American Water Spaniel

Country of origin:
Height (cm):
Weight (kg):
Life span (years):
liver, brown, chocolate
average, large
Hair length:
average, short
Recognized by:
FCI code:
Good with kids:
Pros Cons

  • easy-going and gentle

  • superb four-legged friend for children

  • clever and playful

  • versatile hunter

  • requires lots of daily exercise

  • not for an apartment dweller


The American Water Spaniel was developed in America in the middle of the XIX century to be a versatile gun dog. Being a great swimmer it’s especially proficient at retrieving waterfowl and is highly valued by hunters in this role. This very vigorous and protective breed is fond of children and can make a wonderful pet if provided with sufficient amount of exercise.


The American Water Spaniel was bred by hunters and for hunters in the 60s of the XIX century in the Fox and Wolf River valleys of Wisconsin. It’s universally accepted that this dog appeared as the result of crossing of the Irish Water Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, Field Spaniel, and apparently the now-extinct Old English Water Spaniel.

However it came to existence, the present-day American Water Spaniel is valued for its superb hunting prowess. Its thick, curly coat serves as a reliable protection from icy water and from thorns in the dense vegetation. Thanks to its small stature it suits perfectly for hunting ducks and other waterfowl in a little boat or canoe. This dog prefers to stay nearby its human hunting partner rather than keep ahead of him.

The hunters from the Midwestern United States frequently utilised this all-around hunting breed and benefited from its capability to operate in various terrain from swamps to highlands, its stamina, and its talent for retrieving numerous birds a day. Nonetheless when more massive retrieving dogs from England came into fashion, the number of this small chocolate spaniel shrank dramatically.

Luckily, Doctor F.J. Pfeifer of New London, Wisconsin, was among the breeds’ faithful fanciers. He devoted much energy to save the American Water Spaniel from final disappearance and in many ways thanks to his assiduous work the dog received recognition of the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1920 and the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) official acceptance in 1940.

The American Water Spaniel is reckoned to be a rare breed with less than 3 000 living specimens and the vast majority of these dogs still live in the areas surrounding Wisconsin. It was announced the state dog of Wisconsin in 1986. Apart from its original predestination the breed also obtained certain recognition as a companion animal and a very dependable watcher. In spite of its relative rarity today nothing threatens the long-term well-being of this outstanding multifunctional hunting dog.


The quick-wittedness, keen nose and unparalleled endurance of the American Water Spaniel became the reason of its popularity as a versatile gun dog. However this dog is also notable for gentle, loyal and friendly disposition that makes it an excellent pet for families and individuals alike. It loves receiving attention from its favourite people and can ill-behave if left alone too often or for too long. A well-socialised specimen becomes an exceptionally good playmate for children of any age group. But it’s crucial to teach the younger members of the family to avoid pulling the dog’s hair or messing around its food.

The American Water Spaniel is quite tolerable of strange people and rarely displays outright aggression towards them. This dog usually enjoys human companionship and strives for making new friends. It always barks loudly when someone approaches the house door and therefore makes a great watcher. The breed has also potential of becoming a very reasonable guardian that won’t let any intruder to trespass on its territory unchallenged.

In general, the American Water Spaniel is on good terms with other canines. However it likes to take an alpha status among its counterparts and can instigate cruel confrontation in order to assert its authority. The master must keep his pet securely leashed in public places and always control its interaction with strange dogs. As an innate hunter this dog views all moving objects as potential preys so stray cats and other street animals and birds can’t feel itself safe in its presence. But the American Water Spaniel does get on with those individual cats and other pets, which it got to know in an early age.

Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

· canine hip dysplasia;

· eye problems;

· cardiac abnormalities;

· ear infections;

· diabetes;

· hypothyroidism;

· allergies;

· epilepsy;

· baldness;

· patella luxation;

· elbow dysplasia;

· Cushing’s disease;

· intervertebral disk disease;

· arthritis;

· perianal hernia;

· interdigital cysts;

· anal gland problems.


The American Water Spaniel can be groomed with average investment of time and efforts. This breed sheds very intensely twice a year and very moderately the rest of the time. That’s why regular brushing is so important for this dog. It’s recommended to groom it at least couple times a week in order to get rid of loose hair in its coat.

Excessive feathering around the dog’s tail, legs and ears should be periodically trimmed. The coat of the American Water Spaniel is covered with oily natural substance that protects it from foul weather and cold water. Frequent bathing may wash off these oils and therefore should be avoided. The dog’s nails require trimming every other month and its ears should be regularly examined and cleaned if they look dirty.


The American Water Spaniel is a smart and very trainable dog that wants to please its masters. Any form of maltreatment is highly undesirable in the work with this obedient breed since it will only make it completely distrustful of humans. Reward any progress of your pet with gentle words and tasty treats and you will achieve total success in its training really quickly.

The American Water Spaniel doesn’t require any special instructions to fulfil its original hunting duties and will be completely enraptured with activities, which involve chasing and retrieving some kind of moving object. This dog also usually excels in such canine sports as agility and obedience trials.


The American Water Spaniel is capable of hunting tirelessly for hours on end on a very tough terrain and therefore has rather extensive exercise requirements. To remain healthy and well-behaved indoors this dog should be provided with daily opportunity to stretch its legs in an enclosed area.

Be mindful that this energetic dog will never feel itself comfortable in a small city apartment. The best living situation for this breed is a large suburban house with a roomy yard and preferably a swimming pool or a pond nearby. Remember that propensities to continuous barking and destructive actions are commonly observed in those American Water Spaniels who are treated as couch potatoes.