Irish Water spaniel Dog


Updated on:

irish water spaniel

Breed information Guide

The Irish Water Spaniel, often dubbed the clown of the spaniel family, is a breed that stands out not just for its distinctive appearance but also for its playful and inquisitive nature. As one of the tallest Spaniels, this breed has made quite a name for itself, especially in the UK. Its rugged build, combined with its webbed toes, makes it an excellent water retriever, a trait that has contributed to its popularity. 

According to recent data, 84 Irish Water Spaniels were registered in the UK in 2022. Furthermore, the AKC, a renowned authority on breed standards, ranks the American Water Spaniel 183rd out of 200 breeds, noting its recognition as an official breed since 1878.

Jump into this article to learn more about the Irish Water Spaniel. From its fun nature to its long history, we’ll cover everything. Whether you are thinking of getting one or just curious, this guide will tell you about this amazing dog breed.

Quick Facts:

  • Size: Medium-sized breed.
  • Height: 55-61 cm (male, approx. 22-24 inches), 53-58 cm (female, approx. 21-23 inches).
  • Weight: 25-30.8 kg (male, approx. 55-68 pounds), 20.4-26.3 kg (female, approx. 45-58 pounds).
  • Lifespan: 10-13 years.
  • Types: Known as the clown of the spaniel family, the Irish Water Spaniel is the tallest of all the AKC spaniel breeds.
  • Families: They are devoted companions and can be good with respectful older children. However, supervision is recommended around young kids.
  • Allergies: Irish water spaniels shed minimally and are the only spaniel breed with a hypoallergenic coat, making them an excellent pet for most people with allergies.
  • Appearance: The breed has a curly, medium-length coat that is waterproof. It features a topknot of curls on its head and a smooth “rat tail” that lacks curls.
  • Temperament: Highly intelligent, inquisitive, playful, affectionate, and loyal. They are known to be reserved around strangers and other dogs but are not typically aggressive.
  • Other pets: Generally good with other dogs and cats when properly introduced and socialised from a young age.
  • Barking: They have a low tendency to bark.
  • Training: They respond well to positive-reinforcement training methods and benefit from early training and socialisation.
  • Exercise required: At least 1-2 hours of vigorous exercise daily, including activities like long walks, hikes, running, cycling, swimming, and fetch.
  • Owner requirement: They need an active household and prefer to have a job to do.
  • Grooming: Weekly brushing is required. Their fur grows like hair and needs trimming approximately every two months. They should be bathed monthly or as needed.
  • Health: They are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies, thyroid disease, and eye problems.
  • Nutrition: A balanced diet is crucial for their health and well-being. It’s essential to consult with a vet to ensure the dog’s individual nutritional needs are met.
  • Accommodation: They are adaptable to various living conditions, including apartments, as long as they receive sufficient exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Cost: For a puppy from a responsible breeder, the price ranges from £400 to £800 or more.
  • Kennel Club Group: Gundog

Breed History & Traits:

Over a 100 years ago spaniels were split between land and water varieties. The irish water spaniel had its foundations in blending the South Country and North Country Water Spaniels. Justin McCarthy in the 1830’s created the Irish Water Spaniel as a distinct breed which quickly became popular in dog shows due its distinctive looks. In the 1870’s it was imported to the United States becoming a very popular spaniel breed.

The Irish Water Spaniel – a breed you might have heard of, & if not, it’s about time. Tracing its roots back to Ireland, it was largely used for hunting & water adventures. Think of those times when you’ve witnessed a dog gracefully manoeuvre through the water, fetching a stick – well, this breed is a pro at it! Its webbed toes & water-resistant coat made it stand out as an excellent retriever, especially in aquatic surroundings giving the other great swimming spaniel breeds a run for their money

Timeline of Significant Events in the Breed’s History:

  • Early Beginnings: Originated in Ireland & was used primarily for hunting and water activities. 
  • Recognition: The breed didn’t just stay in Ireland. It gained recognition by major kennel clubs, including the AKC & UKC. 
  • Popularity Surge: It didn’t just win accolades; it won hearts too becaming popular in the UK & other parts of the world, thanks to its unique appearance and versatile nature. 
  • Modern Day:  They aren’t just relics of the past. The Irish Water Spaniel continues to be a favourite. Especially if you’re among those enthusiasts interested in water sports, hunting and dog shows.

Main Characteristics of the Breed:

  • Water Affinity: Naturally feels drawn to water. This makes it not only an excellent swimmer but also a top-notch retriever.
  • Coat: A curly & water-resistant coat that’s predominantly solid liver in colour. 
  • Intelligence & Agility: It’s not just about looks. The breed is highly intelligent & agile. Perfect for various dog sports and activities you might have come across at dog events.
  • Distinctive Appearance: Here’s where things get even more interesting. It features a topknot of long, loose curls & a body covered with a dense, crisply curled coat. And yes, the smooth face often comes with a little beard growing at the back of the throat and some sideburns. It’s like seeing a dog with its own unique hairstyle.
  • Size: Standing tall, quite literally. It’s the tallest among all spaniels. For a size reference, males stand at 22 to 24 inches and females, they’re close, at 21 to 23 inches.

Temperament and Personality:

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to interact with an Irish Water Spaniel, you’d instantly realise it’s a breed that’s overflowing with affection & a genuine eagerness to please. These dogs are not just intelligent; they form this profound bond with their human companions. Their energy – it’s contagious. Their playful antics would bring a smile even on the gloomiest of days. 

But don’t be fooled by their playfulness. Give them a task or a job, and you’ll see a side of them that’s all about focus. Beyond the fun & games, they’re alert and with their protective instincts, they make sure you feel safe, serving as excellent watchdogs.

Top 5 Behavioural Traits of the Irish Water Spaniel:

  • Affectionate: These dogs are known for such loving gestures & strong attachment to their families.
  • Energetic & Playful: They have a zest for life & an insatiable love to play, making them buddies for active souls or families.
  • Intelligent: Ever tried teaching a dog a trick & they get it almost instantly? That’s probably an Irish Water Spaniel showcasing its sharp mind. They’re quick to pick up commands & can be trained for many tasks.
  • Alert: Always aware of their surroundings, they are the watchdogs you’d appreciate having.
  • Loyal: Their loyalty, is something to behold. The bond they form, especially with their main caregivers, is something you might have felt if you ever had a loyal dog companion. It’s unmatched and pure.

Interaction with Families:

For anyone having an Irish Water Spaniel at home they’re not just a pet; they truly become a part of the family. These dogs have this knack for fitting right in & becoming family-friendly members in no time. Especially when it comes to children, their eyes light up. But, of course, like all dogs, keeping an eye during interactions with young children is always a good idea.

Interaction with Different Age Groups:

  • Toddlers: They have a gentle heart, but sometimes their enthusiasm might be a bit much. So, if you’ve ever seen them around toddlers, it’s good to have that gentle reminder of supervision 
  • Teenagers: These spaniels, with their playful & active streak, they’re like the teen spirit in dog form. 
  • Elderly: They can be calm and comforting companions for the elderly, but their high energy levels might require additional help for exercise and play.

Appearance and Colours:

The Irish Water Spaniel is something to behold, indeed. With that one-of-a-kind curly coat and features that turn heads, you’re looking at a special breed. This medium-length, curly coat isn’t just there to make a fashion statement. It’s waterproof, perfect for a dog that can’t stay out of the water. Many potential owners are interested in the fact the Irish Water Spaniel’s coat is hypoallergenic making it ideal for those that are sensitive to dog hair / have allergies. This makes it unique amongst its other spaniel kin.

Here’s a rundown on the unique bits of the Irish Water Spaniel:

  • Curly Coat: It’s a medium-length deal and mostly comes in that rich liver (brown) shade.
  • Topknot of Curls: A defining feature, this topknot gives them a unique and recognisable appearance.
  • Rat Tail: Contrasting their curly body, their tail tapers smoothly, lacking the characteristic curls.
  • Webbed Feet: An adaptation for their love of swimming, their feet are webbed, aiding them in being expert swimmers.
  • Solid Build: While they are agile, they have a solid build, making them robust and sturdy.


Training an Irish Water Spaniel? You’re in for a treat. With that sharp brain and an innate desire to impress, this breed shines in the training department. But, just a heads up, their intelligence means they grasp things fast, but on the flip side, they get bored just as quickly if you don’t keep things spiced up. 

Remember when you brought home that new toy, and they just wouldn’t let it go? That’s their inquisitive nature, and early socialisation plays a big part, especially if you’ve got other pets or kids running around.

Top 5 Training Needs of the Irish Water Spaniel:

  • Early Socialisation: Have you ever taken them to a park and watched them interact? Getting them acquainted with different environments and folks from a pup age, does wonders in shaping them.
  • Obedience Training: Teaching them the basics – sit, stay, come – not only makes your life easier but keeps them safe too.
  • Mental Stimulation: You recall that day when they tore apart the cushion? That’s boredom. Using puzzle toys or playing a game of hide and seek can channel that energy.
  • Recall Training: Given their love for water and chasing a strong recall is vital.
  • Leash Training: Walking them in the park, you should know their nose can get the better of them. Training them on the leash is definitely a good move.


Got an Irish Water Spaniel? Then, you probably know this isn’t a couch potato breed. These dogs have a sort of built-in zest for life, bursting with energy. And if you thought a quick walk around the block would suffice, think again. These pals are up for way more, from swimming laps to fetch sessions and even agility courses.

Recommended Exercise for Different Age Groups:

Age GroupRecommended Exercise Duration
Puppy20-30 minutes (2-3 times a day)
Adult1-2 hours daily
Senior30-45 minutes daily

Ideal Home & Owner:

Thinking of bringing an Irish Water Spaniel into your life? It’s not like picking any random breed. These fellas are high-energy, and they love their space. Your garden becomes their playground, essentially.

Top 5 Ideal Living Conditions:

  • A home with a secure garden or yard: Perfect for those fetch sessions you know you’ll have.
  • Access to a nearby body of water: Think of the swimming – a joy to watch, really.
  • A spacious environment to move around: Cramped spaces? Not their style.
  • Quiet neighbourhoods: Loud noises, fireworks, and such can be a bit much for them.
  • Rural or suburban homes: Imagine your Irish Water Spaniel, tail wagging, as they romp through open spaces.

Other Animals:

Have you ever seen an Irish Water Spaniel around other pets? Most times, they’re pretty chill, especially if they’ve known them since they were pups. But, those hunting instincts, they can sometimes make things unpredictable, especially with the other smaller pets at home.

Breed’s Compatibility with Common Pets:

Pet TypeCompatibility Level
Other DogsHigh

Size & Weight:

So, when you see an Irish Water Spaniel, you notice they aren’t exactly pint-sized. Among the spaniel family, they’re the ones you’d probably notice first in a crowd. And the males, they’re a bit more on the heavier side compared to the females.

Size and Weight Comparison:

GenderHeight (cm/inches)Weight (kg/lbs)
Male55-61 cm (22-24 inches)25-30.8 kg (55-68 lbs)
Female53-58 cm (21-23 inches)20.4-26.3 kg (45-58 lbs)

Grooming & Care:

That curly, water-resistant coat on the Irish Water Spaniel? It’s a standout feature, But don’t let those curls fool you into thinking they’re low maintenance; they need regular TLC to stay fabulous.

Step-by-step Grooming Tips:

  • Brushing: Do a thorough brushing at least once a week. It’s like with your hair; skip this, and you’re looking at a tangly mess.
  • Bathing: When it’s time for a bath, always go for a dog-specific shampoo. 
  • Trimming: Don’t ignore the ears and paws – a trim every few months keeps things looking neat.
  • Drying: You know the feeling after a good swim or bath? Make sure the coat’s dried properly to avoid any skin woes.
  • Check for Debris: It’s an outdoor world full of twigs, leaves, and whatnot. A quick check for any hitchhikers in their coats can save you some trouble later.

Nutrition & Food:

Feeding the Irish Water Spaniel, especially with that curly water-resistant coat and never-ending energy, is kind of like finding the right fuel for a sports car. You see, they need a diet that matches their zest. Now, like all breeds, these spaniels have their own dietary whims, which you have to take care of if you want to keep them happy and hopping.

  • Allergies: Got a dog that’s scratching more than usual? Some Irish Water Spaniels can be prone to food allergies. Better keep an eye out and hit the vet if things like itching or redness show up.
  • High-Quality Dog Foods: When you’re browsing the dog food aisle, look for brands that list meat as the first ingredient. Stick to quality brands like Hill’s Science Diet or Royal Canin – they even offer breed-specific formulas.
  • Treats: While it’s tempting to spoil your furry friend with treats, moderation is key. Opt for healthy treats like dehydrated meats or vegetables. Always ensure treats don’t make up more than 10% of their daily caloric intake.


The Irish Water Spaniel is usually a sturdy breed, but like other breeds, it’s got its own set of health concerns. Keeping up with regular vet visits and staying in the loop about these issues? A good way to catch things early.

  • Hip Dysplasia: It’s a genetic disorder. Sometimes the thigh bone doesn’t fit into the hip joint all snug. This mismatch can cause pain or even arthritis over time.
  • Ear Infections: Those floppy ears? While they’re adorable, they can trap moisture. That makes them a good ground for ear infections. Cleaning them regularly helps a lot.
  • Eye Conditions: These dogs might have to deal with eye issues like cataracts or even progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Hypothyroidism: It’s a thyroid gland disorder. If your dog’s putting on weight, seeming a bit lethargic, or having skin problems, this might be the cause.
  • Allergies: Just like us, they can be allergic. Whether it’s some foods, pollen, dust or other things from the environment, it’s something to watch out for.


Having an Irish Water Spaniel, or any puppy for that matter, sure does come with its responsibilities. One thing a lot of us tend to forget about? Pet insurance. Dogs, like us, can have their off days – they get sick, they have accidents. And let’s be honest, those vet bills aren’t always friendly to the wallet.

  • Coverage: Pet insurance can cover a whole lot. We’re talking about accidents, injuries, illnesses, and even those chronic conditions. And, believe it or not, some even cover your routine vet visits. 
  • Peace of Mind: It’s a good feeling, knowing that a big chunk of those vet bills won’t be your headache. That way, when it comes to your furry friend’s health, your wallet won’t be the deciding factor.
  • Budgeting: No more surprise costs. With insurance, you get a monthly premium. Predictable, right?

Table: Top Pet Insurance Providers in the UK

Buying & Breeders:

So, you’ve got your heart set on an Irish Water Spaniel? Good choice! Now, the real work starts – finding that trustworthy breeder to get your puppy is vital. You want to make sure your new pup is coming from a good place, right?

Checklist for Identifying Reputable Breeders:

  • Transparency: They have to be transparent. Any good breeder will show you all the cards – talking about the health of the pups and their parents. 
  • Environment: Take a look around where they’re breeding. It should be clean and taken care of. Those puppies should look happy, socialised, and good with humans.
  • Knowledgeable: You’d want a breeder who knows their breeds. They should be giving you details on care, training, health, and everything about the breed.
  • References: It ain’t rude to ask for references. Get a feel from other buyers, and see how their experience was.

Rescue & Re-homing:

So you’re considering adopting an Irish Water Spaniel from a rescue? That’s a heartwarming choice and responsible too.

Benefits of Adoption Over Buying:

  • Cost-Effective: Adoption ain’t just good for the soul; it’s good for the wallet too. The fees are usually less than what you’d spend buying a new pup. Plus, most rescues got you covered with those first vet visits – think spaying/neutering, and vaccinations.
  • Fully Vetted: One less worry on your plate, the dog’s health. Rescues usually make sure these canines are in good shape and treated for any known problems.
  • Support: And let’s talk about post-adoption. You’re not in this alone. Many rescues offer guidance, training resources, and all sorts of advice. It’s like a safety net for you and your new furry friend.
  • Making a Difference: By choosing to adopt, you’re not just getting a dog; you’re giving one a new life. And bonus? You free up space at the rescue for another pooch in need.

Mixed Breeds:

So, the Irish Water Spaniel’s got that distinctive curly coat and nature that’s all playful. And guess what? They’ve been paired with other breeds, creating some hybrids that are both unique and charming.

Table: Characteristics of Popular Irish Water Spaniel Mixes

Mix BreedCharacteristics
Irish Water Spaniel x PoodleCurly coat, intelligent, good with families, may require regular grooming.
Irish Water Spaniel x LabradorEnergetic, friendly, good with kids, may have a wavy coat.
Irish Water Spaniel x SetterPlayful, good hunting instincts, requires regular exercise.
Irish Water Spaniel x TerrierLively, curious, may have a wiry coat, good watchdog instincts.
Irish Water Spaniel x CollieIntelligent, herding instincts, loyal, may have a mix of curly and long hair.


Alright then, that’s the full scoop on the delightful Irish Water Spaniel. Maybe you’re thinking about getting one or just digging for some info – these dogs, they’ve got charm, brains, and they’re up for some fun. And if you’re leaning towards getting one, don’t forget adoption. Loads of awesome dogs out there waiting for a place to call home. But one thing’s certain, with an Irish Water Spaniel around, there’s bound to be joy and a whole lotta laughs in the household.


Leave a Comment