Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed

Whether they are serving as a pet dog for your family or showing off in the ring, the Irish Water Spaniel is known to add flair or fun to everything they do. They were originally bred as water retrievers and have come about to be a very rare breed today.

However, the Irish Water Spaniels that you do find, will end up becoming very sporty companions for dog owners with a very active lifestyle. What a great plus it is if you are living in the countryside or near any freshwater sources.

The Irish Water Spaniels are very intelligent dogs which makes them very easy to train. However, if you are not an experienced dog owner, they can also prove to be highly obstinate. Hence, it is important to train them with ease, persistence, and a firm but not harsh hand. This will ensure that they turn into well-behaved dogs.

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About the Breed

irish water spaniel breed

The Irish Water Spaniel is famous as a show dog as well as a working dog in Ireland today. It is also a great sporting dog.

History shows that the dogs of this breed became famous among English and Irish sportsmen for their characteristics of being courageous and bold retrievers. They are also said to display great sportsman spirit in the extremely cold waters of the North Sea. It has a strong inclination toward extreme weather conditions.

Although the Irish Water Spaniel is a great water retriever because of its water-repellent coat, it is also used as a pet and is a great family dog.

History of the Irish Water Spaniel 

water spaniel

The origin of the Irish Water Spaniel is still debated today as it is difficult to pinpoint it with accuracy. Most historical references suggest that the Irish Water Spaniel first appeared somewhere between 1830 and 1839 in Ireland.

They were first spotted in the doghouse of Justin McCarthy. In 1834, there was a birth of a dog that was later named “Boatswain.” This dog is said to be the father of the modern-day Irish Water Spaniel breed.

However, McCarthy never revealed how the Irish Water Spaniel was bred and this remained a secret till his death. Today, only conjectures and hypothesis exists on which dogs might have been used for the breeding process of the Irish Water Spaniel.

Some speculators state that the Poodle or Barbet dogs that arrive in Ireland from France were used for crossbreeding. Others assume that the Portuguese Water Dogs that came to Ireland via Portuguese fishing boats, might also have been used.

During the 1980s, there were two types of water spaniels in Ireland of water and land varieties. One of the two types of these dogs had a curly coat, and it is said to have been used in the breeding of the Irish Water Spaniel.

Another theory by the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America (IWSCA) states that the Irish Water Spaniel that exists today is a result of the crossbreeding of the North Country Water Spaniel which is now extinct, with the South Country Water Spaniel.

This dog breed is known to have participated in shows and trials as well. In 1862, an Irish Water Spaniel first appeared in a show in Birmingham. In 1877, four dogs of this breed took part in the first-ever Westminster Kennel Club show. Later, in 1899, the first Irish Water Spaniel raced in a field trial.

These dogs entered the United States somewhere in the 1870s, however, to date, they have been unable to reach the popularity levels that the Irish Water Spaniel enjoys in Ireland.

The Irish Water Spaniel has been officially registered by the American Kennel Club. They stand at the 139th position among the 155 dog breeds that have been recognized by the AKC.

Irish Water Spaniel Facts

We have talked about the history and key characteristics of the Irish Water Spaniel. Let us now take a look at a few facts about this dog breed that you may find strange or interesting.

irish water spaniel breeders
  • The average litter size of an Irish Water Spaniel is around 4 to 12 puppies.
  • The scientific name for this dog is Canis lupus familiaris.
  • These dogs are more commonly found in Ireland, the United States, and England. However, even in these countries, they are a rare breed.
  • They have earned their name as the “clown” of the Spaniel family.
  • The most preferred habitat for the Irish Water Spaniel is the countryside, with access to ponds and other freshwater areas.
  • These dogs have a gestation period of 63 days.
  • On average, an Irish Water Spaniel can run 25 miles per hour.
  • They are also known as Shannon Spaniels.

Irish Water Spaniel Appearance

irish water spaniel puppies

In terms of appearance, the Irish Water Spaniel is one of the cutest dogs that originated in Ireland.

The dog has a smooth face accompanied by long loose curls. Their body is strong and muscular, which can be further enhanced by proper diet and exercise.

Their bone structure is such that it allows the Irish Water Spaniel to be very agile. The necks of these dogs are long and are connected to angled shoulders. This gives them an overall tall outlook.

The Irish Water Spaniel has wide and round eyes that have the shape of almonds, along with wide nostrils. They also have long and floppy ears along that are set low on their head, along with webbed feet.

Unlike the crisp ringlets on the rest of the body, the tail of the Irish Water Spaniel is smooth and short. These characteristics of the tail are what helped the dog earn its second name: the Rat Tail Spaniels.

Size

irish water spaniel puppy

The Irish Water Spaniel is a medium to large-sized dog. The male dogs are slightly taller than the females.

The average height of a male Irish Water Spaniel is around 21 to 24 inches or 53.3 to 61 cm. In contrast to this, the females have a height of 21 to 23 inches or 53.3 to 58.4 cm.

Weight

Just like the size, the weight of an Irish Water Spaniel also differs from male to female. The male dogs of this breed weigh around 55 to 68 lb or 24.9 to 30.8 kg. However, female dogs have a weight of 45 to 58 lb or 20.4 to 26.3 kg on average.

Coat 

The most distinctive characteristic of the Irish Water Spaniel is that they have a double coat. This double coat comes with two parts: an inner protective undercoat and an outer coat. These layers allow the dog to somewhat become waterproof as it takes a dive in your pool or any other freshwater source.

irish water spaniel breed

The coat of the Irish Water Spaniel has natural body oils that are also protected by the outer coat of the dog. The coat features long curly hair that is crisp to the touch. The length of the coat is slightly longer beneath the ribs and the neck of the dog.

The Irish Water Spaniels shed a low amount of hair throughout the year. This means that their grooming regimen is fairly easy and they promote healthy skin.

Color

The color of the coat of the Irish Water Spaniel ranges from dark brown to liver color. Although they have a single solid-colored coat, in some instances, you might also find white markings on their chest.

Irish Water Spaniel Temperament and Personality

water podle

The Irish Water Spaniel has earned its name as the “clown” of Spaniels. It is known as a dog that likes to do everything with extreme passion and energy and loves to make people around him laugh.

Although it is a very playful dog, it does not necessarily mean that it is always fun to be around an Irish Water Spaniel. it is also important to note that this dog might not be the best option for you if you have had no prior experience with dogs and are a first time dog owner.

Because the Irish Water Spaniel was initially bred to be a water retriever, it has strong preying instincts and is one of the most effective of all hunting dogs. This makes them intelligent, brave, curious, and keen, which are not always great qualities to have in a dog. In most instances, these make them harder to handle.

Irish Water Spaniels make great family pets but they are not always affectionate towards strangers. They are also known to not be too well-behaved in front of other pets including other cats and dogs.

Hence, if you have other pets in the house, it is important to introduce them to your pet Irish Water Spaniel puppy from a very young age.

This breed is not a barking dog, however, they have an exceptionally alert nature. This makes them great watchdogs.

Just as it is true in the case of all hunting dogs, the Irish Water Spaniel does not get tired very easily and is in need of daily physical exercise or mental stimulation. This means that this dog needs at least one or up to two hours of walking, jogging, running, hiking, jumping, or other invigorating exercises or physical activities.

Their playtime can be broken down into more than one small session during the day instead of one long session. The Irish Water Spaniels are highly energetic dogs. When not walking or hiking, you can find other activities for your dogs to burn off their high energy. These include playing catch, flyball, flying disc games, or bicycling with them.

As water retrievers from birth, they are also known to be great retrievers on land when playing in the field. They have an exceptional vision which gives way to their inherent skill of finding injured birds.

Irish Water Spaniel Health and Care

Irish Water Spaniels are prone to certain health problems during the span of their life. Hence, it is important to be aware of these medical concerns before arriving at the decision of buying an Irish Water Spaniel as a pet.

irish water spaniel hypoallergenic

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is a common inherited disease in which the hip joint and the thigh bone do not properly fit with other. This causes pain or, in extreme cases, lameness of at least one rear leg of the dog.

Hip dysplasia cannot be easily detected as in most cases your dog may not show any symptoms. However, in extreme cases, you will see that your dog has developed arthritis as it gracefully ages.

It is recommended that you get health clearance from your breeder for hip dysplasia, as proof that none of the two parents have this condition. If you have a dog that is not born with this condition but has developed it over time, you should inform your breeder, to prevent further breeding of this dog.

Although hip dysplasia is inherited, it can also be developed over time. There are a few environmental factors that lead to the development of this condition. These include intaking high calories or getting injured while jumping or falling on hard surfaces or floors.

If you suspect that your dog has developed this condition, you can opt for an X-ray screening available at the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program.

Cataracts

Cataracts are an eye condition in which the lenses of the dog’s eyes develop an opacity. This leads to blurred or clouded vision. In some cases, it also causes poor vision at night and high sensitivity toward strong sources of light. This condition usually develops when your dog gets old.

At first, when this condition is at its initial stages, you might not even notice that your dog has developed cataracts. In most cases, when cataracts have reached a certain stage, they can be removed by a simple surgical procedure. This helps in the improvement of the vision of the dog.

Follicular Dysplasia

This is a term used to describe a group of illnesses that lead to extreme hair loss and a decrease in the quality of coat hair.

The earliest signs of Follicular Dysplasia may be noticed when your dog has reached the age between 2 to 4 years. You may first witness a loss of hair at the back of the dog, and this would usually spread to most parts of the torso.

In most cases, Follicular Dysplasia leads to a gradual loss of hair. However, this loss is always permanent. You have nothing to worry about because apart from hair loss, this condition does not affect your dog’s health in any other way.

Hypothyroidism

This is a condition in which there is a lower amount of hormones produced by the thyroid glands leading to infertility in most cases.

Other symptoms of this disease include laziness, obesity, dullness, low energy, irregular heat cycles, and droopy eyes. Your dog will also develop a tough and hard coat which begins to shed heavily and becomes darker.

The most common treatment for hypothyroidism is daily thyroid replacement that continues for as long as the dog lives. With regular treatment, your dog can live a healthy and happy life.

Entropion

You may detect this condition when your dog is around 6 months old. The dog’s eyeballs roll inward leading to irritation or injury to the eyeballs. This can happen to both eyes as well. When your dog becomes mature, only then can this condition be cured.

Paronychia

This condition may develop in dogs that have regular trimming of nails. It leads to the inside of the toenail becoming soft and infected with fungus or bacteria. You can detect it by its bad smell. As the condition advances, the toenails will come off, exposing the inner part of the toes.

In order to prevent your dogs from suffering, it is important that you get early treatment. This may include amputation of the toes. To avoid this from happening again in the future, you might want to remove allergens from your dog’s diet.

Distichiasis

When distichiasis, an extra layer of eyelashes, grows on your dog’s eyes, it is known to have developed the condition of distichiasis. This causes irritation in the eye which can be seen if your dog is squinting or rubbing its eyes.

Treatment includes freezing the extra layer with liquid nitrogen and then removing it. This is a type of surgery that is named compilation and is performed after general anesthesia.

Megaesophagus

This is a condition where the dog’s esophagus dilates and experiences a loss of tone. This leads to problems in swallowing, breathing, and transporting food to other parts of the digestive system.

Vomiting or regurgitation of food is a common symptom of megaesophagus. This happens because of damage to the nerve of the esophagus. If this condition develops in Irish Water Spaniel puppies, then it may improve as the dog ages.

In adults, however, this disease makes the way for another disease causing more nerve damage.

Medication and proper diet help the treatment of this disease. However, it is hard to manage megaesophagus and the treatment might not always have positive outcomes.

irish water spaniel.

Epilepsy

Mild or severe seizures are common symptoms of this disease. Reasons for epilepsy can be many, ranging from metabolic disorders, infectious diseases that affect the brain, tumors, exposure to poisons, or severe head injuries. In some cases, the causes of epilepsy can be uncertain and this is termed idiopathic epilepsy.

Medication can help contain this disease but not cure it. When properly managed, dogs with epilepsy can live healthy lives. If your dog experiences seizures, it is recommended that you take it to your nearest vet for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Vaccination Sensitivity

Vaccination sensitivity can be displayed by soreness, laziness, swelling on the face, and hives. With this condition, your dog may die or develop complications.

Hence, it is important to observe your dog for several hours post vaccinations and visit your vet as soon as you notice something irregular.

Drug Sensitivity

Your Irish Water Spaniel might also show sensitivity towards certain medications including antiparasitic and antibiotic drugs.

Tremors, depression, seizures, incoordination, hypersalivation, coma, and, in extreme cases, death, are the common symptoms of drug sensitivity. Consult your vet in situations of drug sensitivity.

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Irish Water Spaniel Training

irish water spaniels

Irish Water Spaniels are very intelligent dogs and thus very easy to train.

Dogs of this breed love to solve mental challenges and are known to very quickly pick up commands and tricks. Their smartness sometimes causes them to spin around what you are aiming to teach and adopt tricks of their own liking.

However, they are also very enthusiastic dogs that might become a challenge for you if you have no prior experience with dogs.

They perform very well in obedience training and respond very well to positive reinforcement techniques. It is best to keep praising them and providing them with dog treats during the training sessions.

Conclusion

The origin of the Irish Water Spaniel is still debated today as it is difficult to pinpoint it with accuracy. Most historical references suggest that the Irish Water Spaniel first appeared somewhere between 1830 and 1839 in Ireland.

These dogs entered the United States somewhere in the 1870s but have been unable to reach the popularity levels that they enjoy in Ireland. The Irish Water Spaniel has been officially registered by the American Kennel Club. They stand at the 139th position among the 155 dog breeds that have been recognized by the AKC.

History shows that the dogs of this breed became famous among English and Irish sportsmen for their characteristics of being courageous and bold retrievers. They are also said to display great sportsman spirit in the extremely cold waters of the North Sea.

In terms of appearance, the Irish Water Spaniel is one of the cutest dogs that originated in Ireland. The dog has a smooth face accompanied by curls that are loose and long. Their body is strong and muscular which can be further enhanced by proper diet and exercise.

The most distinctive characteristic of the Irish Water Spaniel is that they have a double coat. The Irish Water Spaniels shed a low amount of hair throughout the year. This means that their grooming regimen is fairly easy.

The color of the coat of the Irish Water Spaniel ranges from dark brown to liver color. Although they have a single solid-colored coat, in some instances, you might also find white markings on their chest.

It is known as a dog that likes to do everything with extreme passion and energy and loves to make people around him laugh. Irish Water Spaniels are very intelligent dogs and thus very easy to train.

Irish Water Spaniels make great family pets but they are not always affectionate towards strangers. They are also known to not be too well-behaved in front of other pets including other cats and dogs.

This breed is not a barking dog, however, they have an exceptionally alert nature. This makes them great watchdogs.

Irish Water Spaniels are prone to certain health problems during the span of their life. With proper diet and attention, they can live for up to 12 to 13 years.

Hope you enjoyed learning about these gorgeous dog breed. Stay tuned for more interesting and informative articles!

Cody Mitchell
Cody Mitchell is a pet lover and a passionate pet writer. He has worked as a professional writer for over 6 years, with a focus on creating compelling content for pet-related brands. His work has been featured in major publications. When he's not writing, Cody can be found playing with his two dogs (a labradoodle and a cocker spaniel) or cuddling his cat.

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