Breed Type: Spaniel
Country of Origin: Ireland
Size: Medium Large
Height: 56-58cm at the withers, Weight 20-30kg
Exercise Requirements: Medium
Care Requirements: Medim High
Best Suited as: Family pet for family with older children

The Irish water spaniel is a rare breed of dog in Australia with perhaps 250 individuals. The breed was developed in Ireland over 1000 years ago. Though very distinctive in appearance, and a large dog is the largest of the Spaniel is with this solid brown curly coat.

The Irish water spaniel was bred to retrieve game from the cold waters of islands and thus they have double coat, the outer curly coat covers against undercoat which enables them to stay comparatively warm even in the coldest of waters. They have a somewhat largish head and a domed skull the hair on the face is shorter and have a topknot of curls which covers the eyes and much of the face. The body structure is built to swim with a deep chest that is narrow enabling free movement of the forelegs. Paws are webbed back and front which assists in swimming. They have a somewhat squarish appearance in their hindquarters usually level or slightly higher than their shoulders.

There is evidence that all the curly coated spaniel breeds can be traced back to similar dogs they were developed in Italy on the Iberian Peninsula., Such dogs include the Portuguese water dog likely the invading Romans brought these dogs to the United Kingdom where in Ireland they began a breeding program to develop their own version of the curly coated spaniel. Little is known of the development of red coated spaniels and setters.

In Ireland the breed has been in existence for at least 1000 years perhaps more.  They were not referred to as the Irish water spaniel until 1600 CE.  It is likely there were several contributing spaniel breeds in Ireland namely the northern, southern, and tweed spaniels which is some point were combined into a single breed the Irish water spaniel.

Understandably with Australia’s strong connection with Ireland the breed has been here for over a century first being introduced to Australia in 1891. Curiously, perhaps because of their cold weather origins in Australia being predominantly a warm climate country the numbers have remained small here

Irish water spaniels are intelligent and very trainable.  They are eager learners with a strong desire to please. That said, they do have the wilful tendencies similar to that other livestock Guardian and unless it is made clear early on when they are introduced into the family that all members of the family a dominant to it you Irish water spaniel may decide your commands I do suggestions whilst your children’s are to be ignored totally.  Puppy school and general socialisation is important when they are young as is general obedience training which must be ongoing, firm and consistent.

They are highly active dogs with loads of energy which needs to be burnt off or they will become bored and engaging destructive behaviour. Their double coat does not make them dogs should be run in the middle of an Australian summer day but if you have access to a lake, dam or the beach where they can swim there is little that will give them greater pleasure.

Care / Grooming
Irish water spaniels do not shed so they are wonderful dogs and people with allergies. The case however can be a great deal of work as it does tend to mat and so requires regular brushing. This will need to trim their coat as well, speak to your breeder about the best way to do this. If you are sure this is the breed view and you live in a hot climate consider keeping their coat very short especially in summer.

Health and Lifespan
Understandably in a working bred dog Irish bangles are very healthy. Though a large breed they only very rarely suffer from skeletal disorders such as hip dysplasia but when purchasing a puppy and still make sense to see the hip scores of the parents and the puppy.  Rarely they will also suffer from entropium( malformation of the eyelids causing her eyelashes to great against the eyes causing irritation, infection and sometimes reduction in vision) so be vigilant in cleaning their eyes and checking for problems.

Another condition sometimes associated with the breed is hypothyroidism -again speak to your breeder about this issue and ensure that the parents have both been screened for the condition to ensure that is not been  passed on to your puppy.

Whilst numbers in Australia are small, the small pool of breeding animals has not yet resulted in any noticeable reduction in the overall health of the breed  here.  There have been some examples of overly timid or overly aggressive animals so as well as choosing a puppy that is healthy physically, ensure the puppy you choose is not cowering in the corner or looking for a fight.  Choose a puppy that is active, interested and affectionate.

Irish water spaniels like a feed and a not so good at setting limits of themselves. They should be fed once in the morning and once at night – don’t leave a bowl of dried food out for them to snack on all day. Speak to your breeder regarding the amount they feed their dogs and their recommended diet.

Best Suited to
Irish water spaniels are equally at home with a single person or a family though their size and tendency towards dominant behaviour means they are not suitable for families with small children. They generally do not do well in an apartment as there are two large and active – this is the breed to own if you have a large yard for them to play in and additionally willing to walk them for at least 30 min every day

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.