The American Water Spanielis a breed of spaniel which is one of a small number of breeds originating in the United States. Developed in the state of Wisconsin during the 19th century from a number of other breeds, including the Irish and English Water Spaniels.
The breed originated in the areas along the Fox River and its tributary the Wolf River during the early 19th century. Hunters needed a dog that could work on both land and water, a versatile hunter skilled at bringing in a variety of game.
Hunters also wanted a hunting dog compact enough to be transported in a small skiff, one that was able to withstand Wisconsin’s cold water temperatures. Breeds involved in the creation of the American Water Spaniel are thought to have included the English Water Spaniel, Irish Water Spaniel, Curly Coated Retriever, native Indian Dogs, the Poodle, and either the Sussex Spaniel or another type of field spaniel.
Due to Pfeifer’s work, the breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) as the American Water Spaniel in 1920, and by the Field Dog Stud Book in 1938. Dr. Pfeifer’s own dog, named “Curly Pfeifer” was the first American Water Spaniel to be registered with UKC.
John Scofield of Missouri and Thomas Brogdan of Rush Lake, Wisconsin worked together with the American Water Spaniel Club (AWSC), gaining the breed recognition with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1940. Prior to recognition by the AKC, the breed had not been shown in the show ring before.
The limited popularity of the American Water Spaniel restricted development, resulting in the breed being relatively unchanged since its origins in the 19th century. They are a medium-sized dog, with a curly liver, brown, or chocolate colored coat. The average height at the withers for the breed is 15–18 inches (38–46 cm), and their weight around 25–45 pounds (11–20 kg).
They have similar features to the Irish Water Spaniel, but the Irish breed is larger at between 21–24 inches (53–61 cm) and weighing 55–65 pounds (25–29 kg). The coat of the American Water Spaniel can fall in two different patterns, either tightly curled or in the “marcel pattern” where the fur falls in waves.
Working and show lines have not diverged as with some other breeds of spaniel, and both appear the same, with show dogs of this breed being rare.
The American Water Spaniel will be friendly toward people if they have been properly introduced. He makes an excellent watchdog however, and will alert you with a warning bark if he hears any strange noises. This is a rare breed, and very few puppies are born each year. If you’re interested in an AWS, find a reputable breeder who can help you decide if the breed’s a good match for you.
And then settle in for a good wait — you may spend several months or even a year or more on a waiting list before a puppy’s available. People who breed these unique dogs want to make sure they go to just the right homes, and they’re able to pick and choose the families who’ll take great care of their puppies.
Water Spaniels shed in the spring, but frequent brushing will help keep too much loose hair from piling up on your carpets and furniture. Frequent baths will remove the coat’s natural oils and diminish its ability to repel water and keep the dog warm, so bathe him only when he’s dirty or smelly and really needs it.