Why do Sussex Spaniels Look So Sad? – The AKC Breed Standard states: “The Sussex Spaniel has a somber and serious appearance, and its fairly heavy brows produce a frowning expression.”
The “somber and serious” part is misleading.
People often say, “Oh, he looks so sad,” when a Sussex is just standing there thinking about what sort of mischief he can get into next. So why does Sussex Spaniel look so sad? The reason they were and are bred [to look] this way is because they were bred to be a hunting dog; a hunting dog that can go through heavy underbrush after birds and other game without getting his eyes scratched—hence the frowning brow—and the “sad” look of the large, hazel eyes with some haw showing underneath is to allow for any weed seeds that get into the eye to be easily wiped out, rather than staying in the eye and irritating it as would happen with a tight eye.
That soft, languishing look is not only beautiful, it is functional in the field while hunting. And it also makes his people want to hug him and give him whatever his little heart desires at home!
The Most Important Thing In Breeding And Showing Sussex Spaniels – This most important thing is adherence to the AKC Standard for the breed. We are so very proud that we have never changed our Standard. (The only thing we have ever done is, back when AKC demanded that all standards remove the point system to conform to each other, we (myself, Bobby Lewis, and Craig Heugal) revised the point schedule to include the current “Faults” section.) It is so important to breed to the Standard and not to change the Standard to match whatever is being bred. It is a great tribute to breeders that Sussex Spaniels in the 1800s could compete with the Sussex of today—and no one could tell the difference. May this continue, forever.