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

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 instrumental in a wide variety of situations, but he’s also a great companion and family pet!

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

Well, that will all depend on what 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.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it by first looking at the origin of the American Water Spaniel breed to get a general idea about the kind of “personality” they are 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 believe these guys are probably descendants of the now non-existent English Water Spaniel or the Irish Water Spaniel.  And just as the English migrated to America, so did their dogs.  First to the east coast, then all across America as the significant expansion westward was in full steam!

It was during this time that…

The American Water Spaniel created a “name” for himself as an incredible hunting companion.   With his waterproof coat and keen hunting skills, the American Water Spaniel became known as the “big dog in a small package.”  So, it’s no wonder in 1940, the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed and placed it in the “sporting group.”  Around this same time, many folks began to realize that in addition to being great hunting companions, these “little brown dogs” also made great personal companions and family dogs.


The American Water Spaniel is best known for being Wisconsin’s state dog mainly due 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 of the American Water Spaniel’s 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!

Had it not been due to the efforts of a 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 perfect chance that the American Water Spaniel would no longer exist!  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 their rich brown or dark chocolate waterproof coat and their “oversized” ears that will hang below its head to its shoulders.

Additionally, it should be pointed out that because the American Water Spaniel’s coat is naturally curly and a bit “oily, ” owners must be vigilant about weekly brushings so that it doesn’t become too knotted or matted.  This is especially true if you spend much time outdoors with your American Water Spaniel because these guys love getting 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 them to perform as well; otherwise, you’re going to have a very bored and unhappy dog shortly.

The personality of the American Water Spaniel

While it’s true that every dog will have their unique personality, some traits 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” because they often look to their owner for confirmation 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 have a friend in the American Water Spaniel.

However, if you prefer a dog that is a bit more “standoffish” or is “ok” being on their own for long periods, then perhaps an American Water Spaniel isn’t the right dog for you.

You see…

Your American Water Spaniel will be loyal to the core and will not “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 will probably hang out near the window waiting for your return rather than interacting much with a “dogsitter” or someone they don’t know.

The Plus side to this…

Is that because your American Water Spaniel is going to be so loyal and because she or she is going to be so dependent on you, they will also likely be relatively easy to train even though “on occasion” they can be a bit stubborn?

(If you’re looking for a similar dog 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 to take them out and about often enough. Don’t expect your dog to be content sitting indoors, confined to a small area all day. They love to be active – especially to go for a swim, hence the name!

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

Ok, now that we’ve…

I 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 kind of retriever?) has a Jekyll and Hyde-like personality sometimes as well.  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 won’t be pretty when your full-grown dog destroys your sofa!

So, think about it…and train that dog!

American Water Spaniel Health Concerns

All in all, the American Water Spaniel is a pretty healthy breed which is great because often, pure species, particularly those that have been improperly bred, can be at risk for various severe and costly medical conditions.


For the American Water Spaniel, this is not the case.  However, you should be aware of a few conditions that may arise so that you can specifically ask your breeder about them.  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 hip surgery.

Cataracts: If your dog gets severe cataracts and needs surgery, it will cost up to $3000 per eye. Some people might ignore 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 surgery is likely in the cards if your dog gets it. The good news is that this surgery isn’t that costly (in comparison to others). It may only cost you $500-2000.

Why do we at IndulgeYourPet also discuss medical conditions 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 committing yourself to be responsible for that animal’s care and well-being.

But many folks need to remember that you will also be responsible for their medical care in addition to feeding and housing your pet.  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 suggest that while researching what kind of pet to get, one should also see exactly what it would cost to purchase a pet insurance policy.  This way, if you find yourself staring at a vast vet bill in the future, you won’t have to face the nose 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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