Activities For American Water Spaniels

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Introduction

The American Water Spaniel is a breed of field Spaniel that was developed in the Great Lakes region in the mid-1800s as a retriever of waterfowl. They are a medium-sized breed that was developed as one of the first all-around sporting dogs that were easily able to work out of a boat. These are very active dogs that require some work in order to ensure that they get enough exercise, particularly as inactive American Water Spaniels are prone to developing obesity. The activities listed here can help keep your dog healthy in both body and mind. 

Dock Diving

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Normal
30 - 120 min
Items needed
Extended Dock
Target to Jump After
Activity description

The sport of dock diving is a fairly new canine activity, first introduced in 1997 at the Incredible Dog Challenge. This sport, which is growing in popularity, involves the dog running to the end of a thirty-five-foot dock and jumping off in pursuit of a specific target. There are now several dock dog jumping competitions in the United States as well as several different clubs dedicated to the sport. The American Water Spaniel breed was developed with a strong ability to swim and a strong desire to retrieve, so that they could more easily be trained to retrieve downed game birds for hunters, making them particularly well-suited to this activity.

Step
1
Learn to swim
For most American Water Spaniel breed dogs, swimming comes rather naturally, but some dogs may need a little encouragement to become comfortable with the water. If your dog is the latter, it is a good idea to ensure that they get experience in the water before introducing them to dock diving, so that they are calm, comfortable, and confident when participating.
Step
2
Teach the target
Once you are confident with your dog’s swimming ability, it is time to introduce them to the target. Depending on the type of dock diving you are attempting, the target will either be suspended out over the pool at a specific distance, or it will be thrown as far out as possible in the pool by the animal’s handler. While catching the target is not always needed to win the competition, it does provide additional motivation for the canine participants.
Step
3
Jump on in!
There are many dock diving events and competitions available to participate in throughout the world and they are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Joining a local dock diving club can help you to create contacts within the community and find fun, new competitions to enter. Many of these events and competitions can be entered for free or with just a nominal fee.
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Speak and Quiet

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Any Day
Free
Normal
5 - 45 min
Items needed
High-Value Food Reward
Activity description

American Water Spaniels, for all of their good-natured and enthusiastic charm, do have a tendency to go into unwanted barking frenzies with a very small amount of provocation. They were originally bred to have a fairly loud bark so that they can be found far afield if needed, and barking frenzies can become tiresome very quickly, so it’s a good idea to attempt to curb that behavior with training as early as possible. While it seems counterintuitive on the surface, one of the most effective techniques for teaching your dog to be quiet when asked begins with teaching them to on command.

Step
1
Speak
Show your canine companion a high-value food reward and give them the command to speak. When your dog barks two or three times, praise them and give them their reward. Keep repeating this step until your dog barks each time you ask them to speak, ensuring that the command is firmly entrenched in their mind.
Step
2
Quiet
Once your pup has reliably grasped the concept of speak, you can progress to the quiet command. This step is best learned in a quiet, distraction-free environment where the dog can focus entirely on you. First, give your dog the command to speak, then show them the reward and give them the new quiet command and wave the reward near their face. When they stop barking in order to investigate the treat, give it to them and praise them heavily. Continue working on the “quiet” command in the distraction-free environment until they respond every time.
Step
3
Quiet whenever
Once your dog is fully compliant with both the speak and quiet commands in a safe and distraction-free environment, it is time to take the training into the outside world and work on the commands in more active environments - working on the commands first in areas like a quiet nearby park, where there are just a few distractions, to more intense situations, such as near a noisy dog park. This will help to cement the commands so that your dog obeys even when being taunted by obnoxious squirrels.
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Hunting Games

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Any Day
Cheap
Normal
5 - 60
Items needed
Duck Decoys
Water
Boat
Training Duck Dummy
Activity description

The American Water Spaniel was originally bred as a gun dog suitable for hunting from a small boat, but it is usually considered to be a dual-purpose dog breed as many of the dogs that are seen in the show ring are also employed in the field. There are several games and activities that can be utilized as a way to improve your dog’s hunting and retrieving skills as well as providing your dog with some much-needed fun and mental stimulation. These games are generally enjoyable for dogs of all ages and can even be used to help prepare pups that may still be too young to hunt. 

Step
1
Duck or decoy
Inexperienced hunting dogs are often confused by decoys and see them as a toy to be picked up and chewed on, but in the field, this is an undesirable trait. Rather than throwing a dead duck in among the decoys for your dog to scent and bring to you, it is usually easier to use a training duck dummy or stuffed animal that has been anointed with bird scent to teach your dog the difference.
Step
2
Water play
While most American Water Spaniels quickly and easily take to the water, a few can become wary of it, particularly if they are not introduced to it until they are older. A retriever of waterfowl will be able to do their job more comfortably if they view the water as something associated with fun and praise. You can introduce even young pups to water using a wading pool in the backyard, and many dogs enjoy dipping their paws in streams and lakes.
Step
3
Boat buddy
While most American Water Spaniels quickly and easily take to the water, a few can become wary of it, particularly if they are not introduced to it until they are older. A retriever of waterfowl will be able to do their job more comfortably if they view the water as something associated with fun and praise. You can introduce even young pups to water using a wading pool in the backyard, and many dogs enjoy dipping their paws in streams and lakes.
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More Fun Ideas...

Swimming

Although spaniels such as the American Water Spaniel don’t typically have the stamina of the larger retrieving dogs, they generally are very agile and enthusiastic in the water.

Fetch

American Water Spaniels were developed to retrieve game from the water and they, like most dogs bred for this purpose, love a good game of fetch, often playing for hours at a time.

Conclusion

American Water Spaniels are active and energetic working spaniels that require vigorous activity on a daily basis. Many of these dogs are still actively being used as gun dogs, assisting hunters in retrieving waterfowl, often from boats rather than from shore. It is important for these dogs to get enough physical and mental exercise whether they hunt or not, however, as this breed is prone to developing obesity when they are inactive.