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Irish Water Spaniel: Dog Breed Information And Pictures

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This article would help if you have planned to bring an Irish Water Spaniel home as your pet and wish to know more about the same.

This article will give you all the information you require about the Irish Water Spaniel, including Breed Information, history, temperament, health, grooming needs, and more. We have even added pictures of the Irish Water Spaniel so that you understand their physical appearance even better.

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Breed Information About Irish Water Spaniel

Breed Information About Irish Water Spaniel

When discussing the tallest spaniel, the name that comes to mind is the Irish Water Spaniel. Besides its tall stature, what makes the dog more appealing is its intricately curled coat.

There’s no point in guessing that the Irish Water Spaniel is one of the finest swimmers among canines. It isn’t surprising at all. That’s what they were bred for – retrieving game from water.

Have you ever wondered what makes them great swimmers? Well, their webbed feet and hairless tail serve as a rudder, helping them steer through the water with ease and efficiency. Be it their hairdo or their boisterous nature. These dogs are the spaniel clan’s real clowns.

Does one look at them remind you of similar-looking breeds like the Poodle, Barbet, or the Portuguese Water Dog? Well, there have been speculations that these dogs contributed to the development of this breed.

Though popular in Ireland, its origin country, this breed has yet to become popular in the United States. In the list of the American Kennel Clubs’ most popular dogs of 2022, it ranks 183rd of the 199 breeds.

History of The Irish Water Spaniel

History of The Irish Water Spaniel

Several hundred years ago, the Spaniels were categorized according to their function – as land and water Spaniels. The significant spaniel breeds under the water category included the Irish and English Spaniels. It is also included Tweed Water Spaniel, extinct at present.

Coming to Ireland, before the 1850s, two varied strains of water spaniels existed – the North Country Water Spaniel and the South Country Water Spaniel. Both strains were responsible for the development of the Irish Water Spaniel. However, the breed resembles the southern strain more closely than its northern variant.

So, how did these dogs come into being? Well, there isn’t any concrete record regarding the same.

A Dublin sportsman named Justin McCarthy played a significant role in refining this breed. He had an Irish Water Spaniel, Boatswain, regarded as the founding sire for this breed.

However, there are no other breeding records regarding how the Irish Water Spaniel came to be. That’s because Mr. McCarthy didn’t leave behind any details.

Different breeds have played a significant role in its development. These include the Poodle, Barbet, Portuguese Water Dog, and presently extinct English Water Spaniels. So it’s no surprise that the Irish Water Spaniel curled coat replicates the dogs’ coats spoken above.

However, these are just assumptions and speculations. But, there has been some DNA analysis. It claims strong genetic influences of the breeds mentioned above on the Irish Water Spaniel. There isn’t any concrete evidence to validate these claims.

 But that doesn’t mean the claims are baseless.

McCarthy visited France on various occasions. So, who knows, he may have had access to the French breeds there.

Some even found the influence of the Afghan Hound on this breed. It could be coincidental since finding a connection between the two is a little difficult. The reason being their top knot, long coats, bare ankles, and smooth face.

This breed became a part of shows for the first time in 1859. In 1877 four Irish Water Spaniels went on to participate in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. There has been no looking back since then.

They reached America by the 1870s and gained the American Kennel Club’s recognition in 1878. The IWSCA (Irish Water Spaniel Club of America) is this breed’s parent club for the AKC.

More About The Irish Water Spaniel

More About the Irish Water Spaniel

One of the most unique spaniel breeds, the IWS is a delight to own. Its gorgeous look, sharp intelligence, and brilliant sense of humor make it perfect.

Read on to learn more about its appearance, the history behind its origination, and its temperament. You would certainly get to know what an amazing dog the IWS is.



The Irish Water Spaniel has an appealing appearance brought about by its curled coat. It is well-built with a rectangular-shaped body.

These dogs have chiseled heads and square muzzles long and deep. They even have small almond-shaped eyes, varying in color from dark brown to dark amber.

The IWS has a muscular and strong neck, which is well-arched. Their ears appear long and low-set, hanging close to their head. The loose curls cover most of their ears, making them look hairier.

Another distinctive feature is their characteristic rat tail. It is a combination of smooth and curly hair. It is thick towards the root and has short curls covering it for 2-3 inches. The curls end abruptly, and the tail has smooth hairs from there, tapering to a point.



These big dogs are said to be the tallest among all Spaniels. It reflects in their height. The males are 22-24 inches tall. In comparison, the females measure around 21-23 inches. Weightwise, the males are approximately 55-68 pounds, and the females weigh 45-58 pounds.

Personality And Temperament

Personality and Temperament

The Irish Water Spaniel is active, energetic, and willing. These dogs are immensely eager to please their masters. The work they were employed to do in the past is responsible for their trait.

As retrievers, they had to fetch the game from the water without fuss. In this way, they developed the habit of performing their job to the tee and pleasing their masters.

The dog bears an interesting expression, somewhat of a quizzical nature. This curious look on its face, teamed with its intelligent expression, makes it a perfect clown.

No wonder it always achieves the feat of doing simple things extraordinarily, leaving everyone around it amused.

Call it genetic influence or sheer coincidence; the Irish Water Spaniel shares this trait with the Poodle, renowned for its clownish antics.

They have a relaxed demeanor when in the comforts of their family. However, some might display wariness upon confronting strangers. The IWS is mostly quiet but may bark while warning his family of impending danger.

They bond with all the members of their family. But, some may be close to a certain family member, which in most cases is his master.

Health Problems

Health Problems

These working dogs are considered a healthy breed. Responsible breeders should always take the initiative of screening their dogs for conditions like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, thyroid, and allergies.

Sensitivity to vaccines and medicines

Well, this is not a condition. Yet, it is important to note when you have brought an Irish Water Spaniel home.

Your vet should also remind you of the same. They are allergic to sulfa antibiotics and even Ivermectin, a deworming medication.

The ingestion of these medicines may cause adverse reactions in these dogs. So, you would need to watch out while giving these drugs to your IWS.

Some dogs have even been known to have reactions to routine vaccinations. If this is the case, your dog may have swelling on its face, allergic reactions, and even be lethargic.

So, the first few hours are crucial if your Irish Water Spaniel has been vaccinated. Monitor him closely, then talk to your vet if you sense anything unusual.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is inherited, and big dogs are more prone to suffer from this condition. The thigh bone won’t fit well into the hip joint. This results in several mobility issues in dogs.

They could limp or have trouble getting up from sitting or lying posture. Get your IWS puppies’ hips checked at the earliest to ensure that they don’t have hip dysplasia.

Ensure he gets scored under the BVA/KC System, varying in scores from 0 to 53. A score of 10 on average is the most preferred. While 0 is the most satisfying score, 53 hints of trouble.

Elbow Dysplasia

It’s similar to hip dysplasia, the difference being that the elbow gets affected. It may cause pain and lameness. Sometimes the elbow may also become puffy and swollen.

Breeders should have their Irish Water Spaniel screened for this condition. Get your dog’s elbow x-rayed. Avoid breeding your dog if the BVA/KC System score is more than one. The score ranges from 0-3, 0 being the best and 3 being the worst.


Cataracts may result in blindness if the condition progresses. If your dog has cataracts, it will often scratch or rub its eyes.

His eye color and the size and shape of his pupil may even change. Moreover, he may even be clumsy in his movements and need help seeing in dimly lit rooms.


When the body can’t make sufficient thyroid hormone, it leads to hypothyroidism. The Irish Water Spaniel is prone to suffer from hypothyroidism.

The signs of this condition include a dry coat and skin, hair loss, weight gain, and aggression.



The first thing that you must do is to supervise the amount of exercise your dog needs. This dog is an active breed. It means it needs a lot of exercise. That’s how you can keep it mentally and physically energized.

Make sure you give them at least an hour of exercise each day. It could be long walks and sufficient playtime inside a fenced yard.

They would be the happiest as your hiking or jogging partner. The IWS would be equally thrilled to run next to you as you go cycling.

Their intense love for swimming isn’t unknown. If you have a pool nearby your home, you could take them there during the summer.

Ensure you supervise your dog’s moves when it is in water. They do well in dog sports like dock diving, tracking, rallying, flyball, and agility.

It’s okay if your IWS doesn’t show the urge to get out of the water once in it.

If you are looking for a low-energy lap dog, the Irish Water Spaniel isn’t your breed.

As a part of your grooming regimen, give enough importance to trimming your dog’s nails. Also, brush its teeth twice or thrice a week. Besides this, check their ears and eyes regularly as well for infections.


The adult Irish Water Spaniels should be given around 1.5-2.5 cups of dry dog food daily.

Never give it as one whole meal. Instead, dividing it into two equal meals with a 12-hour gap between them is always advisable. This way, you could minimize your dog’s bloating and other digestive disorders.

Keep treats to the minimum, lest it could trigger obesity in these big dogs. You can either give it store-bought food or homemade food. However, if you plan to give it a homemade diet, talk to your vet before doing so.

Coat Color And Grooming

Coat Color and Grooming

The Irish Water Spaniel has unique liver-colored coat sans any white markings. The coat could sometimes have an unusual purplish tinge called the puce liver. No other breed is known to have such an offbeat coloration.

The IWS is the only AKC breed for whom the puce coloration is acceptable as a part of its breed standards.

It’s a double-coated breed with a top coat and an undercoat. On its face, the coat appears smooth and short.

One of their striking features is their topknot arranged in the form of loose curls. It grows down the dog’s head, covering its eyes and forming a beard towards its throat.

On its throat, the coat is of a smooth texture and goes on to form a v-shaped patch. It begins from behind its lower jaw up to its breastbone. The smooth hair ends here.

Its body, neck, and base of its tail are filled with dense curls that are also crisp and tight. However, it is important to note that the entire tail isn’t curled. It’s just the base. The remaining part of the tail has a short, smooth coat. The coat on its forelegs and hindlegs is also abundantly curled or of a wavy appearance.

This breed with a densely curled coat doesn’t shed too much. No wonder it is an ideal choice for people who could get allergic upon being exposed to dogs.

Regarding grooming, the good news is that you wouldn’t have to work too hard. Brush its coat well at least twice or thrice a week. It would help you keep the coat free from mats and tangles.

Don’t bathe your dog more than once a month. Frequent bathing may take away the essential oils from your dog’s skin. However, if it gets dirty, you must wash it immediately.

Children And Other Pets

Children and Other Pets

They will get along well with the children in the family, especially if they socialize with them. But remember, these are boisterous dogs.

So, if not trained properly, they could be overwhelming enough for younger children. Make sure that there is parental supervision when little kids interact with these dogs.

The Irish Water Spaniel will do well with other family dogs, particularly if brought up with them.

However, they were hunting dogs in the past. They would view your feathered friends as their prey and always look to get after them. So their interaction may be challenging when it comes to smaller prey, mainly birds.

You may train them to learn what their limits are. Yet, there is no guarantee that the Irish Water spaniel can control their inherent chasing instinct.



What makes a boon for training these dogs is their eagerness to please their masters. They would do all they could when given a task to satisfy their owners. So, this is indeed a plus point.

Another boon is their high level of intelligence. In Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, these dogs rank pretty high, at no 24 out of the 79 breeds. It means they are quite adept at understanding and remembering new commands.

However, the Irish Water Spaniel is independent-minded. It could make training challenging. Hence, these dogs aren’t suitable for first-timers.

Ensure you refrain from repeating the same things daily in the training sessions. These dogs get bored easily. So, ensure that the training session is fun-filled to maintain their interest. The introduction of positive reinforcement techniques in the training process is a mandate.

Start socialization and command training when they are 8-12 weeks old. It would help them grow into disciplined dogs.


Can the Irish Water Spaniel swim?

These dogs were water retrievers in the past. So they have excellent swimming abilities. Their webbed feet and smooth tail helps them to swim with ease.

Is the Irish Water Spaniel, a good family dog?

The Irish Water Spaniel is playful, affectionate, loyal, and comical. All these traits make this breed a perfect dog for families.

How much does the Irish Water Spaniel cost?

They are quite costly. If the breeder you are purchasing the puppies from is reputable enough. The price may be around $1500-$2000. If you adopt an Irish Water Spaniel from a shelter home, the cost may come up to $300.

Does the Irish Water Spaniel do well in apartments?

They do better in spacious homes, having a fenced yard. Yet, you could accommodate these dogs in apartments. It’s possible if you have fulfilled their exercise requirements. It would help if you also gave them plenty of mental stimulation indoors.


To conclude, the Irish Water Spaniel would be a perfect companion when you have trained it properly. If you aren’t a novice owner, then the IWS would be perfect for you.

These dogs excel as perfect assistance and therapy dogs. It’s because of their sensitive nature. So an IWS at home could be a therapeutic experience indeed.

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