Breed Type: Irish Water Spaniel Dogs
Country of Origin:
Also known as:
Southern Irish Water Spaniel, Rat-Tail Spaniel, Whip-Tail Spaniel, Irish Water Dog
Height: 56-61 cm Weight: 25-31 kg
Females: Height: 53-58 cm Weight: 20-26 kg
Exercise Requirements: High
Care Requirements:
10-13 years
Best Suited as: 
Family Pet and Bird-Hunting Companion

The Irish Water Spaniel is a large breed of dog with a distinctive topknot of hair right above the eyebrow line. These Spaniels also have a unique tail that is covered half way down with curly hair then mostly hairless for the remainder of the tail all the way to the tip. These dogs were initially bred as hunting dogs – bird hunters in particular. They are not only the tallest of all the different Spaniel breeds, but are also different in their main hunting technique. Instead of flushing birds out of hiding for hunters to shoot, Irish Water Spaniels would jump into the icy cold waters off the coast of Ireland in order to retrieve dead or wounded birds. They instinctively adore being in the water and befitting that love of water is their oily double coat which is water-resistant and tightly curly on some parts.

Irish Water Spaniels have a distinctive appearance that is easily identified. While the hair of their face, throat, lower leg, and lower tail hair is usually short, the rest of their fur is thick and incredibly curly. Their unusual color is dark with subtle tones of deep purple which only adds to the unique appearance. Purebred Irish Water Spaniels do not have any white color to their hair unless it is due to the graying that comes with age.

The Irish Spaniels are the largest type of the Spaniel breed of dogs. They have strong, deep chests and muscular legs that are designed to make it easier to swim. Even the physical trait of their feet being somewhat webbed contributes to their tremendous swimming abilities. They are large dogs usually weighing between 20-30 kilograms with height averaging between 53-61 centimeters depending on gender among other things. Females are usually smaller than the males.

Somewhat unusual, Irish Water Spaniels’ temperament and personality varies by individual dog, especially in terms of activity and energy levels. Some Spaniels will be highly energetic and sociable while others prefer lower activity levels and can be quite shy. It is difficult to predict an Irish Water Spaniel’s personality while still a puppy because it varies between dogs. Quite often it is not indicative of its eventual temperament as full-grown adult.

But while it may not known what kind of personality they have prior to entering the home, all Water Spaniels become quite attached to their families with deep devotion and enjoy goofing off with their owners including children whenever an opportunity to do so is presented. They are usually happy in temperament and when bouncy and energetic in personality, they will be that way for life no matter how old they become in years. They absolutely love to play and when that desire is coupled with their high intelligence level it enables them to turn any activity or social interaction into a game. Even Spaniels with less intense energy levels become noticeably lively when given the opportunity to participate in any kind of outdoor activity. They always want to be included with any family activities and can be trusted to be polite with strangers and gentle with children.

The Irish Water Spaniels require large amounts of adequate exercise, as they are quite lively, but not considered to be graceful animals. They are even happier when that exercise happens in the water that they love so much. They are strong but rather clumsy dogs with excellent stamina levels assisting them in being a good choice for hunting companions because they are also skilled at both tracking and game retrieval. If they are unable to get enough exercise, Spaniels can become bored leading to destructive behavior which causes it to be wise to make sure they receive enough exercise to combat this tendency.

Irish Water Spaniels are another ancient dog breed that has been documented all the way back to around the 600’s or 700’s A.D. through remains excavated in the 1930’s. Modern history has the Irish Water Spaniel originating in Ireland sometime in the later years of the 12th century. These are another breed of dogs that were often used as gifts to other countries down through the ages including France in 1598. There are frequent historical references made in ancient documents that describe the presence of this unique breed for centuries long before the 1800’s. Some believe that these Spaniels might have origins traced to various crossbreeding of Portuguese Water Dogs, English Water Spaniels, Irish Setters and others, but this is purely speculative and unable able to proven as of yet. Interestingly enough, one modern theory of the lineage of the Irish Water Spaniel has its roots coming mainly from one dog named Boatswain.

Care and Grooming:
The fur coat of the Irish Water Spaniels needs frequent grooming in order to keep that distinctive coat well maintained. And while their fur is prone to matting, Irish Water Spaniels shed very little and rarely struggle with dander or other skin issues. The oily nature of their hair tends to attract debris and dirt which is easily removed and kept in hand through brushing out their fur 2-3 times a week. The brushing is also designed to distribute the natural oils of their fur through the coat in order to keep it healthy and clean.

The large ears of the Spaniels fold over which blocks air circulation making them prone to infections. They should be cleaned every week while checking for signs of infection every time the ears are cleaned of any wax buildup or grime. The ear structure of Irish Water Spaniels tends to trap water in their ears from frequent swims which can create significant pain as well as infection so should be cleaned several times a week if they go swimming frequently. The usual recommendation of once a week for teeth brushing is advised for dental health and to fight bad breath. Toenails should be trimmed monthly unless they are able to be active enough outdoors to wear down the length naturally.

Irish Water Spaniels live an average lifespan of 10-13 years and have the genetic tendencies common to large breed dogs including arthritis and joint problems, ear infections, eye problems, and stomach issues – just to name a few. One important health fact to remember about the Irish Water Spaniel is they are predisposed to having dangerous reactions to sulfa medications and also the medication known as Ivermectin. These reactions can be deadly so it is vital to be aware of the possibility when owning an Irish Water Spaniel.

Suitability as a Pet:
Irish Water Spaniels are too large to be well-suited for apartment living, even if there are ample opportunities for a lot of exercise outdoors. It is highly recommended that Irish Water Spaniels be well-socialized from the very beginning in order to develop appropriate social connections with people along with a stable personality. If they do not learn confidence with strangers while still very young, the Spaniels can tend to be more in the direction of fearful and shy in personality.

Some caution needs to be taken when an Irish Water Spaniel is expected to share a home with cats or other small pets because they tend to enjoy chasing any little creatures if given half a chance to do so. This same tendency makes it important to ensure Spaniels are always leashed or in a fenced yard.

Spaniels prefer not to spend much time with other dogs of the same sex and can tend to act aggressively towards them which should be a consideration in anyone’s decision to get an Irish Water Spaniel.

The fact that Irish Water Spaniels are easy to train is another one of their helpful characteristics even though coupled with occasional stubbornness. Using consistent training techniques that are centered around positive reinforcement work best for the breed and the frequent use of treats while training can speed along the process as well. It can also be beneficial to keep training sessions entertaining for the fun-loving Spaniels, as it is easy to get them to cooperate in any activity they believe to be a game. Once they trust their owners to be in charge, Irish Water Spaniels learn easily and quickly and should receive more complicated agility or obedience training in order to keep their active and intelligent minds busy.

Irish Water Spaniel Organisations in Australia
Rarer Gundog Spaniel Club of Victoria Inc
Irish Water Spaniel Club of Victoria
Secretary : Lesley Dell
Phone : 03 53461437
Mobile : 0419551596
Email – [email protected]

Irish Water SpanielOrganisations in the UK
The UK Irish Water Spaniel Association

Irish Water SpanielOrganisations in the US
American Kennel Club – Irish Water Spaniel
The UK Irish Water Spaniel Association

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