Irish Water Spaniel

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Irish Water Spaniel


The largest of the spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel is a solid brown (leaning to purple), crisp-textured, curly-coated dog with a hairless, rat-like tail and smooth short-coated face. It has a rather large head with an arched skull. The curly outer coat is lined with a dense undercoat, which helps insulate the dog in even the coldest water. A top-knot of curls on the head hangs down to cover and protect the eyes. The muzzle is long, square and powerful. The long ears are covered with curls. The chest is deep, but rather narrow for free movement when swimming. The hind quarters are as high as or slightly higher than the shoulders. The front legs are straight and well boned. Webbed feet assist in swimming.


The Irish Water Spaniel is intelligent, easy to train, and possesses a desire to please. Eager, bold and confident.  Stubborn and independent, but capable of learning a great deal. Many are loving family dogs, but many are one person dogs.  It can have a mind of its own, but generally is easy-going and gentle. A fine working dog in the field and obedience ring. Devoted, but mischievous and fun-loving. Some are good guard dogs. Generally does well with other pets if properly introduced, but tends to be fairly dog-aggressive. Reserved and protective with strangers. Should be well-socialized as a puppy and does best with older considerate children. The Irish Water Spaniel is a quiet dog, barking only when necessary to warn the family. An excellent swimmer, he has considerable stamina and drive, and a very good nose. This breed may drool and slobber. Some are timid, nervous, or suspicious, and some are prone to snapping when startled or annoyed.  He can refuse commands from family members who have not established leadership over him. 

Height, Weight

Height: 20-23 inches (51-58cm)
Weight: 45-65 pounds (20-30kg)

Health Problems

Prone to hip dysplasia, hypo-thyroidism and eye entropion. Be sure the parents were checked for thyroid problems. Avoid timid puppies. They may drool and have ear infections.

Living Conditions

Because he needs plenty of daily exercise and loves the outdoors, he does best in the suburbs or country. This breed does best with at least an average-sized yard.


These are hunting dogs with tremendous stamina. They enjoy retrieving and swimming greatly. They are always ready for a good long walk.

Life Expectancy

About 10-12 years.


A lot of care in grooming is needed, as the coat can tend to mat. Skilled trimming of the coat is necessary. The coat is usually good for allergy sufferers since it has  little dandruff. These dogs shed little to no hair.


Although there are several different theories about his origins, the Irish Water Spaniel is probably descended from the Poodle and Irish Setter, or the Poodle and the Curly-Coated Retriever crosses in early Ireland. In fact, he looks a lot like a brown Standard Poodle. The Irish Water Spaniel gained a reputation in England and Ireland for daring retrieves in frigid water. He has also been used on upland game and even has a soft enough mouth to retrieve dove. The breed became popular in the United States in the 1800's for duck hunting until the easy-care short-coated Labrador Retriever displaced him. Now considered a rare breed, the Irish Water Spaniel is classified as a retriever by the AKC, allowing him to participate in AKC field sports. The Irish Water Spaniel has the winning combination of strong retrieving ability in any weather and the disposition of a gentle family dog.


Gun Dog, AKC Sporting




CKC = Continental Kennel Club
FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
AKC = American Kennel Club
UKC = United Kennel Club
KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
NKC = National Kennel Club
NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club


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 Last updated 18 July, 2001