Irish Water Spaniel Photo

Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed Info & Pictures

The Irish Water Spaniel is easily recognized for its thick, liver-colored, curly coat and unique topknot of flowing, extended curls. Besides giving the dog a distinguished look, this coat also provides a great deal of protection in any terrain. The breed has a somewhat rectangular body that is medium in length. The Irish Water Spaniel has a finely chiseled, large head with medium-sized, almond shaped eyes and sizeable nose. The ears are long and coated in curls of over two inches in length. The slick, smooth rat tail is another identifying characteristic of the Irish Water Spaniel. This is the tallest of the spaniels, and as such the dog can cover a lot of ground and hunt all day.

Irish Water Spaniel Fast Facts

10 - 12 years
19th century
55 - 65 lb
45 - 60 lb
22 - 24"
21 - 23"
Irish Water Spaneil or Irish Water Spainel.


The Irish Water Spaniel is an intelligent, curious and active breed well known for its oft-displayed humorous conduct (thus its nickname, the clown of the spaniels)....

With the proper training, the breed can be good with children and pets, but is often nervous and shy in the presence of strangers. The Irish Water Spaniel can be stubborn and independent which can make training difficult, although this is somewhat offset by the dogs intelligence and desire to please. The Irish Water Spaniel is an able watch dog and a passable guard dog.

Caring For a Irish Water Spaniel

In order to keep the Irish Water Spaniels flowing coat free from mats, it is important to use the brush two to three times a week....

Pay particular attention to trimming hair around the feet. Shedding is virtually unnoticeable, as lost hair tends to get caught in the coat rather than fall off. The Irish Water Spaniel is an active dog, and it is important to meet its exercise needs with daily walks or, preferably, free romps through a field or large yard. The Irish Water Spaniel loves to swim and will benefit greatly if given the chance to do so. However you choose to exercise your Irish Water Spaniel, make sure he gets a chance to exhaust himself every day. Because of the breeds potential stubborn streak, it is important to begin obedience training at an early age to ensure a well behaved adult dog. Known health issues in the breed include canine hip dysplasia, otitis externa and distichiasis.

Irish Water Spaniel History

Breed History

The Irish Water Spaniel has existed in a state similar to that which we see today since at least 1100 and possibly as far back as the 7th century....

Found primarily near the Shannon River, these dogs were known as Shannon Spaniels, Whip-Tail Spaniels, Rat-Tail Spaniels and other names. During its early history, there was some demarcation in the breed between Northern and Southern Irish Water Spaniels, but the dogs we see today are most similar to the Southern strain. So popular were these water retrievers that one was presented to the King of France as a gift early in the 17th century. During the mid-19th century, a Southern Irish Spaniel (or McCarthys Breed as they were at that time known) by the name of Botswain became the prototype for the modern Irish Water Spaniel. Bred by one Justin McCarthy, Botswain lived to nearly 20 years of age, and was so influential to the breed that he is said to be the first modern Irish Water Spaniel. The breed was introduced to North America during Botswains time, and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1878. During this period the Irish Water Spaniel was at the peak of its popularity, becoming the third most popular sporting dog in Britain and America in 1875. The 20th century was less kind to the Irish Water Spaniel, however, and today the dog is rare in the ring, the field and in the home.