The American Water Spaniel dog breed is a truly American breed thought to have originated in the Midwest region of America where they have greater popularity. The Great Lakes region is considered their place of origin where Native American tribes had used these natural hunters for catching and retrieving prey, be it fish or fowl. They are equally proficient in swimming as they are in chasing the prey on land.
American Water Spaniel is the state dog of Wisconsin. Their crinkly and curly coat, the large floppy ears that hang like a mop of hair around the face, and the rich and dark body color set them apart from most dogs. They are often known as AWS, which is the shortened version of their name. American Water Spaniels make great companion dogs.
The American Water Spaniel dog breed traces its origin to the early parts of the 19th century. They might have had a mixed ancestry comprising of English and Irish water spaniels and the Curly Coated Retriever. Other native dogs also may have been involved. They were originally called American Brown Spaniel after the color of their coat which comes in various shades of brown.
Their compact body, excellent hunting and retrieval skills both on land and in water, and resistance to cold and wetness made them ideal companions for the hunters of Midwest. They were light enough to accompany their masters in their rowboats too.
Their popularity began to suffer after World War II when many other breeds of dogs became available. Since AWS was mainly considered hunting dogs, they became less significant when hunting changed from a way of life of the people of this region to a mere sport.
Interest in the breed was rekindled by Dr. Fred J. Pfeifer’s campaign to promote the breed as a truly American dog. Eventually, this breed gained official recognition by AKC in 1940. Nevertheless, they still remain quite rare.
American Water Spaniels have a medium build and the characteristic curly, shiny, and long coat range from chocolate and dark brown to nearly black. The limp ears are particularly abundant in long hair. The fur can be either wavy or tightly curled. The coat is double layered, the outer layer having an oily texture to repel water. But it is known to give the dog a characteristic doggie smell.
Measuring not more that 1 ½ ft at the withers, and weighing between 25 to 45 pounds, these dogs are smaller than the Irish Water Spaniels that resemble them.
They are excellent family dogs, affectionate and eager to please. Occasionally timid or aggressive individuals may be encountered among this breed, but by and far they are easy going. However, they may show aggression or loud barking on meeting both dogs and people who are strangers to them.
Even tempered American Water Spaniels have been developed through selective breeding of this highly desirable temperamental trait; and such dogs are suitable for owners living in apartments.
As the name implies, these dogs are naturals around water. Since they were historically used for hunting and retrieving prey, they are happiest when they are employed in their favorite pursuits. They need to be active to be happy.
Grooming and exercise
Grooming is understandably a serious business with these curly-haired dogs. They have an oily coat which adds to the trouble. The coat has to be brushed thoroughly every week and trimmed frequently, especially around the ears and the feet. They need to spend a lot of time outdoors, but it is best to bring them in at night to share the living quarters with the human members of their pack.
These active breed requires vigorous physical exercise. Multiple walks a day and stimulating activities are a must. It would be ideal if the dog could run around freely in a fenced in and secure area close to the house. Their owners should device games to satisfy their hunting and retrieving instincts. They would appreciate some water activities too, given the fact that they have been bred for their love for water.
Common health issues of American Water Spaniel dog breed
American Water Spaniels maintain good health without any major breed- associated illnesses. However, certain eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy and early onset cataract are found to be relatively common. Those diseases may have a genetic basis. Endocrine disorders may be present too, causing baldness, hypothyroidism or diabetes. They are relatively less affected by hip dysplasia, but they are prone to certain disorders affecting the heart. American Water Spaniels have an average life expectancy of 10 to 13 years.