American Water Spaniel dog breed

American Water Spaniel

American Water Spaniel (AWS) is primarily a working gun dog that is seldom seen in the show ring. The American water spaniel is said to be one of only five dog breeds indigenous to the United States and the only one native to Wisconsin. The American water spaniel was designated as the official state dog of Wisconsin in 1985.

There’s good evidence to suggest that the American Water Spaniel and the Boykin Spaniel, which takes its name from the town of Boykin, South Carolina, are the same dog breed. But while the Boykin has been known in the southern states since before the Civil War (1861-65), the American Water Spaniel was mainly developed in the midwest.

American Water Spaniel
American Water Spaniel

The dog type was set by 1900 but it wasn’t until 1938 that a club was formed and a breed standard was drawn up. Though there are no records to confirm the American Water Spaniel breed’s beginnings, it has been suggested that its ancestors may have included the Irish Water Spaniel as well as the Curly-coated Retriever and American Cocker Spaniel.

An all-around shooting dog, the American Water Spaniel is an efficient retriever of upland game, while his small size and protective coloring make him valuable for duck hunting. He’s physically and mentally tough enough to take on the frigid waters of the Great Lakes and small enough to launch himself out of a boat or clamber back in without swamping it.

American Water Spaniels
American Water Spaniels

American Water Spaniel FAQs Frequently Asked Questions

Let us seek some answers related to the American Water Spaniel breed. Are they good dogs for first-time owners? Are they aggressive? Do they bark a lot? Are they good guard dogs? Are they good family dogs? Good with children? and many more questions that a potential dog owner may be concerned about.

Who developed the American Water Spaniel AWS breed? and Why?

Dr. Fred J. Pfeifer developed the American Water Spaniel AWS dog breed. The American water spaniel was developed as a practical, versatile hunting dog that combined certain physical attributes with intelligence and a good disposition.  No flashy show animal, the American water spaniel is described as an unadorned, utilitarian dog that earns its keep as an outstanding hunter, watchdog, and family pet.

Are they good for bird/pheasant hunting?

American Water Spaniels love to hunt! Their independent nature makes them very effective hunters once they have learned the game. They have an amazing scenting ability and develop excellent bird sense with experience. Their tenacity when going after wounded game, be it running rooster pheasants or giant Canada geese, is truly amazing to see. In the uplands, they work methodically, close to the gun and slowly enough so that one doesn’t have to hurry. They don’t waste energy and thus can hunt all day.

American Water Spaniels are tough and can handle cold and wet conditions well. At home, they are excellent watchdogs and are very comfortable just hanging around the house.

Is the American Water Spaniel hypoallergenic? Do they shed?

No. American Water Spaniels are not hypoallergenic but they don’t shed much either. Just brush their oily, water-resistant coat once in a few days to reduce hair inside the house. If you are looking for a hypoallergenic breed of dog, here is a list of hypoallergenic dog breeds.

Are American Water Spaniels high maintenance?

The American Water Spaniels coat does not require too much maintenance. They are minimal shedders, but their thick coat can become matted and tangled if it is not given an occasional brushing.

Is the AWS a good guard dog/watchdog?

Yes. The American Water Spaniel can be trained to be a reasonably good guard dog or watchdog and companion. Friendly, energetic, confident persistent and obedient, the American Water Spaniel is a pleasant, willing dog that is highly sensitive, so training should be calm, firm, quiet and persuasive, rather than demanding or sharp.

Is American Water Spaniel a good family dog?

Yes. American water spaniels are smart, obedient, affectionate and known for getting along with other animals and children. They also make good watchdogs. These characteristics make them excellent family pet dogs.

Are American Water Spaniels good with children?

Yes. American Water Spaniels are very kid-friendly dogs.

How to train an American Water Spaniel to hunt and retrieve?

An American Water Spaniel is a good hunting and retrieving breed of dog. Hunting requires building multiple skills and advanced behaviors. The best hunting dogs are so well trained, in fact, that they can anticipate where they need to be at all stages and become an extension of their owner. Start with different sounds with your puppy. Slowly increase the intensity of sounds as the puppy learns to respond as well as ignore sounds. Then introduce gun sounds before you take them on a hunting excursion. The American Water Spaniel will learn quickly and will naturally know what to do with some guidance.

How long do American Water Spaniels live?

American Water Spaniels have a lifespan of about 13 to 15 years.

How much does an American Water Spaniel Cost? How much is an AWS puppy?

American Water Spaniels puppies cost between $1200 to $1500. Buy or adopt from a reputable breeder or someone who has dogs used for hunting/retrieving. One of the biggest hurdles you’ll have is finding lines that are relatively free of hip dysplasia. Don’s just accept a flat statement “my dogs don’t have hip dysplasia”. Make sure their parents have been checked.


Ok, so let’s assume you have chosen the American Water Spaniel as the best dog breed suitable for yourself. You have decided to find yourself an American Water Spaniel puppy as your next family member. How will you choose the best pup? Let us look at some standard characteristics of the American Water Spaniel dog breed which will help you select the right puppy, keep reading.

Choosing a good American Water Spaniel puppy

The definition of the best American Water Spaniel puppy depends on your requirements. Your expectations from an adult American Water Spaniel can be broadly categorized as follows: Hunting; Gund dog; confirmation for show or breeding; obedience; smart guard dog; companion; homely pet.

Although it is tempting to look for all these qualities in one puppy you are planning to buy, it is almost never possible to find all qualities in a single pup.

If you want your American Water Spaniel puppy to grow up to be a champion in the show ring, you should look for confirmation to the American Water Spaniel dog breed standards. We have put together a general guideline for selecting an all-around good puppy for you. Our guideline not just includes breed standards, but also gives importance to temperament, appearance, physical details, gait, health issues, grooming needs, and maintenance.

Look for the following characteristics while choosing an American Water Spaniel puppy.

American Water Spaniel’s General Appearance

Medium in size, of sturdy typical Spaniel character, curly coat; an active muscular dog, with emphasis placed on proper size and conformation, correct head properties, the texture of coat and color.

AWS - American Water Spaniel
American Water Spaniel AWS jumps in the lake to retrieve a duck

American Water Spaniel’s Temperament

Of amiable disposition; demeanor indicates intelligence, strength, and endurance.

American Water Spaniel’s Size

Height: 15-18 inches (38-46 cm) at the shoulder. Weight: Males, 28-45 lb. (13-20 kg); Females, 25-40 lb. (11-18 kg).

American Water Spaniel’s Coat and Color

The coat should be closely curled or have a marcel effect and should be of sufficient density to be of protection against weather, water, or punishing cover, yet not coarse. Legs should have medium-short, curly feathers. Colour solid liver or dark chocolate, a little white on toes or chest permissible.

American Water Spaniel pup
American Water Spaniel is an efficient retriever

American Water Spaniel’s Head

Moderate in length, skull rather broad and full, stop moderately defined, but not too pronounced. Forehead covered with short smooth hair and without tuft or topknot. The muzzle of medium length, square, and with no inclination to snippiness. Jaws strong and of good length, and neither undershot nor overshot. Teeth straight and well-shaped. Nose sufficiently wide and with well-developed nostrils to ensure good scenting power. Eyes hazel, brown, or of dark tone to harmonize with coat; set well apart. Expression alert, attractive, intelligent. Ears lobular, long and wide, not set too high on the head, but slightly above the eye line. Leather extending to end of the nose and well covered with close curls.

American Water Spaniel image

American Water Spaniel’s Neck

Round and of medium length, strong and muscular, free of throatiness, set to carry head with dignity, but arch not accentuated.

American Water Spaniel’s Forequarters

Shoulders sloping, clean, and muscular. Legs of medium length and well boned, but not so short as to handicap for fieldwork. Forelegs are powerful and reasonably straight.

American Water Spaniel dog breed
American Water Spaniel is an efficient retriever of upland game, while his small size and protective coloring make him valuable for duck hunting

American Water Spaniel’s Body

Well developed, sturdily constructed but not too compactly coupled. The general outline is the symmetrical relationship of parts. Well-sprung ribs. Strong loins, lightly arched; and well-furnished deep brisket but not excessively broad.

American Water Spaniel’s Hindquarters

Hind legs firm with suitably bent stifles and strong hocks well let down. Feet to harmonize with the size of the dog. Toes closely grouped and well padded.

American Water Spaniel’s Tail

Moderate in length, curved in a slight rocker shape, carried slightly below the level of back; tapered and covered with hair to tip, action lively.

Faults observed in the American Water Spaniel dog breed

Coat too straight, soft, fine, or tightly kinked. Very flat skull, narrow across the top, long slender muzzle. Cow-hocks. Rat or shaved tail.

Disqualification: Yellow eyes.

American Water Spaniel puppy
American Water Spaniel puppy

American Water Spaniel Videos


We hope you enjoyed reading about the American Water Spaniel dog breed. You may consider sharing your views in the comments section below. Inputs and priceless experiences from dog owners, American Water Spaniel breeders, and dog lovers, in general, help us better understand our most loyal friends. Thank you for your interest.

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