AKC Dog Breeds: American Water Spaniel

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Sporting Group
Height: 15-18 inches   Weight: 23-45 pounds  Color: solid liver, brown or dark chocolate

Although a very rare breed, the American Water Spaniel has its own state-wide fan club as the State Dog of Wisconsin! A truly dual-purpose dog, bred for companionship and top-notch retrieval ability, the AWS is active, muscular and medium in size. The American Water Spaniel developed primarily in the Great Lakes region of the United States in the mid 1800’s, with ancestors that include the Irish Water Spaniel and Curly-Coated Retriever. They were the first breed developed in this country as an all-around hunter that could retrieve from boats. Breed enthusiasts kept the AWS out of the show ring for a short time in fear of ruining his reputation as a hunter, but the breed became recognized by the AKC in 1940.

General Appearance
The American Water Spaniel was developed in the United States as an all-around hunting dog, bred to retrieve from skiff or canoes and work ground with relative ease. The American Water Spaniel is an active muscular dog, medium in size with a marcel to curly coat. The American Water Spaniel has a double coat, which is distinctive and weather resistant. The outer coat ranges from tightly curled to wavy, while the under coat is dense and protects this breed from weather and water. The coat is neither coarse nor soft, but somewhat oily. The hair on the ears, chest, legs and tail is slightly longer and more fringed but still curly or wavy. The coat may not be uniformly wavy or curly with the hair across the back straighter than the hair on the chest or rump area. The color may be dark chocolate, brown, or solid liver.  Emphasis is placed on proper size and a symmetrical relationship of parts, texture of coat and color. This dog has long, well fringed ears and a long tail that is used similar to a rudder when the dog is swimming. Eyes can be any color but yellow, which are actually a very bright lemon color, not a tawny or light hazel.


This breed is loyal, energetic, obedient, and persistent. They are generally gentle with children and other pets. They may become aggressive with dogs they do not know. The American Water Spaniel is an ideal family pet. If they are properly introduced they are friendly with strangers. They may become attached to one particular person within the family unit. They are an excellent watchdog, and have a tendency to bark excessively. Many American Water Spaniel' will "yodel" when excited. They love attention, but are fully capable of creating their own entertainment. The American Water Spaniel is a very gentle, kind and affectionate dog as well as an energetic hunting dog and an incredibly intelligent worker. They are typically very good with children and other pets in the family, although they are known to be dog aggressive with strange dogs. The American Water Spaniel can be socialized while they are young and this will help prevent any aggression in both males and females. Intact males are most prone to being aggressive towards other dogs, especially in the presence of females in heat.


American Water Spaniels require a thorough brushing at least twice a week. Bathing should only be done when absolutely necessary using a mild shampoo. It is essential that the coat not be stripped of the natural oils. Occasional professional clipping of the coat is recommended to keep this breed from looking "ratty".

Health Problems and Life Expectancy

Generally the American Water Spaniel is a very healthy breed and is only occasionally bothered by hip and eye conditions. As with all breeds the American Water Spaniel will need regular vaccinations, worming and flea and tick treatment. For American Water Spaniels used in field events or hunting it is very important to check for ticks after every outing to prevent any possible diseases or infections that can be caused by contact with the ticks. The lifespan of the American Water Spaniel is around 10-15 years. Some of the health conditions and disorders that are associated with this breed include cataracts, thyroid problems, epilepsy, retinal detachment, luxating patella, PRA, HD, and seizures

Activity Level

American Water Spaniels require an inordinate amount of physical exercise, and enjoys swimming and hunting. They have a tendency to roam, so daily jogging or walking must be done with the American Water Spaniel securely leashed. They benefit from play sessions such as Frisbee or a game of "fetch".  They prefer a home in the country setting with room to run. A roaming breed the American Water Spaniel will need a fenced yard or to be kept on a lead until well trained to return when called. They can become focused on a scent or trail and will often track almost absentmindedly, roaming much farther than they intended. These dogs make excellent pets for moderate to extremely active families.


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