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American Water Spaniel Dogs

American water spaniel standing in the woodland American water spaniel lying on a patio


The American Water Spaniel (often abbreviated AWS) hails from Wisconsin, where it was developed in the mid-19th century. It has Irish Water Spaniel, Curly Coated Retriever, and English Water Spaniel in its ancestry. It is smallish, with a dense waterproof coat. It is an excellent retriever, springing game, and able to penetrate the thickest undergrowth. It was bred to be carried in canoes and rowing boats, to gain access to relatively inaccessible hunting areas. It was, therefore, originally a hunting companion dog, but recent breeding efforts have made it more even in temperament, making it a suitable pet.


Not surprisingly, given their name, American Water Spaniels love water, and have great stamina when swimming. They like the great outdoors and are best suited to owners who like long walks. They are seemingly tireless, and always on the scent of something or other. They are good house dogs too, and are good with children and other pets, as is typical of the Spaniels in general. They tend to have definite favorites in a household, though.

The AWS is playful and loves games, but is also happy snuggling up in your lap for a nap. They are loving within the family fold, and love getting comfy on the sofa with their human friends around them. They like to be the centre of attention and will bark if they are not. They tend to be timid of strangers at first, so it's best to get them used to as many people as possible while they are still young, to fully socialize them. They can be aggressive towards dogs of the same sex, but this can be trained out of them if you catch them early.

AWSs excel at Flyball, agility and obedience training, field trials, and indeed anything that keeps mind and body active. As working dogs, they are easily bored, but will always be faithful, gentle, and willing to please you. Barking can become a nuisance, but, again, training at an early stage will nip this in the bud.

The dog's double coat offers protection against cold and wet. It needs regular brushing or clipping to prevent tangles, but generally speaking the coat is easy to maintain. These Spaniels can be greedy and food possessive, so once again early training is important. Letting the dog start to eat, then telling him to stop and taking the bowl away for a few seconds will help. Like most Spaniels, the AWS can suffer from ear problems, so the ears need to be regularly checked for the mites responsible. Obesity can be an issue too if their feeding regime is not good.


The American Water Spaniel is intelligent, and highly trainable, being eager to work. The breed loves water and was initially bred to hunt and retrieve ducks. That said, they make good family dogs and love to play with children. You need to get them used to other dogs at an early stage to prevent timidness or possible aggression in adult life. The AWS makes a good watchdog, and will alert you to any sounds or disturbances.

Health Problems

Issues include canine hip dysplasia (CHD), skin problems (such as dermatitis or baldness), and cataracts.

Breed Details

  • Status: Common
  • Life Expectancy: 10 - 13 years
  • Weight: 30 - 40 lb
  • Height: 15 - 18"
  • Rare: Yes
  • Coat: Medium - Double
  • Grooming Requirements: Once a week
  • Town or Country: Either
  • Minimum Home Size: Small House
  • Minimum Garden Size: Small to Medium Garden
  • Breed Type: Gun Dog
  • Size: Medium
  • Energy Level: High
  • Exercise Required: Up to 2 hours

American Water Spaniel Pictures

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