American Water Spaniels: the most honest dog breed review you'll ever find about American Water Spaniel temperament, personality, and behavior.

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American Water Spaniel dog breed

American Water Spaniel Temperament: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

American Water Spaniel Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2017


The AKC Standard says that the American Water Spaniel has "great energy and eagerness for the hunt."

This solidly built breed is happy, hardy, and adaptable but also energetic and in need of a good amount of daily exercise. Swimming and fetching are especially appreciated. Too much confinement or isolation can lead to hyperactivity and destructive behavior.

The temperament of the American Water Spaniel is about midway between that of an ingratiating English Springer Spaniel and a self-reliant Irish Water Spaniel.

American Water Spaniels who have been extensively socialized are friendly. But many individuals make alert watchdogs and may not always welcome strangers into their home.

Most are fine with other family pets, though some can be dominant with strange dogs.

The American Water Spaniel is a bit of a challenge to train. He has a stubborn streak and is not as eager to please as some other spaniels. At the same time he is highly sensitive and may respond defensively if he thinks he is being treated unfairly (whether he actually is or not!) Consistent leadership is a must.


If you want a dog who...

  • Is medium-sized and solidly built, with a wavy brownish coat
  • Is more discriminating with strangers than most spaniels, and makes a better watchdog
  • Loves vigorous athletic activities
  • Is hardy and healthy

An American Water Spaniel may be right for you.


If you don't want to deal with...

  • Providing lots of exercise
  • "Separation anxiety" (destructiveness and barking) when left alone too much
  • Suspiciousness toward strangers if not socialized enough
  • Stubbornness (mind of his own)
  • Vocalness - barking, whining, and yodeling
  • Waiting lists (hard to find)

An American Water Spaniel may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

More traits and characteristics of the American Water Spaniel

If I was considering an American Water Spaniel, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. American Water Spaniels were developed to be hunting dogs. They must have regular opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. Otherwise they will become bored, which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing. You should be an active owner who enjoys long daily walks, hiking, swimming, or visits to the dog park.
  2. Potential separation anxiety. More than most other breeds, American Water Spaniels need a great deal of companionship. They do not like being left alone for more than a few hours. They tend to express their unhappiness through destructive chewing and barking. If you work all day, this is not the breed for you.
  3. Providing enough socialization. Standoffish by nature, American Water Spaniels need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become shyness or suspiciousness, which are difficult to live with.
  4. Mind of their own. American Water Spaniels can be stubborn and manipulative. You must show them that you mean what you say. To teach your spaniel to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My American Water Spaniel Training Page discusses the program you need.
  5. Potential barking. American Water Spaniels are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them before this behavior becomes a bad habit.
  6. Finding one. American Water Spaniels are rare. You will almost certainly need to go on a waiting list, whether you want a puppy from a breeder or an adult dog from a rescue group.

To help you train and care for your dog

book cover To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.

book cover My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.

book cover My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.

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