Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed

The Irish Water Spaniel is a joyful, exuberant family dog and hunting companion.
By: PawCulture Editors
Irish Water Spaniel Breed

About Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed

The Irish Water Spaniel originated in Ireland in the 1830s to be used as a powerful, loyal, bird-hunting partner for upland retrieving and plunging into freezing water for waterfowl.

Read more about other water-loving dog breeds.

Irish Water Spaniel Physical Characteristics

The largest of the Spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel is a strongly-built dog with immediately distinguishable characteristics – a topknot and ears of long, loose curls, and a body covered with a dense, crisply curled coat, contrasted by a smooth face and a smooth “rat” tail completely free of curls except at the base.


The Irish Water Spaniel is a liver brown, from rich liver to dark liver with a purplish tinge called puce liver. There are no white hair or markings except for the graying of age.


The coat of the Irish Water Spaniel is covered in tight curls all over the body except on the face, which is smooth and framed by the distinctive top knot and throat, and tail. The coat is water repellent, short, thick, and coarse to the touch.

Irish Water Spaniel Personality and Temperament

Activity Level



The Irish Water Spaniel is a joyful, exuberant family dog and hunting companion. A natural athlete, it is extremely versatile and highly trainable. Irish Water Spaniels shed far less than most dogs, so many folks with allergies do fine with them.

Things to Consider

Irish Water Spaniels need daily exercise, particularly in the water if possible, and need to be groomed regularly to keep their curls from becoming matted. They can be aggressive with other animals and do not take to strangers easily. Irish Water Spaniels do not have a lot of patience for being teased, making them less than ideal as pets for families with small children.

*This is not a good breed for the first time dog owner.

Irish Water Spaniel Care

Ideal Living Conditions

Irish Water Spaniels do best in when they have a big yard to run around in or water nearby to swim in. This is not a dog breed to be relegated to the backyard.

Special Requirements

The Irish Water Spaniel needs to be groomed, have its nails trimmed and ears cleaned on a regular basis.

Irish Water Spaniel Health

The following conditions are the top health issues seen in Irish Water Spaniels:

Irish Water Spaniel History and Background

The Irish Water Spaniel is considered a dual-purpose hunting dog, as the breed will retrieve upland game as well as waterfowl. One of the oldest breeds of the spaniel group, it attained recognition as the third most popular sporting dog in the US in 1875. Four Irishers were entered in the first Westminster Kennel Club Show in 1877 and it was one of the original nine recognized breeds when the AKC was founded in 1884.

Today, the Irish Water Spaniel is considered a rare dog breed, with less than 150 puppies born in the U.S. annually. Because of its versatility, it is found competing in many venues and as therapy and assistance dogs.