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American Water Spaniel: Breed Facts and Information

American Water Spaniel

Bred and born to hunt and retrieve, the American Water Spaniel loves the outdoors. This medium-sized pooch has a distinctly curly or wavy brown waterproof coat. Plus with its webbed toes, thickly-padded feet, and muscular build, this dog won’t miss any chance for a good swim come hell or icy waters. Happiness spells activity with their beloved human. So if you’re considering to have this kind of dog as a companion, here everything you need to know about the American Water Spaniel.


Practicality and necessity mothered the emergence of this breed in 19th century Wisconsin, where it remains the state dog. When European immigrants settled in the area, they depended on waterfowls in the Great Lakes for sustenance. Thus, frontiersmen felt the need for a hunting dog that could work well in water. And since ingenuity has always been one of man’s strong suits, the American Water Spaniel came about, the perfect companion dog to hunters. This pooch can do every bit of the grunt work involved in hunting —  they have an impeccable sense of smell to sniff out potential prey, they have the muscle power to retrieve games on land or in the water, and they have the predator’s instinct to spring up on rabbits and quails.

Although how the breed came about remains a mystery, this dog is thought to be a product of pack breeding of component breeds, which includes the English Water Spaniel, Curly Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, Poodle, native Indian dogs, and the Sussex Spaniel. Recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1940, the breed has become rare with roughly around 3,000 dogs in existence today.


Just like most other dog breeds, the American Water Spaniel’s personality depends on a range of factors, which includes training, socialization, and hereditary. Given the right environment, this dog is obedient, friendly, cheerful, curious, and always up for an outdoor adventure. This is not the kind of pooch that you can leave in your backyard for long stretches of time. The dog will get bored and will become stubborn. As a result, it may exhibit behavioral problems like incessant barking, chewing, and will resort to manipulative behaviors to try and get your attention.

Given the right amount of attention, exercise, and mental stimulation, the AWC are awesome family dogs and can live in an apartment. They’re great with kids and other animals. And if you’re an outdoorsy type, you’ll find an excellent partner in this kind of dog as they are agile and has a high level of endurance even with different types of terrain. This dog’s loyalty lies with whoever spends the most time with it.


Sporting a medium-sized built with curly, chocolate, brown, or liver coat, the American Water Spaniel’s looks remained relatively the same since its origin because of its limited popularity. Typically smaller than its Irish cousins, the AWC has an average of 15-18 inches at the withers and weighs approximately 25-40 pounds. Females are generally smaller than males.

This pooch has a dense water-resistant double coat. It’s coarse outer layer protects it from water and thorny shrubs when it’s out walking in the woods. And the inner layer provides insulation to keep them warm even when they’re out having a grand time in the snow or icy waters.

Common Health Problems

Because of pack breeding, the American Water Spaniel doesn’t have some common hereditary conditions that most popular breed exhibit. They can live up to a ripe old age of 12-15 years. That said, the breed can suffer from a wide range of diseases. Here are its common medical conditions:

Hip Dysplasia

Approximately 8.3% of the breed suffers from this condition according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. This degenerative disease is one of the most common diseases in the canine world. Abnormal hip socket development causes this condition and it could result in crippling pain and lameness in severe cases.

Pattern Baldness

A specific type of pattern baldness called saddle alopecia commonly occurs in water spaniel types of dogs. This condition involves a thinning of hair underneath the neck, tail part, and back of the thighs around 6 months of age and it could progress until those areas are completely bald.


Old dogs usually suffer from this kind of eye problem but with an American Water Spaniel, early onset of this condition in dogs less than a year old is quite possible because of genetic factors. Cataracts look like a cloudy film in your dog’s eyes and treatment involves surgically removing the lens and replacing it with acrylic or plastic lens. If it goes untreated, it could cause blindness in dogs.

Progressive retinal atrophy

This is a hereditary disorder that causes the degeneration of the retina. Vision loss is progressive that would eventually lead to blindness in a span of 1-2 years. Early signs that a dog may be having this problem include night blindness, dilated than usual pupils, and clumsiness. There is no known treatment for this condition and that’s why it’s imperative that you have your pet from reputable breeders to ensure that dogs with this kind of condition are not used for breeding.


When your dog’s thyroid glands do not make enough metabolic hormones called thyroxine, it would cause a wide range of health problems like infertility, hair loss, obesity, lethargy, slowed heart rate, and irregular heat cycles. Fortunately, hypothyroidism doesn’t have to affect your dog’s quality of life as treatment is fairly inexpensive and effective.


Allergies can be quite common in American Water Spaniels as it is with other dog breeds. Your pooch could have food, contact, or inhalant allergy. The common culprits behind contact allergies are flea powder, dog shampoo, bedding material, and other chemicals that touch your dog’s skin. Allergens like pollen, mildew, and dust are the common causes of inhalant allergies. Treatment includes allergy medication and it is also vital to determine the cause of allergy and eliminate it to avoid recurrence.


This hereditary disorder causes seizures in dogs. Although seizures are generally not painful for your pooch, it could cause panic and confusion. It is vital that you keep your pet in a safe place with no risk of falling during an episode. Fortunately, with proper medication and management, your dog can live life to the fullest even with this disease. 

Tips in Taking Care of American Water Spaniel

If you’re considering this kind of dog breed, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Choosing a puppy

This dog breed is rare and finding a good breeder may take time. Even so, you need to do the legwork and be patient as your pet’s health condition is at stake here.  When you do find a breeder, ask for health clearances for the puppy’s parents before committing to anything. And if possible, it’s ideal to check out one or both parents to see if they have the kind of temperaments that you can live with.


When it comes to grooming, it’s best to start your pet while it’s still a puppy. When they’re used to being groomed and touched in different areas of their bodies, you’ll less likely have any problem during grooming sessions when they’re grown.

The American Water Spaniel sheds during springtime. It’s imperative to brush its coat frequently to prevent it from piling up on your apartment floor or carpet. Other times of the year, you can brush the coat weekly. Some owners clip their pet’s curly coat to prevent bur from sticking to it. But if you live in an urban area, it’s best to keep those natural curls.

Frequent baths will remove your pooch’s natural oil that keeps its coat water-resistant. So unless they’re smelly or dirty, you don’t have to bathe your pet regularly.

American Water Spaniels have hanging ears and breeds with this kind of ears are susceptible to an ear infection. To avoid this, wipe your dog’s ears weekly using a cotton ball with vet-recommended cleanser.

Trim your dog’s nails at least once a month. This is for your own benefit too as it can prevent you from getting scratched when your pet is being its over enthusiastic self.


It’s recommended to feed your AWC twice daily and their feed consumption should be no more than 1.5 cups per day. The health of your pooch is dependent on the quality of its diet so make sure to give it high-quality feeds. Clean water should be available at all times.

Ideal Living Condition

The American Water Spaniel has lots of energy to burn so it could fare well living in the country with a spacious backyard as its playground. However, as long as you commit to giving it a good dose of daily activities, city life can just be as good for this breed.

The American Water Spaniel is a unique dog that may require lots of your time and attention. They have a mind of their own and can be stubborn. However, if you’ve decided to take one under your wings, train it, and shower it with love, you’ll find a rare gem of a friend who’s eager to please and would go miles for you.

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