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American Water Spaniel… Everything You Need to Know at a Glance!

Simply put, the American Water Spaniel is a dark chocolate pup that will probably melt your heart in a way you didn’t know possible. A hunter, swimmer and retriever, this dog is not only extremely useful in a wide variety of situations, he’s also a great companion and family pet!

But is an American Water Spaniel the right dog for you?

We’ll that’s all going to depend on what it is you’re looking for from a dog.  This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet decided to write this article about the American Water Spaniel so that after reading it you’ll be better prepared to know if purchasing an American Water Spaniel puppy (or better yet adopting an American Water Spaniel rescue dog) is the right choice for you.


Without further ado let’s dive right into it by first taking a look at the origin of the American Water Spaniel breed so that we can get a general idea about kind of “personality” he or she is likely to have.

American Water Spaniels Fact facts

Origin:  United States

Original Purpose:  Bird flushing and retrieving

Weight:  20 to 50 pounds

Height: 14 to 18 inches

Life Span: 12-15 years

Classification:  Sporting Group

Origin of the American Water Spaniel.

While the true origin of this breed is a bit “murky” most belive that these guys are probably a descendant of the now non-existent English Water Spaniel or the Irish Water Spaniel.

And just as…

The English migrated to America, so too did their dogs.  First to the east coast then all across America as the great expansion westward was in full steam!

It was during this time that…

The American Water Spaniel created a “name” for himself as being an incredible hunting companion.   With his water proof coat and keen hunting skills, the American Water Spaniel soon became known as the “big dog in a small package”.

So, it’s no wonder…

That in 1940 the American Kennel Club (AKC) decided to officially recognize the breed and place it in the “sporting group”.  It was also around this same time that lots of folks began to realize that in addition to being a great hunting companion, these “little brown dogs” also made great personal companions and family dogs as well.


The American Water Spaniel is probably best known for being the state dog of Wisconsin mainly do to their popularity within the state and the Great Lakes area.  There’s even a Great Lakes American Water Spaniel Club.

The truly ironic…

Part about the American Water Spaniels history is that even though this breed has been so revered over history, over time, many hunters slowly began to choose to purchase and breed larger “spaniel” dog breeds which almost led to the total extinction of the American Water Spaniel breed itself!

In fact…

Had it not been due to the efforts of committed dog breeder by the name of Fred J. Pfeiffer and the help of the United Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club, there is a very good chance that the American Water Spaniel would no longer be in existence!  Even now, it is believed that there are only about 3000 worldwide, making it one of the rarest AKC-recognized breeds in America.

Characteristics of an American Water Spaniel.

The American Water Spaniel is probably best known for his or her rich brown or dark chocolate water proof coat as well as their “over-sized” ears that will hang down below their head all the way to their shoulders.


It should be pointed out that because the American Water Spaniel’s coat is naturally curly and is a bit “oily” so owners will need to be vigilant about weekly brushings so that it doesn’t become too knotted or matted.  This is especially true if you spend a lot of time outdoors with your American Water Spaniel because these guys do love to get dirty.

Which is why…

You’ll want to remember that these dogs love to hunt, flush out birds and swim, so if you’re planning on adopting an American Water Spaniel you’ll also want to plan on providing plenty of activities for him or her to perform as well otherwise you’re going to have a very bored and unhappy dog in the near future.

Personality of the American Water Spaniel.

While it’s true that every dog is going to have his or her own unique personality, there some traits that will be typical to the breed which we’ll want to point out now.

For example…

The American Water Spaniel can be a bit “clingy” in that he or she will often look to his or her owner for conformation before doing things.  So, if you’re the type of person who likes to have conversations with their dog, and have them follow you around much of the day, then you’ll definitely have a friend in the American Water Spaniel.

That said however…

If you prefer a dog that is a bit more “stand offish” or is “ok” being on his or her own for long periods of time, then perhaps an American Water Spaniel isn’t going to be the right dog for you.

You see…

Your American Water Spaniel is going to be loyal to the core and it’s not going to “show” this same loyalty to everyone it meets.  You will be his “special” person.  This is why, when you’re away, your American Water Spaniel is probably going to hang out near the window waiting for your return rather than interacting much with a “dogsitter” or someone he or she doesn’t know.

The Plus side to this…

Is that because your American Water Spaniel is going to be so loyal and because her or she is going to be so dependent on you, he or she will also likely be rather easy to train despite the fact that “on occasion” they can be a bit stubborn.

(If you’re looking for a very similar dog but that might be even easier to train than an American Water Spaniel, you may want to consider a Boykin Spaniel. But, keep in mind, Boykin Spaniels need more exercise than American Water Spaniels).

Apartment living and American Water Spaniels

If you live in an apartment or small house, it should be okay so long as you take them out and about often enough. Don’t expect your dog to be content sitting indoors confined to a small area the whole day long. They love to be active – and especially love to go for a swim, hence the name!

 If it’s feasible…

Let your Water Spaniel take a dip in a pool, river or safe lake. Even a run through the sprinklers will do this pup good!

Ok, now that we’ve…

Covered all the good things about the American Water Spaniel, let’s just take a moment and let everyone know that… this type of retriever (did we mention ASWs are in fact a type of retriever?) has a Jekyll and Hyde like personality sometimes as well.

Meaning that…

Your adorable, fun-loving dog can turn into a reckless, stubbornly independent (even for stupid things!) dog that drives you up the wall.

Good training is a definite must…

And for it to work at all, you’ll need to start when your dog is a puppy. It may be cute when your American Water Spaniel puppy eats a sock, but it’s not going to be cute when your full-grown dog destroys your sofa!

So, think about it…and train that dog!

Health Concerns

All in all, the American Water Spaniel is a pretty healthy breed which is great because often times, pure breeds particularly those that have been improperly bred can often times be at risk for a wide variety of serious and often costly medical conditions.


For the American Water Spaniel, this does not seem to be the case.  However, there are a few conditions that may arise which you should be aware of so that you can specifically ask your breeder about.

Conditions such as:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a common problem for most dog breeds. Of course, the commonality of the problem doesn’t make it much easier (or cheaper!). This could cost as much as $6500 if your dog needs to have a hip surgery.

Cataracts: If your dog gets serious cataracts and needs surgery, it will cost up to $3000 per eye. Some people might choose to ignore the cataracts, but this isn’t ideal. The inability to see will seriously hurt your dog’s quality of life.

Mitral Valve Disease: This is a heart condition, which means if your dog gets it, then surgery is likely in the cards. The good news is that this surgery isn’t that costly (in comparison to others). It may only cost you $500-2000.

Now why do we here at IndulgeYourPet choose to also talk about medical conditions that your pet may get?

Well the answer to that question is easy.  You see, here at IndulgeYourPet we take pet ownership very seriously.  After all, when you decide to adopt a pet you are basically committing yourself to be responsible for that animal’s care and well being.

But what a lot of folks…

Forget about is that in addition to feeding and housing your pet, you’re also going to be responsible for his or her medical care as well.  And as veterinarian care improves and increases in its abilities, so too do the SIZE of the vet bills we as pet owners receive.

This is why…

We always like to suggest that while one is researching what kind of pet to get, they should also see exactly what it would cost to actually purchase a pet insurance policy as well.  This way, if in the future, you find yourself staring an INSANELY large vet bill, you won’t have to face the bill alone, instead, you can use your insurance to minimize your expenses.

For more information about how much a pet insurance policy might cost you and which pet insurance company has the “best” deal, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance companies article.

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