The Irish Water Spaniel

Exercise Requirements  
Grooming Requirements  
Weight20 - 30 Kg (approx)
Life Span10 - 12 Years (approx)


The largest of the spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel is a solid brown (leaning to purple), crisp-textured and curly-coated. Both the face and tail have short hair as contrasted with the long curls of the body. It has a rather large head with an arched skull. The curly outer coat is lined with a dense undercoat, which helps insulate the dog in even the coldest water. A top-knot of curls on the head hangs down to cover and protect the eyes. The muzzle is long, square and powerful. The long ears are covered with curls. The chest is deep, but rather narrow for free movement when swimming. The hind quarters are as high as or slightly higher than the shoulders. The front legs are straight and well boned. Webbed feet assist in swimming.


The Irish water spaniel is one of the oldest and most distinctive spaniels. Dogs resembling them are depicted in manuscripts from 1,000 years ago. In the 1100s, mention is made of dogs called Shannon spaniels, rat-tail spaniels, whip-tail spaniels or Irish water spaniels. Continued references to the Irish water spaniel can be found from 1600 on. Around that time, the king of France is said to have been presented with an Irish water spaniel. Whether the breed was at one time found in different varieties or whether several similar breeds were its forebears is a matter of conjecture. What is agreed upon is that several similar spaniels existed in Ireland: the Northern Irish, Southern Irish and Tweed spaniels. The Southern Irish spaniel, also called McCarthy's Breed, is credited with being the eventual major forebear of today's dogs. In the mid-1800s, the appearance of the prolific sire Boatswain so influenced the breed that he is often credited as being the progenitor of the modern Irish water spaniel. The breed entered the show ring in both Britain and America by the late 1800s. In 1875, it was the third-most popular sporting dog. Despite its enchantingly clownish appearance and adept water-retrieving ability, the Irish water spaniel lost popularity and is only rarely seen in the show ring or found as the family pet.


The Irish Water Spaniel is intelligent, easy to train, and possesses a desire to please. Eager, bold and confident. Stubborn and independent, but capable of learning a great deal. Many are loving family dogs, but many are one person dogs. It can have a mind of its own, but generally is easy-going and gentle. A fine working dog in the field and obedience ring. Devoted, but mischievous and fun-loving. Some are good guard dogs. Generally does well with other pets if properly introduced. Reserved and protective with strangers. Should be well-socialized as a puppy and does best with older considerate children. The Irish Water Spaniel is a quiet dog, barking only when necessary to warn the family. An excellent swimmer, he has considerable stamina and drive, and a very good nose. This breed may drool and slobber. Some are timid, nervous, or suspicious. He can refuse commands from family members who have not established leadership over him.

Care / Grooming

A lot of care in grooming is needed, as the coat can tend to mat. Skilled trimming of the coat is necessary. The coat is usually good for allergy sufferers since it has little dandruff. These dogs shed little to no hair.


Prone to hypo-thyroidism and eye entropion. Be sure the parents were checked for thyroid problems. Avoid timid puppies. They may drool and have ear infections.

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