The American Water Spaniel

descriptive textAmerican Water Spaniel
Dog breed info
Weight: 30 — 40 lbs
Height: 15” — 18”
AKC Rank 2008 #134
Lifespan: 10—12 yrs
Group Sporting
Origin: United Statesbr>

Dog Breed Info—American Water Spaniel

Breed Overview

Origin: 1800’s. Original function: Bird flushing, retrieving. Today: Bird flushing, retrieving, Field trials. Colors: Solid liver, brown, dark chocolate.

It is likely the American Water Spaniel originally was a cross between the Irish Water Spaniel, the Curly Coated Retriever and the English Water Spaniel. The breed was created in the Midwestern part of the United States and the breed name became the state dog of Wisconsin. The exact origin isn’t clear but the Great Lakes region seems to be the place and somewhere around the mid 1800’s is the time. The dog was needed to hunt and retrieve foul, working from boats and on rugged land. This breed was unsurpassed as a hunting companion and served well. This small dog with waterproof coat and keen nose could hunt anywhere, spring game, and retrieve a variety of game, unfailingly. The breed became quite popular with hunters in the 1920’s and 1930’s and the AKC recognized the breed in 1940. It still has a small following among avid hunters.


The American Water Spaniel is a sensitive, intelligent, eager-to-learn breed. He must be trained in a positive way with no yelling and harsh commands. This dog does well with clicker training and positive reinforcement. You will need patience and a firm “pack leader” command, but with a kind, pleasant tone. Sensitive dogs can be tricky to work with.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your American Water Spaniel puppy? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

The American Water Spaniel can be a little slow to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.



This is a dog that, as the name suggests, loves water. He has an oily coat and can enjoy the whole day in water. The American Water Dog is a skilled retriever and hunter but it is also an obedient, fun-loving companion and family dog. The dog must have regular physical and mental exercise. He has a lot of energy and has to use it up with productive things such as jogging, long walks, running after game in the fields and so on. This breed is foremost a hunting dog, going for rabbits, duck, quail and pheasant. It’s important to socialize this dog very well starting at 4 or 5 weeks and continuing on through life. Introduce him to many people and situations starting young and he will grow up[ to be a fine house pet as long as he gets plenty of exercise. This breed does bark A LOT and it can become a problem. Some whine, some drool.

If you happen to get a Water Dog with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."


Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Maybe. Can be aggressive toward strange dogs. Will pick and choose his dog friends. Don’t assume your American Water Spaniel is going to like every dog you see because he won’t.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Usually okay with other house pets. Introduce to other dogs slowly on common turf outdoors with a dog walk. Introduce to cats over a 4 day period by placing the cat in the room ion a crate for an hour and letting the dog and cat get used to the closeness, then let them co-mingle.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Wary of strangers. Some can be timid if not well socialized. Not overly friendly with people he doesn't know.


Very playful dog. Loves games, chasing balls in games of fetch, etc.


Fairly affectionate with immediate family members. Tends to bond stronger with one person more than many in the family. Will probably bond with the most gentle but dominant “leader”: in the house.

Good with children?

Good with older, well-mannered kids, 6 or 7 and up, Little tolerance for very young children that scream, push, pull, poke and screech. The American Water Spaniel loves to play games, run and romp with the kids as he’s fun-loving and essentially good-natured.

Too much screaming and rambunctious behavior and the dog can become overly excited which is not good,

Good with Seniors over 65?

No. Needs too much exercise for most seniors.

Living environment

Best in a house with large fenced yard, a farm or ranch is even better. This breed likes to roam and run and is best as an indoor/outdoor dog. Needs to live and sleep indoors with his family to enjoy the human companionship.


Energy level

Fairly HIGH. Rate this 9 bares out of 10.

Exercise needs, daily

Moderately high. A good jogging partner. OR, several long walks daily and some play time wqith a ball to fetch.


Excellent watchdog. Loves to bark anyway.

Guard dog

Some are good guard dogs. They aren’t as fierce as some of the true guard dogs but they will scare an intruder.


None to almost none for shedding.


Has an oily coat that tend to smell not so good. However, don’t wash the dog because it destroys the oily coat and dries the skin which causes even more problems.

Brush the coat 2 or 3 times a week and try to live with the odor from the oil. Trim as needed.
Check ears frequently for dirt, wax and moisture as this dog is prone to ear infections.



Suggested Reading—American Water Spaniel

  • Book at the left is an Owners Guide for the American Water Spaniel.

  • 2nd book from the left is “How To Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves” is an excellent training book for the serious hunter and outdoors man.. This has been a popular concept.

  • 3rd book from the left is “50 Games To Play With Your Dog” which is a collection of many ewasy to teach and play games your dog will enjoy. It’s a good way to work off energy and keep the mind active.

  • The book at the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog health, emergencies and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for every dog owner. Vol 2, 2008 and included a DVD.

American Water Spaniel Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for American Water Spaniel puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training.
American Water Spaniel Breeders with puppies for sale. This is a hard breed to locate. This sire is showing only a dew breeders. Try an online search for American Water Spaniel "Breeder or Clubs or Puppies."

American Water Spaniel Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of an older dog and are looking for an American Water Spaniel Rescue group in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Dog Rescue - (Nationwide) Not much luck here. As I write this, Petfinder is showing only 7 American Water Spaniels available to adopt in the USA. That number can change, of course. They searching online.

Dog Health Issues For American Water Spaniels
Below: The dog illness / illnesses or medical problems as listed for the American Water Spaniel by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are the dog illness and medical problems this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Mitral stenosis (Mitral valve insufficiency)—Hereditary heart problem. A weak mitral valve allows blood to flow backwards and to simplify this, the net result is an enlarged heart and when the heart can no longer compensate, look for a loss of desire for exercise, trouble breathing, coughing at night and liquid in the lungs. As this progresses, the dog may collapse. There is no cure... but if you act quickly, the vet may be able to make the dog more comfortable with medication and diet.

  • Patent ductus arteriosis—Canine congenital heart failure. Before birth, blood from the heart passes the lungs by a small vessel called the ductus arteriosis. That small vessel is supposed to vanish after birth and the infant breathes on it’s own With this disease, the vessel does not go away resulting in improper circulation of blood.

  • Otitis externa—Ear infections—Inflammation and infection of the outer ear, especially dogs with long, floppy ear flaps. Dirt and moisture collect and breed yeast and bacteria. Ear hair and wax contribute to the infection environment. If left untreated it can become a serious infection. The American Water Spaniel is prone to this with his long floppy ears. If at-home treatments with cleaning and meds don't work and the problem worsens, surgery might be the last resort.

  • Pulmonic stenosis—Mal formed Pulmonic valve (Pulmonic valve dysplasia) in the heart causing partial obstruction of blood flow from the heart to the lungs. The heart has to pump harder to force blood to the lungs and back. In severe cases the dog can develop congestive heart failure due to the overworked heart.

  • Atopic dermatitis's—Atopy. Hereditary. Shows at 1 to 3 years age. Skin allergy triggered by dust mites, pollen, poor quality foods and other garbage we put into the dog’s environment. Many breeds are prone to this. The dog will lick, rub, chew and scratch the infected areas. Allergens can also come from fleas, bacteria and yeast infections. See your vet. There are many treatments ranging from medicines, antihistamines, diets, bathing, cleansing the house of dust mites and so on.

  • Hair loss and dry skin - Treating - There can be a number of causes for a dog losing hair. Hair loss and dry skin are common. See a vet to find out the CAUSE of the hair loss, such as hypothyroidism, flea allergies, dust or mite allergies and so on. Hair loss is usually treated with a topical ointment if it's a fungal infection, ringworm, pyotraumatic dermatitis or other forms of dermatitis. Dry skin problems are often associated with hair loss so look at both together with your vet. The vet should look for food allergies or Atopy, Demodectic or sarcoptic mange and so on. Once the SOURCE is determined, you can treat the hair loss and/ or dry skin on the dog effectively, sometimes with medicated shampoos, creams. diet changes, oral medication, disinfecting the house or whatever is needed.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, hind/back leg acts lame, can't move, weak legs. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing the Plott great pain, weakness and difficulty walking. You may notice the American Water Spaniel “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Cataracts—Hazy or cloudy vision which if not treated can leads to total blindness.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy—(PRA) An inherited, untreatable disease of the retina affecting both eyes causing blindness. It’s in the genes of the dog and is not painful. Starts with night blindness and progresses as the retina gradually deteriorates.

  • Patellar luxation—Limping, Hind Leg Held Up, Can’t straighten back leg, weak legs. Caused by an unusually shallow spot on the femur, weak ligaments and misalignment of tendons and muscles that align the knee joint and allow the knee cap (patella) to float sideways in and out of position. This can be caused by injury or be present at birth and can affect both rear legs. It’s most common in small dogs like the American Water Spaniel. If your dog has trouble straightening the leg, is limping, lame or is walking on three legs and holding one hind leg up, look for patellar luxation. Several of my dogs have had the problem and all I’ve done is reach down, massage the knee a little until they drop their leg, and we’re good to go for another 3 or 4 months. Severe cases require surgery for a fully lame leg.

Other health problems could occur with your American Water Dog. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide


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