smaller and more refined of the two. The American Cocker Spaniel is a popular pet, particularly within the United Stated and is also a very successful competitive showing dog.

The Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever originated in Canada in the 1800s and while most would assume that they hail from the Labrador region, they are in fact from Newfoundland. It was the crossing of the Newfoundland dog with smaller water dogs that resulted in the production of this popular pedigree breed.

As with the Cocker Spaniel, Labradors were first and foremost used to assist in hunts and would most often pursue birds and water fowl. While we now recognise three official coat colours (black, yellow and chocolate), all of the early Labradors would have been black. Not only do Labradors continue to work as hunters, but they also excel when it comes to working as assistance dogs (most notably as seeing eye dogs) and are one of the most well-loved companion animals kept by families today.


Spanador Large Photo
Shamrock593 /

Spanadors generally resemble a smaller Labrador with a face and ears that are more reminiscent of a Spaniel breed. They are built in good proportion and their medium-sized, rectangular body should be lean and well-muscled with a good abdominal tuck-up and visible waist. They have an attractive face with wide ears that come forward. Their circular eyes are a brown colour and portray a kind expression.

The coat of the Spanador may be a selection of colours, including black, brown, red and cream. White patches are not unusual and tend to appear on their chest, paws and face. Their fur is straight and tends to be a lot shorter than that of the American Cocker Spaniel, though feathering is commonly seen on their ear tips. A mature Spanador is shorter than the Labrador and will grow to heights of 45cm to 50cm. Their weight is typically between 12kg and 21kg.

Character & Temperament

The Spanador is one of those goofy, playful dogs that lights up any room it walks into immediately and can cheer its owner up after a bad day. They have a real zest for life and need no encouragement to tag along on a hike or take part in a game. While this trait is undeniably endearing, some owners who like a quiet life may find their exuberance a little much!

Kind and affectionate, the Spanador just wants to love and be loved and will usually try to make friends with anyone it meets. It bonds strongly with its family and makes especially good connections with any children in the home, who quickly become its playmates. Those that take more after their American Cocker Spaniel parent may be a little more standoffish with new people, particularly if they have not received thorough socialisation in their early months.


Photo of Spanador puppy
LotteSedeyn /

A dog that is both quick and eager to learn, the Spanador’s intelligence is always on display during a training session. Those tasks that come more naturally to the Spanador, such as tracking scents, are picked up on with ease. However, a Spanador can be trained to do practically anything when in the right hands.

Trainers will not need to repeat themselves too often and should find that the Spanador responds quickly to cues. They should always be rewarded when they do something correctly and their favourite reward will inevitably be food-based!


While cross-breed dogs are known to be healthier than their Pedigree ancestors, this does not mean that they are automatically given a clean bill of health at birth. There are several health conditions which the Spanador can suffer from during its lifetime.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is an unpleasant disease that results in malformed hips that affect a dog’s ability to stand and walk. It is a progressive condition, meaning that it will inevitably worsen with time. Dogs will develop arthritis in the affected area and over time their muscle mass will shrink.

A common orthopaedic disease, there are a number of different treatment options including surgeries, medications and physical rehabilitation. In the ideal world, we would work towards eliminating this debilitating condition by removing all of those with hip dysplasia from the breeding pool.

Allergic Skin Disease

Dogs with skin allergies may develop itchy rashes and are likely to scratch their skin, rub their faces on the ground and lick their paws to excess. Allergies can technically occur at any age but tend to reveal themselves between the ages of six months and five years. As their symptoms are similar to those experienced in other conditions (such as bacterial dermatitis or mange infestations), an accurate diagnosis is essential.

Allergies can be caused by many different things, including foods and environmental triggers, such as dust and pollens. While symptoms can be managed with medication, in the ideal world we would determine what the dog’s triggers are and avoid them completely.

Ear Infections

The floppy ears of the Spanador are a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria, particularly if covered in dense fur that can make the ear canal extra warm and humid. As infections can cause a dog chronic pain and irritation, owners should do their best to minimise their occurrence by checking and cleaning ears on a regular basis.


Recent studies have demonstrated that the Labrador actually possesses genes that make it more food-driven and more likely to become obese. If the Spanador is unlucky enough to inherit these genes, it will be more likely than the average canine to pack on the pounds. Luckily this can be prevented, and with a calorie-controlled diet and sufficient exercise, there is no reason for any dog to be overweight.

Exercise and Activity Levels

It should come as no surprise that a dog who has evolved from two working breeds has a high exercise requirement and, for many, the needs of the Spanador can be tricky to keep up with. Not only do they love to run and hike, they are real water babies who love to take a dip (whatever the weather!).

As well as having a couple of 30-40 minute walks or runs each day, they should have access to somewhere that they can run off lead and burn off extra any energy. Failing to meet these requirements will negatively impact on this dog’s behaviour and can result in frustration that manifests itself as incessant barking, digging or tail chasing.


The short coat of the Spanador should be groomed twice weekly and will shed quite a lot in the warmer months. Owners must focus on their ears, ensuring they are always thoroughly dried after getting wet and cleaning out any wax that accumulates.

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