The Irish Water Spaniel

descriptive textDog breed info
Irish Water Spaniel
Weight: Male 55 — 65 lbs
Weight. Female 45 — 56 lbs
Height:Male 22” — 24”
Height Female 21” — 23”
AKC Rank 2008 #142
Lifespan: 10—12 yrs
Group Sporting

Dog Breed Info - Irish Water Spaniel

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Breed Overview

Origin Ireland, 1800’s. Original function: Water retrieving. Today: Water retrieving, field trials. Colors: Solid liver.

Dogs depicting the Irish Water Spaniel were depicted in writings from over a thousand years ago. Around 1100 there were dogs named Shannon Spaniels, Rat-Tail Spaniels, and Rat-Tail Spaniels. Whether the breed was found in different varieties or in similar breeds is a matter of speculation. What is in agreement is that similar spaniels were to be found in Ireland.. He is possibly a mix of Irish Setter and Curly Coated Spaniel. The Southern Irish Spaniel, known as McCarthy’s breed, became the standard for today’s standard Irish Spaniel that excels in cold water retrieving. The breed went into the show ring in England in the late 1800’s. The breed arrived in the United Stated in the 1870;s where it quickly became a popular duck hunting dog. By 1875 it was one of the most popular sporting dogs but that didn’t last. It is now a rare and hard to find breed. The AKC recognized it in 1878.


Very intelligent, eager to learn new things and willing to please. This breed is trainable, but keep sessions light, happy and fun. Use clicker training with positive reinforcement for excellent and quick results. Train with firmness, patience and a sense of humor.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your 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. Some can be a bit stubborn so keep it light, be consistent and take your time.

Potty Training

The Irish Water Spaniel puppy usually catches on pretty fast and is easy 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.



The Irish Water Spaniel does everything with great enthusiasm. He’s bold, full of energy and is a bit of a clown. This dog loves most to run, swim, hunt and play. He is very smart and enjoys learning new things but remains a loyal, devoted family pet too. As with most dogs, he needs to be managed by a family that offers an “alpha leadership: environment around the house so he knows who is in charge and that it is not him. In other words, don't let this dog run the household. Beyond that, the Irish Water Spaniel is a good house mate, easy-going and calm, fun-loving and playful and good with older, well mannered kids. The Water Spavined is an excellent watchdog. He needs a LOT of exercise, both mental and physical, every day. Without the exercise, he’ll become frustrated and turn into the kind of dog you do NOT want! Some of these dogs may drool.

This breed is basically a clown on four legs but also can be stubborn and independent at times. He just needs a firm, consistent leader who understands dogs and how to keep them in a submissive position in in the household. Once bonded with the family, they become pretty good guard dogs and are protective of the children.

If you happen to get an Akita 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

Sometimes friendly. Will pick and choose his dog friends.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

.Okay if introduced properly. Introduced dogs on a “walk” on common ground away from the house. Introduce cats by placing the cat in a crate in the room for an hour at a time for 4 days and let the dog sniff and become familiar. Then let the dog and cat mingle together and gradually get used to each other. Other animals, the same method.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Not too friendly. Reserved, wary of strangers. Not too trusting of people he doesn't know.


VERY playful. Loves games of all kinds, is frisky and “full of it!”


Moderately affectionate. Probably too busy playing to be a loving lapdog

Good with children?

Older children, 6 or 7 and up, especially well-mannered kids that know how to treat a dog. This breed has no tolerance for very young screaming, screeching, poking, pulling, pushing kids

Good with Seniors over 65?

No. Needs too much exercise.

Living environment

House with a medium to large fenced yard and doggie door. Better, a farm or ranch where the dog can roam freely.

Even better, a farm or ranch near a lake or river where the Irish Water Spaniel can swim for exercise. He needs lots of space to run and swim.


Energy level

Exceptionally high energy. Rate this 10 bars out of 10.

Exercise needs, daily

Needs a LOT of physical and mental exercise to prevent boredom. The dog has great stamina. He needs one to two hours a day to fulfill his energy requirements.

Exceptionally high. The Irish Water Spaniel must be able to run, hunt and explore.

He's a a good jogging partner, take him bicycling or even skateboarding, just as long as he get to run..

Play games like fetch or Frisbee and get Into some obedience training sessions..


Excellent watchdog.

Guard dog

Will guard family and children but not known to be a general purpose guard dog.



Sheds little to none. Good choice for folks with allergies.


Brush and comb the curly coat 3 to 4 times a week to remove dead hair. Clipping is needed every 3 or 4 months to keep the dog looking neat.

Clean the ears with a cotton swab. Dirt, wax and hair accumulate and trap bacteria causing ear infections. (See "Otitis externa" below under Health)



Suggested Reading - The Irish Water Spaniel

  • At the far right, a comprehensive Owners Gujide to the Irish Water Spaniel. Very limited quantity left, rare hardcover edition, well rated.

  • 2nd book from the left, "101 Dog Tricks" is a big collection of fun things for your Irish Spaniel to learn and challenge his mind with. The book is made for active, alert dogs.

  • 3rd book from the left, "50 Gamed To Play With Your Dog" are games easy to teach and play. Your dog will have fun and learn new thing to do with his time too.

  • Book at far right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog health, emergencies and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners. Vol 2, 2008, includes a DVD.


Dog Health Issues For Irish Water Spaniels
Below: The dog illness / illnesses or medical problems as listed for the Irish 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 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.

  • Hip dysplasia CHD - 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 Irish Water Spaniel great pain, weakness and difficulty walking. You may notice the dog “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.

  • Hypothyroidism—An underactive thyroid gland produces too little thyroid hormone which reduces the dog's metabolism level. Hypothyroidism stems from the dog’s immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. Bottom line is the dog becomes symptomatic. The cause can be a predisposition for thyroid problems, air pollution and allergies. A FEW symptoms of the disorder include lethargy, weight gain, skin infections, dry skin, hair loss, slow heart rate, ear infections, depression. See your set right away.

  • 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. If at home treatments with cleaning and meds don't work and the problem worsens, surgery might be the last resort.

  • Epilepsy—A serious seizure disorder that usually shows at around 2 to 4 or 5 years of age in dogs.

  • 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 Irish Water Spaniel 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.

  • Distichiasis—An eye condition involving the cornea. Eyelashes, growing improperly on the inner surface of the eyelid cause corneal ulcers due to the constant rubbing and irritation. The problem is fixed by having the vet remove the lashes if the ulcers don’t heal.

  • Entropion—Eye irritation caused by the eyelids and lashes rolling inward. The problem is usually inherited and found in young, adult dogs. It can come from an eyelid spasm. Affected eyes will be held partially shut and tear excessively. Both eyes will usually be affected the same. Treatment for the condition requires eye surgery.

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

  • Megaesophagus—Incomplete nerve development of the esophagus in dogs 5 to 12 years old causing regurgitation of food. Since food is collecting in the esophagus and not the stomach, the dog feels hungry and keeps eating. Food collects for up to a day or two and finally vomits back out, having never reached the stomach. A dangerous side effect of the disease is pneumonia. The only solution is getting the dog to drink and eat in a position where he has to reach his mouth way up high, like on a step ladder with his paws elevated where he can barely reach the food with his whole body elevated nearly vertical. There is no other cure.

Other health problems could occur with your Irish Water Spaniel. 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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