American Water Spaniel

In the mid1800s, the American Water Spaniel was bred from a lineage of the Curly-Coated Retriever and the Irish Water Spaniel in Wisconsin. Thanks to its versatility, the breed was immensely popular as a working gundog long before it was recognized officially. It is the official state canine of Wisconsin and remains popular with sport hunters, specifically in the Great Lakes area. It is believed to be one of the rarest breeds, with an estimated population of approximately three thousand dogs.

american water spaniel colors

Breed Standard

This fantastic little spaniel was bred as a dual-purpose sporting dog to flush and retrieve all types of game. The small size makes it perfect for working in tight quarters. It is a solidly built dog with rectangular proportions, covered in a crisp water-repellent coat. The tail is tapered with slight feathering and is carried a little above or below the back. The ears are wide and long, and the eye color varies from light to dark brown.

Breed Facts

Energy levelWatchdog ability
Exercise requirementsProtection ability
PlayfulnessGrooming requirements
Affection levelCold tolerance
Friendliness toward dogsHeat tolerance
Friendliness toward other petsFriendliness toward strangers
Ease of training

Activity level: High. American Water Spaniels require a daily outlet for their mental and physical energy. However, most of these dogs’ exercise needs can be met with a long walk.

Grooming: The coat needs to be brushed weekly to prevent matting and can be trimmed occasionally for a neater appearance. The dog’s ears need to be cleaned regularly. Detailed grooming information is available on the parent club’s website.

Coat: A water-repellent, crisp-textured, wavy, or curly outer coat with a dense undercoat.

Color: Shades of brown ranging from liver to dark chocolate, with or without a small amount of white on the toes or chest.

Group: Sporting

Year recognized by the AKC: 1940

  • Popularity: Very rare
  • Family group: Gundog, Spaniel
  • Country of Origin: Unites States
  • Date developed: 1800s
  • Original purpose: Bird flushing and retrieving
  • Today’s purpose: Bird flushing and retrieving, spaniel field trials
  • Other names: None

American Water Spaniel Temperament

This spaniel is friendly, playful, and energetic. It is generally tolerant of other pets and easygoing. American Water Spaniels are excellent watchdogs; however, they can become highly possessive and protective if these instincts are not corrected with training. They are willing to please and receptive. And they respond enthusiastically to positive training approaches.

Like its name says, this spaniel is a true lover of water. It is a skilled hunter and versatile retriever, but it is also a biddable playful family dog as long as it gets plenty of regular mental and physical exercise. Usually good with other dogs within the home; however, some can be aggressive toward strange dogs. Also, some whine or drool and barking can be an obvious problem.


american water spaniel puppy
  • Main concerns: mitral valve disease
  • Minor problems: PDA, pulmonic stenosis, CHD
  • Rarely seen: patellar luxation, PRA
  • Recommended tests: cardiac, hip, eye
  • Life span: 10 to 12 years
  • Weight: male – 30 to 45 pounds; female – 25 to 40 pounds
  • Height: 15 to 18 inches

Breeder and Buyer’s Advice

Potential American Water Spaniel owners should choose a puppy from a breeder who screens their dogs for health conditions and provides a health guarantee.

Parents club: American Water Spaniel Club (; founded in 1985

Rescue: American Water Spaniel Rescue, Inc. (

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