The German Spaniel (or Deutscher Wachtelhund) is an amazing, all-round hunting dog. They’re so good at what they do, that they’re rarely owned by non-hunting folk. The AKC even goes as far as to say that they have a blood-tracking ability comparable to the Bloodhound!
But just because these pups aren’t very well known outside of Germany (or even outside the German hunting community) doesn’t mean they don’t make great family pets for the right owner.
Not only are they fun, boisterous, hard-working, and everything else you’d expect from a Spaniel, but they’re very beautiful too. These pups have a deep red coat and amazingly bright brown eyes. If you’re lucky enough to see one, you’ll certainly know about it!
But how much exercise do these dogs need? What are their grooming requirements? And what about if you have kids? Here’s everything you need to know about the wonderful German Spaniel.
History and Origin of the German Spaniel
The history of this breed really begins with the Stober. Stober were incredibly efficient hunting dogs that were generally owned by the ruling classes. They were very popular and are mentioned in literature as far back as the 1700s.
Owning a Stober meant you had money and the right to hunt – which most people at the time didn’t.
But, with the peasant revolts of 1948, common people were given the right to hunt. And they now needed a loyal companion that could help them.
Stober were mixed with many other breeds including retrievers and spaniels. Federick Roberth, a German dog breeder, is said to have produced the first German Spaniel towards the very end of the 19th century. This breed was first recognized as purebred in 1903 (before that they’d always been considered to be mixed-breed dogs).
In the 1960 and 70s, many German Spaniels were brought to the US and Canada but they were rarely further bred, meaning that there were only 17 dogs registered.
In the 1990s, more dogs were brought to America and, today, it’s thought there are around 100-150 dogs here. Although more popular in their native Germany than they are here, German Spaniels are not usually sold to non-hunters in Germany, meaning if you’re not a hunter, you’ll have more luck getting your paws on one in the US.
This rare breed was recognized by the AKC in 2011.
Personality and Character of the German Spaniel
The Deutscher Wachtelhund (its name translates to German Quail Dog) is a confident and versatile hunter that can carry out a number of different hunting tasks. They’re less specialized than other spaniel breeds but that isn’t to their disadvantage.
These dogs can sniff out and track 40-hour-old game, and flush birds, and their love of water makes them excellent waterfowl retrievers. They’re loyal, highly intelligent, and very sweet, making them an excellent companion on a long hunt.
German Spaniels are very energetic and need to spend lots of time outdoors with a job to do – ideally hunting or retrieving something.
These dogs are friendly and tolerate strangers and new dogs. They’re very friendly and affectionate around canines and humans they know and can be a bit territorial if not socialized well.
Although Deutscher Wachtelhunde have a well-balanced temperament, they’re alert nature and constant need for outdoor entertainment mean they’re not a good companion breed (if that’s all you’re looking for). Potential German Spaniel owners will need to be outside a lot, hiking, hunting, and exploring.
Can the German Spaniel Live in an Apartment?
Bringing a pup home that has as much energy and exercise needs as the German Spaniel should not be underestimated. It’s a big responsibility and commitment. Because these energetic pups are hunting dogs, they’d really prefer not to live in a small apartment.
Like many other hunting dog breeds, having a fenced-in outdoor space is a great way for them to let off some steam and meet their outside requirements. This German hunting breed does have a very strong prey drive, so a fenced-in area is non-negotiable if you want to let them off the leash.
Having said that, this breed is known for being adaptable and versatile. So, if you do live in an apartment and are willing to take your pooch out for long walks and hikes, then they may adapt well to it.
Can the German Spaniel live with children?
This breed gets on really well with kids. They’re energetic and really benefit from having kids to play with. They also have a balanced temperament and an alert nature, so are not usually shocked by anything, making them a great companion for smaller humans.
They’re also loyal and protective and can be trusted to alert humans to potential threats. That being said, all dogs are different and it’s really important both kids and dogs are taught to safely play with each other.
Furthermore, if you’re not adopting a German Spaniel puppy but an older dog, you might want to check with the shelter (or wherever you’re adopting them from) to see how they are around loud noises and overly-friendly kids.
Are they Aggressive Dogs?
These sporting Spaniels are not normally aggressive. They’re actually usually very kind, affectionate, loyal, and friendly. As with any family pet, early socialization is a must. This will help your pooch to grow up to be good-natured and not suspicious of new dogs, people, or situations.
Again, if you’re adopting an adult dog, check with the shelter staff. They’ll (hopefully) be able to give you a good idea of where your dog has come from and potential signs of aggressive behavior or anxiety,
Do They Get Along Well With Other Animals?
Yes, these dogs are great companions for other canines. They’re sociable, love having fun, and can work well in a pack. Professional hunters often have more than one hunting pooch and this dog breed enjoys having others to work and play with.
But, unlike other breeds such as the Labrador Retriever, this gun dog isn’t a good choice if you have other smaller animals in the home. They have very strong prey drives and it’s their nature to flush, track, hunt, and pin animals that they deem to be prey. If you have cats, chickens, rabbits, ferrets, or other small pets, it’s best to consider a different breed.
Appearance of the German Spaniel
As I mentioned right at the start of this blog, the German Spaniel is a particularly beautiful dog breed. Especially if you love the floppy ears, stunning eyes, and fluffy coats of most Spaniel breeds.
They’re medium-sized, have a stocky build, strong bone structure, and quite a long, wavy coat.
Size and Weight
German Spaniels weigh between 40 and 55 pounds and grow to be 18-21 inches. Bitches are often a little lighter and sleeker-looking than their male counterparts.
How Long Does It Take for a German Spaniel to Reach Adult Size?
All dogs develop at different rhythms, but it usually takes a German Spaniel between 10 and 12 months to reach adult size. After that, they may bulk out slightly but they shouldn’t grow too much more.
The AKC accepts these water dogs in two colors. They are red and brown. These pups may also have some white markings (usually on their chest), ticked patches, black points, or a mixture.
Because these dogs were originally bred to be excellent hunters, they have thick and protective coats that allow them to run through the undergrowth, be out in cooler weather, and swim.
The hairs on their head are short and fine but are long, wavy or curly on the rest of their body. They often have a lot of feathering and the fur may be thicker on their underbelly. They’re double-coated and have a soft undercoat which helps to keep them warm but that does need weekly brushing.
According to the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) breed standard, German Spaniels have a straight upper line that slopes slightly towards the croup (the muscular area around their tail). They have a strong but short back, well-defined withers, and an oval-shaped chest.
Their underside should be covered as much as possible by protective hair.
These dogs should have slightly oblique eyes with tight-fitting eyelids. They shouldn’t protrude too much. According to the standard, they should have as dark-brown eyes as possible but may have gorgeous light-brown eyes too.
German Spaniels have a flat skull that’s moderately broad. Their noses should be wide with large nostrils and the same color as their coat. They have a broad muzzle that rounds towards the end and should not be pointed.
They have typically beautiful Spaniel ears that should fall just behind their eyes but that should not be too thick.
In countries where it’s still allowed, many of these dogs controversially have their tails docked. If your pup doesn’t have its tail docked, it should carry on from the topline and slightly slope down. When your pup is especially happy or excited, it may rise above the top line.
Grooming and Hygiene of the German Spaniel
These beloved pets have moderate grooming needs. As with all dog breeds, you should clean their teeth regularly to prevent plaque buildup and trim their nails to stop them from breaking. If you’re unsure about trimming your pooch’s nails, ask a vet or your groomer.
These dogs don’t shed too much but will need weekly brushing. They have quite long and wavy hair that can easily become matted – especially if they go swimming or play in something dirty.
As with other spaniel breeds, it’s really important to clean their ears regularly. Long floppy ears that are unclean or wet can easily become infected. It’s also essential to gently dry them when your pup has inevitably been swimming.
How to Brush a German Spaniel?
German Spaniels need to be brushed once a week to keep their coats looking good and remove dead hair. Gently brush all over their bodies, paying particular attention to the longer-haired areas as these can easily get tangled.
Always brush in the direction of hair growth and make sure you remember their ears, toes, and tail too!
What Brush for a German Spaniel?
A slicker brush can work really well on a German Spaniel. It manages to penetrate the coarse overcoat and get to the softer inner coat to remove those hairs too. It’s gentle enough that it won’t scratch your dog’s skin. We recommend getting one with a flexible handle which can make getting to those harder-to-reach areas easier.
How Do You Wash a German Spaniel?
German Spaniels will need to be washed every two months or so. They’re outdoor dogs, which means they easily get dirty. They also love water and dogs that aren’t bathed can easily develop that not-so-pleasant doggy odor.
It’s important not to over wash them, though. Too much bathing can irritate their skin and remove important oils. If your pooch just rolls in something, try to wipe them down, rather than giving them the full treatment.
Start by rinsing your pooch with warm water. Apply a pup shampoo that’s suitable for medium-length coats and lather it in well – ensuring you get down to their undercoat. Avoid their face and eyes but pay particular attention to the underbelly and toes.
Rinse well and apply the conditioner in the same way. Once rinsed off, make sure you dry your pooch thoroughly to stop skin irritation. Also, dry their ears well.
Is It a Hypoallergenic Dog?
These dogs don’t shed a huge amount compared with other pups but they’re also not considered to be hypoallergenic. They shed occasionally and require some brushing to remove dead hairs and dander. If you have moderate allergies, it’s worth spending time with the puppy first before making a decision.
German Spaniel Training and Education
Proper and early training is essential for any breed, and the German Spaniel is no different.
These dogs are easy to train, especially for the jobs they were bred to do. Hunting, tracking, retrieving, and flushing all come naturally to this pooch. They’re loyal and eager to please which makes them quite amenable too.
Each pup is different but they can generally be trusted off the leash and they’ll be happy to return once called. They love exploring, so it’s best to let them off leash in safe places they know where they can have a good run around.
Basic training (commands such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’) should start from puppyhood. The breed responds best to positive reinforcement and they’ll love getting praise or the odd treat from you.
German Spaniels can also benefit from dog sports and canine classes. They’re particularly good in obedience, tracking, and agility classes. It’s also a great way for them to socialize, meet new pups, and learn correct behavior.
What is the Price of a German Spaniel?
German Spaniels cost anywhere between $1000 and $1300 per puppy. They’re rare dogs, so in some areas, they may cost quite a bit more. Make sure you always buy your pooch from a respected breeder and never adopt from a breeder that won’t provide you with the correct health checks.
German Spaniel Feeding
German Spaniels are very active dogs and need to be fed a diet that matches that. Both kibble and wet food work well for these pups but it’s important they’re fed at regular meal times and not free-fed. Free feeding can quickly lead to weight gain, even with such an active dog.
If you’re concerned about how much you should be feeding your pooch, consult with a vet or canine nutritionist. They’ll be able to advise you on the amount and type of food suited to your pooch and their individual needs.
These dogs will need between 2-3 cups (depending on if they’re working, their size, etc) of high-quality food per day. Always ensure that dogs have access to fresh water too.
German Spaniel Health
The German Spaniel is a healthy breed that doesn’t suffer from many hereditary health problems. Because they’re rare and the breeding is tightly controlled, breeders can easily spot health problems and not breed further from that pup.
Even so, they can suffer from a few conditions. Paying attention to your pup and taking them for health screenings at the vet can help to catch anything early on.
Common conditions for German Spaniels include:
- Elbow and hip dysplasia
- Various cancers
- Patellar luxation
- Obesity and the associated conditions
Elbow and hip dysplasia can affect up to one-third of all German Spaniels, so it’s important breeding stock have regular joint health checks.
What is the Life Expectancy of the German Spaniel?
On average, these dogs live to be 12-14 years old.
What is the Best Climate for a German Spaniel?
These pooches do well in moderate climates. Their thick coats allow them to hunt on cold winter days in Germany but they wouldn’t enjoy living somewhere that’s regularly below zero. They also shouldn’t live in very hot areas. On hotter days, try to hunt with or walk your furry friend early in the morning and make sure they have plenty of cool water.
Breeds Similar to German Spaniels
The German Spaniel is a rare breed so you might find it difficult to find one near you. Luckily, there are many other breeds similar to this one.
Boykin Spaniel. Perhaps not the most well-known Spaniel, but these pups look and act a lot like the German ones.
American Water Spaniel. These dogs have slightly curlier coats and are a couple of inches smaller than German Spaniels. But they’re very similar!
Pont-Audemer Spaniel. These dogs have similar coats and colorings to Deutscher Wachtelhunde but they’re a bit more adaptable and can live in cities too.
German Spaniels are a rare but fantastic breed. They’re excellent hunters – so much so that they’re usually not owned by non-hunters in Germany! Even though they’re a hunter's best friend, they also make great family pets. They’re loyal, affectionate, playful, and very beautiful. They’re very energetic and need to be part of an outdoorsy family that can keep up with all their needs.
If you’re not convinced that the German Spaniel is for you, why not take our fun quiz? It will show you exactly what breed would fit your requirements best.