Eager, happy, and charming, the American Water Spaniel is affectionate towards his loved ones but aloof around strangers. A bit stubborn, these dogs are upbeat and outdoorsy and are always up for hunting or swimming- characteristics that suit the Sporting breed group well.
This muscular, midsize gundog is native to the lake country of the upper Midwest, from which they were bred to work the icy waters and marshy banks of the Great Lakes region. American Water Spaniels are intelligent, versatile, and are always willing to work tirelessly for their owners.
Characteristics of the American Water Spaniel
Let’s learn about the traits that make the American Water Spaniel unique.
Standing between 15 to 18 inches tall, the female American Water Spaniels can weigh between 25 and 40 pounds, while the males are slightly larger, weighing between 30 and 45 pounds. It’s clear that the American Water Spaniel was bred to work in cold environments- this breed is recognizable by its luscious brown, chocolate, or liver coat that is either tightly curled or wavy (known as “marcel pattern”).
This coat is dense and waterproof, and the toes are webbed and thickly padded. The winter coat of the American Water Spaniel consists of two layers- the outside layer is thick enough to protect the breed from thick foliage such as briars, and the inside layer is made for insulation of warmth. The coat actually has an oily feel to it, which can give off doggy odor. The American Water Spaniels are similar to their Irish Water Spaniel cousins, which are larger.
In regard to personality, the American Water Spaniel can seem less exuberant than his English Springer Spaniel cousin. However, the American Water Spaniel is just as skilled in retrieval as a Labrador or Golden Retriever. The American Water Spaniel seems to understand how charming he is- he enjoys being the center of attention and may bark when he feels he is being ignored.
American Water Spaniels are great family pets, though they do choose favorites. Don’t be surprised if your American Water Spaniel chooses one member of the household as his favorite owner. Occasionally stubborn and slow to mature from puppyhood, American Water Spaniels can be possessive with food and may sometimes act out with aggressive behavior. For this reason, the American Water Spaniel may not be the ideal breed for households with other dogs. However, the chances of aggressive behavior are much less if your American Water Spaniel has been properly socialized as a puppy during puppy socialization and training classes.
Due to their retrieval and hunting nature, it is also not a great idea to introduce an American Water Spaniel into a home in which rodents and cats are also kept as pets, as your American Water Spaniel may attack these animals, thinking they are small game. However, as long as your pet receives ample exercise, American Water Spaniels can adapt to apartment living- just make sure he is on a leash at all times when outside.
You can expect your American Water Spaniel to live between 10 and 14 years of age.
Caring for the American Water Spaniel
Here are some tips regarding the proper care of an American Water Spaniel.
Your American Water Spaniel will need to be fed a high-quality dog food that is appropriate for his age. Treats can be a valuable tool to use during training but avoid feeding your pet too many treats as this can cause obesity, which can lead to many other problems. Table scraps should also be given sparingly and avoid especially those table scraps containing bones and contents rich in fat. Clean, fresh water should always be available for your dog to drink, especially because the American Water Spaniel is an active breed. Always consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet’s diet or weight.
American Water Spaniels are known for their endurance- they were bred for it. Historically, American Water Spaniels have done well in competitions for sports such as agility and fly ball. This breed is extremely athletic and will of course need ample exercise. Without enough exercise, American Water Spaniels have been known to become destructive and bark excessively out of boredom and pent up energy. Your American Water Spaniel will enjoy at least one vigorous play session in the backyard or park each day, but he would love even more exercise if possible. Most of all, the American Water Spaniel thrives when given a job to do.
American Water Spaniels can have a mind of their own, so training this breed can prove difficult for inexperienced dog owners. However, once good training practices are in place, your American Water Spaniel will learn very quickly exactly what is expected of him. American Water Spaniels thrive during training when their trainer offers a variety of engaging drills. They then want nothing more than to please their owners. Early puppy socialization and training classes are highly recommended for this breed and can begin between the ages of 7 weeks and 4 months.
The American Water Spaniel does not shed much, but his dense, waterproof coat requires brushing at least a few times per week. During the summer the coat is thinner and may only require weekly grooming, but as the coat thickens in the winter, the grooming requirements of the American Water Spaniel can increase.
During the summer, their thinner coat does well with a rubber-tipped pin brush, and during the winter the coat does better with a slicker brush that will remove the dead hair from the undercoat. Your pet’s nails should also be trimmed regularly, and his teeth should be cleaned with special doggy toothpaste whenever he visits the veterinarian for a check-up.
American Water Spaniels can be prone to certain medical conditions including hip dysplasia, eye disorders, cardiac abnormalities, and degenerative myelopathy. However, if you have purchased your American Water Spaniel puppy from a responsible breeder, many harmful conditions will have been genetically screened for in your puppy’s parents, so you should have nothing to worry about. As always, though, consult your pet’s veterinarian for regular check-ups and if you have any concerns about his health.
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