The American Water Spaniel: A Versatile and Adaptable Dog Breed

Popularly known as the Wisconsin state dog, the American Water Spaniel is a playful and energetic disposition dog that makes an excellent partner for outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, or hunting.

In this article, we will provide all the basic information on the American Water Spaniel that can help you decide if this breed is a good fit for your lifestyle and needs.

A Brief History of the American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniel is a rare breed that originated in the United States in the mid-19th century. However, its exact origins are unclear as many of the early breeders didn’t keep detailed records.

Some historians believe that the American Water Spaniel is a crossbreed created by crossing the Curly-Coated Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, and the English Water Spaniel.

Others suggest that it might be a descendant of the French Water Dog and the English Water Spaniel. Regardless of its ancestry, the American Water Spaniel is a well-loved and respected breed.

Origins and Development

The American Water Spaniel was developed in the Great Lakes region of the United States, where hunters and anglers needed a versatile dog that could retrieve fowl on both land and water. The breed’s small size, trainability, and loyalty made it an ideal companion for hunting trips.

The American Water Spaniel’s coat is waterproof, which makes it an excellent swimmer and retriever. The breed’s intelligence and adaptability have made it a favorite among hunters and families alike.

Recognition by Kennel Clubs

Despite its unique qualities, the American Water Spaniel did not receive recognition from the American Kennel Club until 1940. It is also recognized by the United Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, and the UK Kennel Club.

Since then, the American Water Spaniel has gained a loyal following of enthusiasts and fans who appreciate its intelligence, devotion, and adaptability. Today, the breed is rare – in fact, it is estimated that there are only around 3000 breed members in existence.

Physical Characteristics of the American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniel is a charming breed with a unique set of physical characteristics. They are known for their medium size, curly coat, and friendly expression. Here are some more details about their physical features.

Size and Weight

The American Water Spaniel is a medium-sized breed, with males typically weighing between 30 and 45 pounds and females weighing between 25 and 40 pounds. They stand between 15 and 18 inches tall at the shoulders.

The medium size makes them a good choice for people who want a medium-sized dog that is not too small or too large. Their compact size is also great for apartment living as they do not require a lot of space to move around.

Coat and Colors

The American Water Spaniel has a distinctive curly coat that comes in shades of brown, liver, or chocolate. Their coat is water-resistant and helps the breed stay warm even in cold water. This is helpful when retrieving prey from cold waters.

The coat of the American Water Spaniel is low shedding and perfect for people with allergies. Grooming once a week with a thorough cleaning of ears and trimming nails makes this breed easy to maintain.

Distinctive Features

The American Water Spaniel has a unique whip-like tail that is thick at the base and tapers towards the tip. This tail helps them swim and maneuver through the water with ease. They also have friendly expressions with warm brown eyes that are set deep in their heads.

The heads are somewhat square, and they have almost adorably short ears that drop down over the sides of their head. These features give a distinctive and charming appearance that is hard to resist.

Temperament and Personality Traits

Intelligence and Trainability

American Water Spaniels are highly intelligent dogs with a desire to please their owners. The American Kennel Club describes their personality as happy, eager, and charming.

Energy Levels and Exercise Needs

The American Water Spaniel is an active and energetic breed that enjoys plenty of outdoor activities. Exercise and outdoor activities are essential for this breed’s mental and physical well-being.

Daily walks, runs, jogs, and playtime in a secure area keep them both happy and healthy. This is not a breed for an owner who wants a dog that is content to sit on the couch all day.

Socialization and Interaction with Other Animals

Early socialization with people, animals, and new environments is essential for American Water Spaniels to be well-adjusted companions. This breed also gets along well with other dogs and cats if socialized together from an early age.

Trainability and Training Methods

The American Water Spaniel is easy to train and is receptive to training methods that use positive reinforcements like praise, treats, and play.

This breed is known to be independent-minded and may have its agenda in mind, but with patience and consistency, training will go a long way.

Health and Lifespan of the American Water Spaniel

Common Health Issues

Some of the health problems that can afflict the American Water Spaniel include:

  • Hip Dysplasia: Misfit between the bones forming the hip that causes pain and mobility issues 
  • Eye Problems: One of the most common eye disorders in the breed is progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Cardiac Conditions: The breed is prone to several heart anomalies, including mitral valve disease 

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

Preventative care is essential for the American Water Spaniel’s quality of life and longevity. Regular check-ups are an opportunity to catch any issues early and prevent them from progressing.

Leash-walking, fencing in yards, appropriate housing when outdoors, and high-quality nutrition prevent many issues that can be harmful to this breed’s health and well-being.

Life Expectancy

The American Water Spaniel has a lifespan of 10 and 14 years on average, with attentive care and attention.

Regular exercise, socialization, healthy nutrition, and preventative care are some of the factors that can extend a breed’s life expectancy.


The American Water Spaniel is an adaptable, playful, and intelligent breed that can be a great addition to any family or individual who loves spending time outdoors and enjoys the company of a devoted companion.

The American Water Spaniel is a breed that makes training and socializing easy but requires effort on the owner’s part to keep them healthy and active. With the right training and care, this dog can provide years of love, loyalty, and enjoyment to its owners.

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