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Irish Water Spaniel


Life span: 10-12 Years

Height: 22 – 24 inches (male), 19 – 23 inches (female)

Weight: 55 – 65 lbs. (male), 45 – 60 lbs. (female)

Noted as being the tallest, and one of the rarest breeds of Spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel is in the sporting group. The Water Spaniel reaches heights of 24” at the shoulders and can top 65 lbs. It has a thick waterproof coat of curly, liver-colored hair that helps to protect it from the elements. The Water Spaniel is a hardworking breed that is capable of spending a full day tracking game in the field.

This smart breed is alert and kind to its owners. It does not get along well with children and other pets, but might do so if properly socialized. They are wary of strangers and might be a bit shy when meeting new people.

Physical Characteristics

Their ears are long and flop down, their tail is medium length and remains down when resting. Their eyes can be brown or light brown, with a black or brown nose. Its double coat is made up of a dense undercoat, and a long overcoat full of unruly curls. Coat color is always brown.


It is believed this breed may go as far back as the Stone or Bronze Age. Archeologists have found skulls that resemble this breed’s in excavation sites in Europe, especially in Ireland. On top of that, there are some records that describe a water spaniel type dog back in the 1500s between France and England. The water spaniel was originally bred by Justin McCarthy, and originally the Southern Irish Spaniel was considered and named his breed. Many believe it was from them that the Irish Water Spaniel came from, while others believe it was the result of crossbreeding the Poodle with the Irish Setter or the Curly-coated Retriever. The purpose of the Irish Water Spaniel was to retrieve birds. In the 1800s, they were brought to America, where they were used to hunt ducks. In 1884 they were recognized by the American Kennel Club.


This smart dog is extremely alert and wary of strangers. However, this also tends to make it a bit shy, which is why it is recommended to socialize them early on and in a constant manner. They do not usually get along with children and other pets, but might be more inclined to accept them if they have been properly socialized. During training, the owner must be firm but kind in order to establish dominance.


This breed may suffer from many diseases and conditions, such as:

  • Allergies that produce the same symptoms you see in humans, and depending on the cause, different treatments can be used.
  • Cataracts, in which the lens of the eye clouds, causing partial or complete loss of vision.
  • Distichiasis, which causes an additional row of eyelashes to appear along the edge of the eyelid, causing irritation of the eye. It can be corrected through surgery.
  • Drug Sensitivity, in which the dog is sensitive to medications such as heartworm medication, anesthesia, insecticides, or other medications.
  • Entropion, which affects both lower eyelids, is an inward rolling of the eyelid and is treated through various surgeries to prevent ectropion (a rolling out of the eyelid).
  • Epilepsy, a neurological disorder that can produce seizures.
  • Follicular Dysplasia, in which the dog may suffer from hair loss and change of coat texture starting from 2-4 years of age, spreading from the back to the trunk. It is permanent, but does not affect their overall health.
  • Hip dysplasia, a hereditary disease in which there is an abnormal formation in the hip socket, that may eventually cause painful arthritis. It may also be affected by the environment they reside in.
  • Hypothyroidism, a disease that affects the thyroid gland, its symptoms are ear infections, skin infections, hair loss, lethargy, and depression.
  • Megaesophagus, which is a defect in the esophagus that results in the regurgitation of the dog’s undigested food.
  • Paronychia, a condition in which the dog’s nails often become soft and contain fungus or bacteria, causing a bad smell. Eventually the nail falls off and the quick is exposed, sometimes even affecting the toes. This can be noticeable through the dog constantly chewing its feet.
  • Vaccination Sensitivity, which, as the name suggests, is a high sensitivity towards vaccinations that can result in swelling from the face, or other symptoms that may seem like allergies, even during routine vaccinations.


With this breed, it is recommended to begin grooming sessions early on, when they are still puppies to get them accustomed to them being a happy moment. They need weekly brushing, and trimming every couple of months. Their nails must be trimmed regularly, as well as their teeth brushed, and ears checked for any dirt to prevent infections. They are highly energetic, and therefore need plenty of daily exercise, preferably in the form of long walks. Training is easy given that they love pleasing their owners. However, they might get distracted easily so be sure to keep sessions short and interesting, as well as give them clear instructions! Positive reinforcement, especially with treats, works best for this breed.



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