American Water Spaniels are relatively rare dogs that make great family companions, hiking companions, and/or watch dogs. This breed has a big dog personality in a smaller package, usually weighing 25-45 pounds, and despite the spaniel name, the AWS is more like a retriever. These dogs are energetic, tireless, and independent at times while also being social. They love the water and can be highly versatile hunting dogs, meaning they need plenty of stimulation and exercise to be happy! This is definitely not a couch potato breed.
As mentioned, these dogs thrive as hunting companions, as they were originally bred by hunters in Wisconsin during the 19th century. Ancestors of the breed are thought to include the Irish Water Spaniel, Old English Water Spaniel (now extinct), Field Spaniel, and Curly-Coated Retriever. These dogs were great for those hunting waterfowl because they’re small enough to ride in a boat while still being able to retrieve a duck or goose. Eventually, American Water Spaniels became especially popular in the rest of the Great Lakes region and were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1940. The breed’s ties to Wisconsin still remain strong to this day, as it is the official state dog!
The American Water Spaniel usually stands 15-18 inches tall at the shoulder, weighs 25-45 pounds, and comes with a water-resistant double coat that’s either wavy or curly. Colors tend to be on the darker side, like liver, brown, or chocolate, and occasionally, there may be patches of white on their chest and toes. Weekly brushing can help keep their coats healthy by removing any loose fur and preventing any mats from developing. With their floppy ears and love of water, it’ll be important to keep an eye on their ears and make sure to clean and dry them. Like any breed, nail trims and regular dental care are also important for these dogs.
Positive reinforcement training and socialization can make a big difference for an American Water Spaniel, as the breed can be a bit aloof with strangers while also being energetic. If you have a more outdoorsy lifestyle and/or love the water, this can be a great breed for you. But having one means putting in the time and resources into training. When left alone for too long, these dogs can become vocal and/or destructive. They can also be stubborn at times.
Ultimately, the American Water Spaniel is a great dog for those with an outdoorsy, active life. They can be a bit aloof with strangers, destructive if left alone, and stubborn; but with the right schedule and training, these dogs can be wonderful companions. Unlike what their name initially suggests, these dogs are great retrievers and have long been used as hunting companions. American Water Spaniels are relatively rare but if you do end up with one, make sure to invest the time and resources so they can be a great dog.