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The Welsh Springer Spaniel Outline

Meghen Riese-Bassel holding a young Welsh Springer Spaniel dog in her arms.

The Welsh Springer Spaniel Outline

The outline of the Welsh Springer Spaniel is unique within the world of spaniels. This is a breed that should be rectangular in appearance, with the length being created by front and rear angulation. We often describe the breed as being “a square within the rectangle.” The square is created by dropping a line from the withers to the ground and dropping a line from the tail set. The rectangle is then created by adding the front and rear angulation to that square. A Welsh Springer Spaniel cannot have a correct outline without correct angulation. Dogs that are straight in the front and rear, while balanced (and possibly moving well), lack a key part of the correct outline. The outline is referenced three times in our Breed Standard, giving weight to just how important it is. To assist judges in visualizing proportions, the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America worked very hard to create a wonderful Illustrated Standard, available in print and on the parent club website. Within this document, many questions can be answered and the Standard is expanded upon. I encourage anyone interested in judging the breed to look.

All things about the Welsh Springer should be moderate. The eye should never be drawn to a specific part of the dog. Instead, the entire dog should appear to be carved from one piece. There should be a harmony among the pieces, and, like a puzzle, all the pieces should fit together. While they are rectangular in silhouette, they should never appear long and low. It is a delicate balance that is kept in check by a compact body and short loin. I often tell judges that if they are concerned about a dog being long and low—look at the underline. Typically, you will see a long underline on dogs that are truly long. Along the same lines, when the word compact is used in describing the Welsh Springer Spaniel it means “tightly knit” rather than square.

I feel it is beneficial to have a comparison with other spaniel breeds when discussing Welsh Springer proportions. This breed is not a red and white version of the English Springer Spaniel. These are two distinct breeds. While the two have several things in common, they have quite different outlines. A truly educated judge will be able to immediately share what those differences are. The Welsh Springer Spaniel’s outline should be rectangular. The English Springer Spaniel should be slightly longer than tall. In addition to this, the Welsh Springer can often appear “relatively low-stationed,” whereas the English Springer is described as “upstanding.” Let us also not forget that the English Springer is described as the “raciest of the British land spaniels” by multiple kennel clubs around the world. Once you begin digging, you should easily begin seeing just how different these cousins are.

“Length of body from the withers to the base of the tail is very slightly greater than the distance from the withers to the ground. This body length may be the same as the height but never shorter, thus preserving the rectangular silhouette of the Welsh Springer Spaniel.” —Welsh Springer Spaniel AKC Breed Standard

“The length of the body (measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks) is slightly greater than the height at the withers.” —English Springer Spaniel AKC Breed Standard

When compared with other breeds, the Welsh Springer may seem plain. Yet, our breeders celebrate the workmanlike appearance, the athleticism, and the variety of style that exists within the realm of correct. We are thankful that the breed is unspoiled and functional!

The breed does have some interesting markings and optical illusions. When judging the Welsh Springer, especially if you come from a breed without markings, you will have to train your eye to see past the variety of marking you will encounter. Heavy ticking can cause a dog to have less bone than it does. Red markings that come past the elbow can cause a dog with a correct length of leg to appear low on leg. White spots in the middle of the back can cause a topline to look weak when it is correct. A dog with a large amount of red can appear longer than it actually is. Undocked tails can also play tricks on the eye, causing the proportions of the dog to appear longer. I like to encourage judges to trust their hands. Additionally, most exhibitors are open to stacking their dog on the opposite side to allow you a look past what are possibly deceiving markings. It is important for the breed to retain its diversity of markings and ticking. We do not want it to become a “cookie cutter” marking breed.

I feel it is important to discuss bone and leg length for the breed. Our bone should be of an oval shape consistent with the stamina needed to work all day. The General Appearance section of the Standard states that the breed is “not leggy.” I would like to scream this from the mountaintops! The breeders have done a great job recently of keeping leg length at bay—instead, producing approximately the same leg length as from the withers to the elbow.

Finally, the topline of the Welsh Springer Spaniel is level. It should not slope, roach, or dip. While the topline is level, there should be a layer of muscling over the loin on a mature dog. This is not extreme and is typically seen with the hands rather than the eye. A puppy or young adult may not have yet developed the layer of muscling over the loin and should not be penalized. Most spaniel breeds have this muscling, giving them the curves that we associate with these breeds. One should never look at a Welsh Springer Spaniel and get the impression of a setter. Remember, the Welsh Springer Spaniel should have a rectangular outline, level topline, and should NEVER appear leggy or settery.