American Water Spaniel

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american water spaniel portrait
Introducing the American Water Spaniel, a lovable and versatile breed that will make your heart splash with joy! Brimming with energy and sporting a distinctive curly coat, these water-loving dogs are bound to make waves in your life.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The American Water Spaniel is a perfect fit for active families and outdoorsy individuals who enjoy spending time in nature. With their innate love for water, these friendly, intelligent dogs are ideal companions for those who appreciate swimming, boating, or simply splashing around.


OFFICIAL NAMEAmerican Water Spaniel
OTHER NAMESAWS, American Brown Spaniel, American Brown Water Spaniel
ORIGINUnited States
BREED GROUPSporting Group
HEIGHT15-18 inches
WEIGHT25-45 lbs
LIFESPAN10-14 years
american water spaniel in a river
Photo: CaptureLight/Getty Images


The American Water Spaniel is a medium-sized dog that boasts an irresistible charm and striking appearance. With their sturdy, muscular build, these dogs are both agile and strong, making them perfect for outdoor adventures. Males typically stand 15-18 inches tall, while females measure 15-17 inches at the shoulder. Their weight ranges from 25 to 45 pounds, with males being slightly heavier than females.

The body of an American Water Spaniel is well-proportioned and displays a strong, athletic look. Their deep chest and well-sprung ribs provide ample room for lungs and heart, ensuring endurance and stamina. The tail is moderately long with a slight curve, acting as a rudder when swimming.

When it comes to their head, the American Water Spaniel has a distinctively rounded skull and a square, medium-length muzzle. Their nose is either dark brown or black, complementing their coat color. The eyes are set wide apart and are medium in size, featuring a myriad of warm shades, from hazel to dark brown. These gentle eyes exude an endearing expression of intelligence and friendliness.

One of the most captivating features of this breed is their ears. The long, wide, and lobular ears drape down, framing their face and reaching the corners of their mouth. When they’re alert, the ears lift slightly, adding to their animated expression.

The crowning glory of the American Water Spaniel is undoubtedly its distinctive coat. The double coat consists of an outer layer of tight curls or waves, and a dense, protective undercoat. This water-resistant coat keeps them warm and dry during their aquatic escapades. Their coat color varies from solid liver to dark chocolate, sometimes with a small white patch on their chest.

Overall, the American Water Spaniel is a delightful combination of strength, agility, and charm. Their expressive eyes, distinctive curly coat, and athletic build make them a truly remarkable breed.


The American Water Spaniel is a breed that exudes an infectious zest for life and a heart brimming with affection. Picture a friend who’s always up for a spontaneous adventure, who’s filled with boundless energy, ready to explore at a moment’s notice. That’s the American Water Spaniel for you.

These dogs are the epitome of sociability. They love being in the thick of things, ensuring they’re part of every family activity, every gathering, every event. Their presence is like a burst of sunshine, brightening up the room with their enthusiasm and joy. Their tail wags are like a rhythmic drumbeat, setting the tempo for a fun-filled day.

But their sociability isn’t limited to their human family. American Water Spaniels are also known for their friendly interactions with other animals. They’re the type of dogs that would be the life of the party at the local dog park, making friends with all the other canines with their playful and inviting demeanor.

Despite their friendly and outgoing nature, these dogs also have a vigilant side. They’re always alert and aware of their surroundings. They might not be aggressive, but if something seems off or out of the ordinary, they’ll bark to alert their family. It’s as if you have a personal security system that’s always on guard, always ready to protect you.

And let’s talk about their energy levels. These dogs are like a live wire, always buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. They’re the canine embodiment of “joie de vivre,” finding joy in every little thing, every game, every exploration. Their vitality is contagious, spreading happiness wherever they go.

Their intelligence and adaptability are also worth mentioning. American Water Spaniels are quick learners, always eager to learn new tricks and commands. And they’re adaptable too, comfortably fitting into different lifestyles and environments.

But above all, the American Water Spaniel is a loyal and loving companion. Their eyes sparkle with affection when they look at their family members, their loyalty unwavering. They’re the type of dogs that will stick by your side, through thick and thin, their devotion never faltering.

Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

The American Water Spaniel is an adaptable, versatile breed that can thrive in a variety of environments, as long as their physical and emotional needs are met. Known for their love of water, these dogs will be overjoyed if they have access to a lake, river, or even a kiddie pool in the backyard.

However, their true happiness lies in being with their human family, so they’re content living anywhere, from bustling city apartments to sprawling country homes.

No matter where you live, make sure your American Water Spaniel has a safe, secure area to play and explore. A fenced yard is ideal, but if that’s not possible, regular walks and trips to the dog park can help satisfy their need for exercise and socialization.

Climate Adaptability

As for their adaptability to different climates, the American Water Spaniel’s double coat provides protection against both cold and wet conditions. They can tolerate moderately cold weather, but it’s essential to keep an eye on them during extreme temperatures. Provide a warm, dry shelter, and consider a doggy sweater to keep them cozy during winter walks.

In hot climates, be cautious not to overheat your American Water Spaniel. Provide plenty of shade, fresh water, and avoid exercising during the hottest parts of the day. A kiddie pool or sprinkler can provide a fun way for them to cool off and indulge their love for water.

Ideal Owner

Ideal pet parents for the American Water Spaniel are those who can provide regular exercise, mental stimulation, and lots of love and attention. These dogs form strong bonds with their owners and enjoy being part of the family’s daily activities.

They’re well-suited for active individuals and families who enjoy outdoor adventures like hiking, swimming, or boating, as well as those who appreciate a loyal companion to snuggle up with at home.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, the American Water Spaniel can coexist harmoniously with other dogs, particularly if raised together. However, be mindful of their hunting instincts around smaller animals, such as cats or rabbits. Proper socialization and supervision can help ensure peaceful interactions between your American Water Spaniel and other household pets.


The American Water Spaniel’s unique, curly coat and charming appearance may have you wondering about their grooming needs. While maintaining their coat requires moderate effort, a consistent grooming routine will ensure your furry friend looks and feels their best.

Coat Care

The American Water Spaniel sports a distinctive double coat, with an outer layer of tight curls or waves and a dense, protective undercoat. This water-resistant coat keeps them warm and dry during their aquatic adventures. To maintain their coat’s health and appearance, regular brushing is essential.

Aim to brush your American Water Spaniel at least once or twice a week using a slicker brush or a pin brush designed for curly coats. This will help remove loose hair, prevent matting, and distribute natural oils throughout the coat. Be gentle when grooming, as their coat can be prone to damage if not cared for properly.

Occasionally, your American Water Spaniel may require trimming to neaten their appearance, especially around the ears, tail, and feet. If you’re not confident in your trimming abilities, a professional groomer can help keep your dog looking tidy.

It’s important to note that the American Water Spaniel’s coat should not be shaved or clipped too short, as this can compromise its ability to insulate and protect the dog from the elements.


The American Water Spaniel doesn’t need frequent baths – every two to three months should suffice, or when they’re particularly dirty or smelly. Use a gentle, dog-friendly shampoo to preserve their coat’s natural oils and avoid skin irritation. Make sure to rinse thoroughly to remove any shampoo residue, as this can cause skin issues.

Ear Care

The American Water Spaniel’s long, floppy ears are adorable, but they can also be prone to infections due to limited air circulation. Check your dog’s ears weekly for signs of redness, swelling, or foul odor. Clean them gently using a cotton ball or soft cloth dampened with a vet-approved ear-cleaning solution. Avoid using cotton swabs, as they can damage the delicate inner ear structures.

Dental Care

Good oral hygiene is crucial for your American Water Spaniel’s overall health. Regularly brushing their teeth with dog-specific toothpaste can help prevent plaque buildup, gum disease, and bad breath. Aim to brush your dog’s teeth at least two to three times a week, or daily if possible.

In addition to brushing, dental chews and toys can help keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy. Regular veterinary checkups will also ensure any dental issues are addressed promptly.

Nail Trimming

The American Water Spaniel’s nails should be trimmed regularly, usually every three to four weeks, to prevent overgrowth and discomfort. Use a dog nail clipper or grinder, being careful not to cut the quick – the sensitive blood vessel inside the nail. If you’re unsure about trimming your dog’s nails, a groomer or veterinarian can help.


The American Water Spaniel is an energetic, lively breed that requires regular exercise to stay happy and healthy. As a sporting dog with a love for water, they thrive on activities that challenge both their body and mind. Let’s dive into the exercise needs of this spirited canine companion.

Exercise Amount & Types

Expect to dedicate at least 45-60 minutes per day to exercising your American Water Spaniel. This can be divided into shorter sessions or combined into one longer outing. Keep in mind that these dogs are intelligent and adaptable, so variety is key to keeping them engaged and satisfied.

One of the best ways to exercise your American Water Spaniel is by involving them in water-based activities. Swimming, dock diving, and fetching water toys are excellent options for these water-loving dogs. Not only do these activities provide physical exercise, but they also tap into their natural instincts and affinity for water.

In addition to water play, the American Water Spaniel enjoys other forms of exercise like brisk walks, jogging, and hiking. These outings not only help burn off energy but also offer mental stimulation through exposure to new sights, sounds, and smells.

Interactive games like fetch, tug-of-war, and hide-and-seek are great for bonding with your dog while keeping them physically active. Agility training and obedience exercises can also provide both physical and mental stimulation, as they challenge your dog’s body and mind simultaneously.

Dog Sports

For those interested in dog competitions, the American Water Spaniel excels in various dog sports, such as obedience trials, agility courses, and even hunting tests. Their intelligence, athleticism, and eagerness to please make them strong contenders in these competitive events.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your American Water Spaniel, always be mindful of their safety and well-being. Adjust the intensity and duration of activities according to your dog’s age, fitness level, and weather conditions. In hot climates, avoid exercising during the hottest parts of the day and provide plenty of water and shade.


The American Water Spaniel is an intelligent and eager-to-please breed, which makes them highly trainable and a joy to work with. Their natural athleticism and versatility enable them to excel in various training disciplines.

Basic Obedience

Starting with basic obedience training is essential to establish a strong foundation for your American Water Spaniel. Commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it” not only teach your dog good manners but also help keep them safe in different situations. Begin training early, ideally when your dog is a puppy, using positive reinforcement methods such as praise, treats, and playtime to reward desired behaviors.


Proper socialization is crucial for your American Water Spaniel to become a well-rounded, confident adult. Expose them to a variety of people, animals, and environments from a young age. This helps reduce the likelihood of shyness or fearfulness and encourages positive experiences.

Puppy kindergarten classes, trips to the dog park, and neighborhood walks are excellent opportunities to socialize your dog.

Advanced Training

Once your American Water Spaniel has mastered basic obedience, consider exploring more advanced training options. Agility training, scent work, and even hunting exercises can provide both physical and mental stimulation. These activities not only challenge your dog’s mind and body but also strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend.

Consistency & Patience

When training your American Water Spaniel, remember that consistency and patience are key. Keep training sessions short and engaging – around 10-15 minutes – to maintain your dog’s interest and prevent frustration. Using a clicker can be an effective way to mark desired behaviors, making it easier for your dog to understand what you’re asking of them.

Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding your American Water Spaniel a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for their overall health and well-being. This energetic breed requires the right fuel to support their active lifestyle, so it’s important to choose a high-quality food that meets their unique nutritional needs.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting dog food, look for options that follow the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) guidelines, ensuring they provide complete and balanced nutrition. You can choose from dry food, wet food, or even raw food diets, depending on your preferences and your dog’s individual needs.

The amount of food your American Water Spaniel requires depends on factors such as their age, weight, activity level, and metabolism. As a general guideline, adult American Water Spaniels typically need around 1.5 to 2 cups of high-quality dry food per day, divided into two meals. Puppies may require more frequent feedings – usually three to four times a day – as they grow and develop.

It’s essential to monitor your dog’s weight and body condition to ensure they’re receiving the correct amount of food. Adjust their portions accordingly if you notice any significant weight gain or loss. Consult with your veterinarian if you have concerns about your dog’s diet or weight.


Treats are a great way to reward your American Water Spaniel during training sessions or as a special snack. However, remember that treats should only make up about 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake to prevent overfeeding and potential weight issues. Opt for healthy treats like small pieces of lean meat, fruits, or vegetables, and avoid giving table scraps, which can lead to obesity and health problems.


Fresh water is crucial for your American Water Spaniel’s health. Ensure they always have access to clean water, especially during exercise and hot weather. Regularly wash their water bowl to prevent bacteria buildup and replace the water as needed.


The American Water Spaniel is a generally healthy breed with a life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. However, like any dog breed, they can be prone to certain health issues. Being aware of these potential concerns and taking preventative measures can help ensure your furry friend enjoys a long, happy life.

Here are common health issues associated with the American Water Spaniel:

Hip Dysplasia: This genetic condition occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain over time. Regular vet checkups and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an eye disorder that causes gradual vision loss, eventually leading to blindness. Regular eye exams can help detect this condition early, allowing for better management.

Hypothyroidism: This is a hormonal imbalance where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, resulting in weight gain, lethargy, and skin issues. Regular blood tests can help monitor your dog’s thyroid function and adjust medication as needed.

Ear Infections: The American Water Spaniel’s floppy ears can trap moisture and bacteria, leading to infections. Regular ear cleaning and monitoring for signs of redness or irritation can help prevent this issue.

Allergies: These dogs can suffer from allergies, causing skin irritation or digestive issues. Identifying and avoiding allergens, along with providing appropriate treatment, can help manage allergy symptoms.

To keep your American Water Spaniel healthy, feeding them a balanced, nutritious diet is crucial. High-quality food that meets AAFCO guidelines will support their overall health and help manage weight, reducing the risk of certain health issues.

Regular veterinary checkups are essential in monitoring your dog’s health and detecting any potential concerns early on. Ensure your American Water Spaniel receives routine vaccinations to protect them from common canine diseases.

Additionally, don’t forget about preventive care, such as flea and tick treatments, heartworm prevention, and dental care.


The American Water Spaniel has an intriguing history that’s rich with tales of adventure and companionship. This unique breed, developed in the United States, is known for its skillful hunting abilities and affectionate nature, making it a cherished companion both in the field and at home.

The exact origins of the American Water Spaniel remain somewhat uncertain, but it’s believed that they were developed during the late 19th century in the Great Lakes region, particularly in Wisconsin.

The breed was created to fulfill the need for a versatile hunting dog capable of retrieving game on both land and water. Their medium size, curly coat, and love for water made them perfect companions for hunters navigating the marshes and lakes of the Midwest.

It’s thought that the American Water Spaniel’s ancestry includes breeds such as the Irish Water Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, and possibly the now-extinct English Water Spaniel. These diverse ancestors contributed to the development of a breed with a keen sense of smell, strong retrieving instincts, and a natural affinity for water.

The American Water Spaniel’s journey to recognition by the American Kennel Club (AKC) was a slow and steady one. The breed was first registered with the United Kennel Club in 1920, but it wasn’t until 1940 that the AKC officially recognized the American Water Spaniel as a distinct breed. Since then, the breed has been classified under the AKC’s Sporting Group, reflecting their hunting heritage.

Despite their many admirable qualities, the American Water Spaniel has remained a relatively rare breed. Their popularity has been overshadowed by other retriever breeds, such as the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever. However, the American Water Spaniel still holds a special place in the hearts of those who appreciate their unique charm and versatility.

Parent Club

The American Water Spaniel Club (AWSC) is the official parent club for the American Water Spaniel in the United States. Founded in 1985, the club is dedicated to promoting and preserving this unique and versatile breed.

The AWSC serves as a valuable resource for breed information, educational materials, and events for both enthusiasts and owners. To learn more about the American Water Spaniel Club and its activities, you can visit its official website.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the American Water Spaniel’s breed standard asset by the American Kennel Club (AKC).


Acquiring an American Water Spaniel can be an exciting journey, but it’s essential to prepare and make informed decisions. If you choose to buy a puppy, ensure you purchase from a reputable breeder who follows ethical breeding practices and prioritizes the health and well-being of their dogs. Always ask to see health clearances and meet the puppy’s parents to assess temperament.

Alternatively, consider rescuing an American Water Spaniel in need of a loving home. Both the American Kennel Club and the American Water Spaniel Club (AWSC) can assist with finding rescue organizations or available dogs for adoption. Rescuing a dog can be a rewarding experience, as you provide a second chance for a deserving furry friend.

Before bringing your new companion home, prepare their living space, gather essential supplies like food, water bowls, a leash, and toys, and ensure your home is safe and secure. With proper preparation and care, your American Water Spaniel will thrive as a cherished member of your family.


Is the American Water Spaniel a good family dog?

Yes, the American Water Spaniel is an excellent family dog. They are known for their friendly, affectionate, and eager-to-please nature, making them great companions for families with children. However, as with any breed, it’s essential to supervise interactions between dogs and young children.

Are American Water Spaniels rare?

Yes, American Water Spaniels are relatively rare compared to other retriever breeds. Their popularity has been overshadowed by breeds like the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever. However, this rarity adds to their charm and appeal among enthusiasts.

Do American Water Spaniels shed a lot?

American Water Spaniels have a moderate shedding level. Their curly, waterproof coat requires regular brushing to prevent matting and to remove loose hair. Weekly grooming should be sufficient to maintain a healthy coat and minimize shedding.

How much exercise do American Water Spaniels need?

As an energetic and athletic breed, American Water Spaniels require around 45-60 minutes of daily exercise to stay physically and mentally stimulated. A combination of walks, playtime, and training activities will help keep your dog happy and healthy.

Are American Water Spaniels good with other pets?

Generally, American Water Spaniels get along well with other pets, especially if they are socialized from a young age. However, due to their hunting instincts, supervision around smaller animals is recommended.

What is the lifespan of an American Water Spaniel?

The average lifespan of an American Water Spaniel is 10-14 years. With proper care, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and routine veterinary check-ups, these dogs can live a long, healthy life.

How easy is it to train an American Water Spaniel?

American Water Spaniels are intelligent and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train. Consistent, positive reinforcement training methods work best for this breed. Early socialization and obedience training are essential for well-rounded, well-behaved dogs.

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