AKC Dog Breeds: Irish Water Spaniel

Post Pic

As dog owners and people who care deeply for animals and wildlife, we wanted our Dog Encyclopedia to be a website that could empower pet owners to create the most positive, loving environment for their dogs. Dog Encyclopedia realizes that owning a dog is like adding a new member to your family.

Terrier Group
Height: 14-18 inches   Weight: 22-29 pounds  Color: bright red, golden red, red wheaten

The clown of the spaniel family, the Irish Water Spaniel will think of creative ways to accomplish even the slightest of tasks. Strong and intelligent, the tallest spaniel breed possesses several unique characteristics – its liver-colored curly coat and signature "rat tail." The water-repellant double coat consists of dense, tight ringlets with a topknot of long, loose curls and a smooth face. The "rat" tail is thick and covered with curls at the base, tapering to a fine point covered with short, smooth hair. A dog of ancient lineage, there is evidence of Irish Water Spaniel-type remains going back as far as the 7th and 8th centuries AD. In the late 1100’s, dogs found in southern Ireland below the River Shannon were called Shannon Spaniels, Rat-Tail Spaniels or Whip-Tail Spaniels, among other things. Records document the "Water Spagnel" with "long, rough, curled hair and a tail somewhat bare and naked." The breed was registered with the AKC in 1878.

General Appearance
The largest of the spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel is a solid brown (leaning to purple), crisp-textured and curly-coated.  Both the face and tail have short hair as contrasted with the long curls of the body. It has a rather large head with an arched skull. The curly outer coat is lined with a dense undercoat, which helps insulate the dog in even the coldest water. A top-knot of curls on the head hangs down to cover and protect the eyes. The muzzle is long, square and powerful. The long ears are covered with curls. The chest is deep, but rather narrow for free movement when swimming. The hind quarters are as high as or slightly higher than the shoulders. The front legs are straight and well boned. Webbed feet assist in swimming.

These dogs are bold, highly intelligent, and quick to learn, which makes training easy. They can, however, also be rather obstinate, opinionated, and sensitive, which makes them best suited to those with some experience of dog ownership. The personality of the Irish Water Spaniel can vary from one individual to another, but by and large these dogs are eager to please their owners, enjoy play and activity, and have inquisitive and curious natures. The energy level of the Irish Water Spaniel can be very high as a puppy, but tends to decrease to more moderate levels as the dog grows older. The Irish Water Spaniel can be very protective, which makes him an effective watchdog. Some can also be reserved or sharp, which makes early socialization important. The Irish Water Spaniel, as the name suggests, loves water and is known to be a very efficient retriever when it comes to wildfowl. These dogs will get along well with children, particularly children that they have been brought up with, but tend to be wary around strangers. When it comes to other pets some Irish Water Spaniels can be aggressive, particularly with other dogs - again early socialization is an important consideration if you have other pets. The Irish Water Spaniel is a spirited dog that has plenty of stamina and a fun loving disposition, making him a great choice for a family pet.


This is a breed with a coat that requires a great amount of grooming however, since the Irish Water Spaniels coat is composed of hair instead of fur it is also a great dog for allergy sufferers. Because the Irish Water Spaniel is covered in hair it needs regular trimming just as a person does. This is a breed that sheds very little hair and also has little dander to set off allergies with. This breed is high maintenance and requires extensive grooming. To prevent matting they must be brushed daily. Regular professional trimming of the coat is an absolute must. Bathing should only be done when necessary using a mild shampoo to protect the natural oil of the coat. This breed may slobber and drool.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of the Irish Water Spaniel is around 10-12 years, and although a relatively healthy breed in general there are a few health problems to look out for. The Irish Water Spaniel is prone to elbow and hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and eye problems. Ear infections often occur as a result of the water that does not drain from the ears properly and can pool inside causing an infection. Drying your Irish Water Spaniel's ears thoroughly after swims may help to prevent some ear infections, but any sensitivity around the ears should immediately be checked by a veterinarian.

Activity Level

The Irish Water Spaniel requires an inordinate amount of daily exercise. They enjoy swimming, retrieving, family activities, hunting, and a long walk. This breed is not recommended for apartment dwelling. Their love of the outdoors makes them better suited for the country or suburbs. They do best with a large yard.


Dog Breeds:

Dog Encyclopedia has added beautiful dog photographs on each of our Dog Breed pages to enhance your experience. Each section in Dog Encyclopedia helps to educate pet owners, enabling both the dog, and the owner to have a safe, high quality experience

search boxers at Dog Encyclopediachoows are great petsDogue Bordeauxtwo english setters are twice the funbull terriers at dog encyclopediaboston terriers in love

Irish Water Spaniel dog featured in dog encyclopedia
Irish Water Spaniel profile on dog encyclopedia