Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel
Irish Water Spaniel pictures
Irish Water Spaniel suitability

In my own words

What do you mean you’re tired and want to go home? I haven’t finished my walk yet! It’s only been an hour since we left the house and I’ve just caught the scent of a rabbit which I’d really like to track. Then I was planning on jumping into that big pond over there and having a good swim!

I know what we should do – let’s go hunting! I can retrieve ducks for you, it’ll be awesome! You know, my breed used to be very popular in America as a duck hunting dog, that was until they found out about the Labrador Retriever and all of a sudden they weren’t interested in Irish Water Spaniels any more – how rude! Sure, my coat can be a little high maintenance but I’m just as good at retrieving as a lab. My mouth is so soft that I can bring game back to you without ever causing damage.

OK, OK… Let’s go home. Just as long as I can have some cuddles and petting when we get there. Deal?

My ideal owner(s)

People who are very active

Ramblers and hikers



Country folk

What they say about me


Relaxed and easy going

Full of stamina


Wonderful companion

Fantastic swimmer

Please read on to find out more about me, and whether I’ll be someone you’ll be happy to live with for the next 10 to 12 years!

Is this Irish Water Spaniel for you?

Test your knowledge about the Irish Water Spaniel

Information essential about the Irish Water Spaniel

Kennel Club Group:



Large: Weight Male 55 – 65 lb (25 – 29 kg) Female 45 – 58 lb (20 – 26 kg)

Height Male 22 – 24” (56 – 61 cm) Female 21 – 23” (52 – 58 cm)


In the 1800s the Irish Water Spaniel was an incredibly popular breed of dog, but it has since been overshadowed by the Labrador Retriever. These days, the Irish Water Spaniel is much less common and is fairly rare. It can be difficult to obtain the breed. However, its ability to be both a wonderful companion dogs and a skilled hunting dog are aiding in increasing the Irish Water Spaniel’s popularity.

Breed History:

As the name suggests, Irish Water Spaniels originate from Ireland. In the mid-1800s, an Irishman called Justin McCarthy, from Dublin, created the Irish Water Spaniel. It is unknown which dogs were bred to create the breed, but it is thought that it may be a mix of the Poodle and Irish Setter, Poodle and Curly Coated Retriever, or the Poodle and Portuguese Water Dog.

The Irish Water Spaniel was bred to be a dual purpose hunting dog, in that it can work both land and water. He was also bred to have an incredibly soft mouth, which allows him to retrieve game without damaging it. It was for these reasons that the Irish Water Spaniel became so popular in the 1800s, particularly in North America where it was used as a duck hunting dog. Sadly, the increasing popularity of the Labrador retriever, which was easier to care for, meant that the Irish Water Setter became less and less common and it is now considered a rare breed.


Devoted, eager to please, loving and protective…Your Irish Water Spaniel makes an excellent family dog. A happy, well exercised Irish Water Spaniel is a relaxed, docile pet with good manners and a willingness to please you. Your Irish Water Spaniel may be quiet, but he makes a wonderful watch dog and will bark only when he needs to warn the family about something which concerns him. Their protective nature also means they can sometimes make good guard dogs. A working dog at heart, your Irish Water Spaniel will need plenty of exercise to satisfy him – around two hours every day! His excellent stamina means that you may well get tired on walks before he does. The Irish Water Spaniel will be happiest living in the country, where his fantastic sense of smell will keep him occupied looking for rabbits and squirrels on walks, and where he can indulge his love of swimming by leaping into lakes and ponds. It’s important to show your Irish Water Spaniel that you are in charge and he ranks at the bottom of the family, or he will try to rule the house and become stubborn, mischievous, nervous, suspicious or over protective.


Your Irish Water Spaniel is highly intelligent and incredibly confident. They are sometimes considered the clown of all the Spaniel breeds as they are happy, exuberant and devoted dogs with a bubbly and fun personality. Your Irish Water Spaniel is completely devoted to you and your family; he loves to be close to you and enjoys human companionship at all times. His protective nature may make him a little bit wary of strangers, but it also means that he’ll keep watch over you, your family and your home and protect you if danger arises. Their friendly and gentle disposition means they get on well with other pets, providing they are properly introduced.


The largest of the spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel has a large head with a long, deep muzzle and teeth which meet in a level or scissor bite. His almond shaped eyes are small and brown, his nose a liver colour and his ears should be long, set low on the head and hanging down. The narrow chest should be deep and the front legs straight. The Irish Water Spaniel’s hindquarters are a little higher than his shoulders. Helping him to be an excellent swimmer are his feet, which are webbed and round. The Irish Water Spaniel has a distinctive coat which is long and full of loose curls on the body, while the hair on the tail and face is shorter. On the top of the head there is a curly topknot of hair. The long, shaggy outer coat conceals a thick undercoat which helps to protect the Irish Water Spaniel from cold water.


The colour of the coat should always be a solid liver shade with a slightly purple undertone


Your Irish Water Spaniel is not only incredibly smart but also has a strong desire to please; this makes him a fairly easy dog to train as he is capable of learning a large amount. However, they can become bored and have a stubborn streak, so short and varied training sessions with a confident owner are best suited to the breed. It’s important that you establish leadership over your Irish Water Spaniel or he will refuse commands and become disinterested in training. Socialise and train your Irish Water spaniel from an early age in order to get the best from him.


The Irish Water Spaniel is a high maintenance breed which needs a lot of grooming. His coat can become matted very easily so daily brushing is recommended and the coat should also be trimmed on a regular basis. Bathing should be done only when absolutely necessary as it can damage the natural oils in the coat. The Irish Water Spaniel may be a good breed for people who suffer from allergies as they shed little to no hair.


A Healthy Irish Water Spaniel usually lives from 10 to 12 years. Though they are generally a healthy breed, they have been known to suffer from entropion or inverted eyelids, hip dysplasia and hypothyroidism. If your Irish Water Spaniel swims a lot, he may be susceptible to ear infections. Irish Water Spaniels have also been known to have issues with seizures, however this is not common.

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Advice on choosing your breed »

Find an animal shelter or rescue home where a Irish Water Spaniel is waiting for a new home »

The following grid gives a fast track review which covers all breeds. You can apply it to help you decide if an Irish Water Spaniel is suitable for you, the environment where you live, your personality and your lifestyle. On the grid, 1 = strongly disagree, and 5 = strongly agree. For example, if you are looking for a dog that loves to swim, look down the list under ‘activities’ and you will see that Irish Water Spaniels are great swimmers, scoring 5. If you are looking for a dog that would make a good watch dog, look under ‘role and suitability’ and you’ll see an Irish Water Spaniel would be an excellent choice, also scoring 5. You might like to save or print off this section and keep it for reference while you check some other breeds before making your choice.

Be the first to rate this breed »

Noahs Breed Rating | Community Breed Rating

Good jogging companion5/5
Good walking companion5/5
Likes water/swimming5/5
Likes learning new tricks4/5
Likes to hunt5/5
Likes to fetch5/5
Good gundog/retriever5/5
Barks a lot1/5
Gets easily jealous2/5
Friendly with strangers2/5
Expensive to insure5/5
Expensive to feed5/5
Happy to sleep outside3/5
Prefers countryside5/5
Suits urban environment1/5
Prefers temperate climate3/5
Prefers hot climate2/5
Prefers cold climate4/5
Moults a lot1/5
Requires lots of grooming5/5
Role and Suitability
Ideal for elderly2/5
Ideal for singles4/5
Ideal for couples with no children5/5
Ideal for family with children4/5
Good watch dog5/5
Good guard dog3/5
Good with other pets4/5
Good with other dogs5/5
Time and Energy
Happy being left alone for 4hrs4/5
Happy being left alone for 2hrs5/5
Requires lots of exercise5/5
Training and Obedience
Good for first time owners3/5
Good for experienced owners5/5
Good recall4/5
Easy to train4/5
Good jogging companion0/5
Good walking companion0/5
Likes water/swimming0/5
Likes learning new tricks0/5
Likes to hunt0/5
Likes to fetch0/5
Good gundog/retriever0/5
Barks a lot0/5
Gets easily jealous0/5
Friendly with strangers0/5
Expensive to insure0/5
Expensive to feed0/5
Happy to sleep outside0/5
Prefers countryside0/5
Suits urban environment0/5
Prefers temperate climate0/5
Prefers hot climate0/5
Prefers cold climate0/5
Moults a lot0/5
Requires lots of grooming0/5
Role and Suitability
Ideal for elderly0/5
Ideal for singles0/5
Ideal for couples with no children0/5
Ideal for family with children0/5
Good watch dog0/5
Good guard dog0/5
Good with other pets0/5
Good with other dogs0/5
Time and Energy
Happy being left alone for 4hrs0/5
Happy being left alone for 2hrs0/5
Requires lots of exercise0/5
Training and Obedience
Good for first time owners0/5
Good for experienced owners0/5
Good recall0/5
Easy to train0/5

*PLEASE NOTE: All our breed profiles are general, and all dogs are individuals. Always talk to the breeders and meet the owners you are buying from. Try to meet the dog and its parents if it is a puppy in their home environment.

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Irish Water Spaniel Pictures & Videos



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