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American Water Spaniel: Dog Breed Info, Pictures, Facts, & Traits

Written by: Jessica Kim

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel: Dog Breed Info, Pictures, Facts, & Traits

The American Water Spaniel is one of the lesser-known Spaniels, but they’re still worth getting to know. They have a charming appearance and an equally charming personality. It does take some time for them to warm up to people, but they’re known to be extremely affectionate and loyal to their families.

Though they may be small, American Water Spaniels are active dogs that have a lot of stamina. They have specific needs that may not make them a good match for all lifestyles. Here’s what you need to know about this dog breed before you decide to care for one.

Breed Overview


15–18 inches


25–45 pounds


10–14 years


Chocolate, liver, brown

Suitable for:

Active families, outdoor enthusiasts, single-family homes


Intelligent, loyal, high-energy

American Water Spaniels are outdoor adventurers at heart, and they’re excellent swimmers and trackers. You’ll also find that American Water Spaniels possess versatile skill sets, and they’re adaptable to living in different climates. They value human companionship above all else and become devoted friends for life once they’ve established a healthy bond with their owner.

American Water Spaniel Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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American Water Spaniel Puppies

American Water Spaniel Puppies are purebred dogs that are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AKC has a list of registered American Water Spaniel breeders, so it’s best to start your search with their registry. You can also find breeders through the American Water Spaniel Club. It’s unlikely you’ll find a purebred American Water Spaniel at your local animal rescue, but you may find mixed-breed dogs that have American Water Spaniel in their lineage.

American Water Spaniel puppies are very energetic and active. They’ll have multiple bursts of energy throughout the day and will love any chance to play with you. They also have a very keen sense of smell and are very curious by nature, so it’s important to thoroughly puppy-proof your home before they arrive. American Water Spaniel puppies will figure out a way to get into any containers and cabinets with interesting scents if they’re not properly locked or sealed.

American Water Spaniel Resting
Image Credit: Steve Bruckmann, Shutterstock

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Temperament & Intelligence of the American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniels are charming dogs that love to play. These active dogs were originally bred to be hunting dogs and retrievers. So, they have a lot of energy and stamina and typically enjoy being outdoors. They can still live happy and content lives as companion dogs, but it’s important to ensure they get plenty of exercise every day.

While American Water Spaniels are loyal and affectionate with their families, they tend to be a bit more reserved or aloof around strangers. They simply enjoy being around their people and don’t typically show much interest in humans or dogs outside of their families.

American Water Spaniels are relatively easy to train because they’re both intelligent and eager to please. They’re known to be quite obedient and reliable. However, due to their highly active nature, they’re not a breed that’s commonly recommended for new or inexperienced dog owners. They can be quite a handful and require an experienced owner who can provide consistent and fair training while keeping them interested.

Due to being high-energy dogs with a fairly loud bark, American Water Spaniels aren’t recommended for apartment living. They’ll love living in a single-family home with a fenced yard to romp around in. They also thrive with families that enjoy the outdoors. It’s common for American Water Spaniels to enjoy swimming, hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

American Water Spaniels make good family dogs. However, they tend to form one strong bond with a primary caretaker. These dogs can be fairly patient with children in the family. However, early socialization is key to helping American Water Spaniels learn to interact appropriately with children. In turn, children must learn how to approach and play with dogs respectfully.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

While American Water Spaniels can get along with other dogs, they prefer human companionship and don’t mind being the only dog in the home. If you have other dogs in your home, it’s important to introduce your American Water Spaniel to them gradually. Make sure to create positive socialization moments for your American Water Spaniel puppy to avoid making them feel anxious or overwhelmed around other dogs.

Because American Water Spaniels are hunting dogs, they have a strong prey drive and may not be fully trusted around other types of pets. They were specifically bred to hunt waterfowl, so they won’t be a good fit if you have pet birds in your home.

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Things to Know When Owning an American Water Spaniel:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The best way to determine the right diet for your American Water Spaniel will be to speak with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you determine appropriate portion sizes based on several factors, such as your dog’s age and activity level. You can also ask for recommended food brands for your American Water Spaniel.

In general, American Water Spaniels will benefit from eating most kinds of high-quality dog food. Since they’re prone to allergies, you’ll want to look into limited-ingredient diets if your American Water Spaniel ends up having food allergies or seems to get an upset stomach easily. Particularly active American Water Spaniels may need to eat a high-protein diet that has extra energy to sustain them as they run around or exercise.

Exercise 🐕

American Water Spaniels are high-energy dogs that require at least 30 minutes of intense exercise a day. A morning leisurely walk around the neighborhood won’t cut it for these dogs. They need to run and especially love to chase, so they’ll prefer playing fetch. Swimming is another form of exercise that American Water Spaniels will enjoy.

Since American Water Spaniels are hunting dogs, you may want to invest in training them to hunt and retrieve. They make excellent hunting companions and will also get plenty of exercise from hunting.

Training 🎾

Some dog owners may run into some stubbornness when they begin training an American Water Spaniel. However, the American Water Spaniel is an intelligent breed and responds well to praise and positive training methods. Training gets easier as the bond and trust between dog and owner strengthens. Once an American Water Spaniel gets a good grasp on obedience training, you’ll find that they’re obedient and dependable dogs.

Along with physical exercise, American Water Spaniels will need daily mental exercise. They get bored easily if they don’t have something mentally stimulating to do. So, make sure to have plenty of treat-dispensing toys and puzzles for them to play with. American Water Spaniels will also enjoy training for dog sports and are usually eager participants in agility course training and dock diving training

Grooming ✂️

American Water Spaniels have a long single coat and are moderate shedders. Brushing regularly will minimize shedding around the house and will prevent their coats from getting tangled and matted. Since American Water Spaniels are prone to having sensitive skin and certain skin issues, it’s important not to over-bathe them. Giving them baths too frequently can cause their skin and coat to dry out and cause itchiness, flaking, and other skin issues. It’s best to bathe American Water Spaniels only when necessary and to use shampoo with a gentle formula and moisturizing ingredients.

Because American Water Spaniels have long, floppy ears and enjoy playing in the water, they’re prone to getting ear infections. It’s important to check their ears regularly to ensure they’re dry and use an ear cleaner or rinse after every time they’re in water. This will significantly reduce the risk of them getting an ear infection.

Health and Conditions 🏥

American Water Spaniels aren’t prone to many serious health conditions, and most of them can be bred out or prevented with responsible breeding and proper vet care. However, it is important to take your dog for regular checkups to get on top of any conditions that may come up.

Minor Conditions
  • Dermatitis
  • Cataracts
  • Allergies
  • Hypothyroidism
Serious Conditions
  • Pattern baldness
  • Retinal dysplasia
  • Epilepsy

Male vs Female

Male and female American Water Spaniels may differ slightly in size, with males growing a little larger than females. Their sex doesn’t affect their temperament, but dogs that have been spayed or neutered won’t engage in mating behaviors. They’re often less territorial and less likely to urine-mark or escape and roam in search of a mate.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the American Water Spaniel

1. American Water Spaniels are Wisconsin natives.

American Water Spaniels were developed in Wisconsin and were bred to adapt to the local climate. They’re well-adapted to swimming in cold water and navigating marshes. They were also intentionally bred to be compact so that they wouldn’t rock boats when they jumped in and out of them. They were officially recognized as Wisconsin’s state dog in 1986.

2. American Water Spaniels almost went extinct.

People began to cease breeding American Water Spaniels as hunting became a less common and less popular activity. They almost faced extinction, but Dr. JF Pfeifer preserved this breed by selling them and founding an American Water Spaniel breed club. He also helped develop the breed standard.

3. American Water Spaniels received AKC recognition in 1940.

Dr. JF Pfeifer’s efforts eventually earned the American Water Spaniel AKC recognition in 1940. The first American Water Spaniel to be registered with the AKC was Curly Pfeifer, and he was one of Dr. JF Pfeifer’s own dogs. dogster face divider

Final Thoughts

American Water Spaniels are charming, good-natured dogs. They were bred to have a lot of energy and stamina to ensure successful hunts. Based on their breed standards and lifestyle, American Water Spaniels will enjoy living with people who love the great outdoors and can bring them along on their outdoor adventures. They’re also very intelligent and devoted to their families and will love nothing more than to spend all day with their favorite people. They’re excellent companion dogs, and anyone would be lucky to know and have an American Water Spaniel in their life.

Featured Image Credit: Bennett Walker, Shutterstock

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