American Water Spaniel

Canis Lupus

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Flickr user Noma's American Water Spaniels . Photo uploaded to commons by user ltshears, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License / Original

Friendly and intelligent!


American Water Spaniel Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis Lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

American Water Spaniel Conservation Status

American Water Spaniel Locations

American Water Spaniel Locations

American Water Spaniel Facts

Intelligent, quiet and calm
Should be trained from an early age using short, ongoing sessions as assertive training methods tend to be ineffective
Average Litter Size
Common Name
American Water Spaniel
Friendly and intelligent!
Gun Dog

American Water Spaniel Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Black
  • Dark Brown
Skin Type

American Water Spaniel as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Warm climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
Dog group
Male weight
30-45 lbs
Female weight
25-40 lbs

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While the exact mix of dogs that were crossbred to create the American Water Spaniel are not fully known, many people suspect that the Irish Water Spaniel, the English Water Spaniel (now extinct), and the Curly-Coated Retriever were used.

American Water Spaniels were bred in Wisconsin and Minnesota as hunting dogs who would be good at retrieving waterfowl. Wisconsin and Minnesota are cold, and the European immigrants were looking to create a dog who would fare well swimming in colder water to retrieve waterfowl.

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Dogs from this medium-sized breed are very skilled swimmers like their likely ancestors, the English Water Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, and Irish Water Spaniel. They are able to quickly retrieve waterfowl that have been shot down. Additionally, this breed is also used for bird flushing with different game birds such as pheasants, quails, and grouse. There are not many of this breed left; it is estimated that there are only about 3,000 still around.

This breed of dog is a pretty even-tempered dog. They are energetic and love playing. They can also be very affectionate and can be a great choice for a family pet, so long as they are given plenty of exercise.

American Water Spaniel infographic

3 Pros and Cons of Owning an American Water Spaniel

Easy to train
These dogs are eager to please their owners. This makes them easier to train than other dogs.
You will need to brush this breed two to three times a week to remove dead hair from their coat.
This breed has been bred to be a friendly dog. They can make a great family pet.
Need a lot of exercise
As hunting dogs, they are very active and will require regular exercise every day.
American Water Spaniels are hunting dogs that were originally bred for retrieving waterfowl or bird flushing. Because of this background, they can be very playful and enjoy running around with their owners.
These are vocal dogs, so they may bark more than some other breeds.

History and Origins

The American Water Spaniel is an example of the Americans’ ability to take European breeds and modify them for their own needs. Settlers in Wisconsin and Minnesota wanted a breed of dog that could help them hunt the waterfowl in and around the Great Lakes, so they created the American Water Spaniel. The exact origin of the breed is unknown, but it is thought to have been created from the Irish Water Spaniel, the Curly-Coated Retriever, and the English Water Spaniel (extinct). This illustrates the resourcefulness of Americans when faced with new problems.

Health and Entertainment for your American Water Spaniel

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The originators of the American Water Spaniel breed, whose identities have been lost, designed it as an all-purpose hunting dog. It is a skilled retriever of waterfowl and can also be used to hunt upland game birds, such as grouse, quail, and pheasant, as well as rabbits.

Throughout the years, the American Water Spaniel’s numbers decreased as a result of a decline in the duck population in the region, as well as a shift from hunting for sustenance to hunting for leisure. There are an estimated 3,000 of them left in the world.

The American Water Spaniel was officially accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1940 and was designated as the official state dog of Wisconsin in 1985.

American Water Spaniel seated outside

American Water Spaniels are fun and easy to train.

©User: Ltshears / CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository – Original / License

Reproduction, Lifespan, and Babies

The American Water Spaniel has a lifespan of 10-12 years and usually has a litter size of 4-6 puppies. Female dogs usually go into heat every six months, which lasts 18-21 days and is divided into four portions. Once pregnant, the average gestation period lasts 58-65 days, with the puppies almost fully developed by the 58th day. At birth, newborn puppies have not yet developed an effective immune system, so they rely on their mother’s colostrum to gain passive immunity in the first 24-48 hours after delivery. This helps protect them from diseases in their early weeks of life. It is very important to protect them from an illness during the first 4 months of life. They should be kept away from any other pets that are sick. They should also be quarantined from areas frequented by animals, like pet stores and dog parks, until they are fully vaccinated.

Brown American Water Spaniel puppy

Baby American Water spaniels should be kept away from high-traffic dog areas until fully vaccinated.

©WendyMAllen / Creative Commons – Original / License

American Water Spaniel Size and Weight

These are medium-sized dogs. Both males and females are between 15 and 18 inches tall. Males, who are typically a bit heavier than their female counterparts, weigh between 30 and 45 pounds. Females weigh between 25 and 40 pounds. Three-month-old puppies weigh between 16 and 21 pounds, and six-month-old puppies weigh between 29 and 39 pounds. Both male and female puppies will be fully grown by the time they are 16 months old.

Male15 to 18 inches30 to 45 pounds
Female15 to 18 inches25 to 40 pounds

Types of water dogs - American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel is the state dog of Wisconsin.

©Steve Bruckmann/

Common Health Issues

There are a few key health concerns you should be aware of with this breed. One is hip dysplasia. With this condition, a dog’s hip does not form correctly, and there is a poor fit between the hip socket and the femur. The bones rub together, which can lead to pain and may make it more challenging for your dog to walk.

American Water Spaniels also sometimes suffer from Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Also called PRA, this is a condition in which the photoreceptor cells of the retina start to degenerate. This condition will eventually lead to blindness, and there is currently no cure or treatment for it.

Epilepsy is another possible problem. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes recurring seizures. Approximately 1% of all dogs are affected by this disorder.

To review, some potential health issues may include:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Epilepsy
Types of water dogs - Irish Water Spaniel

American Water spaniels are known as the clowns of the spaniel family.

©Nikolai Belyakov/


American Water Spaniels were bred to be hunting dogs. As such, they are a very active breed who enjoy playing, hunting, and doing other types of work. When their activity needs are met, these dogs exhibit a variety of traits that allow them to make excellent family pets. They have an affectionate and playful personalities and enjoy spending time with children and other family members.

This breed often develops a close bond with its family members, often with one family member in particular. In some instances, they may be stubborn or exhibit possessive behaviors, but breeders have been trying to breed dogs that are more even-tempered and well-suited for families.

How to Take Care of an American Water Spaniel

Knowing about this breed can help you provide the best care possible for your dog. Since all dog breeds are unique, caring for this breed, in particular, will look different from caring for other dog breeds.

The Best Dog Food

This dog breed should be fed a high-quality dog food that will meet their nutritional needs. You may choose to feed your adult dog or puppy bagged food, or you may choose to offer them a home-prepared diet.

Either way, it’s important for American Water Spaniels to get the specific nutrients they need to stave off the most common health complications.

With this in mind, A-Z Animals chooses Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Healthy Grains Dry Dog Food as the best dog food for American Water Spaniels.

Since this breed can develop joint problems, hip dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy, owners should look for food with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and taurine for the eyes. These are the nutrients that make this dog food ideal for American Water Spaniels. Plus, the amino acids are great for these dogs’ coats, as well as fortifying their nervous system since they can get seizures.

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Best Raw Infused with Healthy Grains
Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Healthy Grains Dry Dog Food
  • Freeze-dried raw coated kibble and raw pieces
  • Beef, lamb, and rabbit with wholesome grains
  • No peas or lentils
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When selecting or preparing food for your dog, you should consult with its veterinarian. The veterinarian can help you make sure that the food you are offering contains the essential vitamins and nutrients your dog will need. Taking your dog’s age, activity level, and health into consideration when planning their diet will also be important. Adult dogs typically eat between 1 and 2 cups of food a day, but your dog’s specific needs will help determine the amount of food they’ll need.

Since dogs can become overweight, it will be important to feed them the right amount of food. Also, because of this risk factor with this breed, you will want to split their food into two or three meals instead of offering the full amount all at once.

Water Spaniel puppies have smaller stomachs than adults. Puppies should eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.

Types of water dogs - Irish Water Spaniel

Spaniels should be brushed weekly.

©Nikolai Belyakov/

Maintenance and Grooming

This type of dog’s coat should be brushed weekly, but the process is not too difficult. This breed has a double-layer coat that is designed to provide them with insulation against the cold water in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region where they were bred. For much of the year, especially during shedding season, you can use a slicker brush when brushing your dog. This brush type will help pull out the dead hair in the undercoat. Their coat will be less full during the summer, and most times, a rubber-tipped pin brush will be the best option to clean it up during these months.

In addition to brushing its coat, you’ll also want to keep its nails trimmed, so they do not get too long.


Be ready to begin training and socializing your dog right away. Starting both of these from an early age will help your dog learn how to appropriately interact with other dogs, people, and situations.

While some American Water Spaniels may be a little stubborn, most are very eager to please. This trait will help make it easy to train your dog. Additionally, they can be very talented and agile and can do well in different sporting games, field events, or tracking agility.


Making sure your dog gets enough exercise each day is important. This breed is very active and loves spending time outdoors swimming or hunting. They were originally bred for retrieving waterfowl and bird flushing and do very well when they are given a job, taken on hunting trips, or given other forms of more vigorous exercise. However, they will also do fine when they are taken to a dog park or given time to play with their own in the backyard each day.

American Water Spaniels may become destructive or bark more when they aren’t provided with enough opportunities for exercise. This is another reason you’ll want to keep your dog active.


If you are going to be purchasing or adopting an American Water Spaniel, the first thing you should do is prepare your home for the new puppy. Puppies can be very active and may chew on things or get into trouble, so you will want to be sure to remove any items that could be potentially dangerous to your new dog. Also, if you have personal belongings that you don’t want to see destroyed by a puppy, it would be a good idea to put them away.

Once you bring your puppy home, it will be important to make sure they get enough exercise. American Water Spaniels are very active dogs, and puppies should get plenty of playtimes and other activities. Puppies between the ages of 6 and 18 months will need more activity than older dogs will.

When planning your puppy’s diet, keep in mind that they have smaller stomachs than adults. Because of this, your puppy will need to eat smaller meals throughout the day. For example, puppies between the ages of 8 and 12 months should be fed four times a day, and puppies between the ages of 3 and 6 months should eat three times a day.

American Water Spaniel puppy

©WendyMAllen / Creative Commons – Original / License

American Water Spaniels and Children

American Water Spaniels can make a good family pet. When properly trained, they are known for being very obedient. They are also very affectionate and can be very gentle with children. If you are bringing an American Water Spaniel home to be a family dog, you will still want to closely supervise your children when they are with the dog. This can help avoid either your children or the dog getting injured by accident.

Dogs similar to American Water Spaniels

Three dog breeds that are similar to the American Water Spaniel are the Curly Coated Retriever, English Springer Spaniel, and Field Spaniel.

  • Curly Coated Retriever: Curly Coated Retrievers, like American Water Spaniels, are gun dogs. Both breeds have average intelligence and are easy to train. Curly Coated Retrievers are much larger than American Water Spaniels, though. While an American Water Spaniel has an average weight of 35 pounds, a Curly Coated Retriever has an average weight of 72.5 pounds.
  • English Springer Spaniel: English Springer Spaniels are another gun dog breed. Their coat is more feather, while an American Water Spaniel has a curly coat. Grooming an American Water Spaniel is a bit easier than maintaining the coat of an English Springer Spaniel. Both of these breeds are very affectionate. They also do best when someone is home with them and may develop separation anxiety if left alone.
  • Field Spaniel: Field Spaniels are yet another gun dog breed. While they are slightly larger, a Field Spaniel is pretty close to the same size as an American Water Spaniel. Field Spaniels have an average weight of 42.5 pounds, and American Water Spaniels have an average weight of 35 pounds. American Water Spaniels are more territorial than Field Spaniels.

Famous American Water Spaniels

The American Water Spaniel is the state dog of Wisconsin. Since this is a relatively rare breed, there are not too many celebrities or other famous individuals who own an American Water Spaniel.

Below you’ll find some popular names you could use for your Water Spaniel.

  • Jett
  • Ragnor
  • Cody
  • Bear
  • Charlie
  • Sadie
  • Ginger
  • Ebony
  • Sophie
  • Zoe

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

American Water Spaniel FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How much does an American Water Spaniel cost to own?

American Water Spaniels are a pretty rare breed, so it may be a bit challenging to find a breeder near you. If you do find a breeder, you should expect to pay around $1,000 for your American Water Spaniel. You may also be able to adopt an American Water Spaniel from a shelter. This will likely cost around $200 for application fees and the cost of spaying or neutering.

You will also need to be ready to pay for vaccinations, veterinarian bills, obedience training, food, toys, and supplies for your American Water Spaniel. These costs will likely be higher for your first year of ownership and may cost $1,000 or more. Each year after that, you should still budget between $500 and $1,000 for expenses for your dog.

Are American Water Spaniels good with kids?

Yes, American Water Spaniel are generally good with kids. They are friendly and playful. It will be important to make sure your dog is properly trained and socialized from an early age for best results. Young children should always be supervised around any dog.

Where do American Water Spaniels come from?

American Water Spaniels were bred in the Midwest by European immigrants. They are likely a mix of a variety of dog breeds including English Water Spaniels, Irish Water Spaniels, and Curly-Coated Retrievers.

Do American Water Spaniels Shed?

Yes, American Water Spaniels shed, but not too much. Brushing your dog’s coat a few times every week will help remove any dead hairs from their coat and keep them from being left around your home.

How long do American Water Spaniels live?

The life expectancy of an American Water Spaniel is between 10 and 14 years.


Where does the American Water Spaniel originate form?

American Water Spaniels were originally bred in Wisconsin and Michigan to be a hunting dog to retrieve ducks and other waterfowl

Are American Water Spaniels herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

American Water Spaniels are Omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals.

What Kingdom do American Water Spaniels belong to?

American Water Spaniels belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What class do American Water Spaniels belong to?

American Water Spaniels belong to the class Mammalia.

What phylum to American Water Spaniels belong to?

American Water Spaniels belong to the phylum Chordata.

What family do American Water Spaniels belong to?

American Water Spaniels belong to the family Canidae.

What order do American Water Spaniels belong to?

American Water Spaniels belong to the order Carnivora.

What genus do American Water Spaniels belong to?

American Water Spaniels belong to the genus Canis.

What type of covering do American Water Spaniels have?

American Water Spaniels are covered in Hair.

How many babies do American Water Spaniels have?

The average number of babies an American Water Spaniel has is 5.

What is an interesting fact about American Water Spaniels?

American Water Spaniels are friendly and intelligent!

What is the scientific name for the American Water Spaniel?

The scientific name for the American Water Spaniel is Canis Lupus.

What are the differences between American Water Spaniel and Boykin Spaniel?

The greatest differences between an American Water Spaniel and a Boykin Spaniel lie in their appearance, color, temperament, and lifespan.

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