American Water Spaniel

AKC Sporting Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The earliest history of this breed is not known for certain, but since the eighteenth century, the American Water Spaniel has been an all-around farm and hunting dog in the Midwestern United States, particularly in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The breed was probably developed from the Irish Water Spaniel and Curly-Coated Retriever with possible additions of other early spaniels. The American Water Spaniel is an outstanding bird dog in swamps and woods, lakes, and rivers. He has a gentle mouth and a fine nose and works well both flushing game and retrieving. The American Water Spaniel excels in swimming, even in turbulent waters. Though he is the state dog of Wisconsin, the American Water Spaniel is still quite rare in the United States. Its AKC registration numbers are among the lowest of all breeds, but they are probably somewhat more numerous than this suggests because many hunters who own them have no interest in registering them. The American Water Spaniel also makes a fine family companion.


The American Water Spaniel is a medium-sized dog with a crisp-textured, tightly curled, or wavy outer coat lined with a protective undercoat. Comes in liver or chocolate, sometimes with a small white spot on the chest. White on the toes is also acceptable. The well-proportioned head is moderately long. The skull is broad with a moderate stop. The ears are long and covered with curls and the medium-length muzzle is square and smooth. The nose is either dark brown or black. The eye color should harmonize with the coat color in shades of brown or hazel—never yellow. The teeth meet in either a scissors or level bite. The feathered tail tapers, hanging with a slight upward curve. The tail is used as a rudder in swimming.

Key Facts

  • Height: 15 to 18 in.
  • Size: Medium
  • Weight: 30 to 45 lbs. (male); 25 to 40 lbs. (female)
  • Availability: Very difficult to find
  • Talents: Hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, and agility


Likes to roam. Might snore. Oily coat might have a strong smell. Some tend to bark and whine quite a bit. Coat needs a thorough brushing twice a week. Some lines are prone to skin problems. The American Water Spaniel is a superior and enthusiastic swimmer.


Very trainable and eager, enjoys working. Intelligent. Friendly, energetic, and confident. An easygoing, loving companion. Heavy-handed training methods are unnecessary with this willing spaniel. Socialize well at an early age to avoid timidity and potential dog-aggressiveness as an adult. Loves attention, but can entertain himself.


  • Children: Excellent with children
  • Friendliness: Loves everyone
  • Trainability: Easy to train
  • Independence: Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance: Low
  • Other Pets: Generally good with other pets
  • Noise: Likes to bark
  • Indoors: Moderately active indoors
  • Owner: Good for novice owners


  • Grooming: Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Curly coat
  • Shedding: Light shedder
  • Exercise: Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging: An excellent jogging companion.
  • Apartments: Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space: Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate: Does well in most climates
  • Longevity: Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® American Water Spaniel Breed Standard

American Water Spaniel Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel Gifts