Big hair, don't care: Irish Water Spaniels want their strong webbed feet in the water, no matter what the weather's doing. That's right — this breed has fully webbed feet like a duck! Even water-loving Poodles and Retrievers can't keep up with this aquatic athlete. In part, they have their skinny, whip-like tails to thank for their agility in the water; their tails are naked and work like rudders while they're swimming.
These are the biggest, and among the oldest, breed of spaniel. Irish Water Spaniels are elegant and rare—there are fewer than two thousand of these dogs in United States.
As you probably guess from their name, this breed is originally from Ireland. These medium-sized and high-energy dogs can grow to between 45-68 pounds and live an average of 12-13 years. The breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club and classified as a member of the Sporting group.
AKC Recognized: Y
Breed's Original Pastime: Swimming
Breed Group: Sporting
Average Lifespan: 12-13 years
Bark Factor: Moderate
AKC RANKING 130
FAMILY gundog, spaniel
AREA OF ORIGIN Ireland
DATE OF ORIGIN 1800s
ORIGINAL FUNCTION water retrieving
TODAY'S FUNCTION water retrieving, retriever field trials
AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 22-24 Weight: 55-65
AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 21-23 Weight: 45-58
OTHER NAME none
Energy level Medium energy
Exercise needs Medium
Playfullness Very playful
Affection level Moderately affectionate
Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly
Friendliness toward other pets Friendly
Friendliness toward strangers Shy
Ease of training Moderately easy to train
Watchdog ability High
Protection ability Moderately protective
Grooming needs Moderate maintenance
Cold tolerance Medium tolerance
Heat tolerance Medium tolerance
BEHAVIOR & TRAINING
WHAT IS AN IRISH WATER SPANIEL'S PERSONALITY LIKE?
Goofy, bouncy, and playful — there's just no beating an Irish Water Spaniel for affection or enthusiasm. This breed is good with kids, but because they're large and lively, supervision is recommended when they're playing together. They also enjoy the company of other dogs.
WHAT IS IRISH WATER SPANIEL BEHAVIOR LIKE?
This is a courageous and hardworking dog. Like many spaniels, Irish Water Spaniels love to play and swim. They are excellent retrievers.
All that energy means that an Irish Water Spaniel fits best with an active family. This dog needs lots of exercise and room to stretch her legs. A bored or neglected Irish Water Spaniel can easily become loud or destructive.
HOW EASY IS IT TO TRAIN AN IRISH WATER SPANIEL?
Bow WOW, is this dog ever smart! The Irish Water Spaniel is trainable and very responsive. They respond well to food, praise, and play rewards.
Early and consistent socialization is important for this breed. Irish Water Spaniels excel at agility, obedience, and flyball.
CARE & HEALTH
HOW MUCH DO IRISH WATER SPANIELS SHED AND WHAT ARE THEIR GROOMING NEEDS?
Irish Water Spaniels need regular grooming, but they are surprisingly easy keepers for all that hair. Plan to brush and bathe your furry friend's curly coat regularly. They are seasonal shedders, but they don't shed much.
WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS DO IRISH WATER SPANIELS HAVE?
Though Irish Water Spaniels are generally pretty healthy, some are prone to ear infections and eye disease. Others develop orthopedic issues (like elbow or hip dysplasia), thyroid disease, seizures or allergies. Irish Water Spaniels are also sometimes sensitive to Ivermectin, a worming medication, and sulfa antibiotics.
Breed history has moved while this section is under construction. Please check out the first tab for fun facts about this breed's history. You can also read on to learn about this breed's ideal family situation.
ARE IRISH WATER SPANIELS GOOD FOR PEOPLE WITH ALLERGIES?
The American Kennel Club lists Irish Water Spaniels among its breeds recommended for allergy sufferers. This breed sheds infrequently and predictably; they also produce less dander than most dogs.
You can reduce your furry friend's impact on your allergies with frequent baths and brushings to reduce loose hairs and allergy-aggravating proteins in your pet's dander. Use a damp cloth to wipe off your dog after playing outside. Smaller dogs have less surface area, so they produce comparatively less dander than larger breeds — definitely something to keep in mind with a dog as large as an Irish Water Spaniel! Remember that no breed is 100% hypoallergenic, and any breed can aggravate allergies.
WHAT IS AN IRISH SETTER'S BEST DAY?
Whatever else you're planning, an Irish Setter's perfect day definitely involves swimming. Take her out on a boat, lounge by a lake, or paddling in the pool, but get this dog into the water and she'll be happy. That said, keeping a close eye for her tiring will help keep her safe and always be sure pools or bodies of water have an easy way for her to get out to rest.
SHOULD I ADOPT AN IRISH WATER SPANIEL?
Their exercise needs make Irish Water Spaniels poor candidates for apartment living. They don't mind the heat or the cold too much. Mostly, these playful, affectionate, silly dogs just want to have fun with you. If you can keep them on the go, an Irish Water Spaniel makes a loving and energizing canine companion.
Have you decided that an Irish Water Spaniel is the perfect dog for you? Why not be your new best friend's hero and adopt a rescue! Be sure to check out our article on what to expect when you're adopting a dog or cat.