American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel

Last updated: Sep 04 2023

The American Water Spaniel is an all-American dog breed that was carefully bred and created as a versatile hunting dog. These dogs absolutely love water, and if you live near any body of water, this might just be the breed for you.

The American Water Spaniel is commonly abbreviated to AWS. It is a dog breed specializing in chasing and retrieving various types of waterfowl and other small prey. They can make pretty good family pets and companions who will love the active lifestyle and enjoy everything you and your family would like to do outdoors.

American Water Spaniel


15–18 in (38–46 cm)

American Water Spaniel


25–45 lb (11–21 kg)

American Water Spaniel



American Water Spaniel

Life Expectancy:

10–14 years

Dog Breed Characteristics

Energy Level
Grooming Needs
Exercise Needs
Kid Friendly
Dog Friendly
General Health

General appearance

The American Water Spaniel is a reasonably muscular dog with a moderately curly coat. It is a medium-sized breed that is very active and has decent substance. The AWS's head should always be in proportion to their bodies, not too big and not too small.

The American Water Spaniel's nose should be either brown or black. Their eyes should be slightly rounded and never appear bulging. The eyes can range from light brown to dark brown, and yellow eyes should always be disqualified. Their ears are above the eye line and should be lobular and long.

These dogs have well-developed bodies and are judged mainly by their overall balance and proportion rather than the size restrictions. Their tails are moderately long and curved in a "rocker" fashion; their legs are also relatively long, straight, and muscular. The AWS has a great overall bone structure.

Grooming and care

The American Water Spaniel will require the same basic care other breeds do. When needed, trim their nails (if they don't wear them down naturally) and brush their teeth weekly to prevent tartar buildup and bacteria development.

Regularly check their ears for any sign of redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. You can wipe their ears with a cotton ball dipped into an ear cleaner. The key for your dog to get used to all things mentioned above is to start early with them.

Make a positive experience for the dog, full of praises and rewards, and you can be sure that your dog will enjoy all these things when they grow up.

American Water Spaniel coat colors:

  • Liver
  • Brown
  • Dark chocolate

American Water Spaniel temperament

The American Water Spaniel is a lively and active family companion if their physical needs are met and they are allowed to live an active lifestyle. They are generally very friendly and affectionate, especially towards their family. The AWS is people-oriented and loves spending time with their family.

They hate to be left alone. If that scenario happens, they will most likely start excessively barking and become destructive.

The working American Water Spaniel is enthusiastic but not as enthusiastic as some of the most famous working Spaniels. They are also very talented and skilled in retrieving; their skill is almost equal to that of a Golden or Labrador Retriever. They need firm and fair leadership because they can become a bit stubborn and might not perform at their highest.

If their training is done correctly, you will have a tireless hunting dog that can go toe-to-toe with the best of them.

American Water Spaniel training and socialization

Every dog breed in the world needs proper training and socialization to fulfill their potential, and the American Water Spaniel is no different. They have an instinct for hunting and retrieving. Those instincts can be polished and trained to become an excellent hunting ability.

Make sure that you start socializing your AWS puppy as soon as they arrive at your home. Introduce your AWS puppy to different situations and environments to learn how to properly handle themselves and react. To help your puppy develop into a confident and well-behaved dog, expose them to different sights, sounds, people, and other dogs. This will ensure they can learn proper behavior and social rules.

When you start training an American Water Spaniel, make sure that your training method involves a lot of praise, treats, and food, and pretty soon, you will start noticing great results. These dogs do not respond well to harsh training methods, punishment, and fear. Those methods can result in overly shy or even aggressive dogs. AWS is fairly intelligent.

Even if you are not the most experienced dog owner, you can still handle and train the American Water Spaniel pretty well.

Health problems

Like any other dog breed, pureblooded or mixed, the American Water Spaniel can potentially develop health problems. If you are buying a dog, ensure the breeder can provide you with the necessary health tests and guarantees. Always ask to see the results of tests from the puppy's parents.

The health problems these dogs are associated with are:

  • Hypothyroidism - A health problem caused by the underproduction of hormones from the thyroid gland.
  • Epilepsy - Brain problem causing mild to severe seizures.
  • Hip dysplasia - Genetic problem affecting hips resulting from an improperly formed hip joint.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy - Group of diseases that affect the retina and cause it to deteriorate over time.
  • Cataracts - Cloudy spots on the lens of the eye
  • Allergies - these dogs are prone to have allergic reactions to specific foods, products, or medications.

The American Water Spaniel is generally considered a healthy breed that usually lives 10 - 14 years.

American Water Spaniel breeders

When getting a dog, the most important thing is to get it from a responsible and reputable American Water Spaniel breeder. Responsible breeders will breed dogs that don't only look good but also have great characters. You must find a good American Water Spaniel breeder that can help you learn about this breed and make an informed choice about getting a dog with these characteristics.

American Water Spaniel is still a rare dog breed, and if you are interested in getting one of these dogs, you must be prepared to be put on the waiting list.

When you bring your new puppy home, start with the training and socialization. By doing so, you will end up with a well-behaved dog whom you can trust. Provide him with enough daily exercise for him to be happy.

World Dog Finder team


Updated at04.09.2023.

Breed History

During the mid-nineteenth century, the Fox and Wolf River valleys of Wisconsin saw the development of the American Water Spaniel. Reliable breeding records can be traced back to 1865. The Irish Water Spaniel, Curly-Coated Retriever, Field Spaniel, and the now-extinct Old English Water Spaniel are likely ancestors of the AWS.

Whatever their ancestors were like, the AWS we know today was bred to be a versatile hunting companion. The breed's dense, curly coat protects this natural swimmer from cold water and briars in the woods. Their small size allows waterfowl hunters to transport them in small boats or canoes. These dogs will tenderly retrieve grouse, quail, pheasant, and ducks. Rather than venturing far afield, the AWS stays close to their human hunting companion.

Hunters along the Mississippi flyway and its northern tributaries frequently used the versatile AWS, taking advantage of the dog's ability to work in various terrains, from marshes to uplands, as well as their endurance and ability to retrieve numerous birds in a day.

However, as larger retriever breeds from England gained popularity, the little brown spaniel was given fewer and fewer opportunities to do its job. Doctor F. J. Pfeifer of New London, Wisconsin, was a fan, and he is credited with saving the breed from extinction. Pfeifer was a successful breeder who sold AWS, founded the breed’s parent club, and contributed to creating a breed standard — a written description of how an AWS should look.

His efforts paved the way for the United Kennel Club’s (1920) and Field Stud Book’s (1938) recognition of the American Water Spaniel breed. "Curly Pfeifer," one of Pfeifer's own dogs, became the first American Water Spaniel officially registered in various registries and stud books.

Unfortunately, the charming and hardworking American Water Spaniel still holds the status of a rare breed. It is estimated that fewer than 3,000 individual dogs remain today. However, this rarity has most likely prevented AWS to split into different breeding lines. Some popular retriever breeds, like the Labrador or Golden, have various breeding lines with different goals.

Some lines are bred with the goal of creating hunting companions, and others aim to breed the perfect hunting companions. In 1986, the AWS was named Wisconsin's state dog.