The American Water Spaniel (AWS) is categorized under the AKC (American Kennel Club) category of Sporting Dogs. This breed lacks a strongly documented history, but it is said to have originated in the Midwest of the United States around the 18th Century. The American Water Spaniel is a relatively unpopular breed for unknown reasons, but amongst fans, the AWS is a prized dog for its skills. In 1986, the AWS was named the state dog of Wisconsin.
American Water Spaniels have an average height of 15 – 18 inches (36 – 46 centimeters) and an average weight of 25 – 45 pounds (11 – 20 kilograms), depending on gender. They have an average lifespan of 12 – 15 years.
The history of the AWS is blurry at best, but it has been agreed upon that the American Water Spaniel was developed around the Great Lakes area of the Midwestern USA. Records date back to the mid 1800s, and the AWS’ ancestors include the Irish Water Spaniel and the Curly-Coated Retriever.
The AWS was bred to be a hunting dog – with its strong sense of smell and excellent swimming abilities, the AWS is capable of hunting both on land and in water. In addition, the AWS is extremely tender with its catches, and will deliver high quality game to its owner. The AWS has incredible endurance and can adapt to various terrain – hunters will use them to hunt multiple types of game as a result of this. Due to the introduction of bigger retriever breeds, the popularity of the AWS fell drastically, and there’s approximately less than 3000 American Water Spaniels in existence today.
The AWS is a medium-sized dog with a broad head that’s relatively long and proportionate to the rest of the body. Part of the Spaniel family, they have trademark long, hanging ears that start at eye-level. Their tails are thicker at the base and taper out into a point, and starts around the level of the back. American Water Spaniels have a double coat, with a wavy/curly topcoat and a denser, protective undercoat. Their coats range in various shades of brown and dark brown.
American Water Spaniels are a very friendly breed, and they carry a strong desire to please their owner/family. They get along extremely well with children and as such, make a great choice for a family dog. The AWS is very active and requires plenty of exercise in order to prevent it from engaging in destructive behavior. They enjoy running and swimming, so houses with yards are ideal.
The AWS enjoys human companionship, and if left alone for long periods of time, the AWS may resort to barking. A sensitive dog, training given to the AWS should be on the quiet and persuasive side rather than the demanding side. They should be socialized at a young age in order to prevent aggressive behavior from forming, especially in the presence of strangers.
General Care & Health
The coats of American Water Spaniels should be brushed once or twice a week with a firm brush in order to remove dirt, loose hair, and in order to spread the natural oils present on their coats. American Water Spaniels shed in the spring, but hair loss can be controlled by brushing, and apart from that, hair loss is minimal. They do not need to be bathed regularly; bathe them only when odor gets too strong or when absolutely necessary. This is in order to prevent over-washing and stripping their coats of their natural oils. Their teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week, and their nails should be trimmed regularly, preferably once or twice a month. Clean their outer ears once a week with a cotton swab and a solution obtained from the breeder/vet. During grooming, one should be on the lookout for signs of infection in areas such as ears, nose, mouth, and eyes.
The recommended daily amount of food an AWS should be getting is 1 to 1½ cups of dry food, divided into two or three meals throughout the day. Despite the presence of a guideline, the amounts can be altered if the dog is highly active or otherwise.
American Water Spaniels are prone to the following diseases:
• Growth Hormone-Responsive Dermatitis – affected dogs will suffer from skin changes that are caused by the lack of the growth hormone Somatropin. These dogs will suffer varying degrees of hair loss, and without treatment, the hair loss will spread all over the body along with hyper pigmentation, which causes the skin of the dog to darken due to increased pigmentation.
• Hip Dysplasia – a dog suffering from hip dysplasia will have a thigh bone that does not fit comfortably into the hip joint. This leads to lameness and can further lead to arthritis.
• Cataracts – dogs with this disease will develop opacity and/or cloudiness in their lenses, and if left untreated, they may lose sight completely in three years.
• Epilepsy – this disorder causes dogs to experience seizures, and although it can be treated with proper medication, it cannot be fully cured.
Bred to be a hunting dog, the American Water Spaniel is skilled in swimming and in running. As such, being an active and sporty dog, the AWS possesses great energy and makes a great inclusion in a family. Friend and very willing to learn, the AWS responds well and quickly to training. Combined with their natural friendliness towards children, they make a great choice for families with kids.