Menu toggle icon.
Menu toggle icon.

Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed

About the Irish Water Spaniel

Regarded as the tallest of the recognized spaniel breeds, the Irish Water Spaniel (IWS) is further distinguished from its cousins by a distinctive topknot, a crisply curled coat with a purplish hue, and a tapering “rat tail.” Originally bred in Ireland as a versatile bird dog, the breed remains adept at flushing and retrieving game birds on land and in the water. Known for their loyalty and trainability, these dogs typically make extraordinary companions for active households that are able to accommodate the breed’s high energy and grooming needs. Most IWS today can adapt well to family life, expressing both their intelligence and their sensitivity in everything they do.

AKC Group

AKC Group


Dog Breed Height


21 – 24 inches

Dog Breed Weight


45 – 68 pounds

Dog Breed Lifespan


12 – 13 years


Country of Origin Ireland
Bred For Hunting, Waterfowl Retrieving
Known For Topknot, Curly Coat, Rat Tail, Intelligence, Energy
Popularity Low
Temperament Smart, Eager, Inquisitive, Sensitive, Active
Activities Hunting, Swimming, Conformation Shows, Dog Sports

History of the Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel (IWS) has a rich history and holds a special place in dogdom, particularly in its native Ireland. Standardized as a unique purebred in the early 19th century, the breed’s exact ancestry is a topic of intrigue among canine historians. There is a strong belief that the breed descended from the now-extinct Shannon Spaniel, with potential influences from other water dogs and spaniels of the time. These genetic contributions would have honed the breed’s renowned swimming prowess and the development of its unique, water-resistant curly coat, traits making it an exceptional retriever in aquatic environments.

The breed’s early and notable recognition by major kennel clubs like the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1884, The Kennel Club (UK), and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) underscores its importance and distinction in the canine world. The AKC’s recognition, in particular, signifies one of the earliest registrations of any breed in the United States, reflecting the Irish Water Spaniel’s established presence and popularity.

Beyond its physical attributes, the Irish Water Spaniel has been historically prized for its versatility. Initially bred for retrieving game from water, its skills were not limited to aquatic environments. The breed also excelled as a hunting companion on land, aided by its acute sense of smell and innate retrieving instincts. These traits made it an invaluable asset for hunters in various terrains.

Despite its early acclaim and versatility, the Irish Water Spaniel has become somewhat rare in modern times. Nonetheless, it continues to be a breed cherished by enthusiasts, particularly in Ireland and among those who appreciate its hunting capabilities. The breed’s striking appearance, characterized by its dense curly coat and a distinctive, tapering “rat tail,” still garners attention in both the show ring and in fieldwork.

General Appearance

A male Irish Water Spaniel typically stands at a height of about 22 to 24 inches at the withers, whereas a female is slightly smaller, usually measuring around 21 to 23 inches.

In terms of weight, a male generally weighs between 55 to 68 pounds, while a female typically falls in the range of 45 to 58 pounds.

Proportion & Substance

The Irish Water Spaniel is a breed that epitomizes a harmonious blend of proportion and substance. These dogs possess a body that is slightly longer than it is tall, giving them a robust and balanced appearance. The chest is deep and strong, providing ample lung capacity, essential for their vigorous swimming activities. Their build exhibits a combination of power and endurance, ensuring they can perform tirelessly whether in the field or water. Musculature is well-developed, yet not overly bulky, allowing for agility and speed. The overall appearance of the Irish Water Spaniel is one of a well-built, athletic dog, capable of performing the demanding tasks for which it was originally bred.

Coat Texture, Colors & Markings

Texture: The Irish Water Spaniel is adorned with a distinctive double coat that is both functional and visually striking. The outer coat is comprised of dense, tight curls that are waterproof, providing an excellent protective layer when the dog is working in water. This curly coat covers the body, legs, and top of the head, while the face features smoother, shorter hair. The texture of the coat is neither wooly nor silky but lies somewhere in between, giving the breed its unique feel and appearance. The undercoat is thick and soft, adding an extra layer of insulation which is especially beneficial in cold water environments.

French Bulldog Colors

Standard Color
Liver ee

Irish Water Spaniel Markings:

The Irish Water Spaniel does not have any recognized markings. The solid liver color is a defining characteristic of the breed, contributing to its distinct and singular appearance in the field and the Conformation show ring.


  • Skull: The skull is large and capacious, with a pronounced dome shape. This structure allows for a well-developed brain, indicative of the breed’s intelligence and alertness.
  • Expression: The expression of an Irish Water Spaniel is keen and intelligent, often displaying a sense of inquisitiveness and alertness. Their eyes, set well apart, convey a friendly and confident demeanor.
  • Eyes: The eyes are almond-shaped and set rather obliquely, giving the dog a distinctive, intelligent look. The color of the eyes typically harmonizes with the coat, generally ranging from a dark brown in liver-colored dogs.
  • Ears: Their ears are long and lobular, hanging close to the head, and covered with long, loose curls. This feature adds to the breed’s unique appearance and is often a point of interest in the show ring.
  • Muzzle: The muzzle is long and square, contributing to the dog’s proficient retrieving capabilities. The length and strength of the muzzle are important for carrying game and also aid in the dog’s impressive swimming ability.
  • Nose: The nose is large and dark liver-colored, blending seamlessly with the coat. Nostrils are wide, facilitating an excellent sense of smell, crucial for a dog bred for hunting and retrieving.
  • Bite: The Irish Water Spaniel has a scissors bite, where the upper teeth closely overlap the lower teeth and are set square to the jaws. This bite type is efficient for the breed’s retrieving work, allowing them to gently carry game without causing damage.
Close-up photo of an Irish Water Spaniel head
Photo Credit: Kayla Bertagnolli


The tail of the Irish Water Spaniel is one of its most distinctive and defining features, often referred to as a “rat tail.” This unique characteristic sets the breed apart from other spaniels and water dogs. The tail is relatively short and thick at the base, tapering to a fine point. This tapering gives it the appearance of a rat’s tail, from which it gets its nickname. The base of the tail is covered with dense curls similar to those on the body, but as it tapers towards the end, the hair becomes smooth and short, giving it a distinct, sleek look.

The Irish Water Spaniel’s tail is typically carried level with the back or slightly higher, but it is not curled over the back. This posture reflects the breed’s alert and active nature. In the show ring, the tail’s unique appearance is a point of focus, as it exemplifies one of the breed’s most iconic and distinguishing traits.

The Irish Water Spaniel – What to Consider?

When considering the Irish Water Spaniel as a companion, potential owners should be mindful of the breed’s distinct characteristics and care requirements. This breed, known for its intelligence and energy, thrives in an environment where it can engage both physically and mentally. They are well-suited for active families or individuals who enjoy outdoor activities and can provide ample opportunities for exercise and stimulation.

Home Life

Interaction With Family

The level of affection a breed typically shows towards family members and familiar individuals will vary. While some breeds may only show genuine warmth towards their owner, remaining standoffish with strangers, other breeds will treat everyone they meet as if they are their closest friend.
Independent Affectionate

Good With Other Dogs

The innate friendliness of a dog towards other dogs can depend on its breed. Although supervision is always recommended during introductions, certain breeds tend to be inherently more or less sociable with other dogs, whether in a home setting or in public spaces.
Not Recommended Reliable With Other Dogs

Good With Young Children

The degree to which a breed will typically be patient with young children, and its overall suitability as a family member, will vary. It is important to always supervise interactions between dogs and the kids in the house, as well as with children who are not accustomed to being around dogs.
Not Recommended Dependable With Children


Amount Of Shedding

The amount of hair that a dog sheds will typically depend on its breed. Heavy-shedding breeds require more frequent brushing, have a higher chance of activating specific allergies, and often necessitate more frequent use of the vacuum cleaner and lint rollers.
Low High

Frequency Of Grooming

The regularity with which a breed needs bathing, brushing, trimming, or other forms of coat care is an all-important consideration. When evaluating the grooming effort required, consider your available time, patience, and budget. It is important to note that all breeds need routine ear, teeth, and nail care.
Monthly Daily

Amount Of Drooling

The tendency of a breed to drool significantly varies from breed to breed. For those who prefer cleanliness or are particular about keeping things tidy, breeds that are likely to leave trails of drool on your arm or large slobbery marks on your clothing and furniture might not be the best fit.
Low High

Coat Type


Coat Length




Trainability Level

The ease with which a dog can be trained and its eagerness to learn new skills can depend on the breed. Some breeds are naturally inclined to please their owners and will readily accept training, while others tend to follow their own desires, often showing independence in how, when, and where they choose to do things.
Stubborn Eager

Barking Level

The frequency of vocalization, including barking and howling, will vary from breed to breed. Some may bark at each person who passes by and every bird in the sky, while others will typically bark only for a good reason. Additionally, a few breeds that do not typically bark will still be vocal, using different sounds to communicate.
Quiet Vocal

Energy Level

The level of physical exercise and mental engagement required will depend on the breed. High-energy breeds are always on the go. They are enthusiastic about their next activity and tend to be busy most of the time, running, jumping, and playing throughout the day. In contrast, low-energy breeds are akin to couch potatoes, content to just lounge around and take naps throughout the day.
Couch Potato Busybody

Need For Mental Stimulation

The extent of mental stimulation needed to keep a dog content and healthy will vary by breed. Dogs bred for specific purposes may need tasks involving decision-making, problem-solving, and concentration. Without sufficient mental exercise, these dogs can resort to creating their own activities to engage their minds, resulting in unwanted behaviors like chewing, digging, and escaping.
Minimal Engagement Intensive Interaction

Irish Water Spaniel Health

The Irish Water Spaniel is generally a healthy breed with a lifespan that typically ranges between 12 to 13 years. Like all breeds, it is prone to certain health conditions, but with proper care, regular veterinary check-ups, and a healthy lifestyle, many of these issues can be managed or prevented.

Potential Health Risks

Irish Water Spaniels, like any breed, have predispositions to certain health conditions. Awareness and proactive management of these risks can contribute significantly to the overall health and longevity of these dogs. Some of the common health issues that Irish Water Spaniel caretakers should be aware of include:

  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the thigh bone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Regular check-ups and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: This is a hereditary condition where the components of the elbow joint do not fit together perfectly, which can lead to lameness and arthritis. Regular veterinary check-ups, maintaining a healthy weight, and appropriate exercise can help manage this condition.
  • Ear Infections: Due to their long, floppy ears, Irish Water Spaniels are prone to ear infections. Regular ear cleaning and monitoring for signs of infection are important.
  • Eye Conditions: The breed may be prone to various eye conditions, including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Regular eye examinations by a vet can help in early detection and treatment.
  • Hypothyroidism: This condition, involving an underactive thyroid gland, can lead to issues like obesity, lethargy, or coat and skin problems. It’s generally manageable with medication.
  • Cancer: Like many breeds, Irish Water Spaniels may be susceptible to various forms of cancer. Early detection through regular vet visits is key to management.

It’s important for caretakers to schedule regular veterinary check-ups, as early detection and management of these conditions can significantly improve the quality of life for an Irish Water Spaniel. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and genetic screening, where available, are also crucial in maintaining their health.

Irish Water Spaniel Personality

The Irish Water Spaniel is a breed renowned for its vivacious and playful personality. These dogs are intelligent and quick learners, which makes them generally well-suited for both experienced and novice dog owners. Their intelligence, however, also means they can be independent thinkers, requiring consistent and positive training methods.

Sensitive by nature, Irish Water Spaniels respond best to positive reinforcement and can be quite receptive to their handler’s mood and tone. Harsh training methods are likely to be counterproductive. They are known for being loyal and affectionate with their families, often forming strong bonds.

When it comes to being alone, the Irish Water Spaniel can adapt, but like most dogs, they prefer company. Prolonged periods of isolation can lead to boredom and potentially destructive behavior, so mental and physical stimulation is important. They generally get along well with other dogs, especially when socialized from a young age.

Irish Water Spaniels are typically good with children, showing a gentle and playful demeanor. However, as with any breed, interactions between dogs and young children should always be supervised.

In terms of friendliness towards strangers, they can be somewhat reserved. Proper socialization from a young age is key to helping them become well-adjusted, confident adult dogs. They are not known to be overly aggressive but can be assertive if they perceive a threat to their family or territory.

An Irish Water Spaniel dog holding a red ball in its mouth, outside in the yard.
Photo Credit: Rudy Raya

Irish Water Spaniel Feeding & Nutrition

Feeding and nutrition are critical aspects of caring for an Irish Water Spaniel, a breed known for its energy and athleticism. The dietary needs of an Irish Water Spaniel will vary depending on its age, size, metabolism, and activity level. It’s essential to tailor their diet to their individual needs to maintain optimal health.

For Irish Water Spaniel puppies, a diet formulated for large-breed puppies is often recommended. These formulations ensure that puppies receive the appropriate nutrients for their rapid growth phase without promoting excessive growth, which can lead to joint problems. Puppies typically require more frequent meals, approximately three to four times a day.

As they transition into adulthood, the frequency of meals can be reduced. Adult Irish Water Spaniels generally do well with two meals per day. The amount of food, usually measured in cups per day, should be based on the dog’s size and energy expenditure. Active dogs will require more calories, while less active dogs may need fewer to maintain a healthy weight.

Obesity can be a concern in the breed, particularly if they are not getting enough exercise. Therefore, monitoring their food intake and ensuring they get regular physical activity is crucial. Treats should be given in moderation and accounted for in the dog’s total daily calorie intake.

Fresh water should always be available, especially since these dogs may expend a lot of energy during play and exercise.

Consulting with a veterinarian to determine the most appropriate diet for an Irish Water Spaniel is advisable. They can provide guidance on the type and amount of food that is best suited for the dog’s specific needs, considering factors like age, health status, and activity level. A well-balanced diet, tailored to their individual requirements, is key to keeping an Irish Water Spaniel healthy, happy, and active.

Irish Water Spaniel Training

Training an Irish Water Spaniel can be a rewarding experience, given their intelligence and eagerness to please. This breed is known for its quick learning ability, making them relatively easy to train, especially for handlers who establish a consistent and positive training routine.

Their intelligence, however, also means that Irish Water Spaniels can be independent thinkers. This trait calls for a training approach that is both firm and gentle. They respond best to positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and treats. Harsh or negative training methods are likely to be counterproductive and could harm the bond between the dog and its handler.

The Irish Water Spaniel’s tendency to bark varies among individuals. Some may be more vocal, especially when they’re bored or not getting enough exercise. Training them from a young age to understand commands like ‘quiet’ can be beneficial in managing this behavior.

In terms of intelligence, this breed ranks high. They are capable of learning a wide variety of commands and tasks, making them suitable for advanced training and dog sports. Their problem-solving skills are notable, and they enjoy challenges that stimulate their minds.

Wanderlust potential in Irish Water Spaniels is moderate. While they might be curious about their surroundings, proper training and a secure environment can keep their exploring instincts in check. It’s essential to provide them with a safe and enclosed space where they can play and exercise without the risk of wandering off.

Predatory instincts can be present, especially given their hunting background. Training and socialization from an early age can help manage these instincts, especially around smaller animals and pets.

Back photo of an Irish Water Spaniel standin on a rocky beach.
Photo Credit: Dan Sayers

Irish Water Spaniel Exercise

Exercise is a crucial aspect of the Irish Water Spaniel’s daily routine, given their high energy levels and athletic build. This breed thrives on physical activity and requires regular exercise to maintain its physical and mental well-being.

Exercise Expectations

Energy Level High
Exercise Requirements 2 Hours/Day (Minimum), Daily Walks, Weekly Swimming, Vigorous Running, Playing with Another Dog, Mental Stimulation

The exercise needs of an Irish Water Spaniel are relatively high. They are energetic dogs that enjoy a variety of activities, including swimming, running, and playing fetch. These activities not only cater to their physical needs but also provide mental stimulation, which is essential for this intelligent breed.

When it comes to energy level, the Irish Water Spaniel is typically very lively and spirited. They possess a natural enthusiasm for activity, making them great companions for outdoor adventures such as hiking, jogging, and water sports. Their love for water is particularly notable, and they excel in activities that involve swimming.

The intensity of their exercise should match their high energy levels. However, it’s important to balance vigorous activities with periods of rest to prevent overexertion. As puppies, their exercise should be moderate to protect their developing bones and joints.

Playfulness is another characteristic of the Irish Water Spaniel. They enjoy interactive play sessions, which can be a fun way to provide exercise and strengthen the bond between the dog and its handler. Incorporating play into their exercise routine can keep them engaged and happy.

It’s essential for caretakers to understand the exercise requirements of this breed. An Irish Water Spaniel that doesn’t receive adequate exercise may exhibit behavioral issues, such as excessive barking or destructiveness, stemming from boredom or pent-up energy. Regular, structured exercise is key to keeping an Irish Water Spaniel healthy, both physically and mentally. This commitment to their exercise needs makes them most suitable for active individuals or families who can integrate the dog into their active lifestyle.

Irish Water Spaniel Grooming

Grooming is an essential aspect of caring for an Irish Water Spaniel, a breed known for its distinctive curly coat and specific grooming needs. Regular grooming not only keeps the dog looking its best but also promotes good skin and coat health.

Grooming Expectations

Coat Type Dense, Tight, Curly
Grooming Requirements Weekly Brushing, Occasional Bathing, Routine Ear Cleaning, Periodic Nail Trimming, Regular Tooth Brushing

The coat of an Irish Water Spaniel is naturally water-resistant and consists of tight, crisp ringlets. This unique coat requires regular maintenance to prevent matting and tangling. Brushing the coat at least once a week is recommended to remove dead hair and distribute natural oils throughout the coat. During shedding seasons, more frequent brushing may be necessary to manage increased hair loss.

In terms of ease of grooming, the Irish Water Spaniel’s coat can be somewhat challenging due to its texture and tendency to mat. Caretakers should be prepared to invest time in regular grooming sessions. Professional grooming every few months can be beneficial, especially for trimming and maintaining the proper coat shape.

Shedding in Irish Water Spaniels is generally moderate. While they do shed, their curly coat tends to trap loose hair, which can be easily removed with regular grooming. This characteristic may make them a slightly better option for individuals with mild allergies, though no breed is completely hypoallergenic.

Bathing the Irish Water Spaniel should be done as needed. Due to their love for water and outdoor activities, they may require baths more frequently than some other breeds, especially if they are prone to getting muddy or swimming in natural bodies of water. It’s important to use a dog-specific shampoo that is gentle on their skin and coat.

In addition to coat care, regular grooming also includes nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental care. Their ears, in particular, require attention due to their size and shape, which can predispose them to ear infections. Regular ear cleaning and checking for signs of infection are important.

Close-up side photo of an Irish Water Spaniel dog.
Photo Credit: Kayla Bertagnolli

Living with an Irish Water Spaniel

Living with an Irish Water Spaniel can be a delightful experience, but it requires understanding and accommodating their specific needs. This breed’s adaptability makes it suitable for various living conditions, but there are certain considerations to keep in mind.

Adapting to life with an Irish Water Spaniel in an apartment setting requires dedicated effort to meet their exercise and stimulation needs. These energetic dogs thrive when they have ample space and opportunities for physical activity. For those living in apartments, it’s essential to commit to regular, vigorous exercise routines, including long walks, runs, and playtime in spacious outdoor areas. Mental stimulation, through interactive toys and training exercises, is also crucial in keeping them engaged and preventing boredom.

In terms of adaptability to weather conditions, the Irish Water Spaniel’s dense, curly coat provides good insulation, making them fairly tolerant of cold weather. However, it’s important to make sure that they are not exposed to extreme cold for prolonged periods, as with any dog. In contrast, their coat can make them prone to overheating in hot weather. During warmer months, it’s crucial to provide them with plenty of water, shade, and opportunities to cool off, such as swimming, which they naturally enjoy.

The Irish Water Spaniel’s adaptability extends to family life as well. They are known for being loyal and affectionate companions, fitting well into family settings. However, due to their size and energy levels, supervision is advisable when they are interacting with young children. Proper socialization and training from a young age are essential to make sure that they are well-behaved and sociable.

Irish Water Spaniel Puppies

Welcoming an Irish Water Spaniel puppy into your home is an exciting and rewarding experience, filled with challenges and joys. These puppies are known for their playful and curious nature, and they bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm into any household. From the moment an Irish Water Spaniel puppy arrives, it begins a journey of growth and discovery, both for the puppy and its new family.

Caring for a Puppy

Caring for an Irish Water Spaniel puppy involves several important aspects to ensure their healthy development and well-being. Initially, creating a safe and welcoming environment is crucial. Puppies are naturally curious and will explore their surroundings, so it’s important to puppy-proof your home, removing any hazardous objects they might chew on or swallow.

Nutrition plays a vital role in the puppy’s growth. Feeding them high-quality puppy food formulated for medium to large breeds is recommended to support their development. The feeding should be spread over multiple meals throughout the day, as puppies have small stomachs and high energy needs.

Socialization and training should start early. Exposing them to different people, environments, and situations helps in developing a well-rounded and confident adult dog. Positive reinforcement techniques work best for training, as they encourage learning and strengthen the bond between the puppy and its owner.

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor the puppy’s health, including vaccinations and preventive treatments for parasites. It’s also the perfect time to discuss and plan for spaying or neutering.

Exercise for Irish Water Spaniel puppies should be moderate and appropriate for their age. Too much exercise can be harmful to their developing bones and joints. Short walks, play sessions, and swimming are excellent ways to expend energy and keep them fit.

Lastly, grooming habits should be established early. Regular brushing helps the puppy get accustomed to being handled and keeps their coat in good condition. It also provides an opportunity to check for any skin issues or parasites.

Irish Water Spaniel Activities & Dog Sports

Irish Water Spaniels, with their high energy levels and intelligent nature, excel in various dog sports and activities. Engaging them in these activities is not only a great way to meet their exercise needs but also provides mental stimulation and strengthens the bond between the dog and its handler.

Performance dog sports are particularly well-suited for this breed, given their athletic abilities and eagerness to learn. Some of the sports in which Irish Water Spaniels commonly participate include:

  • Agility: This high-energy sport involves the dog navigating a course of obstacles, including jumps, tunnels, and weave poles, under the guidance of their handler.
  • Obedience: In Obedience Trials, dogs perform a routine of tasks on command. Irish Water Spaniels often excel due to their trainability and desire to please.
  • Rally: This sport combines elements of Obedience and Agility, where dogs and handlers complete a course with different stations requiring various tasks.
  • Tracking: Leveraging their strong sense of smell, Irish Water Spaniels can be trained for Tracking, where they locate a specific scent over a distance.
  • Field Trials: Reflecting their heritage as water retrievers, these trials test the dog’s ability to work in water and land retrieving scenarios.
  • Conformation: Conformation Shows are another arena where Irish Water Spaniels shine. In these shows, dogs are judged on how well they conform to the breed standard, encompassing physical structure, movement, and temperament.
  • Therapy Work: Their friendly and gentle nature makes them excellent candidates for Therapy Work, visiting hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to provide comfort.
  • Search and Rescue: Some Irish Water Spaniels are trained for Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, using their keen sense of smell and agility to find and assist people in need.

These activities not only provide physical and mental stimulation for the Irish Water Spaniel but also offer opportunities for socialization and community involvement. Engaging an Irish Water Spaniel in these activities can lead to a fulfilling and enriching life for both the dog and its human companion.

Group Classification & Standards

The French Bulldog is recognized by the world’s leading registries and kennel organizations, which categorize the breed into a specific Group based on its unique characteristics. This breed is recognized worldwide under the following Group designations:

International Organizations

Organization Group Designation
AKC (American Kennel Club) Sporting
UKC (United Kennel Club) Gun Dog
CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) Sporting Dogs
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) Gundogs
RKC (The Royal Kennel Club) Gundog
FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) Group 8: Retrievers, Flushing Dogs, Water Dogs; Section 3: Water Dogs

The ideal French Bulldog is described by a Breed Standard that is approved by each of the world’s leading registries and kennel organizations. The Breed Standards for this breed may be found in the following links:

Breed Standards

Organization Breed Standard
American Kennel Club AKC Irish Water Spaniel Breed Standard
United Kennel Club UKC Irish Water Spaniel Breed Standard
Canadian Kennel Club CKC Irish Water Spaniel Breed Standard
Australian National Kennel Council ANKC Irish Water Spaniel Breed Standard
The Royal Kennel Club RKC Irish Water Spaniel Breed Standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale FCI Irish Water Spaniel Breed Standard

Irish Water Spaniel Clubs

Involvement in Irish Water Spaniel clubs can be a valuable resource for owners and enthusiasts of the breed. These clubs offer support, resources, and a community of like-minded individuals who share a passion for the Irish Water Spaniel.

In the USA, The Irish Water Spaniel Club of America (IWSCA) is the primary organization dedicated to the breed. The IWSCA focuses on the promotion, protection, and preservation of Irish Water Spaniels, providing a platform for education, breed health, and responsible ownership.

In Canada, the Irish Water Spaniel presence is represented by The Irish Water Spaniel Association of Canada. This organization similarly works to promote the breed, offering resources and support for breeders, owners, and enthusiasts, and helps in maintaining the breed’s standards and health in the Canadian context.

In the United Kingdom, the Irish Water Spaniel Association is the key organization dedicated to the breed. It functions similarly to its American and Canadian counterparts, offering resources and support for breeders, owners, and enthusiasts, while also promoting the breed’s health and welfare.

Membership in these clubs is open to anyone with an interest in the breed, whether they are current owners, prospective owners, or simply admirers of the Irish Water Spaniel. Being part of these clubs can be immensely rewarding, offering educational resources, opportunities for involvement in breed-specific activities, and a sense of community among those who share a love for the Irish Water Spaniel.

Irish Water Spaniel Rescue Groups

Rescue groups play a crucial role in the wellbeing of Irish Water Spaniels, offering a second chance to those in need. These organizations are dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming of Irish Water Spaniels, ensuring that these dogs receive the care and love they deserve.

In the USA, The Irish Water Spaniel Club of America (IWSCA) includes efforts in rescue as part of its commitment to the breed. The club works to provide support for Irish Water Spaniels that have been lost, abandoned, or surrendered. The IWSCA not only facilitates adoption services but also invests in education and resources to help prevent future abandonment and mistreatment of these dogs.

In Canada, The Irish Water Spaniel Association of Canada, and in the United Kingdom, the Irish Water Spaniel Association play a significant role in supporting Irish Water Spaniels in need. These clubs work towards the welfare of these dogs, providing necessary care and actively seeking suitable homes where they can thrive.

In addition to national or regional breed clubs and general rescue groups, prospective owners are also encouraged to consider local shelters and broader animal rescue organizations. These shelters often have a variety of breeds and mixed-breed dogs, including occasionally Irish Water Spaniels, in need of loving homes.

Irish Water Spaniel Facts

  • Origins: The Irish Water Spaniel is one of the oldest and most distinctive spaniels, originally bred in Ireland as a skilled water retriever.
  • Coat: Its most notable feature is its dense, curly coat, which is water-resistant and provides excellent insulation during swimming.
  • Rat Tail: The breed is famous for its unique ‘rat tail,’ which is thick at the base and tapers to a fine point with very little hair.
  • Size: It is the tallest of the AKC-recognized spaniel breeds.
  • Versatility: Irish Water Spaniels are versatile hunters, equally adept at retrieving in both water and on land.
  • Rare Breed: Despite their qualities, Irish Water Spaniels are relatively rare compared to other spaniel breeds.
  • Temperament: They are known for their playful and clownish behavior, often displaying a sense of humor in their antics.
  • Intelligence: The breed is highly intelligent and trainable, excelling in Obedience, Tracking, and Agility sports.
  • Family-Friendly: Irish Water Spaniels are generally good with children and make excellent family pets when properly trained and socialized.
  • Contribution to Other Breeds: The Irish Water Spaniel has contributed to the development of other breeds, such as the American Water Spaniel.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are Irish Water Spaniels hypoallergenic?

Irish Water Spaniels are often considered hypoallergenic, though it’s important to note that no dog breed is completely hypoallergenic. They have a dense, curly coat that tends to trap dander and requires regular grooming to maintain. Due to their coat type, they typically produce less dander than many other breeds, which can be beneficial for people with mild allergies to dogs.

Do Irish Water Spaniels shed?

Irish Water Spaniels are known for their low-shedding coats, making them a popular choice for those seeking a breed that won’t leave much hair around the house. Their tight, curly fur minimizes the amount of hair they shed. However, regular grooming is essential to prevent matting and to keep their coat in good condition.

Are Irish Water Spaniels aggressive?

Irish Water Spaniels are generally not known for being aggressive. They are typically friendly and outgoing dogs. Like any breed, their temperament can be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, training, and socialization. It’s important for owners to provide them with early socialization and consistent, positive training to promote good behavior.

Are Irish Water Spaniels good pets?

Irish Water Spaniels can make excellent pets for the right household. They are intelligent, energetic, and affectionate dogs that enjoy being part of the family. These dogs thrive with regular exercise and mental stimulation, which makes them an ideal match for active individuals or families. Their friendly nature and trainability also make them well-suited for families with children, as they can integrate well into various home environments that provide the necessary engagement and care.

Can an Irish Water Spaniel live outside of the house?

While Irish Water Spaniels are hardy and adaptable, they thrive best when they are part of the family and live indoors. They are social animals that form strong bonds with their owners and can become lonely or stressed if left outside for extended periods. Adequate shelter, regular interaction, and mental stimulation are essential for their well-being if they spend any significant time outdoors.

How big do Irish Water Spaniels get?

Irish Water Spaniels are a medium to large breed. Males typically stand about 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 55 to 68 pounds, while females are slightly smaller. Their size, combined with their curly coat and athletic build, gives them a distinctive and robust appearance.

How long do Irish Water Spaniels live?

An Irish Water Spaniel typically lives for about 12 to 13 years. Like all breeds, their longevity can be affected by several factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, and the quality of veterinary care. Regular check-ups, a balanced diet, and an active lifestyle can contribute to a longer, healthier life for these dogs.

latest articles

latest articles


Find a Breeder or Rescue

The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin?

Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral Program, which is listed on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.

Find an Irish Water Spaniel Puppy
Find a Breeder or Rescue