Irish Water Spaniel Breed Overview

Irish Water Spaniel

This curly-coated dog breed is a champion swimmer and the tallest of the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Spaniel dogs. The Irish Water Spaniel is an impressive breed of dog, and they are naturally alert and curious. These dogs are adored by people who adopt them, and they aren’t scared of showing tons of affection for their families. They also aren’t scared of much in general. Irish Water Spaniel puppies are quite a brave bunch of dogs.

Their name is quite forthcoming in their history. This breed was born in Ireland and was popular for working in water. However, this lesser-known breed doesn’t get as much attention as they deserve. Although the Irish Water Spaniel is a great all-around dog, they aren’t the best fit for first-time owners. These dogs require tons of daily activity, making them poor fits for inner-city living. Even though these dogs require a lot of activity, they can still live happily in apartments, but their owners need to make sure they give their dog enough exercise, or else they risk causing the Irish Water Spaniel to become depressed and gain health issues.

Irish Water Spaniel

History of the Irish Water Spaniel Breed

While many old hunting breeds have documented pasts, little is absolute about the Irish Water Spaniel breed’s past. This breed appeared in 1830 in Ireland, and Justin McCarthy is mainly credited for the breed’s beginning.

Although there is a man credited with the birth of the modern Irish Water Spaniel dog breed, he shared little about his sources and breeding secrets and died without ever revealing much information. There is a lot of speculation that this breed may be related to the early Barbet or Poodle type of dogs. Some theories suggest that perhaps a member of the Portuguese Waterdog breed arrived in Ireland by Portuguese fishing boats and are related to this breed.

This breed grew in popularity because they are excellent competition dogs, therapy dogs, or family pets. This breed had proved its variability very well and become a very popular pet in their native country. However, in the United States, these dogs are only the 139th most popular dog breed out of 155 dog breeds, making the Irish Water Spaniel a rare and delightful breed.

Irish Water Spaniel Size

Out of all the Spaniels in the AKC, the Irish Water Spaniel is the tallest, checking in at 21 to 24 inches tall at the shoulders. These large dogs also weigh between 55 and 65 pounds on average, but some might straddle the line between a ‘medium’ or ‘large’ size dog.

Irish Water Spaniels are not very portable pets, but it doesn’t mean they won’t want to travel with you. These dogs can live happily in smaller homes and apartments if they are given plenty of exercise and let out often. Don’t let their larger size fool you into thinking these dogs might not fit in smaller homes. The Irish Water Spaniel puppy’s personality can fit in almost anywhere.

wet Irish Water Spaniel on the beach

Irish Water Spaniel Puppy Temperament

Many people mistake the Irish Water Spaniel to be a Poodle upon first glance and for a good reason. Not only do Irish Water Spaniel dogs have strikingly similar curly and hypoallergenic coats to the Poodle, but they also carry pretty similar attitudes.

Even though this breed is special in its own way, they are considered similar to the Poodle breed, which is why so many people think these breeds share a common ancestry.

These dogs are versatile, active hunting dogs. They have prey drives but would also love to lay on a couch getting pets from their family members. These dogs might be hard-working, but they are glad to goof off and entertain their owners with their clownish behaviors. These dogs can make the most mundane moments full of laughter for anyone involved.

There are tons of different dog breeds that are loyal and affectionate, but not so many dogs can keep up with the energy of Irish Water Spaniel puppies. These hyper pets are excellent for people who want to be surrounded by enthusiasm, optimism, and excitement. If you’re looking for a positive partner, these dogs are probably a great fit for you! However, if you prefer a much more laid-back lifestyle and want a dog that will mostly chill out in a park, you might find yourself getting a little more stressed than normal.

Irish Water Spaniel puppies have the energy of a two-year-old toddler. These dogs can become highly mischievous when they aren’t given enough activity but can become total goofy sweethearts when provided with plenty of physical and mental stimulation.

Any potential owners that enjoy enrichment activities will find the Irish Water Spaniels have the right attitude and endurance for that kind of lifestyle.

Irish Water Spaniel Breed Intelligence

This intelligent breed is intuitive and eager to please its owners. They’re reliable and have a strong sense of loyalty to their families. Because they are a hunting breed, they are ready to complete any task and excited to use their skills of agility to do their best. Many dogs of this breed are great in agility sports, dock diving, rally, tracking, and flyball.

Their natural intelligence also makes them easily trainable pets, and this is why so many Irish Water Spaniel puppies succeed at being therapy and assistance dogs.

Many intelligent breeds are also great for first-time owners because of the ease of trainability. While it would be easy for novice dog owners to provide obedience lessons for an Irish Water Spaniel puppy, these dogs require tons of exercise and might not be great for any newbie owners.

Every dog learns better and faster when given training lessons in repetitive and shortened sessions. Dog owners should give their pets five-minute obedience lessons every day. Always provide treats for your dog when your dog completes commands, and never chastise them for not finishing an order. Scolding your dog can accidentally make them associate anxiety with training and make them not enjoy these bonding sessions. Positive reinforcement encourages their compliance and enjoyment.

Irish Water Spaniel doing an agility course

Shedding Habits of the Irish Water Spaniel

Many dogs that were famous for their swimming skills or hunting in water developed coats specifically designed to protect them against the cold. This distinguished breed originated its iconic crispy, curly, waterproof jacket with a tapered ‘rat tail.’

This dog doesn’t shed much, making them excellent fits for allergy sufferers. However, hypoallergenic dogs like the Irish Water Spaniel require regular grooming. While many Irish Water Spaniel dogs won’t shed much, these dogs need brushing to remove any dead hair that gets trapped on their fur. This also helps keep their fur clean of debris and prevents matting.

Health Overview of the Irish Water Spaniel Breed

All dog breeds have different health risks that align with their genetics. Every dog in these specific breeds is at risk of developing these conditions, but not all dogs in the breed will develop these issues. Irish Water Spaniel dogs are at risk of developing a few conditions but are likely to live long lives with an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years.

Many Irish Water Spaniel dogs will live without suffering from any physical health issues. However, all dogs will experience conditions like stress and anxiety at some point in their lives. Owners can best help their dogs by providing remedies to aid their symptoms.

Irish Water Dog standing in a grassy field

Common Psychological Health Conditions


All dogs will experience stress at some point, but some dogs have more repetitive and severe symptoms than others. It’s common for dogs to experience stress around loud noises like fireworks or police sirens. Many dogs that aren’t socialized properly will often experience stress symptoms.

Symptoms of stress include pacing, crying, barking, or howling. Some dogs will become restless, and some animals will tuck their tails or hide behind their owners.

Many owners provide their dogs with calming supplements to help them deal with their stress symptoms. Some owners find methods like removing their dog from stressful situations can help their symptoms. Some owners find they need to provide more aid in helping their dogs.


It’s very normal for dogs to experience anxiety and many animals do, and anxiety only becomes a psychological condition when it regularly affects your dog’s mood. Pet owners will begin to understand their dog’s body language just by spending time with them regularly. If you notice your dog regularly has anxiety symptoms, you should provide treatment methods to help prevent this. Some breeds struggle with separation anxiety, especially because they are so loyal.

Many symptoms typically anxious dogs show are pacing, drooling, and whining. Anxious dogs also may urinate or defecate in the house. Some dogs will hide behind their owners or may try to stop their owners from leaving the house.

Dogs with separation anxiety might even try to escape their homes before their owners get to leave. Many anxious dogs develop a bad habit of ripping up the house when their owners are out.

Irish Water Spaniels are very loyal and active dogs, and they might experience separation anxiety or bouts of anxiety when they aren’t getting enough activity.

Owners can help their dogs deal with their anxiety by providing calming remedies like safe spaces, CBD, calming treats, or other methods. More severe cases of anxiety will need anti-anxiety medication prescribed by vets. Some dogs won’t see improvements in their symptoms until they undergo serious training for anxiety-like counterconditioning treatments.

Calming Dog Products

There are many products pet owners can give their pets to help them deal with their anxiety. A common new tip is to create a ‘safe space’ for your anxious dogs. This space will include a comfortable place for them to rest while giving them some toys or treats to add additional comfort. Spaces like these benefit from crates, dog beds, calming treats, and freshwater.

Irish Water Dog with sunset in background

Common Physical Health Conditions

Every dog breed has its own health risks, and the Irish Water Spaniel is at risk of developing hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and distichiasis.

Most Irish Water Spaniel dogs will live their whole lives without experiencing any specific health issues. Most dogs that do have problems like these will have minor conditions and many treatment options.

Hip Dysplasia

There are a few joint conditions that are very common among dogs. Irish Water Spaniel dogs are at risk of hip dysplasia which occurs when their joint doesn’t align correctly. This ball-in-socket joint is meant to slide smoothly, but when it doesn’t properly grow, it can cause pain and arthritis to appear in your dog.

Many dogs with hip dysplasia are born with this issue and don’t experience symptoms until much later in life. Irish Water Spaniel puppies with hip dysplasia might not experience any pain or arthritis until they are seven or older, but they can experience pain earlier.

Any dogs with hip dysplasia might have a reduction in activity. Some animals refuse to climb stairs or jump. Often pets will cry or whimper when they hurt their hips and might rely on their front legs to help support more of their weight.

Most owners help their dogs with hip dysplasia by ensuring they provide the right amount of activity and rest. Dogs that are too active can irritate their joint and cause unnecessary pain and swelling, but animals that aren’t active enough might cause their joint to stiffen and prematurely lose significant ranges of motion. Owners can use anti-inflammation supplements and pain relief supplements to aid their Irish Water Spaniel puppies with hip dysplasia.


Eye conditions like distichiasis aren’t uncommon and have a large range of severity. Irish Water Spaniels are at risk of developing distichiasis, which is an eye condition that causes extra eyelashes to grow from the margin of the eyelid.

Some conditions of distichiasis result in a dog tearing its eye film. It can result in corneal ulcers or worsening of sight. However, most cases of this condition are moderate in severity and don’t require much serious treatment.

Owners have options when it comes to treating their dog’s condition. Many times, dogs with distichiasis grow soft eyelashes that can be plucked out or ignored. Some dog owners provide eye ointment or eye drops to help their dog’s eye irritation. Most severe cases will require surgery to remove hair follicles, although severe cases of this health condition are rare.

Elbow Dysplasia

Another common joint issue that many dogs are born with is elbow dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia is a condition that affects a large number of dogs. This condition is the combination of several different elbow issues that result in the joint not aligning correctly, and this misalignment leads to arthritis and pain.

Dogs with elbow dysplasia can be born with this condition and not experience any symptoms until much later in their adult life. Some dogs will hold one paw up or limp when they have pain or arthritis from elbow dysplasia. Many animals will become less active as their symptoms of pain increase.

Owners provide things like dog CBD to help the pain and inflammation caused by the condition. Several businesses created joint supplements to help dogs with joint issues.

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Oral Health

Many dog owners don’t brush their dog’s teeth as often as they should. All dogs, including the Irish Water Spaniel puppy, need their teeth brushed once a week minimum. Dogs build up tartar and plaque on their teeth, and when too much of this builds up, it can lead to dental disease.

Poor oral health can lead to your dog having periodontal disease and bleeding gums. Most severe cases of dental disease result in your dog losing their teeth. Sometimes dental health issues can cause respiratory issues or heart disease because of a build of bacteria.

Many owners provide their dogs with dental chews and treats to help keep up with their dog’s oral health. Owners must be sure to only use dog-specific dental products on their pets.

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Irish Water Spaniel Breed’s Needs


Just like other hard-working dog breeds, the Irish Water Spaniel is an energetic puppy that is excited to get tons of activity. These dogs are very eager to please, which makes enrichment activity sessions easier. Some owners might find it challenging to keep up with the exercise needs of Irish Water Spaniel puppies and should consider adopting a different breed since getting regular activity is so important to this breed.

An Irish Water Spaniel will have different activity levels depending on their personalities and different exercise requirements depending on their age. Some dogs will benefit from forty minutes of daily activity, while some Irish Water Spaniel puppies will require almost 90 minutes of activity.

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Active hunting dog breeds like the Irish Water Spaniel would do best on high-quality dry dog food diets. These dogs would be great on commercial manufactured food or home prepped diets as long as owners are sure their dogs receive the minimum amount of daily nutrients and calories.

All dogs have different diets based on their age, sex, weight, activity levels, and overall health. Vets can help any owner decide on a proper diet for their dogs and will help adjust the diet as necessary. Many pet owners overfeed their dogs because they don’t provide enough exercise, which can be an easy mistake with the Irish Water Spaniel.

This breed will binge eat their dog food and would happily run miles afterward, but many owners don’t allow their dogs to release their energy. Owners need to ensure they do this to prevent their dogs from becoming obese.

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Hypoallergenic coats require more sensitive grooming care than other types of dog coats. Dog coats like Irish Water Spaniel dogs need to be brushed during the week at least once, at best every day, and this helps remove any dead hair or debris from their fur and prevents matting. Another thing owners need to do is ensure their dogs get their coats trimmed every two months to neaten and shape them.

Some owners learn how to groom their dogs themselves at home. However, many owners feel they don’t want to do this and hire a groomer. Either situation works as long as your dog receives proper grooming, as improper grooming can lead to skin irritations and infections.

wet Irish Water Dog by a body of water

Top Product Picks for Irish Water Spaniel Puppies

Many pet owners get so excited to get a new dog they don’t prepare as best as they can. All dogs will feel more comforted going to a new home that is already prepped to welcome them.

All dogs would benefit from a crate and bed. Many new dogs can’t be trusted home alone for a little while, especially if they aren’t house trained, so owners should always get crates to prep for a new dog. Also, giving your new addition their own bed shows them that they can have their own things in your house and allows them to feel more relaxed.

There are a few obvious needs dog owners will purchase, such as a collar, a leash, a harness, food, or bowls. Having all of these supplies before bringing your dog home can make the transition much easier for them. Experienced owners will also know that purchasing dental chews and some dog treats before getting your dog is a great way to get them to warm up to you.

Other tools that might be helpful for new Irish Water Spaniel puppy owners are portable food bowls and dog food storage containers. Having an airtight container to keep your dog’s food safe and fresh is a great thing to have.

Every dog does best in a new environment when they are given space and positive encouragement. New dog owners need to let their dogs explore their homes calmly and let their dogs have space. It can be tempting to try to get your puppy to spend all the time in the world with you, but doing this can make them feel more anxious and stressed. Owners should try to make all their interactions with their new dog as calm and positive as possible. Giving your new pet space and treats is the best way to do this.

Other Resources

Irish Water Spaniel Club of America

Irish Water Spaniel Rescues

Irish Water Spaniel Rescue Groups

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