Irish Water Spaniel

  • Irish Water Spaniels in the UK
  • Irish Water Spaniel in the UK
  • Irish Water Spaniel in Great Britain
  • Irish Water Spaniel
  • Irish Water Spaniel Dog
  • Irish Water Spaniel Puppy
  • Irish Water Spaniel Puppies
  • Irish Water Spaniels in Great Britain
  • Irish Water Spaniels
  • Irish Water Spaniel Dogs

Gundog Group

Exercise Level:
Barking Level:
Good with Children:
Good with other pets:
Height: 51 - 58cm M | 51 - 58cm F
Weight: 20 - 30kg M | 20 - 30kg F
Life Expectancy: 10 - 12 Years

Considering getting an Irish Water Spaniel?

The Irish Water Spaniel is the largest and the oldest of the spaniel breeds. It weighs 45 to 65 pounds and stands 51 to 58 centimetres at the withers. It was essentially bred to be an active sporting dog, fetching live game and returning it to hand. It's a people pleaser and as such is easy to train. Its desire to please makes the Irish Water Spaniel a fun-loving dog often having a clownish personality to bring out the laughs out of its family.

Are you looking for an active breed that is easy to train and a fun companion? The Irish Water Spaniel might be the perfect one for you. Learn more about this breed below.

book icon History

The Irish Water Spaniel is one of the native breeds of Ireland, along with the Irish Terrier, Glen of Imaal Terrier and Irish Wolfhound, among others. The Irish Water Spaniel (IWS) dates back at least 1,000 years and is believed to be the descendant of the Dobhar-chu (translates as water hound), a mythical creature from an Irish folklore.

There is speculation that its genetic makeup was developed from more than one ancient spaniel breed. However, there was no historical evidence to support such theory since the acknowledged father of the Irish Water Spaniel, Justin McCarthy, did not leave any records. Although few breeds were suggested as its ancestry including the Poodle, Barbet, Portuguese Water Dog, some Northern and Southern Water Spaniels and even the now-extinct English Water Spaniel.

All these are mere speculations without substantial proof, but one thing is for sure the Irish Water Spaniel has ancient roots. The modern Irish Water Spaniel we see today was developed in Ireland in the 1830s in the name of Boatswain. This particular Irish Water Spaniel lived from 1834 to 1852, siring a couple of excellent hunting and show dogs. In 1862, the first Irish Water Spaniel appeared in a dog show in Birmingham, and in 1899 in the field trial.

comb icon Appearance and Grooming

The Irish Water Spaniel is the largest and the oldest of the spaniel breeds. It weighs 45 to 65 pounds and stands 51 to 58 centimetres at the withers. It has several distinct characteristics that make them an easily recognisable breed such as the topknot of long and loose curls from the head often covering the eyes, the beard that grows from the throat along with sideburns and a curled coat giving it its rugged appearance. Another distinguishing feature is its smooth rat tail, which is devoid of any coat except at the base where it is covered with 2 to 3 inches of curls. Its webbed feet meant for a powerful swim completes the picture of a bold and dashing dog breed.

When it comes to its coat, the IWS sports a tightly curled double-layered coat with a dense, short and thick undercoat and a longer outer coat for protection. Its coat always comes in solid liver colour, often described as a deep reddish brown. It sheds lightly, but unlike other dog hair types, it does not cling to the furniture or clothing. Brush or comb the coat at least once to thrice a week as needed to remove matts or tangles. If you want your Irish Water Spaniel to have a neater look, have its coat trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks, including the fur around the footpad. You can take your dog to the professional groomer or ask the breeder to teach you how to do it.

Frequent baths are not necessary since this will only remove the protective oil from its coat. However, getting the coat a bit wet will help form those pretty ringlets that give the Irish Water Spaniel its distinct look. The rest is simple grooming regimen. Check the ears regularly for signs of infections and keep them clean and dry especially after your IWS went swimming. Trim the nails at least every week and brush the teeth frequently using a vet-approved toothpaste.

bulb icon Temperament and Intelligence

Irish Water Spaniels are known to be people-loving dogs and only desire to please their owners whether in the home setting or out in the field. They form strong attachments with their families and suffer from separation anxiety, which results in bad habits, when left alone for longer periods of time. They thrive in human companionship and will be more suitable for people with at least one person staying at home. Irish Water Spaniels also lead active lives, being bred as sporting dogs, which means they crave the outdoors and like nothing more than to engage in outdoor activities with its family.

Irish Water Spaniels are wary of other people, especially strangers, but will never exhibit aggressive behaviour unless they see that their families are in danger. They are alert and curious and will not hesitate to bark to alert its family, which makes them excellent watchdogs. Since this dog breed has a strong desire to please, it is easy to train. However, often its high intelligence and independent nature make it less suitable for first-time owners with no experience in handling this type of active breed.

When it comes to getting along with children, the Irish Water Spaniel is affectionate and a great playmate. But then again, supervision is still warranted to avoid accidents especially when interaction becomes too boisterous. It gets on well enough with other dogs and even cats if socialised early. However, they will think nothing of chasing the neighbours' small furry animals when given a chance.

food icon Nutrition and Feeding

A typical serving for an adult Irish Water Spaniel is 1.5 to 2.5 cups of excellent quality dry dog food per day, which should be divided into two equal meals. As a responsible dog owner, it is best to seek out advice from a veterinarian or a canine nutritionist when it comes to what and how much to feed your IWS. Remember that each dog has unique nutritional needs considering factors such as age, size, gender, health, metabolism, and activity level.

Typical daily calorie needs of adult Irish Water Spaniel weighing

  • Senior and less active: up to 1,252 calories daily
  • Typical adults: up to 1,400 calories daily
  • Physically active/working dogs: up to 1,565 calories daily

Feed your Irish Water Spaniel premium quality food with balanced nutrition. Dog food can be mixed with canned food and water or broth. They can also be fed with cottage cheese, cooked eggs and fruits and vegetables. Always provide potable water available nearby.

stethoscope icon Health and Exercise

With a lifespan of up to 15 years, Irish Water Spaniels are generally healthy but are also prone to certain health issues, including ear infections, Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, Follicular Dysplasia, Epilepsy, Cataracts, Entropion, Distichiasis, Megaesophagus and Hypothyroidism. This dog breed is also allergic to Ivermectin and Sulfa drugs, which may be life-threatening.

The Irish Water Spaniel is an energetic dog breed that requires at least one to two hours' worth of daily exercises. Not being able to let off steam through activities can lead to destructive habits that it is prone to easily pick-up since it is a quick learners Irish Water Spaniels have incredible stamina, which means it will need at least one hour of running, long hikes and other vigorous activities including swimming. Keep in mind that an Irish Water Spaniel must not be left unsupervised, even in a fenced yard, or it will find a way to escape.

pound icon Cost of Ownership

If you intend to buy an Irish Water Spaniel puppy, prepare to pay anything from £400 to £800, especially for a well-bred one. The next thing you'll need to search for is affordable pet insurance. Most often, costs to insure a dog will depend on your location and the age and health of the dog. In an estimated quote from 2016 reveals that the cost to insure a 3-year old IWS is around £20.16 to £44.22 a month.

How much you'll pay for dog food will vary depending on the age and size of your Irish Water Spaniel. But a safe bet is around £40 to £50 a month, excluding treats. Let's not forget veterinary visits to make sure your Irish Water Spaniel is in top shape. Veterinary consultations including basic procedures such as initial vaccinations, annual boosters and the cost of neutering will quickly set you back over £1000 a year. In a rough estimate, the cost to raise or care for an Irish Water Spaniel will be around £70 to £100 a month.

Is an Irish Water Spaniel Right for You?

  • The Irish Water Spaniel is a people-loving dog with a strong desire to please.
  • It forms strong attachments with their families and suffers from separation anxiety.
  • It sheds slightly and will need to be brushed at least once to three times a week.
  • It is alert and curious, which barks to alert, making it an excellent watchdogs.
  • Irish Water Spaniels are active since they were bred as sporting dogs. They crave the outdoor activities.

Are you sure the Irish Water Spaniel is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.

Dog Breed Selector Quiz

Still not sure about the Irish Water Spaniel? Take our Pet Finder for other suggested breeds suitable for your personality. 

The information, including measurements, prices and other estimates, on this page is provided for general reference purposes only.

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