American Water Spaniel: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

American water spaniel standing on grass

NIKON / Flickr / CC by 2.0

The American water spaniel is a medium-size sporting dog breed from the United States with a medium-length curly coat that doesn’t shed much. The breed is known for its strong water retrieval skills. It has a muscular, well-balanced build; a dense, water-repellant coat; and webbed toes. This allows it to navigate icy waters comfortably. In general, it’s a cheerful and enthusiastic dog that loves being active with its family. 

Group: Sporting

Height: 15 to 18 inches

Weight: 25 to 40 pounds (female), 30 to 45 pounds (male)

Coat: Medium-length, curly double coat

Coat Color: Brown, chocolate, liver

Life Span: 10 to 14 years

Temperament: Companionable, bright, even-tempered

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United States

Characteristics of the American Water Spaniel

American water spaniels generally have an attentive and happy personality with their family. However, they can be wary of strangers. And while they don't have an extremely energetic temperament, they still prefer lots of daily activity to thrive.

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness  Medium
Kid-Friendly  Medium
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Levels Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the American Water Spaniel

European settlers in the Great Lakes region of the United States wanted a gun dog that could navigate the cold waters of the large lakes. The exact origin of the American water spaniel breed is unclear. But it’s likely that the Irish water spaniel, curly-coated retriever, and (now-extinct) English water spaniel played a role in its development. 

The resulting dog not only was skilled at retrieving in the water, but it also could hunt small game on land. However, as hunting transitioned from a means for survival to a sporting endeavor for many people, the breed’s numbers dropped. 

In the early 1900s, breeders worked to keep the American water spaniel alive. The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1940, and it became the state dog of Wisconsin in 1985. Today, it is still a rare dog breed.

American Water Spaniel Care

The American water spaniel prefers an active, outdoorsy lifestyle. Its coat is fairly easy to care for. And it is known to be a highly trainable breed.


Aim for at least an hour per day of exercise for your American water spaniel. Walks, jogging, hiking, and swimming all are ideal activities, along with energetic play sessions. Plus, dog sports, such as dock diving and agility, can challenge your dog’s body and mind. 

When an American water spaniel doesn’t get enough physical activity and mental stimulation, it can become destructive and/or bark excessively. Puzzle toys can help to keep your dog occupied, but you’ll also have to make time to exercise it daily.


Brush your dog weekly to remove any loose fur. A slicker brush can help to remove the dead fur from the breed’s dense undercoat. Expect more shedding as the weather gets warmer and the undercoat thins, at which time you’ll likely have to brush a little more frequently. But overall the breed sheds minimally. 

Bathe your dog roughly once a month, depending on how dirty it gets. Be sure to dry its ears well after baths and swimming, and check the ears at least weekly to see whether they need cleaning. Also, trim your dog’s nails every month or so, and brush its teeth daily.


Begin training and socialization ideally when your American water spaniel is a puppy. This breed takes quite well to positive-reinforcement training methods, such as treats and praise. In addition to obedience commands, aim to expose your dog to different people, other dogs, and various locations from a young age. Having lots of positive experiences can help to quell the breed’s sometimes aloof nature with strangers.

A litter of American water spaniel puppies in a wagon

Wendy M Allen / Wikimedia Commons

Common Health Problems

The American water spaniel is a generally healthy breed. But it is prone to some hereditary health issues, including: 

Diet and Nutrition

Fresh water should always be available for your American water spaniel. And it should eat a high-quality canine diet with balanced nutrition, typically via two measured meals per day. Discuss both the type of food and the amount with your veterinarian to make sure you’re meeting your dog’s individual needs. Dietary requirements can change based on age, activity level, and other factors.

Where to Adopt or Buy an American Water Spaniel

The American water spaniel is an uncommon breed but not impossible to find. So it’s worth checking local animal shelters and rescue groups to see whether there’s a dog in need of a home. Try to get your name on a breed wait list if possible. If you’re looking for a puppy from a responsible breeder, expect to pay around $1,200 to $1,500 on average.

For more information to connect you with an American water spaniel, check out:

American Water Spaniel Overview

  • Eager to please

  • Good for outdoorsy lifestyle

  • Sheds minimally

  • Can become vocal and destructive when left alone for too long

  • Can have a stubborn streak

  • Can be reserved around strangers

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

As with any dog breed, do thorough research on the American water spaniel before bringing one home to make sure it’s right for your lifestyle. Talk to American water spaniel owners, reputable breeders, rescue groups, and veterinary professionals to learn more.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are American water spaniels good family dogs?

    American water spaniels are moderately good around children in general. With proper training and socialization, they can do well with respectful older children, but they might not always be tolerant of young kids.

  • Are American water spaniels aggressive?

    American water spaniels are somewhat reserved around strangers. But as long as they have training and socialization this typically does not turn into aggression.

  • Are American water spaniels good apartment dogs?

    American water spaniels might be able to live in an apartment as long as they get outside enough every day for physical activity and mental stimulation. The breed typically doesn’t bark excessively to disturb nearby neighbors, though it can become vocal and destructive when bored. 

Article Sources
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  1. American Water Spaniel. American Kennel Club.

  2. American Water Spaniel. Dog Breeds List.