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Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed


The Irish Water Spaniel is a serious water retriever known for its excellent hunting skills. If provided plenty of exercise and proper training, he can also be a fantastic family companion. You can choose this breed of dogs if you enjoy hiking, running, water sports, or various other activities that he can do with you. The coat of this breed requires high maintenance but sheds little.

Although these dogs are called a spaniel, they are primarily a water retriever and have a fine reputation as hunting dogs. They are funny and interesting dogs, but the high energy level and potential for health problems of this breed are factors to consider before acquiring one. If you are considering this breed for your family, read its complete information.

General Information:

Breed Name Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed
Origin Ireland
Other Names Shannon Spaniel, Whiptail, Rat Tail Spaniel, Bog Dog
Lifespan 10 – 12 years
Breed group Gundogs dog breeds (AKC)
Height Male: 22–24 inches (56–61 cm); Female: 21–23 inches (53–58 cm)
Weight Male: 24.9–29.5 kg; Female: 20.4–26.3 kg
Temperament Alert, Intelligent, Inquisitive, Quick, Active, Clownish
What to Feed 1.5 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Shedding Minimal
Litter size     7 puppies
Children Friendly Yes
Coat Type Dense, Thick
Coat Colours Brown
Health Concern Major concerns: CHD; Minor concerns: none
Hypoallergenic Breed Yes
Space Requirements House with Yard
Trainability Moderate Effort Required
Energy Level High Energy
Grooming Professional Grooming May Be Required
Protective Ability Fairly Laid Back
Tendency to Drool High
Tendency to Snore Low
Tendency to Bark Low
Tendency to Dig Low
Social/Attention Needs Moderate
Bred for Water retrieving
Club recognition
  • AKC Classification: Sporting
  • UKC Classification: Gun Dog
  • Prevalence: Rare
[ Swiss Mountain Dogs- ” Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Information”]



The exact origin of Irish Water Spaniel dogs is debated among fanciers and is shrouded in the mists of Ireland. This breed of dogs is appeared in the Ireland in 1830s, mainly from the kennel of Justin McCarthy and his dog “Boatswain,” whelped in 1834, is credited with being the sire of the modern Irish water spaniel dog. Mr. McCarthy never revealed the sources of the breeding of his dog and took the secret with him when he died.

Several speculations focus on the early Poodle or Barbet type dogs from the France that could have come to the Ireland and the Portuguese Water Dogs that arrived on the Portuguese fishing boats. The first show classes for this breed of dogs were at a show in 1862 in Birmingham, and in 1899 the first Irish spaniel ran in a field trial.

These dogs remain a popular working and show dog in his native country i.e. Ireland. This breed came to the US in the 1870s but has never had the popularity that it enjoys in the Ireland. Today, this breed of dogs ranks 139th among the 155 breed of dogs and varieties registered by the AKC (American Kennel Club), a well-kept secret indeed.


This breed of dogs is the largest of the spaniels. The head of this breed is large with a square, long, deep muzzle, and a gradual stop. These dogs have large nose which is dark liver in colour. The teeth of these dogs meet in a scissors or level bite and their small, brown eyes are almond-shaped. Their long ears are set low and they are hanging close to the head and covered with the loose curls. The chest of this breed is deep, but narrow. Their front legs are straight and their hindquarters are as high as or slightly higher than their shoulders.

This breed of dogs has webbed feet which are round spreading, covered with hair. The tail of this breed is low-set and carried level with the back and their coat is covered in the long loose curls on body and shorter hair on the face and tail. These dogs have curly outer coat which has a dense undercoat that insulates them from the cold water.



This breed of dogs is generally healthy, but like all other dog breeds they are prone to certain health conditions. Not all of these dogs will get any or all of these diseases, but it is important to be well-aware of them if you are considering this breed of dogs. In Irish Water Spaniels, you can expect diseases like hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, elbow dysplasia, and von Willebrand’s disease. Some other diseases that are found in this breed of dogs are Cataract, Follicular Dysplasia, dog allergies, Entropion, Distichiasis, Megaesophagus, Epilepsy, and Drug Sensitivity.


Irish Water Spaniel Dogs are an active dog breed that is usually found in a working retriever environment. This breed of dogs is quick to learn, intelligent, alert, and inquisitive. Sometimes, they display humorous antics while working that earns them their “clownish” reputation. With proper socialization, these dogs can be gentle with children. These dogs are often shy around the strangers. This breed of dogs requires lots of exercise and need an experienced dog trainer, and therefore is probably not the best choice for a dog owner that is casual. In addition to this, these dogs require access to water in order to swim, an activity they specialise in.


The Irish Water Spaniel’s tightly curled and dense double coat is thick and short next to the skin, for warmth, and it is topped with a long outer coat that gives extra protection. The coat of this breed sheds slightly, but it does not cling to the clothing and fabric of furniture quite as much as other types of hair.

You can comb the coat once to thrice a week, as needed. Make sure to comb all the way down to the skin in order to remove any tangles and mats. You can use a slicker brush to remove the dead hair. For a neat look of this dog, the coat must be scissor every fifth to eight weeks. Any time your dog goes in a lake, pool or ocean, try to give him a thorough freshwater rinse in order to remove algae, chlorine, and salt, all of which can dry and damage his coat. This breed of dogs does not need frequent baths and frequent bath could dry out his protective oily coat.


Swati takes pride of being a dog lover. Her current passions include blogging, writing and collecting dog pictures of various breeds. She is an active member of stray dog care society.

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