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Irish Water Spaniel

Personality:Alert and inquisitive; hardworking and brave in the field, playful and affectionate at home

Coat & Grooming:A low-shedding breed, but the coat needs regular brushing and combing to avoid matting

Energy Level:Somewhat Active; They’re athletic, all-weather dogs who crave exercise, especially swimming

Originally: Ireland

Nicknames: IWS; Irisher

Size: Large

Meet the Irish Water Spaniel

​This tallest of AKC spaniels, standing 21 to 24 inches at the shoulder and weighing 55 to 65 pounds, straddles the line between “medium” and “large” dogs on our scale of size. Among its distinguishing characteristics are a crisply curled, liver-colored, waterproof coat; a tapered “rat tail”; and a cleanly chiseled head crowned with a topknot of long, loose curls. The IWS moves with a smooth ground-covering gait, enabling him to put in a long day’s work in the field.

What's Their Story?

​By at least the late Middle Ages rat-tailed spaniels were working the waterways of southern Ireland. And curly-coated Irish water dogs fitting the general description of the IWS appear in Renaissance writings. But the IWS as we know it began in the 1830s, when sportsman Justin McCarthy set the breed’s type with his famous dog Boatswain. Since McCarthy’s day, the IWS has gained a reputation on both sides of the Atlantic as an incomparable retriever of waterfowl.

What are they Like?

​Irish Water Spaniels possess the traits of top-notch gundogs: brains, trainability, ruggedness, and an eagerness to please. They’re the clowns of the spaniel family and, as one expert puts it, “will do ordinary things in extraordinary ways to achieve that which is asked of it.” The breed is often described as bold and dashing, but they can be wary with strangers. Early training and socialization is necessary for an IWS expected to coexist with small children and other pets.

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