The American Water Spaniel is a small brown breed of Spaniel developed in the Midwestern region of the United States as early as the 18th century. Used primarily as a hunting companion for waterfowl, pheasants, and rabbits, the American Water Spaniel is known for its energy and self-confidence on the field but can be shy and timid among people. The American Water Spaniel has a double coat that is water resistant and has webbed feet so naturally, this breed loves the water but requires frequent brushing to keep its coat healthy and clean. Under the thickly coated curls lies a muscular form with excellent agility. The American Water Spaniel is known to be capable of jumping in and out of a small skiff or canoe without rocking the boat.
The American Water Spaniel has an unknown history but was most likely derived from the smaller Irish or English Water Spaniels and possible the Curly-coated Retriever dating back to the 18th century in the United States. However, it was not until the mid-1800s that detailed records of the breed were kept.
The American Water Spaniel developed in the midwestern region of the United States as a gun dog and hunting companion. Her ability to flush out birds and retrieve fallen game in all terrains from marshes and river lands to uplands made her an excellent companion. When larger retriever breeds became more popular, the smaller American Water Spaniel fell out of favor with hunters. If not for Doctor F.J. Pfeifer of New London, Wisconsin who is credited with saving the American Water Spaniel, this breed would have faced extinction.
Pfeifer bred and sold American Water Spaniels for the breed club, and helped develop the standard on how this dog should look. Pfeifer’s efforts made breed recognition possible and the American Water Spaniel was first accepted by the United Kennel Club in 1920, the Field Stud Book in 1938, and gained American Kennel Club acceptance in 1940. “Curly Pfeifer” was the first registered American Water Spaniel, and the state of Wisconsin designated the American Water Spaniel as its official state dog in 1986.
Today, the American Water Spaniel remains a rare breed with less than 3,000 total individuals in existence. However, the rarity has most likely prevented this breed from splitting once again into two classes; one used for show competitions and the other as a hunting companion.
The American Water Spaniel is a medium sized muscular dog and a marcel (uniform waves) to curly coat over a dense undercoat. The undercoat helps protect the American Water Spaniel from colder weather and water, making the coat snow and water resistant. Female American Water Spaniels tend to be slightly smaller than males, and both sexes are slightly longer than they are tall.
The American Water Spaniel’s head is in proportion with the rest of its body, and it possesses an alert, intelligent, and confident expression in its face. Its eyes are slightly above the eye line and are long and wide. The American Water Spaniel has well-developed nostrils designed for scenting.
The forelegs are of medium length and just long enough to field through tall brush with ease. The front toes are webbed and well-padded for the wetter terrain. The American Water Spaniel has strong-developed hips and thighs for strength and drives through the wet terrains it was intended to hunt.
The curly coat of an American Water Spaniel requires weekly grooming to prevent matting and to help condition the breed's coat and skin with natural oils. You can use a slick brush to remove the undercoat and a rubber-tipped pin brush to groom the summer coat. The American Water Spaniel has long ears that may trap moisture, becoming a possible breeding environment for bacteria. You should consult with your veterinarian or grooming specialist on the best methods for cleaning your American Water Spaniel’s ears to prevent possible infections.
The natural oils of your American Water Spaniel may produce a “doggy odor” but be mindful of bathing. Frequent bathing and shampooing can strip the oil and lead to irritated, uncomfortable skin. The best care you can give to combat the dog odor is weekly grooming to help distribute oil and remove dead hair and skin.
The American Water Spaniel is a sporting dog and requires a lot of physical activity. She loves to jump in the water and swim as well as run, so apartment and urban living are not well-suited for this breed though they may adapt well enough in an apartment if she gets plenty of exercise outside.