The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

American Water Spaniel

Information and Pictures

The left side of a black American Water Spaniel that is standing in a yard and it is looking forward.

Photo courtesy of Steve Deger, American Water Spaniels

Other Names
  • Amerikanischer Wasserspaniel
  • AWS
  • AM Water Spaniel

uh-mer-i-kuh n waw-ter span-yuh lspeaker


The American Water Spaniel is active, muscular and hardy. The broad head is moderately long and in proportion to the rest of the dog, with a moderate stop. The square looking muzzle is medium in length. The wide nose has large nostrils and is black or brown in color. The teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. The wide set eyes vary in color from light yellow-brown to brown hazel to dark brown, depending on the coat color. The long, hanging ears are set at eye level, covered with curls. The legs are medium in length. Dewclaws are sometimes removed. The well feathered tail is thicker at the base, tapering to a point and is medium in length, curved in a rocker fashion, and can be carried either slightly below or above the level of the back. The double coat ranges from wavy (marcel) to curly and comes in solid liver, brown or dark chocolate. There is sometimes a little white on the chest and toes.


The American Water Spaniel is intelligent and very trainable. It is eager to learn and very enthusiastic about its work. It is used, above all, for hunting quail, duck, pheasant, grouse and rabbit. It also makes a good guard dog and companion. Friendly, energetic, confident persistent and obedient, the American Water Spaniel is a pleasant, willing dog that is highly sensitive, so obedience training should be calm, firm, quiet and persuasive, rather than demanding or sharp. He is an easy going, loving companion that is usually excellent with children. If this dog believes he is, or that he could be, in an alpha position over humans he could snap defensively if startled or harshly disciplined. The American Water Spaniel is very willing and responsive, therefore heavy-handed training methods are not necessary, instead be sure to be firm, but calm, consistent and confident. Be authoritative but in an even-tempered, stern way. Dogs do not respond well to harshness or anger. Socialize this breed well at an early age to avoid timidity and potential dog aggressiveness as an adult. They usually get along with non-canine pets. It loves attention, but can entertain itself. Some American Water Spaniels snore. If the dog is lacking in daily mental and/or physical exercise it will tend to bark and whine and can sometimes be hyper or over-excited. It is an enthusiastic swimmer and makes a wonderful hunter in difficult waters, in the woods and over uneven terrain. This breed likes to roam. Some may drool.

Height, Weight

Height: 15 - 18 inches (36 - 46 cm)

Weight: 25 - 45 pounds (11 - 20 kg)

Health Problems

Some lines are prone to skin problems.

Living Conditions

American Water Spaniels will do okay in an apartment as long as they get enough exercise. They are moderately active indoors and will do best with at least an average-sized yard. Like to roam in search of quarry.


The American Water Spaniel should have a lot of physical exercise, which includes long daily walks.

Life Expectancy

About 12-15 years

Litter Size

Average of 4 - 6 puppies


The oily coat of the American Water Spaniel needs a thorough brushing twice a week. Bathe only when necessary as bathing removes the natural oils in the coat and can dry out the skin. The coat may have a strong smell due to the oil. This breed is a light shedder.


Since the 18th century, the American Water Spaniel has been an all-around farm and hunting dog. The exact knowledge regarding the origin of this breed does not exist, but it was developed in the United States around Wisconsin and Minnesota, primarily in the Great Lakes area. The breed’s ancestors include both the Irish Water Spaniel and Curly-Coated Retriever. It was the first breed developed in the United States that could retrieve from boats and also hunt. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1940 and most likely would have been sooner if it were not for breed enthusiasts who were afraid it would ruin the breed's reputation as an excellent hunter. The AWSs have a gentle mouth and a fine nose making them excel as an outstanding bird dog in the woods, swamps, lakes and rivers. The breed can point out squirrels in trees by barking and works well both flushing game and retrieving. An excellent swimmer he uses his tail as a rudder, swimming well even in turbulent waters. The AWS is considered a rare breed. Only about 270 were registered with the AKC in 1990, but it is believed that there were more born to hunting lines that were not registered, not to mention those that were registered with other clubs besides the American Kennel Club. It is the state dog of Wisconsin.


Gun Dog, AKC Sporting Group

  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • AWSC = American Water Spaniel Club, Inc.
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • UKC = United Kennel Club