American Water Spaniel

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    History & Overview

    The American Water Spaniel originated in the American Midwest, along the great Mississippi flyway where the waterfowl migrated north and south each year. Originally called the Brown Water Spaniel, the breed was used as a “jump-shooting” retriever, especially in northern Minnesota full of small lakes and ponds. Its probable ancestors are the Irish Water Spaniel and Curly-coated retriever.

    Today, American Water Spaniels are bred primarily to work as hunting dogs and retrievers. In the 20th century, with the British retrievers becoming more popular, the small Brown Water Spaniel began to disappear. Doctor F.J. Pfeifer is credited with rescuing the breed from extinction by creating the breed standard and forming the breed club.


    The AWS has a “spaniel-like” temperament: happy, eager, and ready for action. He is patient, protective and loyal to children, provided that children treat him with respect. In the winter, he will run beside the children’s sleds. In the summer, he is a fishing companion. In the fall, he fires with enthusiasm at the sight of a shotgun. At the end of the day, you will find him within the family circle curled around kids.

    He tends to be a one-family dog and often attaches himself with a strong bond to one member of the family. An excellent watchdog, he will alert his owners to strange noises on the premises. Like most sporting breeds, he needs a fair amount of exercise and socialization.


    The AWS’s coat can range from marcel (uniform waves) to closely curled. The coat may be trimmed to present a well-groomed appearance; the ears may be shaved, but neither is required.

    At A Glance

    Other Names:


    Country of Origin:



    All-around hunting dog, bred to retrieve from skiff or canoes and work the ground.


    FCI Classification: Group 8 – Retrievers, Flushing Dogs, Water Dogs; Water Dogs (with working trial);
    AKC Classification: Sporting Group




    Solid liver, brown or dark chocolate. A little white on toes and chest is acceptable.

    Litter Size:


    Life Span:

    11 – 13 years

    Grooming Requirements:

    Brush regularly to remove shedding hair and distribute coat oils uniformly. Comb featherings on his legs and tail. Remove by hand all collections of burrs that have matted. Only light trimming of the ears is necessary for the hunting season. The featherings on his feet need to be trimmed closely. Remove the excess hair between the toes.




    Friendly and eager to please, hard worker in the field.

    Social skills:

    Most generally, American Water Spaniels get along with other dogs. Some are less accepting and trustworthy around other pets than most other spaniels.

    Suitability for Children:

    An ideal companion for children. He may be initially reserved with unfamiliar children but soon accepts well-behaved kids as playmates.

    Exercise Needs:

    Like all hunting dogs, he needs abundant exercise, taken care of by long walks on a leash or romping in a large yard.

    Train Ability:

    The AWS is a natural retriever, but training for the fieldwork should start at a very early age (around 6 weeks). Because of a strong attachment to his owner, he is not likely to follow commands from a professional trainer. The AWS seems to learn quickly if trained with love and praise.

    Health & Behavioral Issues:


    Image & Video Credits: American Kennel Club


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