First recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1940, the Water Spaniel is believed to have descended from the Curly-Coated Retriever and Irish Water Spaniel, sharing some of the characteristics of its forebears. Thought to originate from the Fox and Wolf River Valleys of Wisconsin, the American Water Spaniel became an established breed by the end of the 19th century, primarily bred for the purposes of swimming and retrieving. Its functional size enabled the Spaniel to fit comfortably in a river boat, whilst its inherent hardiness suited it to working in all weather conditions, on any terrain. Whilst still considered rare, the Water Spaniel is no longer facing extinction.
Adapted to hunting rabbits and game birds such as pheasants, quail and duck, the American Water Spaniel boasts a powerful and athletic build, with a proportionate body and legs, low-set, hanging ears, a broad head and square muzzle. The double coat is typically curly and accumulates grease quickly, meaning regular bathing and grooming is essential, although too much can strip the coat of its necessary oils. As one would expect, the breed has a natural affinity with water, whilst excelling over difficult terrain.
Naturally energetic and enthusiastic in exercise and play, the Water Spaniel is well suited to the active family lifestyle. Vigilant to change and threat, the breed is fiercely protective of its family and master, devoted to children and compatible with other house pets when introduced gradually. The American Water Spaniel is both intelligent and responsive, rendering it highly trainable in any home setting. The average Water Spaniel weighs 11-20 kg, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years, although it is not uncommon for the breed to outlive this expectancy.
The American Water Spaniel is not prone to any serious genetic or hereditary diseases. As with most breeds, cases of hip and elbow dysplasia are documented in the breed. Additionally, the Water Spaniel is susceptible to various eye disorders, including entropion and cataracts, as well as hormone responsive dermatitis.