American Water Spaniel

25-35 lbs
United States
Brown Water Spaniel

A rare treat, the American Water Spaniel is a delight of a dog. Very few American Water Spaniel puppies are born every year. This certainly isn’t a common breed, and outside the US the dog isn’t well known. The rest of the world is missing out; this is a cute and honest dog that loves to keep its human family happy.

In this handy guide to everything American Water Spaniel-related, you’ll learn all you need to know about this brown beauty, including the following key points:

American Water Spaniel breed overview

The American Water Spaniel has unofficially been with us for around 150 years, since its beginnings as a dog that worked the fields, hunting all sorts of tasty morsels for humans to serve up on the dinner table. 

In that time it has been on an extraordinary journey, even narrowly swerving extinction at one point. It’s a hard-working, energetic and playful pup, guaranteed to bring light and laughter into the house.

Before buying an American Water Spaniel, every pet parent should be fully informed about exactly what the breed is like — the same applies with any dog, of course. Here you’ll learn, for example, that it’s a wonderfully intelligent dog that’s easy to train and gets on relatively well with kids. Read on to be further enlightened.

purpose Purpose
history Date of Origin
ancestry Ancestry
spaniel, retriever

American Water Spaniel Health

Sketch of American Water Spaniel
Average Size
Male American Water Spaniel size stats
Height: 15-18 inches Weight: 30-45 lbs
Female American Water Spaniel size stats
Height: 15-18 inches Weight: 25-35 lbs

American Water Spaniel Breed History

Bred to be a hunting dog, the American Water Spaniel dates back to 19th-century Wisconsin — very plausibly 1865 — and in fact this American water dog is the state’s official breed. The dog came about because hunters required a pup who could hunt in water and on land and who was adept at catching all sorts of birds in all sorts of temperatures: greater prairie chicken, grouse, waterfowl, and fish (the latter not a bird, strictly speaking).

In the American Water Spaniel’s DNA mix are breeds like the Curly Coated Retriever, the English Water Spaniel, the Sussex Spaniel, and native Indian dogs. Over the years, as hunting evolved away from a professional to a recreational pursuit, American Water Spaniels risked fading away entirely.

In stepped Dr Fred J. Pfeifer who rescued the breed by establishing something called Wolf River Kennels. It was he who set up the standard for the breed, which was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1940. Now, though they are prospering compared with their scarcity at the end of the 19th century, there are still believed to be only around 3,000 in the world.

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American Water Spaniel Breed Appearance

With the most magnificent curls either side of its head, the American Water Spaniel is a gorgeous sight to behold. Its coat, which always tends to be some shade of brown, needs to be warm and thick because of the amount of the time the dog spent in the cold Wisconsin water, helping hunters hunt. 

Medium and muscular and longer than it is tall, a fully grown American Water Spaniel is an elegant and well proportioned pup who stands between 15 and 18 inches off the ground.

The most surprising of the dog’s characteristics are its webbed feet, which help it hunt in wet terrain.

Similar breeds to the American Water Spaniel

If you’re interested in the American Water Spaniel - and why wouldn’t you be? - you might be interested to know that there are various breeds that are similar in some ways to the American Water Spaniel. We’ve listed five of these below:

American Water Spaniel Breed Maintenance

Unsurprisingly, because of its hunting days gone by, the American Water Spaniel needs a decent amount of exercise if it’s going to stay happy and healthy.

You could keep an American Water Spaniel in a Manhattan apartment and walk it every day but these are dogs with the country air in their lungs, and they will do best when they’re allowed to stretch and run and get wet in the great outdoors.

When it comes to grooming, the advice is to brush the dog’s coat only once a week and not over-bathe your pup for fear of taking away the natural oils in the skin and making it irritable. A good brush can be as effective as a bath in keeping a dog clean and smelling great — every spring your dog will shed its coat.

Every week, check your furry friend’s ears and clean them out with a cotton ball that has a cleanser on it. Try, if you can, to brush the dog’s teeth every day.

For this breed, experts recommend crate training if you want to keep your valuables and treasured items of clothing in one piece (which presumably you do).

American Water Spaniel health risks

All being well, you should have as many as 14 years with your beautiful American Water Spaniel but you know as well as we do that things go wrong with dogs along the way. We sincerely hope that any problems you have are minor but the following conditions are fairly likely to affect American Water Spaniels in their lifetimes, so keep an eye out for:

Mitral valve disease

If you notice that your American Water Spaniel has a heart murmur, a hacking cough, or dyspnea, you might want to consider mitral valve disease — also known as mitral valve dysplasia. This is a congenital condition defined by backflow of blood into the left atrium of the heart, caused by a mitral valve that is misshapen in some way. 

Normally, this valve is a one-way operation, sending blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle. Dogs with this condition have a valve that doesn’t shut tightly enough, leading to the aforementioned backflow.

Though some dogs may undergo surgery to have the valve replaced, this is a serious operation and only sufficiently strong dogs can deal with it. Generally, the amount of intervention for this condition is relatively low; sometimes no action at all is necessary. 

Dogs will often have to watch their diets and increase their intake of vitamins like E and C. As well as this, a dog might be prescribed things like angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, diuretics or digitalis.

Degenerative myelopathy

Anything with ‘degenerative’ in its name tends to be serious. So it is with degenerative myelopathy, unfortunately — a chronic disease that is characterized by the white matter in a dog’s spinal cord degenerating over time.

Although the cause of degenerative myelopathy isn’t fully understood, it tends to develop as the dog begins to reach old age. It may look like arthritis and tends to spread into the dog’s hind area, bringing about conditions like hip dysplasia and lameness. Dogs with the condition will, understandably, often trip and fall.

Therapy and supplements tend to be what the vet will prescribe. These of course won’t cure the illness but they will help the pup lead a happier life. In particular, the supplements N-acetylcysteine and Aminocaproic acid have proved effective if given to the dog every day.

Progressive retinal atrophy

Another ‘progressive’ here, alas. A dog affected by progressive retinal atrophy will gradually go blind because of the death of the rod cells in their retinas. Luckily, because the progression of the condition is so slow, your dog may not even let on that anything is wrong; they may adapt to life with increasingly poor eyesight. 

You will know eventually, of course. The dog’s eyes will begin to succumb to cataracts, for example, and it will behave more tentatively as it begins to lose its day vision (the loss of night vision comes first). Be on the lookout at the early stages for bumping into walls, dilated pupils, and the eyes taking on a gray color.

As with any progressive condition, treatment here is about managing the problem. Your dog may be perfectly comfortable and happy if you make accommodations and slight changes around the house, so there is no need to feel sad about their declining eyesight. Antioxidants may help slow down the progression of the illness.

Generally, although a vet might be able to remove a dog’s cataracts, they may be reluctant to in this scenario because the removal may cause more issues than it solves.

Feeding an American Water Spaniel — what’s the best diet?

This active dog eats quite a lot of food. Your American Water Spaniel will love you if you give it plenty of high-quality, nutrient-rich food full of animal proteins to keep it healthy and full of energy. 

Please spend the time on research. Our advice guide on how to read a dog food label is really useful in understanding exactly what’s being put into your pup’s bowl. You might also be interested in our tips on how to choose the right food for your dog.

Avoid fillers, and aim to choose recipes tailored to breed size or the specific breed type, if you can. Avoid giving it scraps from your plates — dogs shouldn’t be overfed.

American Water Spaniel Temperament

The American Water Spaniel’s temperament is great. It’s a confident and energetic dog to have around the house. It will be keen to please its pet parents but it’s worth noting that it can be a little timid around people, even those it does know. The more socialization you can do from an early age, the happier everyone is likely to be and the more cuddles you are likely to get.

Training should be a walk in the park (not literally, although those are very useful, as explained above) — the dog has hunting DNA and is extremely smart. Train it with kind words and rewards, not harsh punishments or insults. This is a sensitive dog who is sweet and kind. Like most if not all dogs, it’s happiest when you’re happiest.

It will do very well with children with families but make sure you don’t leave it completely alone for long periods of time; this isn’t a breed that necessarily loves its solitude.

Though it isn’t known for being the most lovey-dovey and affectionate with children, families with kids should be perfectly comfortable bringing the American Water Spaniel into their life. If treated with love and devotion, this dog should respond in kind — given enough time.

Now you’re all clued up on everything American Water Spaniel-related, we recommend that you consider the costs of looking after one. On average, although the spectrum is broad, the American Water Spaniel is likely to cost you approximately $600 to $1,500 a year in vet bills. 

A pet insurance plan may cover some of those costs. Here, you can compare the best insurance providers to find the right quote for you and your furry friend. And, while you’re there, why not consider a wellness plan, which will cover the cost of your pup’s routine vet treatment and checks?

American Water Spaniel Owner Experiences

1 Year
5 People
House & Yard
my water spaniel is a bit aloof and cranky but she is one of the first dog i'v own i own a lot of dogs in my home so yeah
2 years, 8 months ago
3 Years
The American Water Spaniel is a very high energy and focused dog. When walking the American Water Spaniel it's always good to keep in mind of you're surroundings because when they spot something moving about they'll definitely focus in on what it is before trying to sprint for it's target. Luckily they are great for commands so calling out for them will regain their focus on you and make it possible to continue your walk without having to tug them along. They love squirrels, lizards, ducks and pretty much anything that moves away fast enough to set in that prey effect. Due to the amount of wavy to curly fur they have they do require a bit of maintenance if you don't want a pup with dreads. Overall they are great dogs both for the family and for hunting. Whichever way you choose to own this breed it's always good to start their training while they're still young.
6 years, 5 months ago
1 Month
American Water Spaniels are an amazing breed, I have owned a few throughout my life and they are wonderful companions!
6 years, 5 months ago
Book me a walkiee?
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