American Water Spaniel Facts & Information

The American Water Spaniel is a hunting companion turned family pet.

You may not find them everywhere, but they are loved by the few families that have them. People with a fascination for rarity will be drawn to this breed.

A versatile dog with so many facets, the American Water Spaniel survived through the years by the deliberate act of a good samaritan and continues to thrive in modern days.

The name alone is enough to draw your attention, and you’d be sold when you set your eyes on them.

In this American Water Spaniel facts and information, we’ll learn more about this dog breed, their traits, temperament, behavior, gender differences, and answer some questions that you might have.

Because dog care is important, we will also provide you with care and grooming tips to make sure your American Water Spaniel stays healthy, clean, and fit.

American Water Spaniel Facts and Information

American Water Spaniel Facts and Dog Breed Information
Dog Breed GroupSporting Group
Height16 to 19 inches
Weight40 to 60 pounds
CoatDouble coat, curly
Color(s)Liver, Chocolate, Brown
Life Expectancy10– 15 years
Temperament / BehaviorLoyal, loving, playful, Intelligent, Friendly, Energetic, Protective, Obedient, Trainable
OriginUnited States
Bred ForRetrieving
Nickname(s) / Other Name(s)AWS, American Brown Spaniel, American Brown Water Spaniel
Recognized by the AKC, CKC, FCI, KC, UKCYes

American Water Spaniel Characteristics

AdaptabilityThough can cope in an apartment, a house with a yard is better
FriendlinessFriendly with family but wary of strangers
Kid-FriendlyGentle with children
Pet-FriendlyCo-operates with other family dogs and pets
General HealthA healthy breed, but not without complications
Grooming NeedsModerate grooming needs
TrainabilityTrainable, but not easy
IntelligenceAn intelligent breed
PlayfulnessVery playful
Exercise NeedsExercise is compulsory with this breed
Energy LevelHas high energy level
Tendency to BarkA moderate barker
Tendency to DroolSome tend to snore while asleep
Tendency to SnoreTends to drool from time to time
Tendency to DigHas a natural tendency to dig

Interesting facts about American Water Spaniel Dog Breeds

Fact #1. The American Water Spaniel has a diverse ancestry

Many dog breeds were believed to have contributed to the development of the American Water Spaniel.

They are the Irish Water Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, the Field Spaniel, and the now-extinct Old English Water Spaniel.

The diversity of his lineage made the Water Spaniel both a Spaniel and a Retriever.  For this reason, he can retrieve both from land and water.

Fact #2. They were once endangered

What many people don’t know is that this breed almost waved the world adieu. They once were in danger of being extinct.

This happened in the 20th century when hunting became less known and larger retrievers were the norm.

Fortunately, a man named Dr. J.F Pfeifer stepped in and began to breed these dogs. He then sold them to people. He also established a standard for this breed. 

Fact #3. The American Water Spaniel is the state dog of Wisconsin

The American Water Spaniel became the state dog of Wisconsin in 1989.

This is the same state they got developed in and they are a part of the state’s heritage. The American Water Spaniel was bred for Wisconsin hunters. 

Fact #4. The first American Spaniel to be recognised was named Curly Pfeifer

As we’ve mentioned before, Dr. Pfeifer was the man who saved this breed from extinction and increased the numbers.

When the American Water Spaniel got recognized, the first dog to be registered belonged to Dr. Pfeifer. The dog’s name was Curly Pfeifer. 

Fact #5. They are fond of bananas

People who have lived with the American Water Spaniel and owned one have attested to the undying love this breed has for bananas.

This is good because bananas are nutritious.

Related: Can Dogs Eat Limes?

American Water Spaniel History and Origin

The development of the American Water Spaniel occurred in the 19th century, 1865 to be exact.

They were bred from the Irish Water Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, Field Spaniel, the Old English Water Spaniel (who’s now extinct), the poodle, and a couple of other dog breeds.

The American Water Spaniel originated in Wisconsin, in the areas of the Fox River and the Wolf River.

This breed was developed to be a versatile hunting companion, small enough to get on a canoe with the strength to retrieve animals. Wisconsin hunters also wanted a breed that can withstand the cold climate. 

In his early days, this breed went by the name American Brown Spaniel. He played his role well, retrieving waterfowl and some other animals.

His fur protected him against the cold, and he was a good swimmer. Wisconsin hunters saw him like gold. 

That was until hunting became less of a means of survival and more a form of recreation. Also, bigger retrievers came into Wisconsin and captured the fascination of hunters.

The American Brown Spaniel lost relevance and began to fade away.

They would have joined their ancestor the Old English Water Spaniel in the realm of extinction, but Dr. Pfeifer saved them.

Dr. Pfeifer began to breed these dogs in Wolf River kennels and sell them at affordable prices.

Thanks to his actions, the United Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1920 and changed the name from the American Brown Spaniel to the American Water Spaniel.

A Pfeifer’s dog named Curly Pfeifer was the first to be registered. In 1938, the Field Dog Stud Book recognized the breed. The American Kennel Club joined the list in 1940.

The American Water Spaniel remains a rare breed with only a few thousand in existence today.  

American Water Spaniel Temperament, Behavior and Intelligence

Chocolate American Water Spaniel in a Dog Show

American Water Spaniels were once the favorites of Wisconsin hunters. Now, they have brought their versatility to American homes.

In his hunting days, the American Water Spaniel was agile and skilled. He could compete with the Labrador and Golden Retrievers in retrieval.

Though not a fast swimmer, the Water Spaniel knew how to navigate the water.  

Now, as a companion, the American Water Spaniel is an obedient, lively dog breed. He’s a friend to every member of the family but may bond with one person.

Usually, his favorite person is the one who gives him more time and attention.

Water Spaniels love attention and don’t cope well with solitude. They prefer being around loved ones to staying outside and alone.

While the American Water Spaniel tends to shy away from strangers, proper socialization will make them warm up to people they don’t know.

Their wariness has its benefits, though. It makes them good watchdogs. They have enough bark to alert you of incoming strangers.

Are American Water Spaniels hard to train?

The American Water Spaniel is harder to train compared to others. They are independent and may not be willing to follow your lead. But because they are intelligent, it won’t take time for them to learn if you’re willing to be consistent and firm.

Without training, the American Water Spaniel will be stubborn and may try to manipulate you.

There are some other habits to watch out for. While these habits may not be huge problems, they are undesirable.

The American Water Spaniel tends to chew objects, dig holes and jump around. These can be controlled with sufficient training.

Are American Water Spaniels good pets?

The Water Spaniel livens up the atmosphere and makes every family member his friend. They are good with children and get along well with other pets. He also watches out for possible intruders and will alert you if he sees anything strange. 

The American Water Spaniel has many desirable traits that make him a good fit in households. Though rare, you’d enjoy having one in your family, especially if you love the outdoors or live close to water. 

Having said that, the American Water Spaniel isn’t suitable for everyone.

Are American Water Spaniels good with kids?

The American Water Spaniel is gentle around kids, except for some poorly bred dogs who have aggressive tendencies. Besides those, Water Spaniels love children and are suitable for families with kids.

Of course, you’d need to take precautions to prevent accidents from happening.

Show your kids the dos and don’ts of training a dog and oversee playtimes your children have with any dog. 

Are American Water Spaniels good with other dogs and pets?

American Water Spaniels are generally good with other dogs, though they may be hostile to dogs they don’t know. They also relate well with cats but don’t be comfortable leaving them with smaller pets like rodents.

Male vs Female American Water Spaniel

The differences between the male and female American Water Spaniel are few.

Gender choice is purely your preference as both can make good family pets, with no one having an advantage over the other.

The first slight difference is in weight. While the male American Water Spaniel weighs 35 to 45 pounds, the female American Water Spaniel is smaller with 25 to 40 pounds. They both share the same height. 

Personality traits of the male and female American Water Spaniel are similar and depend on factors like training and environment.

Generally, males of any dog breeds tend to be more aggressive and dominant, but we cannot say that for sure with the American Water Spaniel.

Spaying and neutering your American Water Spaniel may be for the best because of the numerous advantages of these phenomena.

One such advantage is that it stops the estrus cycle of female American Water Spaniel which makes them bleed.

However, it has its downsides. If you want puppies, it is best not to proceed with these. 

Caring for an American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniel has different needs, from feeding, exercise needs, and training, to grooming needs, and good health. Caring for your Water Spaniel means meeting these needs.

American Water Spaniel Food and Diet

Don’t be neglectful or reckless with their feeding. There are nutrients the Water Spaniel cannot do without and those he should best avoid. Have a schedule and watch his weight while feeding.

A rich diet is what your American Water Spaniel requires to grow, develop and maintain strength.

As a medium-sized breed, their food should be tailored to their sizes. Also, consider the age, activity level, and weight of your dog before feeding. 

A vital nutrient the American Water Spaniel needs is protein. No matter what age your dog is, they shouldn’t be deprived of protein.

The puppy American Water Spaniel needs about 22% of protein while the adult should have about 18% of protein. Protein can be gotten from meat, beans, and vegetables.

Another nutrient that should be present in an American Water Spaniel’s diet is healthy fat. It is a good source of energy for this energetic breed.

The puppy needs about 8% of protein and the adult, 5%. Too much fat leads to obesity, so be prudent. 

The adult American Water Spaniel needs about 1 to 1.5 cups served twice a day. It may be more or less, depending on your dog. 

The puppy needs about 3 to 4 cups fed twice a day. Keep him on an exclusive puppy food diet. Human food and adult food are not advisable to avoid damages and stunt proper growth.

Senior American Water Spaniels have a specific feeding need. You should feed them often but in small quantities. They are more susceptible to obesity than younger ones, so don’t overfeed them. 

American Water Spaniel Exercise Needs

Exercising your American Water Spaniel means getting your sneakers ready to hit the road. Water Spaniels love outdoor sports and enjoy having a lot of space to move around. 

This isn’t the breed you keep indoors for long if you want your furniture to remain intact.

The American Water Spaniel requires at least 1 hour or 2 of exercise. Activities consist of walks, running, and games like fetch.

To avoid exhausting yourself and your dog, you can split exercise into different times in the day. You mustn’t go a complete hour at one stretch.

Be mindful before taking the American Water Spaniel to the dog park. They tend to get aggressive with other dogs, so unless you want to separate a dog fight, it is best to avoid the park.

This may be bad news for apartment dwellers, which is why it is more ideal to give your American Water Spaniel enough space.

Speaking of space, the American Water Spaniel loves playtime in a yard. On days you don’t feel like going out, you can provide your pet with toys to chew on and let him play.

Swimming is another profitable activity for the American Water Spaniel. If you have a clean body of water close to you, take them on a swim. Their name is Water Spaniel, after all.

Puppies and seniors need lesser exercise that should not be as intensive as that of younger Water Spaniels. A few minutes’ walks will suffice. 

American Water Spaniel Training and Socialisation

This intelligent and active American Water Spaniel is trainable and understands commands with ease. Due to their retrieval days, they are good with retrieval training. 

However, they have their stubborn moments. Obedience training is the right method to reduce this tendency. With firmness and patience, you will get them to obey orders and stick to rules.

In general, dogs don’t understand long sentences, so simple commands are more suitable. Fortunately, it won’t take your Water Spaniel time to retain these instructions.

Socialization is not optional with this breed. They need to see new places, meet new people, be introduced to your guests, and even get accustomed to other dogs you have. It may be hard getting them to flow with strange dogs, though. 

The Water Spaniel does better with creative activities, rather than routines. He’d get bored and uninterested if you stick to the same form of training. Spice things up.  

Also, crate training is essential for Water Spaniels because of their tendency to chew objects. 

While training, avoid being harsh with your Water Spaniel. Punishments will only make the Water Spaniel lock up. Instead, use positive incentives to make them co-operate. 

American Water Spaniel Grooming Needs

The American Water Spaniel has a moderate grooming need and it is fairly easy to keep them clean.

It is a task you can undertake on your own without the services of a groomer (if you’re ready to do the work). Grooming means brushing plus a couple of other hygiene activities.

Coat Care

The American Water Spaniel is a moderate shedder, but they shed more during spring when they let go of their undercoat.

During those times, they let out more fur, and you should vacuum regularly during that period. Thankfully, it’s only for a few weeks.

Brush their coat more during this season to clear off dead dog fur from their coat.

Brushing should be done twice or thrice a week with a pin brush and once a day when they are shedding with a slicker brush.


Bathe them as well to control the oil on their skin and prevent dog odor. Bathing shouldn’t be done often, however.

Teeth Brushing

Dental disease is quite common amongst dogs, and the American Water Spaniel is prone to it.

Dental disease can lead to loss of teeth and some other complications. The good news is, you can forestall this by brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis.

Get a vet-approved toothpaste and toothbrush, then get brushing.

Nails Trimming

Trim your dog’s nails. Long nails are not only uncomfortable to your Water Spaniel, you risk getting scratched when he comes to greet you.

Ears Cleaning

Keep your dog’s ears clean to prevent ear infections. 

Are American Water Spaniels high maintenance?

Grooming is a fairly easy task. Extra care would be required when they shed their double coat, but that’s the toughest part. Other than that, the Water Spaniel is low maintenance. 

American Water Spaniel Health Conditions

Take care of your Water Spaniel’s health. This breed has the potential to live long, so ensure that diseases don’t cut them off. Take them for regular checkups and early diagnosis if you detect any unusual symptoms.

The American Water Spaniel was bred to be healthy and can stay that way when you put effort into caring for them.

Good food, sufficient exercise, grooming, and proper hygiene all point towards good health. 

Another step to take in keeping an American Water Spaniel healthy is by learning the symptoms of medical conditions they are inclined to.

Your Water Spaniel may not be affected by all these illnesses. However, it doesn’t hurt to know them.

Some of the health conditions that may affect the Water Spaniel include:


This condition leads to a gradual or rapid loss of hair, similar to baldness in humans. Its effect goes beyond the embarrassment of a scanty-haired dog, though.

Alopecia affects the dog’s skin, as well as the endocrine, lymphatic and immune systems.

The obvious symptom is hair loss. Some others include swelling of the affected area and crusting. 

Retinal Dysplasia

Retinal Dysplasia is an inherited condition. It is the unusual development or malfunction of the retina. It leads to either partial or full blindness.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for retinal dysplasia. Affected dogs learn to cope by using other senses. 

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an abnormality in the hip joint and is also an inherited condition.

It is the loosening of the hip joint that’s caused by the femur not fitting into the pelvis.

Symptoms include a bad gait, pain, and a lack of desire to play or exercise.


Epilepsy in dogs also manifests in convulsions and foaming in the mouth.

These seizures can come without notice and varies in severity. While epilepsy has no cure, medications can reduce the seizures rate. 


Hypothyroidism occurs when there’s a shortage of the thyroid gland that’s responsible for hormones like thyroxine.

It affects the general metabolism of a dog and can lead to infertility. Symptoms include obesity, lethargy, and drying hair. 


What are American Water Spaniels known for?

American Water Spaniels originated in Wisconsin where they are known to be the state dog. Though rare in other parts of the world, they were retrievers for Wisconsin hunters. 

How big does American Water Spaniel grow?

An American Water Spaniel is a medium-sized breed. The full-grown American Water Spaniel weighs 40 to 60 pounds with a height of 16 to 19 inches.

Do American Water Spaniels like to cuddle?

Though he is meant for the outdoors, the American Water Spaniel can survive indoors when exercised. Because they like to be close to their owners, they tend to be cuddly when they are not outside playing.

Do American Water Spaniels bark a lot?

A by-product from their retrieving days, the American Water Spaniel is a barker. Training helps control this, but you can’t get rid of this tendency completely. 

Is it hard to take care of an American Water Spaniel?

American Water Spaniels may give you a hard time during training and requires an active owner to exercise them. However, when you consider other aspects, the American Water Spaniel is fairly easy to maintain and take care of.

How Long do  American Water Spaniels live?

American Water Spaniels have a long life span, provided it doesn’t get cut off by disease. They can live as long as 15 years. 

How much is an American Water Spaniel?

American Water Spaniels are rare and not so easy to find. You need a strong budget to get one of these. A puppy can be bought at $1,200 to $1,500.

Do American Water Spaniels shed a lot?

American Water Spaniels are moderate shedders, but they shed massively during springtime. 

What does American Water Spaniel prey on?

American Water Spaniel with a Duck

American Water Spaniels were bred to be versatile hunting dogs, working on both land and sea. They helped retrieve small games like waterfowl.

Is an American Water Spaniel right for you?

The American Water Spaniel is a lively, friendly breed that’s right for you as long as you can meet the breed’s needs. They are good companions, just as they were good retrievers. They love both adults and kids and remain loyal to everyone.

The American Water Spaniel does have some drawbacks, but those can be overcome if you have the resources and willingness to.

Wrap Up

Breeders of the American Water Spaniel succeeded in getting a versatile dog who could meet the needs of Wisconsin hunters.

What they probably didn’t know is that they had given people a lovely companion too. Thanks to Dr. Pfeifer, we still have these swimmer dogs in our time.

Albeit rare, they make good pets.

Hopefully, these American Water Spaniel facts and information is not only useful but could help you determine if this dog breed is right for your household.

Getting one may cost you money and time, and it can be challenging to turn them into well-behaved dogs, but the effort is worth it.

With this breed, you get a dog who’d remain loyal and friendly to everyone in the family, including the kids.


Useful Resources:

Official American Water Spaniel Dog Breed Information and Standards:

Authored By

Ben Pierce

Ben Pierce is a canine behavioral and nutritional specialist, professional dog trainer, and the CEO of Puplore. A former military working dog handler, Ben founded Puplore to provide owners with breed-specific information and to act as a go-to guide to health, nutrition, care, and to help them find the confidence they need to step up to the plate and become the best pup parents they can possibly be. A firm believer in treating all animals with kindness and compassion, and that positive discipline is paramount in achieving a harmonious canine-human relationship, Ben’s former and present careers have enabled him to become a leading light in his chosen profession and business.

Related Articles

Deprecated: Function get_page_by_title is deprecated since version 6.2.0! Use WP_Query instead. in /home/puplore/public_html/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6031