American Water Spaniel
|American Water Spaniel
American Water Spaniel
|Country of origin
|Classification and breed standards
|Not recognized by any major kennel club
|This breed of dog is
The American Water Spaniel is a
little known outside
American Water Spaniel at work
Weighing 25 to 45 pounds (11-20 kg) and standing 15 to 18 inches (36-46 cm)
in height, he has a curly to
that is dense and well-suited to resist cold water and inclement weather. The
coat's color is liver, brown, or chocolate. The American Water Spaniel (AWS)
should have a rocker-shaped tail and be somewhat compact in size with
well-proportioned features that give the dog an air of balance. Its head should
be broad and spaniel-like with no topknot.
The American Water Spaniel originated around the mid-1800s but its true
origin is a mystery. Most experts have come to accept that it was likely
developed in the Fox River and Wolf River valleys of
There is no documentation as to the specific breeds that were used to develop
the AWS. Doc Pfeifer, the man credited with obtaining recognition for the breed
in the 1920s, believed that the AWS was developed by crossing extinct
English Water Spaniel and the
Spaniel. Others have disputed this claim and it is currently accepted that
the breeds involved in the development of the American Water Spaniel include the
English Water Spaniel, Field Spaniel,
Curly Coated Retriever,
Irish Water Spaniel, and possibly the
Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
The American Water Spaniel was developed as a hunting dog in the market
hunting days of America's history. Hunters needed a dog that could function on
land as well as in the
marsh and that
could easily fit into a
taking up much room. The AWS fit the bill and most breed historians note that
Midwest market hunters made wide use of this dog. The AWS was not formally
recognized as a purebred dog until the
United Kennel Club did so in 1920, followed by the Field Dog Stud Book in
1938, and finally by the
American Kennel Club in 1940.
Having reached its peak of popularity probably sometime in the 1920s and
1930s, the AWS has become the "Forgotten American" at many times in its history.
Still, with the tenacity of spirit that exemplifies this little brown dog, the
breed's enthusiasts have managed to maintain a reasonable population that is not
likely to disappear from the scene any time soon.
An American original, this flushing
doubles as a competent
Like many of the spaniel breeds, he hunts both feather and fur with equal
enthusiasm. Friendly, intelligent, and often willing to please, this little
brown dog has many of the common spaniel characteristics.
The AWS has a mind of its own at times and reaches peak performance with the
owner that is dedicated to teaching the dog just what is expected of it. The
breed takes well to training and especially excels at training that offers some
variety rather than rote training drills. Harsh training techniques do not work
for the majority of AWS. In fact, such techniques often cause a dog to become
shy or even bite out of fear. This is a breed for the trainer that is consistent
and fair when dealing with the dog.
American Water Spaniels do not have to hunt to be happy. They make fine
companion animals and, because of their size, they fit well in today’s cramped
quarters. However, the breed does need exercise and training to mature into that
loving friend that people look for. To avoid possessiveness, excessive barking,
and a willingness to take over the household, novice owners should attend a
local obedience class and set aside daily play time for their companion.
While there is no one health issue that plagues the American Water Spaniel,
neither is it free of health concerns. A variety of problems have cropped up
from time to time in the breed including cardiac abnormalities,
All AWS used for breeding should receive health clearances from the Orthopedic
Foundation for Animals for hips, heart, and hypothyroidism as well as an eye
clearance from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. All reputable breeders
offer and supply the puppy buyer with a written health guarantee covering these
more common health concerns.
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