The exact origins of the Irish Water Spaniel are unknown, however, until the mid 19th century there were two types of Water Spaniel native to Ireland. This included the northern type, which had short ears and was liver in colour with white markings, and the southern variety – a solid liver-coloured dog with long ears and a coat of crisp curls. Today’s Irish Water Spaniels are most likely descendants of the southern type.
A medium to large size dog with a coat of crisp curls or ringlets covering the entire body, except for the face, throat and tail, the Irish Water Spaniel presents like no other dog. The breed is strongly built with dogs standing at 53-58cm and bitches slightly smaller at 51-56cm. The ribs should be carried well back and well sprung behind the shoulder, giving the breed a distinctive barrel shape.
Finally, the Irish Water Spaniel also possesses one of the most striking topknots in the canine world.
The Irish Water Spaniel is often referred to as the clown of the Spaniel family and this should be taken as a term of endearment, not as a slight upon the intelligence of the dog. It is an intelligent, alert and independent dog, loving and devoted to its family. The breed can be aloof with strangers but never aggressive, however, it can also be headstrong and likes to have its own way.
The Irish Water Spaniel has no major health problems in Australia and this reﬂects positively on all the breeders, both past and present, who have ensured that only dogs that are physically sound and of good temperament are used in their breeding programs.
There have been occasional reports of Entropion, but generally the Irish Water Spaniel is a healthy breed with few inherent health issues.
Grooming an Irish Water Spaniel is not diﬃcult. It should be thoroughly combed out at least once a week, preferably twice. If left uncombed the coat will matt and this can lead to skin irritation. Bathing an Irish Water Spaniel should be undertaken regularly and, as with any long-eared breed, particular attention should be paid to the cleaning and drying of the ears.
Trimming an Irish Water Spaniel can seem daunting at ﬁrst, but most breeders are happy to guide new owners through their ﬁrst few attempts.
The Irish Water Spaniel is an energetic, active dog that adapts well to most household environments. As a companion, the Irish Water Spaniel needs to be allowed to share as many family activities as possible in order to avoid boredom. Irish Water Spaniels love all activities and have taken part in a range of canine sports including Agility, Flyball and most recently Dock Diving.
As with all breeds, at least one member of the family must be prepared to give enough of their time for feeding, grooming, exercising and training and, for this small investment of your time, your dog will repay you with love, loyalty and years of fun.
Words: Sharon Gahan
Now you know a little about the Irish Water Spaniel, you may think that this is the dog for you. Before you make a decision, please make contact with the breed club or your State controlling body for purebred dogs. They will be able to give you information about available puppies and also suggest dog shows where you can see the breed and speak to breeders. In this way you will gain a better perspective of the Irish Water Spaniel and its needs, and whether this breed would suit your lifestyle.