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The American water spaniel is also known as the ‘little brown dog’ or American brown spaniel. The breed is an athletic, medium-sized dog bred for hunting and retrieving. Since he is a natural retriever, he is an adept swimmer with a water-resistant double coat and thick webbed feet. The American water spaniel is brimming with energy and vigour, thus, he enjoys having a lot of exercises and mental stimulation. He is described as a smart, cheerful, and flexible dog by his fans, making him highly suitable to compete in dog sports. The American water spaniel is also affectionate and friendly towards children and other animals, which makes him a great furry companion. The breed is recognised by the Kennel Club.
The American water spaniel’s roots started at the Wolf and Fox River Valley region of East-Central Wisconsin. The area has rivers and huge lakes such as Poygan, Butte des Morts, and Winnebago that became a waterfowl gunner's paradise in the late eighteenth century. European immigrants who moved to Wisconsin and Minnesota relied on the region’s waterfowl for livelihood.
The breeders aimed to create a gun dog that is skilled at retrieving game birds both on land and in water. Throughout the years, they cross-bred different European breeds to produce the American water spaniel. Although the dog's parent breed remains a mystery, it is mentioned in histories that the curly-coated retriever, Irish water spaniel, and the now extinct English water spaniel are believed to be the component breeds.
The American water spaniel proved to be a reliable all-around hunter and retriever. He is highly skilled in catching ducks, grouses, pheasants, quails, and rabbits. Retrieving downed waterfowls is also something that the breed specialises in.
Sadly, although the American water spaniel is packed with good traits that make it an ideal family pet, it is a rare dog breed. According to the American Water Spaniel Club, there are approximately no more than three thousand of these enthusiastic and loving dogs left.
The American water spaniel is longer in size compared to other spaniels. He has firm legs and a slim yet muscular physique, which make it easier for him to wade through the water. Long muzzle and large hairy ears are other distinguishing characteristics of the breed.
His body is covered with a dense coat that is either wavy or closely knitted curls. It comes in the colour of solid liver, brown, or dark chocolate. Since the American water spaniel's coat is thick, it has double layers of fur. It consists of an undercoat for insulation, and a rough, rather oily outer coat for waterproof and to prevent scrapes from hunting.
The American water spaniel is a low shedder, although he moults heavily twice a year. Thus, weekly brushing is recommended to remove dead hair and minimise loose hair around your home. The coat is thinner during the summer, so a rubber-tipped brush can be used to tame the curls.
For the rest of the year especially during the shedding season, a slicker brush can be used for the removal of dead hair. Since the American water spaniel is still a shaggy dog, bringing him to the groomer at least annually is encouraged to keep him looking sharp and neat. Only bathe him once a month or when he is dirty, as frequent washing removes natural oils, leaving the skin dry.
Weekly ear cleaning is necessary for the American water spaniel as he has large ears that accumulate dirt. Flushing and drying after swimming is a must to prevent and lessen the chances of ear infection.
The American water spaniel is an affectionate dog that becomes very attached to his owners once they form a strong bond. He can be quite vocal about his love for his family and thrives in a social setting. Children and other pets are not exempted from his affinity and playfulness, which makes him a sweet family companion. He can also be welcoming towards other people provided that they are properly introduced. Keep in mind that socialising the American water spaniel at an early age will matter greatly in shaping him to become a people- and animal-loving dog.
Apart from being a great family pet, the American water spaniel also makes an excellent watchdog. He will alert you with a warning bark if he senses an intruder. However, his barking may become destructive if he’s bored and alone. The American water spaniel enjoys spending time with his human companions and it is best that someone in the family should be home during the day. Moreover, he is more likely to be closest to whoever showers him with the most love and attention.
In training, the American water spaniel may tend to be independent and stubborn. However, he is also an intelligent and alert dog that properly responds to consistent and gentle training methods. Be sure to apply positive reinforcement techniques like play, praise, and food rewards as a means to encourage him. Establishing the rules and enforcing them firmly will help in curbing his obstinacy as well.
The American water spaniel’s versatility allows him to participate in various dog sports and activities, including tracking, hunt tests, agility, obedience trials, therapy work, and search and rescue. For dog lovers who are looking for an athletic dog that can be trained for different competitions and sports, the American water spaniel is a good match.
The American water spaniel can be fed with commercially manufactured dog food or home-made dog food. Whichever you choose to feed him, owners need to take note of the two most important ingredients in his diet: protein and fats. Protein is the most important food ingredient for any dogs. An adult American water spaniel needs around 15–18 per cent of protein, whilst an American water spaniel puppy needs around 22 per cent of protein in his diet. Protein is the primary source of energy for dogs, and they get the maximum amount of protein from meats likes poultry, lamb, and fish, and vegetables like broccoli, lentils, and other beans.
Fats are the second source of energy for every dog. It also makes your dog’s skin and hair healthy. You should feed your AWS around 5 per cent of fat for adults and 8 per cent for puppies. If he is given more fat than required, he has the tendency to become obese and develop other potential health problems.
Avoid giving him dog food that contains grains or cereals, white rice, soy, beet pulp, or horse meat. Don’t forget that clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
If you opt to feed him with commercial dog food, just remember that the amount of food that your dog will eat depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. As the American water spaniel is a medium-size dog breed with a high level of energy, his diet should also reflect that.
An American water spaniel puppy needs half a cup to one cup of excellent-quality dry dog food per day, divided into three meals. Whilst an adult American water spaniel should be fed three cups a day, divided into three meals. As this is a particularly high-energy dog, food portions can be increased or decreased according to his activity level. But keep in mind not to overfeed him as he might gain some weight, which can be a serious health hazard.
The American water spaniel is a bundle of tireless energy. Whilst he can be kept in a small home or apartment, he needs to be taken out for exercise daily. One to two hours of long walks can reduce some of his excess energy, but it will not be enough to tire him. Without proper exercise, he might exhibit destructive behaviours, such as barking and excessive chewing. Channel his energy into different enjoyable strenuous activities such as:
If properly cared for, the American water spaniel can live for ten to twelve years. Similar to some breeds, he also prone to predisposed health issues including:
In order to identify some of these issues, he may need to undergo a few tests. The veterinarian may conduct a cardiac exam and an eye and hip evaluation on this dog breed.
Before getting yourself an American water spaniel, you must be financially ready to take care of him for the long haul. Purchasing an American water spaniel puppy may cost you between £1000 and £1200. Purchasing the basic items for your new pup such as a crate, lead, and toys may be worth about £150–£200. Food expenses may amount to £40 a month or £480 a year. Meanwhile, acquiring pet insurance will cost you about £50–£120 a month. Medical care, including vaccinations and regular check-ups, might rack up over £1,000.
Are you sure the American Water Spaniel is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.Dog Breed Selector Quiz
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The Spaniel breed’s exact origin is unknown but they are believed to have originated in Spain in the 14th century. Bred to hunt, flush, and fetch game animals, the Spaniel became a hunter’s trusty companion.
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