American Water Spaniel

Other names: American Brown Spaniel, American Brown Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniel was developed in the state of Wisconsin during the 19th Century. It was bred by crossing the English Water Spaniel with other retrieving dogs such as the Poodle and the Curly Coated Retriever. Mainly used as a water dog to retrieve ducks and other game, the American Water Spaniel's numbers began to decline as industrialisation spread across the United States. It was named the State Dog of Wisconsin in 1985, but the American Water Spaniel is still a rare breed. There are less than 3,000 left in the USA. 

Key facts about the American Water Spaniel

Life expectancy :





Temperament :

Affectionate Playful Calm Hunter

Size :

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Origins and history

The American Water Spaniel was developed in the Fox River Valley region in the state of Wisconsin. Despite being an excellent retriever, it remained relatively unknown even in its home state. However, thanks to the tireless work of Dr Fred Pfiefer, the breed was recognised by the United Kennel  Club in 1920. Dr Pfiefer set up the very first breeding club and spent much of his life promoting the breed. He even wrote letters to potential owners and the hunting community which praised the dog’s abilities. One of them read: "The American Water Spaniel is distinctively an American production. Hunters have known this type for years and it was through their efforts that this dog was propagated.... For years we have bred only selective stock, breeding for gameness, stability, courage, intelligence, and beauty. They are dogs to admire and trust under all conditions whether in the home circle or in the field with the outdoor man."

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 8 - Retrievers - Flushing Dogs - Water Dogs


Section 3 : Water Dogs

Physical characteristics of the American Water Spaniel

  • American Water Spaniel
    American Water Spaniel

    Adult size

    Female : Between 15 and 18 in

    Male : Between 15 and 18 in


    Female : Between 24 and 40 lb

    Male : Between 29 and 44 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    A medium sized, muscular dog with a soft and curly coat. Classic spaniel look with long, pendulous ears. A gentle and soft expression that reflects its affectionate personality. 

    Good to know

    The American Water Spaniel is well-known for producing large litters. They can give birth to up to 16 puppies!

    It has a bit of a split personality. One minute they’re nice and calm, the next minute they’re barking and running all over the place. 

    A sensitive animal that scares easily. They hate loud noises, especially fireworks. They get very anxious on bonfire night and new years eve.


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      Very loyal and affectionate by nature. A really tactile dog. Loves strokes and snuggles. 

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      Naturally playful, especially around young children. Loves playing fetch

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      The American Water Spaniel takes a long time to mature. They display puppy-like behaviour well into adulthood. They like being the centre of attention and can be quite hyperactive. 

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      These dogs have a high level of intelligence. They can quickly pick up basic obedience commands and are naturally obedient. 

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      Not as big or powerful as other retrieving breeds, but just as determined.  

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      Fearful / wary of strangers

      The American Water Spaniel is a friendly, warm-hearted dog. Very sociable around people, including strangers. 

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      This dog is naturally obedient and very dependent on their master. They need structure, routine, and plenty of reassurance. 

      Behaviour of the American Water Spaniel

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        Tolerates solitude

        American Water Spaniels were bred to live and work around people. They shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time.

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        Easy to train / obedience

        These dogs are very trainable. However, puppies can struggle to focus on the task in hand and they display immature behaviours well into their first few years. Handlers need to be patient and take a gentle approach when training these sensitive dogs.

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        A generally quiet breed. No issues with excessive barking or howling.

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        Tendency to run away

        This is definitely possible. Working dogs are curious creatures who love to explore. Keeping them well exercised will significantly reduce the chances of them running away. 

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        A gentle animal that will rarely turn destructive. Any such behaviour should be taken very seriously; it may well be a symptom of an underlying mental health problem.

      • 66%

        Greedy / Gluttony

        Well known for being greedy. They’re prone to rapid weight gain, so don’t overfeed them. 

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        Guard dog

        Not a bad watchdog, but certainly not a great one! A trusting dog that shows little suspicion towards strangers.

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        First dog

        An excellent choice for the first time dog owner. The American Water Spaniel is friendly, obedient, and  very easy to train. 

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        • 66%

          American Water Spaniel in a flat

          These dogs can live quite happily in a flat. However, they still need plenty of outside time. 

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          Need for exercise / Sporty

          Around 90 mins of exercise every day. Ideally, this should be split over two walks - one in the morning and then a longer walk in the early evening. 

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          Travelling / easy to transport

          Older Spaniels are easy to transport. Younger dogs, and especially puppies, tend to get very nervous during long car journeys. 


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            American Water Spaniel and cats

            Despite having a high prey drive, Spaniels get on very well with cats. This is because they were bred to exclusively retrieve ducks and other water birds. So they don’t see cats as potential “prey.”

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            American Water Spaniel and dogs

            American Water Spaniels are a great choice for owners who already have dogs. However, because of their gentle personalities, they can be easily dominated by bigger or more aggressive dogs.

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            American Water Spaniel and children

            One of the very best choices for families with children. The American Water Spaniel is comfortable around children of all ages, including toddlers. 

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            American Water Spaniel and the elderly

            Elderly dog enthusiasts will really enjoy owning an American Water Spaniel. Plus, owning one of these active dogs is a great way to stay fit and healthy.



            The initial cost of a American Water Spaniel puppy is between £800 to £1,100. The average cost to keep one of these dogs (including vet bills, insurance, and food) is between £70 to £80 a month.


            Modest grooming requirements. A weekly brush is more than enough. It’s also important to check their ears once every few weeks. This reduces the chances of any infections.


            Light shedders throughout the year.

            Nutrition of the American Water Spaniel

            3 cups of high quality dog food.

            Health of the American Water Spaniel

            Life expectancy

            A healthy and well-bred animal. Its life expectancy is between 12 and 14 years.

            Strong / robust

            Not that big, but still pretty strong. A robust dog bred for the outdoors. 

            Withstand heat

            Supports the heat very well. No issues with overheating or heat exhaustion. 

            Withstand cold

            The American Water Spaniel has a thick, waterproof coat that keeps them warm and dry. 

            Tendency to put on weight

            Water Spaniels are  prone to developing thyroid problems later in life. Combined with reduced activity levels, this can cause rapid weight which is very bad for any dog’s health. 

            Common illnesses

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