American Water Spaniel
Breed Group: Sporting
Temperament and Behavior
Sometimes referred to as the lost American breed, the temperament of this little-known spaniel fits about halfway between the independent Irish Water Spaniel and the companionship-loving English Springer Spaniel. Needing less exercise than their activity level may suggest, they enjoy getting involved with just about any family undertaking. They relish physical activity outside, especially if it involves water. As a hunting assistant, they will either jump in and out of a small boat or canoe all day without tipping it over or retrieve small game on foot. Their activity level inside is higher than average too but they are not hyperactive unless frequently isolated or confined. Taking longer to mature than most breeds, they seem to enjoy the playfulness of children over companionship with adults. But children need to understand these dogs are possessive of their food and do not tolerate teasing. Be watchful when an American Water Spaniel meets a new dog; it sometimes does not go as well as hoped for. But perhaps surprisingly, cats and small squeaky pets that run are apt to be accepted. Not particularly friendly with strangers, they are quick to use their voice making them an above average watchdog but only they are only average guardians.
Physical CharacteristicsThe American Water Spaniel is no more than a medium sized dog that stands 15 to 18 inches tall at the top of the shoulder and weighs between 30 and 45 pounds. Their coats are either a deep wavy pattern (called “marcelled” by those in the dog world) or tightly curled. In either case, their coat, which protects them well when in the field, is slightly oily which makes it waterproof. As a result, some people describe an “oily” smell to the dog that they find objectionable. Excessive shampooing will remove the oil and can lead to dry skin. In temperate regions, they do well in both the cold and in warm temperatures. Coats are brown ranging from dark chocolate to liver. They should be brushed a couple of times a week and after working in the field. They shed lightly but continuously.
Trainer's NotesNot being as eager to please as some spaniels, they can be assertive and stubborn. They need effective socialization and obedience training to make sure who is in control and which one of you gets your slippers. But training must be persuasive rather than coercive because these are sensitive dogs that may become defensive if jerked around. They make a reasonable choice for a first-time dog owner provided the need for socialization and their energy level is accommodated.
American Water Spaniel
HealthThe American Water Spaniel has been unaffected by many of the genetic issues found in purebred dogs. Their most frequent problem is Hip Dysplasia which affects about 8% of the dogs tested. Keep their ears clean and the hair from growing into the ear canal to reduce ear infections. They have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.
PopularityThey rank 125th in popularity with only about 200 dogs registered with the American Kennel Club each year. If you want one of these dogs, be prepared to look hard for a breeder and wait for a puppy to become available.
Breed HistoryThe exact heritage of the American Water Spaniel is debated. Many credit Wisconsin hunters with developing the breed. But others credit American Indians living in the area of the Great Lakes. But whatever its origins, those in Wisconsin are happy to have one of the few breeds developed in the United States and rarely seen outside the Great Lakes region of the country as their state dog. Until the AKC recognized the breed in 1940, nobody considered breeding the American Water Spaniel for anything but hunting. Even today, 70 plus years after its recognition, it is one of the least known of the AKC breeds and is still rarely seen in the show ring.
Additional InformationThere is a split between those who see the breed as a spaniel as opposed to those who see the breed as a retriever. As a result, there are two organizations that promote the breed. The official AKC breed club is the American Water Spaniel Club with The American Water Spaniel Field Association also involved with the breed.