American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniels are muscular midsize gundogs. They are known to be happy, eager, and charming, though aloof with strangers and a bit stubborn.

Daily Care

Grooming Tips

The American Water Spaniel has a dense, waterproof coat that can be either tightly curled or wavy. The breed was bred to work in the icy waters of the Great Lakes region, and its insulating, double-layer coat makes that possible. Weeklygroomingis required, but it is a fairly simple process. During the summer, the coat is sparser and can be brought into shape with a rubber-tipped pin brush. The rest of the year, and especially during thesheddingseason, a slicker brush should be used to remove the dead hair from the undercoat. As with all breeds, the American Water Spaniel‘snailsshould be trimmed regularly.

Exercise Tips

American Water Spaniels are outdoorsy athletes who love hunting and swimming, so they need ampleexercise. Without sufficient activity, they can become barky and destructive. At a minimum, vigorous play sessions with their owner or a companion dog in a park or a large backyard are needed every day. They truly thrive, however, when given a job to do and make great hunting companions—after all, it’s in their DNA. Participating infield trialsorobedience,agility, or dock diving events will give the American Water Spaniel a chance to burn off all that excess energy in a positive way.

Feeding Tips

TheAmerican Water Spaniel should do well on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to gettingoverweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level.Treatscan be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about whichhuman foodsare safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

Health Tips

As with all breeds, the majority of American Water Spaniels will live long and healthy lives when given proper care and regular veterinarian visits. A responsible breeder will test breeding stock for health concerns such as hip dysplasia, eye disorders, cardiac abnormalities, and degenerative myelopathy.


As with all breeds, early socializationpuppy training classesare highly recommended. Socialization—gently exposing the puppy to a wide variety of people, places, and situations between the ages of about 7 weeks and 4 months—will help him develop into a well-adjusted, well-mannered adult. American Water Spaniels are often aloof with strangers, and some may have a touch of stubbornness, but they are happy creatures who want nothing more than to please their owners. This makes training them easy and fun. Given this breed’s energy and innate talents, owners and their dogs enjoy participating together in canine sports such as trackingagility, barn hunt, and flyball, as well asfield events, which teach the dog to flush game and retrieve waterfowl.


The development of the American breeds is a classic case of “Yankee ingenuity”—a particular genius for adapting Old World materials to solve New World problems. An obvious example would be how American settlers utilized European breeds in the creation of the “coonhounds” who helped propel our nation’s westward expansion by supplying a steady source of meat and fur. Another good example of Yankee ingenuity is the American Water Spaniel.
The European immigrants who settled Wisconsin and Minnesota depended on the region’s plentiful waterfowlfor sustenance. Over generations they utilized various European breeds in creating a wholly new dog, the American Water Spaniel, to meet the unique challenges of hunting in and around the Great Lakes. Exactly how, when, or where the breed was created will probably remain a mystery. TheIrish Water Spaniel, theCurly-Coated Retriever, and the now extinct English Water Spaniel have been mentioned in histories as possible component breeds.
Their names have been lost to history, but the practical-minded frontiersmen behind the American Water Spaniel conceived the breed as an all-in-one hunting companion possessed of an excellent nose, expert at retrieving downed waterfowl (they swim like seals, say the breed’s admirers) but also adept at springing such upland game birds as grouse, quail, and pheasant. The breed has even been known to do a little rabbit hunting on the side.
Before you set your heart on this dog, be advised that these days the breed is scarce. The American Water Spaniel Club estimates that there are probably no more than 3,000 in existence.
The American Water Spaniel entered the AKC Stud Book in 1940 and was named Wisconsin’s official state dog in 1985.