Irish Water Spaniel

September 1, 2020 // 7 minute read

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Irish Water Spaniels are large-sized dogs known for their long, loose, curly coats that come in a liver color. These coats cover their entire bodies, which contrasts well with their smooth face and tail. The Irish Water Spaniel stands at a height of 24 inches and is built as a powerful hunting dog.

Irish Water Spaniels are versatile hunting dogs, which makes them very energetic. They are the perfect companion dogs for active families, particularly those who can give them enough time and attention. Provide them with his needs, and he’ll love and entertain you throughout his lifetime.

Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed

Irish Water Spaniel Statistics

Dog Breed GroupSporting
Breed SizeMedium to Large
Height22-24 inches (male); 21-23 inches (female)
Weight55-68 pounds (male); 45-58 pounds (female)
Lifespan12-13 years

Irish Water Spaniel Ratings

Energy level
Exercise needs
Requires attention
Friendly with family
Friendly with kids
Friendly with strangers
Friendly with other dogs
Prey Drive


The history of Irish Water Spaniel dogs can be traced back to when spaniels were first divided into two varieties: land and water. Among the water varieties, are the Tweed Water Spaniels (now extinct), English Water Spaniels, and the Irish Water Spaniels.

The Irish Water Spaniels are believed to have descended from the South Country Water Spaniel type that existed in the 1850s. These dogs were crossbred with the Poodle, Barbet, and Portuguese Water Dogs to create the Irish Water Spaniel dog breed.

Around 1859, the Irish Water Spaniel began appearing in dog shows, and soon their popularity began to grow. By 1862, the dogs were shown in Birmingham, and by the year 1899, the first Water Spaniel ran a field trial.

The dogs reached the US around the 1870s, and by 1884, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed. It ranks 159th as the most popular dog breed in the US today despite being considered rare.

Irish Water Spaniel Facts

Irish Water Spaniel Temperament

Irish Water Spaniels are playful, hardworking, and brave dogs. They are known for being excellent and versatile hunting and water dogs, making them an excellent choice for hunters.

The temperament of the breed varies from being bold to curious to playful. They need to be exercised frequently, which is why they need someone active to be their owner too. Also, they are best suited in houses with large spaces for them to run.

They are affectionate dogs to their families, and they have a strong desire to please. They are known to be the clown of the spaniel family, so expect that they will try hard to make you laugh. They are also known to be very protective, which makes them excellent watchdogs and guard dogs too.

They are known to be friendly with pets they grew up with but may tend to become aggressive with strange dogs.

Early socialization is essential to make your Irish Water Spaniel more well-rounded. They can often be reserved with strangers, so they must get accustomed to meeting new people and animals. You should not tolerate aggressiveness or shyness.

Training is essential, and you must be consistent and firm. If you want them to be bearable dogs to live with, then it’s necessary to give them attention and keep things interesting.

Care Requirements

  • Nutrition: Irish Water Spaniels can live on any type of diet as long as it’s high-quality and contains a balance of all the essential nutrients he needs as he grows. Watch out for the number of calories you give him in a day. They mustn’t get overweight or become more prone to health diseases. If you’re planning to serve your dog home-cooked meals, make sure only to buy high-quality ingredients. You can get animal meat for protein, fish oils or chicken oils for fats, and whole grains for carbohydrates. Add fruits and vegetables on their diet too for great sources of fiber. If you want to serve him dog food, make sure that you only choose premium quality ones. Check the label and make sure that it doesn’t contain any fillers, additives, and by-products with low-nutritional value and can harm your dog. It’s always best to consult your vet for feeding requirements specific to your pet. Take note of any allergies that he may have to and make sure to stay away from those ingredients.
  • Grooming: Irish Water Spaniels have double coats that shed seasonally and need brushing at least once a week. Begin their grooming sessions at a young age, so they get used to it. Also, make it fun so they’ll look forward to it every time. Give their hair a gentle brush throughout their body. Make sure that you remove any tangles. Baths can also be given when they need it, meaning if they get too smelly or dirty. Their coats can be trimmed once every two months, so it stays neat and in shape. If you are not confident to do this yourself, take him to a professional groomer. Don’t forget to clean out their ears and trim their nails regularly, too, weekly.
  • Exercise: Typical to any sporting breed Irish Water Spaniels are very active and athletic dogs. They need their daily exercise to keep him healthy and happy. You can take him out for long walks, biking, running, or hiking. Play sessions like fetching a ball or playing frisbee in a securely fenced yard are excellent activities too. If you have other dogs, let him spend time with them also, to play. Keep them exercised both physically and mentally if you want to have a relaxed, well-behaved, and calm dog indoors.
  • Health: Irish Water Spaniels are generally healthy dogs with a long lifespan. But they can get sick with health conditions common to their kind. As dog owners, you need to be aware of these so you can easily prevent it or know what to do if your dog acquires it. Bone diseases like hip dysplasia are common to this dog breed. They may also acquire eye diseases like cataracts, entropion, and distichiasis. They may also be prone to allergies, vaccination sensitivity, and drug sensitivity. Since most of these diseases are genetically inherited, it’s always best to meet at least one of your dogs’ parents to be aware of any possible diseases they might get. Though your dog would not get each condition listed here in his lifetime, do your research and know the symptoms. Continuously observe your dog’s behavior, and if you notice any changes, take him immediately to the vet. Other health conditions they may also experience are:
      • Follicular Dysplasia
      • Hypothyroidism
      • Paronychia
      • Megaesophagus
      • Epilepsy
  • Lifespan: The life expectancy of Irish Water Spaniels is 12-13 years.

Irish Water Spaniel Care Requirements

Famous Irish Water Spaniels

Boatswain: The father of the modern Irish Water Spaniel

Fun Facts About Irish Water Spaniels

  • The Irish Water Spaniel is one of the oldest spaniel dog breeds.
  • Their origin is unknown.
  • They are versatile hunting dogs.
  • They are the clowns of the spaniel family.
  • This breed is called by many names: Shannon Spaniels, Rattail Spaniels, Whiptail Spaniels, and Bog Dogs.
  • They love to swim.
  • They are the tallest among all spaniels.
  • Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1884.

Check Out Other Sporting Dog Breeds:
American Water Spaniel, Boykin Spaniel, Brittany, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Clumber Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, English Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, English Springer Spaniel, Field Spaniel, Flat-Coated Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter, Irish Red and White Setter, Irish Setter, Kooikerhondje, Labrador Retriever, Lagotti Romagnoli, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, Pointer, Spinoni Italiani, Sussex Spaniel, Vizsla, Weimaraner, Welsh Springer Spaniel, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Wirehaired Vizslas

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