American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniel is a gundog breed of dog little known outside North America. The American Water Spaniel was developed as a hunting dog in the market hunting days of America's history. Hunters needed a dog that could function on land as well as in the marsh and that could easily fit into a canoe or skiff without taking up much room. The AWS fit the bill and most breed historians note that Midwest market hunters made wide use of this dog. The AWS was not formally recognized as a purebred dog until the United Kennel Club did so in 1920, followed by the Field Dog Stud Book in 1938, and finally by the American Kennel Club in 1940.

The American Water Spaniel was likely one of the primary contributing breeds to the Boykin Spaniel.

American Water Spaniel Appearance

American Water Spaniel Weighing 25 to 45 pounds (11 to 20 kg): females usually 25 to 40 lb (11 to 18 kg); males 30 to 45 lb (14 to 20 kg) and standing 15 to 18 inches (38 to 46 cm) in height. They have a curly to marcell coat that is dense and well-suited to resist cold water and inclement weather. The coat's color is liver, brown, or chocolate. (A small amount of white on chest or toes is permissible, and spots become smaller in size as pup grows to adulthood.) The American Water Spaniel (AWS) should have a rocker-shaped tail and be somewhat compact in size with well-proportioned features that give the dog an air of balance. Its head should be broad and spaniel-like with no topknot. Eyes are yellowish brown to brown, hazel or of dark tone and should harmonize with coat. Yellow eyes are a disqualification in the show ring.

American Water Spaniel Temperament

An American original, this competent retriever also doubles as a flushing spaniel. Like many of the spaniel breeds, it hunts both feather and fur (and even fish) with equal enthusiasm. Friendly, intelligent, and often willing to please, this dog is also very protective of its owner. In old age the dog may become temperamental. This dog is very soft-mouthed but can be trained to play tug-of-war. It will be very attached to the alpha of the house and think of children as kennel mates until they grow up. Unspayed females will have a mind of their own when in heat (even when very well trained). This little brown dog also has many of the common spaniel characteristics.

The American Water Spaniel has a mind of its own at times and reaches peak performance with the owner who is dedicated to teaching the dog just what is expected of it. The breed takes well to training, and especially excels at training that offers some variety rather than rote training drills. Harsh training techniques do not work for the majority of AWS. In fact, such techniques often cause a dog to become shy or even bite out of fear. This is a breed for the trainer that is consistent and fair when dealing with the dog.

American Water Spaniels do not have to hunt to be happy. They make fine companion animals and, because of their size, they fit well in cramped quarters. However, the breed does need exercise and training to mature into a loving friend that some people look for. To avoid possessiveness, excessive barking, and a willingness to take over the household, novice owners should attend a local obedience class and set aside daily play time for their companion.

American Water Spaniel Health

While there is no one health issue that plagues the American Water Spaniel, neither is it free of health concerns. A variety of problems have cropped up from time to time in the breed including cardiac abnormalities, cancer, hip dysplasia, diabetes, allergies, hypothyroidism, follicular dystrophy, epilepsy, and cataracts. All AWS used for breeding should receive health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips, heart, and hypothyroidism as well as an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. All reputable breeders offer and supply the puppy buyer with a written health guarantee covering these more common health concerns.

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