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182 – Love the Breeds: Clumber Spaniel Roundtable | Pure Dog Talk

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Love the Breeds: Clumber Spaniel Roundtable

Clumber Spaniel

Clumber Spaniel

Clumber Spaniels are not for everyone, these three breeders say, but for those who love them, they’ll never have another breed. Shedding, snoring and slobbering aside, they agree that the dedication and humor of the Clumber Spaniel is what endears them to their owners.

Jan Sutherland

Jan Sutherland

You can come home from work after having a bad day and you open up the door and here’s this ball of fuzz with a toy in their mouth and their butt’s going everywhere. Not to give you the toy, just to show you the toy,” said breeder-judge Jan Sutherland.

Meeting a Rare Breed

With only an estimated 3,000 dogs in the U.S., the breeders strongly recommend prospective owners go to a national specialty as well as meeting dogs in their home environments, so they can experience “love mauling” in person.

Attend a national specialty before you even make the plunge,” breeder judge Jim Fankhauser said. “Look at the extent of what’s out there before you jump in and make that commitment.”

Excellent Hunting Dogs

A very old flushing spaniel named for Clumber Park in Sherwood Forest in England, the breed was developed to push through low hedges in search of game. They remain a determined, methodical hunting dog that works close to the hunter. Breeder Dr.

Dr. Roe Froman, DVM

Dr. Roe Froman, DVM

Roe Froman, DVM describes them as the “Humvee” of spaniels.

“Find it, flush it, fetch it,” Froman said of the breed’s job. “I love hunting with Clumber Spaniels. I don’t know how many hunt test legs we’ve put on our dogs. Many, many, many for the 20 years we’ve been doing this. It is the most fun I think we can have with our dogs. We love it. They love it. I love it.”

Hunting Clumber

Ch. Sasquatch Chaplin, WDX and Jane (Reeves) Bonaccorso

While a Clumber’s antics are charming, and they are deeply devoted to their people, breeders agree that new owners should be aware of potential health concerns and idiosyncrasies.

Health Issues to Consider

Clumbers are notorious for eating foreign objects. Froman said it is the number one health risk in her experience. The discussion included who had the most foreign body removal surgeries. More than one had stories of dogs opened up six and seven times to take out blankets, socks, rocks, towels, plastic, toys etc.

Potential disease risks include neck and back problems common to long bodied dogs, autoimmune mediated hemolytic anemia and an enzyme deficiency called PDP1.

So, if you’re going to have a Clumber or multiple Clumbers,” Froman said, “pet insurance is a really good thing to think about. they’re worth every penny of it, but they are not an inexpensive breed either. So, don’t think you have to have be rich to have a dog but you have to be responsible. You have to know those things might occur.

Judging the Clumber in the Show Ring

Jim Fankhauser

Jim Fankhauser judging the CSCA National Specialty in 2014.

Clumbers in the show ring have become more successful in recent years, but the unique proportions of the Clumber, described as “long, low and substantial,” can be challenging for conformation judges to asses properly. The standard describes the dog as “9 tall to 11 long measured from the withers to the base of the tail.” This is a much longer dog than most judges are accustomed to seeing.

It’s the training, in a sense, of a lot of the new judges that are coming into the breed,” said Fankhauser, “because they see rectangular, but it’s rectangular from, as Laura mentioned before, point of shoulder to buttocks. It’s not rectangular as we measure. So, you have to get them to retrain their eye to long enough.You’re never going to find one too long.”

We hope you enjoy today’s podcast sharing the love of a special breed. You can find more information at



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TRANSCRIPT: Love the Breeds: Clumber Spaniels

Pure Dog Talk is the voice of pure bred dogs. We talk to the legends of the sport and give you the tips and tools to create an awesome life with your purebred dog. From showing to preservation breeding, from competitive obedience to field work, from agility to therapy dogs, and all the fun in between. Your passion is our purpose!

LAURA REEVES: Welcome to pure dog talk. I am your host Laura Reeves and we’re here at the Clumber Spaniel Club of America National Specialty in Portland Oregon, and I am joined by three longtime Clumber Spaniel owners, breeders, exhibitors, a couple judges, a veterinarian – and we’re going to talk about Clumber Spaniels – the good, the bad and the ugly, as they say! So I have Jan Sutherland, I have Roe Froman , and Jim Fankhauser, and I’m going to give everybody an opportunity to introduce themselves – a little bit about your time in the breed and we’ll go from there.

LR: So Jan let’s start with you.

JAN SUTHERLAND OK. Jan Sutherland. Been in the breed for about 25 years now. I am the president of the Clumber Spaniel Club of America. Got into the breed because my husband found this breed after having Goldens he found the Clumber and fell in love and when he got his Clumber I just had to have one for myself! So I started going to the Nationals were a lot of Clumbers there, a lot of breeders, talking to the breeders. I saw something in one of the Clumbers – that was the Clumber I wanted – talked to the breeder, and from there on I’ve been breeding Clumbers for 25 years and I’m a judge now.

LR: Excellent. Roe?

ROE FROMAN: I’m Roe Froman and I am a veterinarian since 1990 and have had Clumber Spaniels since ’94. For 20 years before that we had Chow Chows. We did a 180, and I know that’s a real radical departure-..

LR: I actually didn’t even know that!

RF: We did. Finally we were at our last Chow and I said to my husband, “You know honey I want a dog I don’t have to put in the bedroom when the pizza guy comes anymore and I’ve always liked those Clumbers.” So we contacted a couple breeders and were fortunate to meet Jan Priest who started us with our first two dogs and we haven’t looked back. They are the one true breed for us and I don’t think we’ll ever have anything else.

LR Excellent. And Mr. Fankhauser .

JIM FANKHAUSER: I’m Jim Fankhauser. I’ve been in Clumber Spaniels now for about 24 years. I judge Working and Sporting groups – working on the Herding group right now. I’ve been breeding them since ’97 so about 20 years. I’ve had the good fortune to judge the National Specialty twice. I’ve also had a couple of dogs that won the National Specialty that I bred. It’s been a wonderful breed. I enjoy it tremendously. I have no interest in any other breed at this point in time.

LR: And you started in St. Bernards, correct?

JF: I started as a 20 year old kid in St. Bernards. Showed and exhibited those and did a little bit of breeding for probably about eight years. And then when my wife and I met we thought that there were better places for our time, or money, in our efforts than dog shows. So we took about a 13 year hiatus.

LR: Oh wow.

JF: And then came back in. I’m also considered a breeder judge for St. Bernards. So I get the opportunity to judge probably about one Specialty a year for that breed.

LR: Excellent. And my family got our first Clumber Spaniel in 1980? I think-ish? ’80/’81 maybe? So this has been my National for longer than anything else and I am very excited about this opportunity to talk about a breed that has been an enormous part of my life.

JS: It’s all relatives.

LR: Yes!

JS: Part of the family

LR: Definitely – this is my family right here!

RF: Gathering of the clan.

LR: It is the gathering of the clan! And I think that’s one of the things that we can talk a little bit about – Jan touched on it – is that National Specialties are a family reunion. They are an opportunity to see your people. And just like any family reunion there’s always that one cousin Jimmy that you can just avoid. And there is always your one favorite uncle that you have to go and give a great big hug and a kiss to. And there’s always your besties and your sort of sister/brother people, you know. That is what National Specialties are and they are the same in every breed. As a handler I’ve been to a lot of Nationals in my own breed – Wirehaired Pointers and Clumbers – all of this. It’s always the same, and it is so important for anyone who has just started in a breed to go to National Specialties.

JF: You attend a National Specialty before you even make the plunge. Look at the extent of what’s out there before you jump in and make that commitment right.

LR: Right. We’re going to talk about this. Clumbers are not the breed for everyone.

JS: That is true.

LR: So let’s start with living with Clumbers.

JS: Ok living with Clumbers, well you have to be able to deal with lots of hair. My husband says thirteen months out of the year they shed. You have to be able to deal with that, and you have to be able to deal with slime, slobber – drinking water and spreading it throughout the house. But, on the upside of that, as many people have talked to me about, they are so funny! They do so many hilarious things that keep you smiling. You can come home from work after having a bad, bad day and you open up the door and here’s this ball of fuzz with a toy in their mouth and their butts going everywhere. Not to give you the toy – just to show you the toy. <laughter> And it just brings a smile to your face, you know. And they do so many fun things that other dogs – I had Goldens – have never brought to our life. So you have to live with the slime, slobber, mud sometimes. <laughter> Depending on where you live right. But with all that, it’s so worthwhile.

LR: Roe?

RF: The same thing – shedding, slobber, snoring is big one. I know a dog that the owners adored her but she slept in the garage because they didn’t like that she snored. They’re not garage dogs – they’re not kennel dogs. They’re house pets. They need to be part of your family. So it’s important to know the downside of a breed when you’re considering adding a family member, because it helps you to know what health issues maybe you’re going to be facing. Maybe you can deal with an idea of some disease but, like a back, would be too much for some people. Don’t get a Dachshund and probably don’t get a Clumber. They’ve gotten a lot better but that’s a known health issue.

LR: We’re gonna definitely go into that more for sure.

RF: Yeah but they are the most loving, funny, humorous characters of dogs that I have ever known. They’re all individuals. My 10 month old puppy can drive me crazy, but I wouldn’t trade her for a million dollars so, they are just the best dog you will ever have – if you are a Clumber person. We need to identify what that is.

LR: So, Jim, talk some more about a Clumber person – who is a Clumber person – what does a great Clumber owner?

JF: Somebody that’s tolerant of hair, slobber. I always say – I have a pair of navy sweatpants on today – but black is a non-existent color in my wardrobe – just doesn’t work for me. A Clumber person, somebody that’s got to have that attitude that you can come home every day and the good, the bad, and deal with it. They are naughty at times, they can be overly rambunctious, they can get into things. I remember Ricky Blackmon telling me, “A Clumber Spaniel can walk by something for six months, and ignore it, and then one day walk by and go, “I’ve got to destroy that.” <JS: I’ll eat that>

RF: Chewing is a huge thing for owners to be aware of.

JS: Eating things! Ingesting. That is the biggest thing!

JF: How many stomach surgeries have you had?

JS: At least Six

RF: We’ve had one.

JF: You’ve had six – you’re the winner.

RF: And I’m the vet and we’ve had one! <laughter>

JS: Yeah I had one where we just hydrated him to the point it pushed it out. But then he ate something else …

RF: And the way I explained it to people that are new Clumber owners, when you go to your veterinarian tell your vet they are worse than Labradors about eating things, and your vet will understand because Labs are supposed to be the worst.

JF: I still hand out your vet letter.

RF: But you know what, I don’t know that we have that in the vet letter. I did just revise that and I may have put it in there. It’s one of the biggest heath issues really-…

LR: Absolutely – Look at Linda Fraziers’s – The Deke dog that had-…

RF: Should have had a zipper!

LR: Yeah their vet said they were going to put a zipper because he had seven surgeries alone! That one dog!

JF: The winnner!

RF: It comes to the point more surgeries can’t be done.

JS: <,,,> and then the last one when we just <…> <RF: We just said that>

LR: He ate his first rock at my house! <laughter>

JF: I always tell people give ’em whatever you’re going to give them but until you trust them, and it may take a year before you trust them, supervise. Supervise, supervise, supervise until you completely believe in them.

JS: They can go out in the yard and you never see. A glove and I’m going like, “We don’t have one of those,” <laughter>

RF: I found a hat at the motel on the way out today. <laughter> I’m like, “What have you got — it’s a hat.”

JS: So, you can supervise them and that’s what you try to do, but some of them-…

LR: They’re sneaky <Yeah>

RF: And they’re persistent. They are some of the most persistent dogs I have ever known. They don’t ever forget. Good bad or otherwise, if something happens they will remember for the rest of their lives. One of my favorite stories – and I don’t know who it was but it’s a true story – somebody was driving somewhere and they came to a rest area and they realized they had hit a pheasant on the road and the Clumber ran to the front bumper and found the pheasant in the grill. The rest of his life, every time he got out of the car he ran to the front bumper. <JS: To look for a pheasant>

LR: This is a great segue – Clumber Spaniels are hunting dogs. Ok? They are excellent hunting dogs. They are, as my father – who was one of these – described them, they are the fat old man’s hunting dog. That was how my father who was, at that time, a fat old man and said so himself.

JS: And you go out in the field adn you see a lot of-… <laughter>

RF: They actually told us and vet school, which was before I had a Clumber hadn’t really known about them, was, “They’re the cardiac patients of dogs.” <laughter> Although I’ll respectfully disagree with that as a field person.

LR: But they are a breed that is slow. They are thorough. They will find birds that other dogs miss <JS/RF: They are methodical … methodical> and it’s not that they don’t run. It’s that they are so insistent. So speak to Clumber Spaniels and hunting with Clumber Spaniels.

RF: Love hunting with Clumber Spaniels. I don’t know how many Hunt Test legs we’ve put on our dogs. Many, many, many. For 20 years we’ve been doing this. It’s the most fun I think we can have with our dogs anyway. We love it, they love it. I love it the first few times you go out with new groups of guys to train. Years ago we were training a dog who was really good – Tilly – was a good dog <LR: Very good dog> and we trained and it was a lot of neat guys. They wanted their back yard dog to go out and hunt in the fall and have fun with them. And Tilly was a typical Clubmer, took her time – hunt-hunt-hunt-hunt – find the bird, put it up, great. We’re done. Bring it in. Okay. But hit a cripple over her and that dog changed gears, and every time it happened I loved it because all their jaws would drop and they always said the same thing, “Damn! I didn’t know that dog could move that fast!” So they do exactly what they need to do to get the job done, and if they don’t think it’s done and you do – tough noogies, they’re still <…>

LR: And Clumber Spaniels are a flushing Spaniel – for people who don’t know the distinction, they flush.

RF: Find it, flush it, fetch it.

LR: Correct. And they swim. One of the things that was my job as a child was to teach them how to swim. <laughter> Because the very first Clumber we ever had, the first time he went in the water, he went to the bottom. He went down … he was underwater … and we’re standing on the dock like, “What are you doing? What are you doing?” We had to go get him! So as a child I was paid minimum wage to go into the scummy cow ponds with the Clumbers, hold their bottoms up and teach their little back legs how to work.

RF: There’s an easier way, you can just throw bumpers until they get it in their mouth and then they level out.

LR: These were not geniuses.

RF: This is from a person who doesn’t have a kid so …

LR: So it is something to know about Clumbers. Jim your experience also?

JF: Well I don’t personally hunt but I have had the good fortune of putting a number of dogs in the homes of guys that actually hunt them. They’ve never been to a Hunt Test but they take them out and they actually hunt them. Mark Schafis has been great in that respect. Mark has like five dogs from me and every one of them hunts. He had one that was his duck retrieving dog and that would amaze the guys at the Hunt Club because Avalanche could go out and get a duck and bring it in.

LR: And the one that I always remember, and I think it is consistent – you guys can tell me – but consistent across the breed, do you remember the Shark? <Yes> My father had a Clumber Spaniel – one of our very first Clumbers – and he said she swam like a great white shark. Silent but deadly. And she would bring in a bird that had flushed and was alive when she went to get it, but was miraculously dead when it arrived back <laughter> and he used to say that she smothered them with a velvet pillow. But Clumbers have really strong jaws and they apply very even pressure, and they don’t break the skin <…> but theyr’e not breathing.

JS: No. My husband and I have just recently gotten into hunting and the people that we are hunting with had misgivings about the Clumber … oh no, they’re slow dogs, they don’t move at all … and we have changed their minds completely. My husband’s working with an almost 3 year old and at first he was not into it. Now something clicks in their brains and that’s all he thinks about. Where’s the bird? Where’s the bird? Born to do it.

LR: Absolutely. I mean this is an old breed that’s been hunting for a very long time. They were designed to hunt through the hedgerows and that heavy head and the skin and the eyes. All of that was so they could get under the birds <RF: they go through it – they don’t go around.>

RF: They’re the Hum-V of the Spaniels.

JS: When we first got our Clumber, we had a perfectly groomed backyard with bushes.

LR: As we all just laugh …

RF: That’s part of finding a good Clumber family you can’t be house-proud, you can’t be yard-proud.

JS: No because they just went through the bushes and pretty soon there were no more bushes. If they didn’t dig them out, they ate them. So you have to understand that. Do you want a perfectly groomed backyard or front yard? Or do you want a Clumber?

LR: So we talked a little bit earlier about the vetting of Clumbers and Clumbers were a breed like many that were nearly destroyed during World War II. So a very small gene pool brought back to existence. So they do have some issues so let’s talk a little bit about some of what you can run into with a Clumber.

RF: Neck and back issues are certainly right up there. I think it’s improved a lot over the 20 years that we’ve been working hard on them. Hip dysplasia has always cited, but honestly, as a veterinarian and a breeder for a long time, a lot of Clumbers have bad hip films but not functionally bad hips. There certainly are some that can have issues, but a lot of dogs, if you put up that radiograph and it was a Rottweiler or a German Shepherd or Golden Retriever, the dog would be crippled and the dog is out there doing open obedience jumps <Jumping in the back of the pickup> no problems <…>. So it’s something to be aware of but it’s not really detrimental to the breed.

RF: So interverbal disck disease, backs and necks is probably number one. Hermangiosarcoma tumors of the spleen can be a problem. Moreso a little bit in our breed than numerically you would expect. Immune mediated hemolytic anemia is still a problem. And I list them that way because these are the things that can take a dog down fast or cause significant financial issues for owners, if it can be treated at all. Hips can be managed. Backs and necks can be treated surgically, can be done a lot better than it used to be, but it’s expensive. So if you’re going to have a Clumber or multiple Clumbers, pet insurance is a really good thing to think about. I don’t have it because I’m kind of self-insured But I’ve had dogs that have needed $6,000 orthopedic surgeries too, and I self-insure. So we have a credit card specifically for the dogs. We need it sometimes, so they’re worth every penny of it but they are not an expensive breed either. Don’t think you have to be rich to have a dog, but you have to be responsible. You have to know those things might occur. And again eating things they shouldn’t is number one on the list. Moreso than anything else. Across the breed, that’s what I see as <…>

JS: And it can go all ages – it’s not just for puppies.

JS: Sometimes they get it in their mind that that’s what they have to do. And 6/7/8 … Carly was 9/10.

RF: I lost a 10 year old bitch who decided to eat carpet fibers at 10 years old and had never eaten anything in her life. I don’t know why and we lost her to it.

LR: I know a lot of dogs. Jim – other things that you can think of.



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