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

Now, the thing about these guys is that you don’t have to see them run around or splash in the water to know why they’re often called clever clown dogs! After all, they seem to have somewhat of a silly expression about them, making you want to join in on all the fun they seem to be having, especially if you enjoy their two favorite things: splashing around in the water and showing off a bit.

Or, in other words…

These guys don’t like taking the “backstage” in life. Instead, they want to use their sense of humor and naughty ways to keep the action going and avoid boredom. And while technically he is called a spaniel, he is a water retriever at his core. A water retriever that is super energetic and always playful. He’s also a huge dog; the Irish Water Spaniel is one of the biggest retrievers. And even though he was initially bred as a water retriever, he is more of a family dog.

But will an Irish Water Spaniel…

Be the right dog for you? That’s the real question we hope to help you answer in this article. The last thing that we here at IndulgeYourPet want to see happen is for someone to decide to adopt an Irish Water Spaniel puppy or a rescue dog only to realize that it will not be a good fit later on.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed Fast Facts

Country of Origin: Ireland

Original Purpose:  Water retrieval

Height: 21 to 24 inches tall

Weight: 45 to 65 pounds

Lifespan: 10 to 12 years

Dog Breed Classification: Sporting Group

Origin of the Irish Water Spaniel

There is a perfect chance that the Irish Water Spaniel (IWS) may be one of the oldest “spaniel” dog breeds in existence, and like all ancient dog breeds, understanding their true origin can be a bit challenging. This is because often, many “competing” theories about when and where they first “evolved.” What we can tell you is that it seems like this dog has been in and around Ireland since at least the 1100s and that by the mid-1600s, it co-existed with several other Spaniels native to Ireland, including the Southern Irish Spaniel or the McCarthy, Spaniel which is credited by many for being the forefather of today’s modern IWS.

You see…

The modern-day IWS was developed by a breeder named Justin McCarthy. McCarthy was very secretive about how he bred the dog. As a result, there is a lot of mystery about the origins of the Irish Water Spaniel breed. Experts suggest that the IWS was bred by crossing either the Poodle or the Barbet with the much bigger Portuguese Water dog breed brought to Ireland by Portuguese fishermen.

Either way…

Once folks looked at the IWS and saw how well they did in field trials, such as those held in Birmingham in 1862, they quickly became quite popular and began popping up throughout the UK. However, these guys made their mark as a hunting dog, not a sports dog or a show dog. This is why they finally made their way to the US in the late 11800. They were an instant hit within the hunting community,  which is probably why they were quickly “officially” recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as early as 1884. There’s even an Irish Water Spaniel Club in the United States.

Strangely though….

These guys haven’t ever been able to gain too much popularity outside of specific hunting organizations because the IWS hasn’t ever really caught on in the USA. It’s hard to tell why, but perhaps because he can be very stubborn and is not easy to train – especially for first-time dog owners.

Physical Characteristics

The Irish Water Spaniel is a “biggish” dog, much bigger than most spaniels or retrievers. But beyond just being big, he’s also quite bulky for a spaniel. Particularly if you get a big one because their size can vary from 45 to 65 pounds; they also have a long, deep, square muzzle, deep chest, and a robust body. He has a dark nose, long ears, and high hindquarters.


Like most water retrievers, he has webbed feet, a curly outer coat, and a dense undercoat. This protects him from cold water. Needless to add, he is an excellent swimmer. He can swim for hours without getting tired.

Comparison Dog Breeds

The Irish Water Spaniel may be compared to other famous dog breeds such as Curly-Coated Retriever, American Water Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, Springer Spaniel, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Bull Terrier, Irish Setter, Irish Wolfhound, Labrador Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, Golden Retriever, French Bulldog, Fox Terrier, Chinese Shar-Pei, Bernese Mountain Dog, Siberian Husky, Lagotto Romagnolo, Basset Hound, German Shepherd, Welsh Corgi, Border Collie and Shiba Inu.

Personality and Temperament

According to AKC, the Irish Water Spaniel has excellent intelligence and rugged endurance. He is a brave, courageous dog and always eager to impress. They’re also quite curious by nature and always exploring things and people. He gets fascinated by every new thing he sees or person he meets. He is a very playful dog, and it is always good to have him around.

The IWS is very loyal. He loves his human family and is protective of the kids. However, he may not be the right choice for first-time dog owners. He is not appropriate for city life either. The Irish Water Spaniel is better suited to life in the countryside, where he can move around freely and get as much exercise as he needs.

But be warned…

The IWS does not like to be teased or ignored by his human family. That’s why he is probably inappropriate for a house with small children – You know what kids are like! In some cases, the IWS dog breed has been known to snap at a child who tries to mount him or pull his tail.

Potential Health Concerns

The Irish Water Spaniel is generally a healthy dog with a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. However, like other spaniels and retrievers, he is susceptible to certain genetic disorders and health problems such as…

And while neither of these conditions may be life-threatening, they can become quite expensive, particularly if they become recurring issues. This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not. But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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