Trixie the Smililng Sussex Spaniel
by Evan Quinn
Trixie the Smiling Sussex
We came across the beautiful Sussex Spaniel breed at a dog show at the Cow Palace in San Fran 3 years ago, and fell in love.
We were lucky enough soon thereafter to pick up Beatrix, one of the pups from Sundowner Sussex Spaniels in Watsonville, CA, Pluis Davern breeder extraordinaire.
Quickly adapting Beatrix to her nickname, Trixie, we took Trixie to puppy training and she nearly immediately became comfortable with our two other dogs, a Basset Hound and a blind Tibetan terrier.
Some observations about Trixie:
* She smiles, consciously. Apparently the Sussex is a smiling breed, and Trixie comes from a particularly smiling brood. When I come home from work, she ensures she is always seated in the same place on the leather couch, I walk in, she crooks her neck around to see me, and smiles. I laugh every night when I come home.
* I've read a few puppy machine web sites describing this breed as not too smart, and other sites saying the Sussex is quite bright. I am definitely in agreement with the second view - Trixie is smart enough to pick up training quickly, but like all dogs needs to be reminded.
She is also smart enough to get into curiosity-driven trouble, to manipulate, and test one's pack leadership using subtle but palpable means - now and then you have to remind her firmly of who is in charge; she sometimes wonders if maybe you forgot.
* The hunting gene runs deep. I take her for walks most mornings, she just bumps along, often heeling well, but near underbrush the nose starts working. And of the blue sometimes the hunting gene blazes - she actually jumps into underbrush and flushes quail, has happened several times.
She also enjoys making ANY bird fly, and prefers to see squirrels run into trees as well. Strange, it seems like a switch - she is either 100% hunter, or 0%, but the switch can get thrown at any time.
* Disposition wise, she is a wonderful dog. Soft mouth, usually very open to meeting other dogs though can be protective of our blind tibetan. She is comfortable with all humans, happy to let several children pet her simultaneously, and an utter charmer. Regarding cats, sometimes she wants to be friends, sometimes she wants to hunt them - I don't risk it.
* Fussy eater! She is not particularly food driven, and often reacts well to the PROCESS of receiving a treat - the positive reinforcement - but often could really care less about the treat: She takes the treat happily when she knows she has done something well, wags her tail, then drops it in the grass and moves on.
* She is moderately difficult to keep clean - picks up burrs easily, ears need attention often. But again, there is misinformation about the Sussex on the puppy machine sites that say Sussex Spaniels shed voluminously - not true - they barely shed at all.
Thus, they are a good dog to have around for those with allergies. They do need brushing from a special brush that takes out their dead hair, but as long as you do that about weekly you will find few indications of Sussex fur in the house.
In summary, Trixie is happy, healthy, sometimes a startling good hunter, great companion, excellent with virtually all humans and other dogs, and has an incredible sense of humor. Plus she has that smile that will get you to smile.
I'm in my late 50s, lived with dogs my entire life covering a wide variety of breeds. While I loved all my dogs, this little Sussex, Beatrix, cannot be beat.
Sussex Spaniels are hard to find, but absolutely worth it, particularly if you are willing to put in some effort regarding training, cleaning and understanding how the pack works.