Irish Water Spaniel

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The Irish Water Spaniel Dog Profile

The tallest spaniel is the Irish Water Spaniel. It must never, however, be so huge that it is unable to board a boat! The body is medium in length, and the dog as a whole is slightly rectangular in shape. The overall appearance conveys both speed and stamina. 

The gait is fluid and covers a lot of ground. One of the breed’s distinguishing characteristics is its coat. The entire body is covered in a double covering of crisp ringlets.

This combination provides resistance to water, rain, and thorns, allowing the dog to work or play in the most extreme conditions. The expression of the Irish Water Spaniel says it all: attentive, clever, and inquisitive.

The Irish Water Spaniel is a tough, cobby dog that originated in Ireland. The coat is densely curled and sheds very little. The color is liver/puce with a distinct purple hue that is unlike any other recognized breed. [requires citation] Because of the non-shedding nature of the coat, persons who are allergic to dogs may have a milder reaction to Irish Water Spaniels (see hypoallergenic). 

IWS have a number of unique traits that make them one of the most easily recognized breeds: A topknot of long, loose curls growing down from the head that often hides the eyes; a “beard” growing at the back of the throat that is typically accompanied by “sideburns”. 

“Great intelligence is paired with tough endurance and a bold, dashing eagerness,” according to the AKC Standard. 

The Irish Water Spaniel is the tallest of the spaniels, with a distinct, purposeful demeanor and a characteristic curious look. 

He has a wider range of personalities than other breeds, but the most are bold, inquisitive, and eager to play. Irish Water Spaniels require a lot of physical activity, such as fetching and swimming. 

He should be exposed to a wide range of people and various situations from an early age, as he is guarded and protective, attributes that can quickly morph into shyness or irritability. 

When it comes to strange canines, Irish Water Spaniels can be hostile.

Irish Water Spaniel Highlights

  • Sulfa medicines, Ivermectin, and vaccinations, particularly the leptospirosis component, can cause life-threatening reactions. 
  • They can be stubborn and independent thinker, this is a breed that is probably not ideal for first-time dog owners. 
  • Irish Water Spaniels are high-energy dogs who require regular exercise. 
  • Not every Irish Water Spaniel can be trusted around tiny animals. 
  • Early socialization — exposure to a wide range of people, places, views, sounds, and experiences — is essential. 
  • Never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store if you want a healthy dog. Look for a reliable breeder who screens her breeding dogs for genetic disorders.
  • Irish Water Spaniels are fantastic family dogs since they are usually good with children and other pets who are respectful of them. 
  • If properly trained, they can make excellent security dogs and will protect their human families. 
  • The IWS may have a strong, fierce-sounding bark while not being an aggressive dog.
  • Every 1–2 weeks, a thorough combing of the skin is recommended to promote healthy skin and remove any objects from the coat.
  • Every 6–8 weeks, scissoring will be needed to neaten and shape the coat, while regular exposure to water will develop the proper “ringlets” over the body coat.

Irish Water Spaniel Breed Features & Ratings:

Rated base on a 5 Star Scale
ENERGY LEVEL:                                5 Star
PLAYFULNESS:                                  5 Star
AFFECTION LEVEL:                           3 Star
FRIENDLINESS TO DOGS:                3 Star
WATCHFULNESS:                               3 Star
EASE OF TRAINING:                           5 Star
HEAT SENSITIVITY:                              3 Star
VOCALITY                                             4 Star

Irish Water Spaniel Breed Profile:

Dog Breed Group:  Sporting Dogs

Height:  21-24”

Weight:  45-65 lb

Life Span: 10-12 years












Agility, Conformation, Obedience, Rally Obedience, Tracking

Type: Purebred

Color: Brown

Litter Size: 

Puppy Prizes: 4-12 puppies

When the American Kennel Club was created, the Irish Water Spaniel was one of just nine breeds that were initially recognized. The Irish Water Spaniel used to be a more popular hunting dog in the United States, but it is now rare. Generally speaking. An Irish Water Spaniel puppy costs between $1,500 and $2,000 on average.

Irish Water Spaniel Health:

Irish Water Spaniels are typically healthy, however they are susceptible to some health issues, as are all breeds. Although not all Irish Water Spaniels may contract one or more of these diseases, it’s crucial to be aware of them if you’re thinking about getting one. 

Find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your dog’s parents if you’re buying a puppy. Health clearances demonstrate that a dog has been checked for and cleared of a certain disease. You can expect to receive health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease in Irish Water Spaniels; and from Aubur for hypothyroidism and von Willebrand’s disease.

  • Major concerns: CHD, otitis externa
  • Minor concerns: distichiasis
  • Occasionally seen: megaesophagus, hypothyroidism, elbow dysplasia, seizures, nail-bed disease
  • Suggested tests: hip, elbow, eye, thyroid
  • Life span: 10–12 years
  • Hip Dysplasia 

The thighbone does not fit tightly into the hip joint, which is a heritable disorder. Some dogs indicate pain and lameness in one or both rear legs, but a dog with hip dysplasia may not show any signs of discomfort. Arthritis can occur as a dog aged. 

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program offer X-ray screening for hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia dogs should not be bred. If you’re buying a puppy, make sure the breeder can provide you confirmation that the parents were tested for hip dysplasia and found to be healthy. Hip dysplasia is a congenital condition, but it can also be caused by environmental causes, such as rapid growth during a high-risk pregnancy.

  • Cataracts 

A cataract is an opacity on the eye’s lens that causes vision problems. The dog’s eye(s) will be hazy in appearance. Cataracts are most common in older dogs and can occasionally be surgically removed to improve their vision.

  • Follicular Dysplasia 

Hair loss and changes in coat quality are frequent in a number of disorders. Hair loss in Irish Water Spaniels begins at 2 to 4 years of age on the back and gradually extends to the majority of the trunk. The coat change is gradual and permanent, although it has no impact on the health of the dog. 

  • Hypothyroidism 

Hypothyroidism is caused by a lack of thyroid hormone, which is generated by the thyroid gland in the neck. Infertility is one of the disease’s mild symptoms. Obesity, mental dullness, lethargy, drooping eyes, low energy, and erratic heat cycles are some of the most visible symptoms of this condition. The dog’s fur gets coarse and brittle, starting to fall out, and the skin becomes harsh and black. It can be treated with daily thyroid replacement and is usually treated for the rest of one’s life. A dog who receives treatment on a daily basis can have a full and happy life.

  • Allergies 

In dogs, allergies are a prevalent condition. Food allergies are recognized and treated by removing specific items from the dog’s diet until the culprit is found. A reaction to something that comes into contact with the dog, such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, or other chemicals, causes contact allergies. They are treated by determining and eliminating the allergen’s source. Pollen, dust, and mildew are examples of airborne allergens that cause inhalant allergies. The best treatment for inhalant allergies is determined by the severity of the allergy. Inhalant allergies are known to cause ear infections.

  • Entropion 

This condition causes the eyelid to fold inward, irritating or damaging the eyeball. It is usually noticeable by six months of age. It is possible for one or both eyes to be impacted. You may see your IWS rubbing his eyes if he has entropion. When the dog reaches adulthood, the problem can be surgically repaired if necessary.

  • Paronychia 

This ailment is poorly understood. It is found in the toenails of dogs, and you will frequently witness dogs gnawing on their feet. The condition might affect dogs that get their nails clipped on a regular basis. The inner core of the toenail becomes mushy and infected with bacteria and fungus, resulting in a terrible odor. The condition will progress even if there is no infection present. The nail’s outer shell finally breaks off, revealing the quick. It’s possible that one or more toes are impacted. To avoid suffering, treatment is required. Some owners reported good results after eliminating allergies from their diets; others had their toes removed.

  • Distichiasis 

Distichia is a mild ailment in which an extra row of eyelashes grows on the oil gland in the dog’s eye and protrudes along the border of the eyelid. This irritates your dog’s eye, and you may notice him squinting or touching it. Distichiasis is treated surgically by freezing and removing the extra eyelashes with liquid nitrogen. Cryoepilation is a type of surgery that is performed under general anesthesia.

  • Megaesophagus

Megaesophagus is a condition in which the esophagus loses tone and dilates. It can be congenital or develop later in life. This reduces the esophagus’ ability to carry food and can prevent breathing when swallowing. Food that hasn’t made it to the stomach is frequently regurgitated by dogs with megaesophagus. This is more of a passive regurgitation, where the food falls out of the dog’s mouth, rather than a violent active vomiting. It’s caused by esophageal nerve injury, which, in the case of small puppies, may improve as the dog develops. Megaesophagus is frequently preceded by a condition that causes nerve degeneration in adults. 

  • Epilepsy 

Seizures might be moderate or severe as a result of this illness. Epilepsy can be genetic, caused by metabolic abnormalities, viral diseases of the brain, tumors, toxic exposure, or serious head injuries, or it might be caused by an unknown reason (referred to as idiopathic epilepsy). Unusual activity, such as fleeing frantically as if being chased, staggering, or hiding, can indicate a seizure. Seizures are frightening to witness, but dogs with idiopathic epilepsy have a fairly good long-term prognosis. Medication can help treat epilepsy, but it cannot cure it. With correct management of this condition, a dog can live a long and healthy life.

  • Vaccination Sensitivity 

Irish Water Spaniels have been reported to be hypersensitive to normal immunizations. Hives, face swelling, pain, and fatigue are common symptoms. A dog who is allergic to immunizations may experience difficulties or die, however this is uncommon. After being vaccinated, keep a close eye on your IWS for a few hours and contact your veterinarian if you observe anything unexpected.

  • Drug Sensitivity 

Certain medications, particularly several antiparasitic and antibiotic treatments, cause sensitivity in various breeds, including Irish Water Spaniels. Tremors, sadness, convulsions, incoordination, hypersalivation, coma, and even death are all symptoms of this sensitivity. Request that your veterinarian learn about the medicines that can harm the Irish Water Spaniel.

Irish Water Spaniel Grooming:

The Irish Water Spaniel has a double coat, with tight, crisp ringlets covering the back, sides, and rear. The hair is longer beneath the ribcage, and curls and waves cover the legs. Short, smooth hair forms a v-shaped patch on the throat. The silky coat on the face, throat, toes, and tail contrasts sharply with the curly body. The tail, in particular, is a distinguishing feature of the breed. It starts out wide and tapers to a fine point where the tail meets the body. It’s called a rat tail since it’s covered in short, silky hair. 

Begin grooming the Irish Water Spaniel while he is still a puppy. He may not require much grooming at this time. He should learn from an early age that grooming time is enjoyable. Brushing your hair gently and cleaning your nails and ears should always be part of your grooming routine. The hypoallergenic coat of this breed, which is suitable for allergy sufferers, requires brushing at least once a week and trimming every two months to keep it clean and shape. If you don’t want to learn how to scissor your IWS, you can schedule frequent grooming appointments with a groomer who is knowledgeable with the breed.

The hue of the Irish Water Spaniel is always a solid liver, described as a rich reddish brown. 

Irish Water Spaniels don’t lose much hair, but they do need to be brushed twice or three times a week to keep their coat from tangling or matting and to maintain it clean and healthy. The coat’s oil collects dirt and debris. Brushing the coat on a regular basis not only distributes the oil and keeps the skin healthy, but it also removes dirt and debris. Because of the dangling earflap, the breed is prone to ear infections. In other words, those floppy ears trap moisture, and the moist, warm atmosphere is ideal for bacteria to thrive. Every time your IWS goes swimming, clean and dry the ears.

To do so, use a cotton ball wet with a cleaning solution indicated by your veterinarian to gently wipe out the ear — only the visible region! You should never put cotton swabs or anything else into the ear canal since it can cause damage. If the inside of your IWS’s ear smells awful, looks red, or feels sore, or if he shakes his head or scratches at his ear, he may have an ear infection. 

Brush your Irish Water Spaniel’s teeth at least twice or three times a week to keep tartar accumulation and bacteria at bay. Brushing your teeth on a daily basis is even preferable if you want to avoid gum disease and foul breath.

If your dog’s nails don’t wear down naturally, trim them on a regular basis. They’re too lengthy if you can hear them clicking on the floor. Short, properly trimmed nails keep the dog’s feet in good shape and prevent your legs from being scratched when your IWS jumps up to meet you excitedly. 

When your IWS is a puppy, begin accustoming him to being brushed and examined. Handle his paws frequently – dogs’ feet are sensitive — and inspect his lips and ears. Make grooming a pleasurable experience for him, complete with praise and rewards, and you’ll be setting the stage for smooth veterinarian tests and other handling when he’s older. 

Check for sores, rashes, or symptoms of infection as you groom.

Irish Water Spaniel Exercise:

These are hunting dogs with tremendous stamina. They need a daily long,brisk walk, jog or run. In addition, they will greatly enjoy retrieving and swimming. The Irish Water Spaniel is an active, high-energy companion who is a typical sporting dog. He is eager to please, which makes him reasonably easy to teach, although he requires a lot of activity on a daily basis. Long walks or hikes, running beside a bicycle, chasing a ball in the backyard, or playing with other dogs on a regular basis will help him stay physically and psychologically fit, as well as relaxed and quiet inside the house.

Irish Water Spaniel Training:

The IWS is a playful, intelligent, and eager to please creature. He is a high-energy individual who will benefit from having a task to complete. He is a dependable worker who will do his best to complete the tasks you assign to him’”as long as he understands what those tasks are. To ensure that he is not bored, make training sessions exciting and intriguing. Positive, reward-based training approaches will yield the best results; never use a harsh or heavy-handed approach, as it will yield undesirable effects. Agility, dock diving, rally, tracking, and flyball are among the canine activities in which the IWS excels, and their sensitive disposition makes them ideal therapy and support dogs.

Irish Water Spaniel Food and  Nutrition:

Recommended daily amount: 1.5 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.

If you’re unsure whether your Irish Water Spaniel is overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can’t, he needs less food and more exercise.

Obesity is a problem that some Irish Water Spaniels suffer. To avoid this, feed your Irish Water Spaniel measured, consistent meals using a measuring cup or scale. Free feeding (keeping food out all day) is a bad idea because it might lead to weight gain. Excess weight exacerbates hip and elbow dysplasia, which the Irish Water Spaniel is prone to, as well as contributing to other health issues like as diabetes. Request a healthy meal for your Irish Water Spaniels from your breeder or veterinarian.

The Irish Water Spaniel should be fed a high-quality dog chow, either professionally manufactured or prepared at home under the observation and consent of your veterinarian. Any diet should be tailored to the age of the dog (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to becoming overweight, so keep an eye on their calorie intake and weight. Treats can be a useful training aid, but feeding too much might lead to obesity. Discover which human foods are suitable for dogs and which are not. If you have any concerns regarding your dog’s weight or diet, consult your veterinarian. At all times, clean, fresh water should be available.

Irish Water Spaniel Temperament and Personality:

The Irish Water Spaniel, like most dogs in the American Kennel Club Sporting category, is primarily an active, willing, and energetic companion. It was bred from stock that was employed to retrieve game and return it to hand without fuss, so it has a natural desire to please. It is reasonably straightforward to teach and discipline due to its high sense of functioning as part of a team. It has the reputation of being the clown of the spaniel family due to its high intelligence and inquisitive attitude, and will do ordinary things in extraordinary ways to accomplish what is required of it. Some dogs are apprehensive of strangers, and not every IWS can be relied upon to get along with other animals. 

Irish Water Spaniel Care/Upkeep:

The Irish Water Spaniel, a hunting breed with a lot of activity and stamina, needs a yard to run around in and isn’t suited to apartment living. Give him at least an hour of jogging, long walks or hikes, or active play like retrieving a ball in the yard every day. Swimming is a terrific way for him to gain exercise if you have a pool or access to a lake. Keep a close eye on him, as if he were a child, and make sure he learns how to exit the pool securely. Throughout the day, you can divide his activities into two or three 20- or 30-minute bouts. Don’t overwork your dog in the heat of the day, as you would any other dog.

Puppies require varied amounts of activity. Puppy school, held once or twice a week for puppies aged 9 weeks to 4 months, is a terrific method for them to obtain exercise, training, and socialization, as well as 15 to 20 minutes of yard fun in the morning and evening. Toss a ball for them to retrieve. Weekly obedience training and daily half-mile walks, as well as yard fun, will suit their demands from 4 to 6 months of age. Play fetch with a ball or Frisbee for up to 40 minutes during cold mornings or nights, not during the day, when your child is 6 months to a year old. Continue to keep your walks to a half-mile distance. Your IWS puppy can start jogging with you after he’s a year old, but keep the distance between you and him to less than a meter.

Irish Water Spaniels are good with people, yet they may also be independent and have their own thoughts. Positive incentives such as food rewards and praise should be used to train children with kindness but firmness. When IWS are handled severely, they become more obstinate and less ready to follow your orders. Maintaining interest in your training is your greatest bet. If you don’t provide entertainment for your Irish Water Spaniel, he will.

The curly, water-resistant coat of the Irish Water Spaniel is similar to that of the poodle. To maintain it untangled, it needs to be brushed frequently and groomed on a regular basis. With the help of their breeder or a professional groomer, some Irish Water Spaniel owners learn to cut their dogs’ coats themselves. Trimming an Irish Water Spaniel’s coat should aim to improve the form and remove any sun-damaged orange ends. The coat of the breed is not meant to be too stylized. The hair on the face and tail is naturally short, however whiskers and stray long hairs may need to be removed.

Irish Water Spaniel Relationship with Children and Other Pets

If Irish Water Spaniels are raised with children, they do best. Early socialization, which involves being exposed to a wide range of people, places, sights, sounds, and experiences, is also beneficial. Always keep an eye on any encounters between dogs and young children to ensure that neither party bites or pulls the other’s ear or tail. Teach your child to never approach a dog that is eating or attempt to grab the dog’s food. A child should never be left alone with a dog. 

If exposed to other dogs in the family at a young age, Irish Water Spaniels can get along swimmingly. Otherwise, keep a close eye on them. They are hunting dogs, thus smaller creatures, particularly birds, may be seen as prey.

Irish Water Spaniel Names
RankBoy NamesGirl Names

All About Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel is substantially taller and racier than any other spaniel. The body is medium in length, and the dog as a whole is slightly rectangular in shape. The overall appearance conveys both speed and stamina. The gait is fluid and covers a lot of ground. One of the breed’s distinguishing characteristics is its coat. The entire body is covered in a double covering of crisp ringlets. This combination gives the dog water, weather, and thorn tolerance, allowing it to hunt in the most extreme environments. The alert, clever, and inquisitive look of the Irish water spaniel says it all.

The Irish Water Spaniel, like most dogs in the American Kennel Club Sporting category, is primarily an active, willing, and energetic companion. It was bred from stock that was employed to retrieve game and return it to hand without fuss, so it has a natural desire to please. It is reasonably straightforward to teach and discipline due to its high sense of functioning as part of a team. It has the reputation of being the clown of the spaniel family due to its high intelligence and inquisitive attitude, and will do ordinary things in extraordinary ways to accomplish what is required of it. Some dogs are apprehensive of strangers, and not every IWS can be relied upon to get along with other animals. 

Irish Water Spaniel  History:

Centuries ago, spaniels were divided into land and water varieties. The water variety consisted of the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel as well as English and Irish breeds. In Ireland prior to the 1850s, two different water spaniel strains existed: the South Country Water Spaniel and the North Country Water Spaniel. The Irish Water Spaniel as we know it today developed from both of these strains, but most closely resembles the South Country type.

Beginning in the 1830s, Justin McCarthy, a sportsman from Dublin, refined the type away from its aforementioned varieties and into a distinct and repeatable breed. His dog, Boatswain, was the first purebred IWS. By 1859, the Irish Water Spaniel began to appear in dog shows.

The popularity of the IWS grew quickly with English and Irish sportsmen due to its retrieves, disposition, and its ability to handle the cold waters of the North Sea. Soon, word spread to America and in the 1870s, a number of dogs were imported. By 1875, the Irish Water Spaniel became the third most popular sporting breed in the US.

Fun Facts about Irish Water Spaniel:

  • It’s one of the oldest Spaniel breeds.
  • They were originally bred as hunting dogs. 
  • Nobody knows which breeds were used in their development. 
  • They’re the Clowns of the Spaniel Family.
  • They Have a Lot of Nicknames. 

Where to Adopt Irish Water Spaniel:

The Irish Water Spaniel is a somewhat rare breed. Some adults might find their way into rescue. More often, those looking to acquire an Irish Water Spaniel will be buying a puppy from a reputable breeder. The Irish Water Spaniel Club of America maintains a list of breeders on its website. Be prepared to get on a waiting list.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research:

If you like the Irish Water Spaniel, you might also like these breeds:

  • American Water Spaniel
  • Poodle
  • Portuguese Water Dog

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed articles to help you find the perfect dog for you and your family.