The American Water Spaniel Dog: A Water-Loving Companion

For anyone who enjoys the company of dogs and water equally, the American Water Spaniel (AWS) is a breed that marries both worlds sweetly. Known for their intelligence, versatility, and love for outdoor adventures, the American Water Spaniel is a spirited and ruggedly handsome dog, native to the United States.

In this in-depth guide, we will explore what makes the American Water Spaniel a favorite among dog enthusiasts, detailing its rich history, loyal temperament, and essential care tips for potential owners.

Introducing the American Water Spaniel Dog Breed

The American Water Spaniel is a medium-sized breed, originally developed for hunting and retrieving in the Midwest. With a distinctive waterproof double coat, these dogs are equipped for all types of weather and are exceptional swimmers.

Known for their skill at flushing out game and retrieving, the American Water Spaniel is a versatile working dog and an affectionate family companion. They are often compared to the better-known breeds like the Cocker Spaniel due to their similar appearance, albeit a more rugged one.

The Unique Traits of the American Water Spaniel

  • Adaptability: This dog is as comfortable in an apartment as in a large house with a yard, as long as they receive ample exercise.
  • Versatility: Adept both on land and in water, they are excellent companions for active individuals or families.
  • Loyalty: The AWS is incredibly loyal to its family and is known for being attentive and eager to please its owner.
  • Intelligence: A sharp mind and willingness to learn make training an American Water Spaniel a rewarding experience.
American Water Spaniel Dog
American Water Spaniel Dog

The History and Origins of the American Water Spaniel

The breed’s history can be traced back to 19th century America, where it was developed as a multi-purpose farm and hunting dog in the Wisconsin region. Bred to retrieve from skiffs, boats, and canoes, this ‘all-American’ breed has a mix of Irish Water Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, as well as Field and Irish Setter in its ancestry.

A Look into the Early Purpose of the AWS Breed

Originally, the American Water Spaniel was cherished for its ability to help mid-western hunters secure a meal by retrieving ducks and other fowl. Being a skilled hunting companion required characteristics that remain with the breed today—strength, endurance, and an eagerness to work.

The Legacy of the ‘Little Brown Spaniel’

Referred to as the “Little Brown Spaniel” of Wisconsin, the breed did, for a time, face the threat of extinction. Through the concentrated efforts of a few dedicated breeders, the American Water Spaniel was revived and has since gained recognition for its exceptional skills and affectionate nature.

American Water Spaniel Dog
American Water Spaniel Dog

American Water Spaniel Temperament and Personality

Beneath their curly, water-repellent coat lies a heart of gold. The American Water Spaniel is known for its charming and animated character, making them treasured companions.

Playfulness and Energy

This breed retains a puppy-like playfulness well into adulthood, often expressing it through their graceful and energetic nature. Daily exercise is a must to keep them both mentally and physically content. Without sufficient activity, they may find their own outlets for energy, which can include destructive behaviors.

A Family Dog at Heart

The American Water Spaniel makes an excellent family dog, being affectionate and devoted to people, especially children. Their sturdy build and robust health support an active lifestyle, but they also know how to relax and enjoy downtime with their family.

Socialization and Training

Early socialization and obedience training are vital to ensure that their high intelligence is properly channeled. A well-socialized AWS is friendly with strangers and gets along well with other pets. Due to their sensitive nature, positive reinforcement techniques work best for training this breed.

American Water Spaniel Dog
American Water Spaniel Dog

Caring for an American Water Spaniel: Exercise, Grooming, Health

To keep your American Water Spaniel happy and healthy, a robust care routine tailored to their breed-specific needs is essential.


Regular and varied exercise is key for this breed. Whether it’s daily walks, jogs, or playtime, adequate activity is necessary to keep them mentally stimulated and prevent them from becoming bored or restless. The AWS excels in many dog sports, particularly agility, flyball, and competitive obedience.


The double coat of the American Water Spaniel is weather-resistant, with a slightly oily outer coat which facilitates water-repulsion and the ability to dry quickly. Weekly brushing is crucial to keep their fur free of tangles and mats.


The American Water Spaniel is typically a healthy breed with a life expectancy of 10 to 14 years. Health concerns to be mindful of include hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and certain heart issues. Regular vet check-ups, a balanced diet, and an active lifestyle are essential components of preventative care.

American Water Spaniel Dog
American Water Spaniel Dog

Is the American Water Spaniel the Right Dog for You?

Owning an American Water Spaniel can be a rewarding experience for the right owner or family. Their love of water and the great outdoors makes them a boon for those who enjoy an active lifestyle. However, this high-energy breed requires time, commitment, and a love for outdoor activity.

Considerations for Prospective Owners

  • Activity Level: Do you have the time and energy to provide the exercise and mental stimulation this breed needs?
  • Living Situation: Can you accommodate a dog that loves water and play, regardless of your living space?
  • Training Commitment: Are you ready to invest in training and socialization to ensure your AWS becomes a well-behaved adult?

Potential Owner Satisfaction

Owners who provide the right environment for an American Water Spaniel are often rewarded with the affection and companionship of a loving and loyal dog. They excel in activities that involve working closely with their human, strengthening the bond between owner and pet.


  • The American Water Spaniel stands as a testament to American ingenuity and resilience, having overcome near-extinction to become a beloved breed for many.
  • If you’re an active individual or family looking for a spirited and loving companion that shares your passion for water and the outdoors, the American Water Spaniel could be the perfect addition to your life.
  • Always remember that every dog is an individual, and while breed traits offer a general guideline, your American Water Spaniel’s personality will be as unique as your relationship with them.

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