American Water Spaniel

Breed At A Glance


Protective, friendly and intelligent

Life Expectancy
12-15 yrs

Average Height
15-18 inches

Average Weight
25-24 inches

Coat Color
Liver or chocolate

Coat Length/Texture
Medium length crisp curled or wavy outer coat, with protective undercoat

Shedding Propensity

General Temperament

The American Water Spaniel is an intelligent and trainable breed with a strong desire to work. They are extremely loyal, often becoming particularly attached to one member of the family. Persistent and obedient, this dog makes an excellent hunting companion.

Although they enjoy attention from family members, American Water Spaniels can also entertain themselves without being destructive. The AWS gets along well with children and other family dogs, although they can be aggressive towards dogs they don’t know. Despite their history as a hunting breed, they will also get along well with smaller pets, such as cats. When properly socialized from puppyhood, the American Water Spaniel makes a loyal and loving family pet.

This breed is generally eager to please and enjoys interacting with their master, so training an AWS can be quite satisfying for the owner and dog alike. They can be sensitive, so the training should never be harsh or heavy-handed; this can lead to timidness or fear-biting. Calmness and variety are the best training techniques for this breed.

The American Water Spaniel does not necessarily need to hunt to be happy, but they do require a sufficient amount of exercise. A home with an average-sized yard is best, but they can function well in an apartment if given plenty of walks and playtime. They have a tendency to roam, so be sure to keep them on a leash if not in a securely fenced area.

Breed History

As it’s name denotes, the American Water Spaniel originated in the midwestern United States sometime around the mid-1800’s, although its exact ancestry remains a mystery. Local hunters needed an all-around gun dog that could hunt almost any game on a variety of terrains (including marshlands), and could fit easily into a canoe or skiff. Exact records were not kept, but breeds involved in the development of this dog may have included the English Water Spaniel, Field Spaniel, Curly Coated Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, Tweed Water Spaniel, and possibly the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The AWS reached the peak of it’s popularity during the 1920’s and 1930’s, thanks in part to the work of Wisconsonite Doc Pfeifer, who is credited with obtaining the breed’s first recognition.

The American Water Spaniel was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1940.

Body Structure and Composition

The most distinguishing characteristic of the American Water Spaniel is it’s deep brown, weather resistant double coat, which is wavy or slightly curled. It is a muscular and hardy breed with a broad skull and moderate-length muzzle. The pendulous ears are feathered and lay flat against the head. The body is well-proportioned. The tail is typically feathered and slightly curved, and carried near the level of the back.

Medical Information

The American Water Spaniel has almost no hereditary health issues, owing to it’s lack of popularity throughout it’s history (they have not suffered from overbreeding, as other breeds have). The most common complaints are skin conditions and allergies. Occasional reports of heart conditions, diabetes, epilepsy and Hip Dysplasia emerge from time to time, but they are relatively minor in comparison to other breeds.

Anecdotal Information

The American Water Spaniel is considered one of the rarer breeds in the U.S., ranked 138 out of 157 possible breeds registered with the AKC in 2007.

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