Now, this is a fancy dog name. Not just fancy but complicated? Well, that is why we are here! So, what about the American Water Spaniel?

This breed of dog is friendly, loyal, and a fantastic swimmer. These dogs also make great companions for your water sports adventures or hunting hikes. Let’s go into this beautiful journey of American Water Spaniel dogs, their history, grooming methods, and various other aspects of owning one.


Height15-18 inches
Weight25-45 lbs
Life span13-14 years
Exercise needs1 hour daily
TemperamentEnergetic, Friendly, Loyal
GroomingHigh maintenance
OriginUnited States of America

Origin of the American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniels fall under the medium-sized category of dogs, which makes them great for houses that do not have ample space. 

Their history traces back to the 19th century when they were developed in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Their exact combinations of ancestors have yet to be recorded. However, there are traces of the English water spaniel (now extinct), the Irish Spaniel, and the curly-coated retriever.  

American Water Spaniels were developed as a hunting dog breed to hunt down waterfowl. European settlers needed a dog that would thrive in cold climates and swim in the cold waters of Wisconsin and Minnesota. These super dogs serve the purpose like real champs.

Let us see what to expect from these dogs based on their looks.

Appearance of the American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniels always look like they got a perm from a low-rated salon. Their appearance goes as follows:

1. Physical features

Do not think their permanent perm makes them soft like poodles. Their body is muscular, and they have a deep chest. American Water spaniels have straight backs, which provides a robust look. 

Their feet are linear and well-built for agile movements, making them great for hunting.

Point to be noted: They have webbed feet. This is because they were bred to be great swimmers (which they are) to catch waterfowl.

Their tails are long and bushy. In short, their curly hair covers nearly every nook and cranny of their body.

2. Facial features

Their head is broad and well-proportioned to the rest of the body. American Water Spaniels have pretty long ears, and those are covered with curly hair.

3. Coat characteristics

They are double-coated. As the water spaniels were bred for very cool climates, their coat protects them from the weather. They have a waterproof top coat and a soft, insulating undercoat. The wavy fur helps them move when working in water. 

As for their coat color, it always lies somewhere in the dark brown spectrum. There can be a few white markings here and there.

While the American Water Spaniel is a unique and amazing dog, it is also an endangered breed, making them quite rare among dogs!

Personality and Temperament

SO WHAT if these babies were developed to be hunters?! They are still the best boys when it comes to company and affection. Here is why:

1. The bestest of besties

American Water Spaniels are very friendly and sociable. They are generally great with other dogs, children, and even sometimes strangers. Even if they might be uncomfortable around strangers, they warm up quickly enough (it sucks to be you if you’re an introvert!)

They love their hooman families dearly! These dogs are very protective of them and often love being the center of attention. They are 

2. Intelligent

These dogs LOVE games that can make their brain WORK! They excel in obedience training and are fast learners. They catch up on new tricks with ease. Games and puzzles that help in mental stimulation are their favorite!

3. Adaptable

These dogs can quickly adapt to most living conditions. So, if you live by the beach, they’re good, but if you live in suburban New York, that is also okay! Just make sure you get them the necessary exercise and mental stimulation.

4. Highly energetic and alert

They are an active breed. Their hunting instinct makes them curious about their surroundings. They NEED intense physical activity to burn their energy. American Water Spaniels maintain their playful, childish demeanor well into adulthood. 

This ensures you always have a baby dog, no matter how old they get.

an American Water Spaniel running across water

Beige Flags of the American Water Spaniel

Like most dogs, American Water spaniels have traits that cannot be labeled as paw-sitive or entirely negative. These traits are:

1. Independent thinkers

While obedient if appropriately trained, American water spaniels can also be independent thinkers. Even if they are always eager to please their paw-rents, they might need to make decisions independently. 

2. High prey drive

As we discussed, their initial purpose was to hunt for waterfowl. They will likely not lose their high prey drive if they still have their swimming abilities. 

Familiarizing them with small creatures and young kids from an early age will surely help tackle this. 

Health Risks of the American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniels may suffer from a few health issues. Some of these are commonly found in most dog breeds, while some can be unique to your pooch: 

1. Hip dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is a common disorder in most dog breeds. A loose hip joint eventually causes joint disease. 

American water spaniels have a lower record of hip dysplasia than most sporting class dogs. According to a survey, about 8% of American water spaniels suffer from hip dysplasia, but it is still a major issue for your dog’s healthy existence.

2. Eye-related issues

American water spaniels are prone to several eye diseases, including Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). This condition can lead to night blindness and, eventually, total blindness. 

There is currently no treatment for PRA. The condition is not painful, and dogs can use their sense of smell fairly well due to their hunting instincts. 

3. Degenerative myelopathy

A nervous system disease, degenerative myelopathy is similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in humans. It usually appears as a weakness of the hind areas when they are around 8 to 11. 

There is no cure, but therapy can help dogs stay mobile longer.

4. Hair loss

Some American water spaniels start losing hair (alopecia) from an early age, usually before they are one year old. The loss can occur anywhere but often on the back legs, tail, neck, or eye area. The hair often regrows on its own (article).   

Grooming Needs of the American Water Spaniel

American water spaniels are a lot of work when it comes to grooming and hygiene maintenance.

1. Waterproof coat

They are double-coated with a waterproof overcoat. During winters, their coat thickens, and you may need a slicker brush to remove all the dead hair and prevent matting. In the summer, the coat is sparser and easier to groom. The waterproof coat makes it pretty hard to get the soap underneath whenever they require bathing.

2. Weekly brushing

If you take your American water spaniel for many outdoor activities or hunting, they might need regular grooming. Their coat may pick up debris quickly, so keep the skin free of foreign particles. They shed less than most dogs. So, brushing once or twice a week does wonders! 

The nails should be trimmed regularly, as long nails can cause injuries and impact their motion and agility.

Exercise and Training Needs

As discussed above, American Water Spaniels were bred for hunting in the cold waters of Minnesota and Wisconsin. This is a physically demanding job, so they require adequate training. Here’s how:

1. Daily exercising

That is why these dogs require daily exercise for mental and physical stimulation. You can get them their physical activities by running, hiking, or playing fetch. These fantastic swimmers SHOULD be taken swimming frequently. This keeps their wild instincts alive and helps them stay healthy.

2. Puzzles and games

For mental stimulation, you should include treat puzzles in their playtime. American Water Spaniels particularly enjoy mentally challenging tasks. Making them search for treats and toys retains their playfulness and is a great way to better their mental health. The world is getting too stressful for these fluffballs nowadays, right?

3. Early tarining

To train them, you should start obedience training from an early age. American Water Spaniels are otherwise obedient, but they can be independent thinkers. Paw-sitive reinforcement works like magic when teaching them new tricks and responsibilities.

Are American Water Spaniels Hypoallergenic?

American water spaniels are not considered among the hypoallergenic dogs. They shed moderately (far less than other dogs), which might contain allergens that can trigger your sensitivities.

We always recommend spending some time with the breed you are about to adopt before you get any new pets. Look out for responses and choose wisely.

Final Thoughts

American Water Spaniels can be your best companions. They are loyal, friendly, and very active. If you are adventurous and love water sports, these dogs will make your most fabulous best friends. However, you do need to spare some time for their grooming. Keeping their outer coat healthy is a challenging task. If you are busy, it is better to find a pet groomer nearby or look for other options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Water Spaniels like to swim?

Water Spaniels have webbed feet. Their hair and body structure also support water-related jobs and sports. So, if you train them to swim from an early age, they love swimming and spending time in the water. 

What is the difference between a Boykin Spaniel and a Water Spaniel?

The American Water Spaniel and the Boykin spaniel have differing fur colors and temperaments. The former can be a stubborn breed with a darker brown coat color, but the later is known for being  calm and patient with a reddish brown coat.

Do Water Spaniels shed a lot?

Water Spaniels shed less than plenty other dogs. Brushing their coat once a week can be great to prevent matting.

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