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Irish Water Spaniel: Dog Breed Info

The Irish Water Spaniel, often mistaken for a Poodle, is a versatile hunting dog with a distinctive appearance. With his curly hair and top knot, he stands out in a crowd. This breed excels at swimming and retrieving waterfowl and upland game. Besides his hunting skills, the Irish Water Spaniel has a playful and entertaining personality. The Irish Water Spaniel loves to swim and requires plenty of exercise.

This blog post explores the Irish Water Spaniel’s origins, distinctive physical characteristics, and temperament, equipping you with comprehensive details to determine if this remarkable breed aligns with your requirements. Now, let’s delve into the realm of the Irish Water Spaniel and unravel the unique qualities that make them extraordinary!

Characteristics of Irish Water Spaniel

Breed Overview

Type: Sporting
Weight: Male: 55-65 lbs and Female: 45-58 lbs.
Coat: Medium Length, Double Coat, Curly
Color: Solid Liver
Features: Floppy Ears (Naturally)
Life Span: 10 to 13 Years
Temperament: Playful, affectionate, loyal

The Irish Water Spaniel is known for its athletic build, powerful shoulders and legs, a long neck, and a domed head. It has long ears set low and a short, thick tail. They typically stand between 21 to 24 inches tall and weigh 45 to 65 pounds.

This breed is well-suited for swimming, with webbed feet and a water-repellent, curly coat. Their coat is dark reddish-brown with a purple tint, and they have distinct curls on their head, sideburns, and beard. Irish Water Spaniels are playful and loving, often referred to as clowns. They are energetic and eager to please their owner. Although they usually make good family pets, they may do better with a single owner.

These dogs are intelligent and alert, making them a potential watchdog. However, they can be wary and even aggressive towards strangers. Irish Water Spaniels are generally healthy, with an average lifespan of around 10 years.

History of Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel is a breed with roots dating back to ancient times. It originated from two different strains in Ireland, one with solid liver color and short, crisp curls, and the other with liver color, white markings, and curly coat. Justin McCarthy had a noteworthy impact in perfecting and solidifying the breed standards, as his dog “Boatswain,” born in 1834, is acknowledged as the ancestor of the contemporary breed.

The Irish Water Spaniel may have descended from early Barbet or Poodle-type dogs from France or Portuguese Water Dogs. The breed gained popularity for its retrieving abilities, durability in cold waters, and pleasant temperament. It participated in its first show classes in 1862 and a field trial in 1899.

The breed gained recognition in America by the 1870s and became the third most popular sporting dog in the U.S. by 1875. Breeders have focused on maintaining the correct type and natural working ability. The Irish Water Spaniel holds the 139th position out of 155 breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club.

The personality of the Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel, like other Spaniels, is known for being alert and curious. Although they can be reserved with strangers, they remain friendly and non-aggressive. This breed shares traits with hunting dogs, including strength and a desire to please. They are highly intelligent and mischievous, often following commands in amusing ways.

While they are easily trainable, they can also be independent thinkers, especially when young. This makes them less suitable for first-time dog owners who may struggle with providing guidance and discipline. The temperament of an Irish Water Spaniel is influenced by genetics, training, and socialization. It is advised to choose a puppy with a balanced temperament and to meet at least one parent to assess their temperament.

Recommended: Airedoodle: Comprehensive Breed Information

This breed can also serve as an effective watchdog if properly socialized from an early age. Exposure to various people, environments, and experiences is crucial for their development, and enrolling them in a puppy kindergarten class can contribute to their social skills.

Caring for Irish Water Spaniel

Starting grooming early is vital for Irish Water Spaniels. Regular brushing, ear cleaning, and nail trims should begin in puppyhood. As they age, more attention is needed with a coarse brush and wide-tooth comb to remove mats, followed by a slick brush to remove dead hair. Hair trimming is also important.

Additionally, their teeth should be brushed every day or two with dog-specific toothpaste.

Irish Water Spaniels are energetic dogs that require ample exercise, around one to two hours daily. Activities like jogging, hiking, or biking alongside them can fulfill their exercise needs.

Feeding high-quality dog food is crucial, considering age and activity level. Treats should make up at most 10% of their diet.

 Heartworm prevention and vaccinations should also be discussed with a veterinarian. While certain vaccinations are necessary, others may be recommended to keep your dog healthy. Fleas and ticks can be prevented through various products available on the market, while flea pills can be obtained with a prescription.

Health Problems to Watch For with Irish Water Spaniels

Potential owners of Irish Water Spaniels should be aware of specific health issues to which the breed may be prone. The ideal option is to acquire a puppy from a trusted breeder who can supply health clearances indicating that the dog has tested negative for conditions such as hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, etc. These clearances can be verified on the OFA website.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition characterized by an improper fit between the thighbone and the hip joint. Some dogs experience pain and lameness, while others show no signs of discomfort. Arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Testing for hip dysplasia is recommended, and dogs with this condition should not be bred. Hip dysplasia can be inherited and caused by external factors like swift growth due to a high-calorie eating plan or accidents from leaping or slipping on smooth surfaces.


A cataract, which is a clouding of the lens in the eye, can result in impaired vision for a dog. The affected eye(s) will appear cloudy. Cataracts typically develop in old age and may be treated through surgical intervention to enhance the dog’s eyesight.

Follicular Dysplasia

Hair loss and changes in the coat quality characterize these syndromes. Hair loss typically starts at the back of Irish Water Spaniels between the ages of 2 and 4, progressively spreading to cover most of their body. The alterations to the coat are permanent and progressive, but they do not significantly affect the dog’s overall health.


Hypothyroidism, caused by a lack of thyroid hormone produced in the neck, can lead to symptoms such as infertility, obesity, mental dullness, and low energy levels. Treatment involves daily thyroid replacement for a happy and healthy life.


Dogs commonly suffer from allergies, which can be caused by food, contact with certain materials, or inhalation of airborne allergens. By eliminating offending foods or substances and using appropriate medications, allergies can be managed. Inhalant allergies can also lead to ear infections.

Vaccination Sensitivity

Irish Water Spaniels may experience sensitivity to regular vaccinations, resulting in hives, swollen faces, soreness, and low energy. Though severe complications or death are uncommon, veterinarians recommend closely monitoring your dog after vaccination and contacting them if any unusual symptoms arise.

Drug Sensitivity

Irish Water Spaniels are susceptible to adverse reactions from certain medications, such as antiparasitic and antibiotic drugs. These reactions can lead to symptoms like tremors, depression, seizures, and even death. Veterinarians should be aware of the drugs that may harm this breed.


In Conclusion, the Irish Water Spaniel is a rare breed highly regarded for its unique characteristics. This dog has a topknot of long, loose curls covering its eyes, a beard at the back of its throat, and a liver-colored, crisply curled coat. It also has a smooth face and a rat tail with only curls at the base. The Irish Water Spaniel is intelligent, energetic, and eager to please, making training easy.

However, some Irish Water Spaniels may be wary of strangers and not get along well with other pets, so early socialization is important. This breed requires regular grooming to maintain its coat. Health concerns include hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and seizures. The Irish Water Spaniel S is a versatile hunting dog, excelling in both upland game and waterfowl hunting.

Overall, this water-loving and dedicated companion makes a remarkable addition to any family.


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