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Honest FAQ for American Water Spaniels (2021)

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniel is the state dog of Wisconsin. Hunters appreciated this smallish retriever who would plunge readily into the icy Great Lakes and not tip the boat over when he climbed back in!


What kind of temperament and personality does the American Water Spaniel have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding American Water Spaniel temperament and behavior are:

lively, hardy, loyal, on the stubborn side, proud, sensitive

I give you my honest opinions about American Water Spaniel temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, American Water Spaniel Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

What were American Water Spaniels used for?

American Water Spaniels were developed in the Great Lakes region of the US. These versatile hunters can work like spaniels, searching through fields and flushing hiding game birds such as grouse and quail. They also work like retrievers, plunging fearlessly into icy bays to fetch birds shot by their owner.

What traits would help American Water Spaniels accomplish their work? That's right... a good nose, liveliness, ruggedness, athleticism, biddability, and willingness to work closely with his owner.

How big are American Water Spaniels? Height and weight?

About 15-18 inches at the shoulder, and 30-45 pounds, which puts them in the MIDSIZE category.

What colors do American Water Spaniels come in?

Shades of brown, from liver to chocolate.

How much exercise do American Water Spaniels need?

A lot. The athletic American Water Spaniel is bred to work and loves being outdoors in natural settings. This is not a city dog, nor a dog for someone who just wants a casual pet. If you don't provide enough exercise, an American Water Spaniel will vent his energy through barking and destructive chewing. DO active things with your American Water Spaniel, every day.

Do American Water Spaniels need a fenced yard?

Yes. Why? and best and worst fences.

Are American Water Spaniels easy to train?

Moderate, I would say. Unlike most spaniels, this breed can be somewhat resistant, even stubborn. But they generally do want to please, so as long as you can establish the right leader-follower relationship, they should be fine.

Are American Water Spaniels easy to housebreak?

They're about average, no real problems.

Are American Water Spaniels friendly with people?

This loyal breed loves his family, sometimes even bonds with just one person. With strangers, American Water Spaniels are usually standoffish, may even be suspicious.

Are American Water Spaniels good with children?

American Water Spaniels have an innate sense of pride and fairness and may react defensively if a pushy child steps over the line. I much prefer to see American Water Spaniels (and all spaniels, really) in homes with kids who are at least about age 10 and can be relied upon to treat a dog gently and respectfully.

Are American Water Spaniels good with other dogs?

American Water Spaniels are usually okay with familiar dogs. They might act assertively toward other dogs of the same sex.

Are American Water Spaniels good with cats?

They're usually fine with cats in their own family.

How much do American Water Spaniels shed?

American Water Spaniels are average shedders, which means moderate shedding in the spring and fall, and occasionally a tiny bit of hair the rest of the year.

Are American Water Spaniels hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

If you're allergic to dog dander, no. If you're allergic to canine saliva, no. American Water Spaniels are not hypoallergenic dogs.

How much grooming do American Water Spaniels need?

The American Water Spaniel's coat is a mass of crisp, coarse ringlets, which may be tightly curled or just loosely waved in an undulating pattern. His head and face are smooth, though. Brush once a week and occasionally trim straggly hairs.

What's a good training schedule for training American Water Spaniel puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for American Water Spaniels: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do American Water Spaniels tend to have?

Most commonly I see excessive barking and whining. Sometimes possessiveness of food or toys. Destructive chewing if you don't provide enough exercise. Here's how to handle behavior problems.

What health problems might American Water Spaniels have?

Chronic itchy skin and ears. Loose hip and knee joints can cause lameness. Eye diseases can cause blindness.

What breeds are similar to the American Water Spaniel?

Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniel, the state dog of South Carolina

The Boykin Spaniel is very similar – not surprising given that the Boykin was developed by crossing American Water Spaniels with other hunting breeds. The Boykin's home community is Boykin, South Carolina. Just as the AWS is the state dog of Wisconsin, the Boykin is the state dog of South Carolina.

I have not worked with many Boykins or American Water Spaniels – they're so uncommon. But of those I have, the Boykins were more outgoing and playful, while the AWSs were more aloof and more rugged.

Irish Water Spaniel. This medium-sized to large water dog needs even more exercise and mental stimulation than the American Water Spaniel. Irish Water Spaniels do best with experienced owners.

Where can I buy an American Water Spaniel puppy?

Show breeder or hunting breeder? Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older American Water Spaniel?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new American Water Spaniel. Which pages should I read first?

  • American Water Spaniel Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your American Water Spaniel puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training American Water Spaniels, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your American Water Spaniel puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male American Water Spaniels have pros and cons, and female American Water Spaniels have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable American Water Spaniel puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible American Water Spaniel breeder would ever place one of their American Water Spaniel puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best American Water Spaniel puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for American Water Spaniels?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my American Water Spaniel to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your American Water Spaniel until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my American Water Spaniel, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about American Water Spaniels that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my books:

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.