About Irish Water Spaniels

About Irish Water Spaniels

Irish Water Spaniels belong to the Sporting Dog group.  Although not a very popular breed, it is a breed with great history.  They have been bred for a job that requires them to have the stamina to tirelessly retrieve waterfowl in all sorts of weather.  They are energetic dogs that need to have some form of outlet and exercise.  All Irish Water Spaniels require a fair amount of exercise.  If you're looking for a couch potato or a dog that is happy just hanging out in the back yard, this is not the breed for you.  An hour or so, every day, of any age-appropriate, fast paced activity should be sufficient to keep your dog happy and well conditioned.  Good daily activities include a brisk walk, retrieving, swimming, hiking, etc.  They also love to participate in all family activities. However, the best activity for an Irish Water Spaniel is any activity that uses their mind and makes them think.  Obedience, hunting, agility, tracking, nose work, or problem solving games will challenge an Irish Water Spaniel and keep them very happy.  

We recommend that anyone who purchases an Irish Water Spaniel enroll in a basic obedience/manners class and teach the dog a reliable sit, stay, down and come.  You must also teach your dog to walk on a leash without pulling.  They are very strong and it is not fun being dragged around by them. It is critical that you teach the basics to have a happy and well-mannered family member.  All Irish Water Spaniels require a lot of socialization as a puppy and young adult and this is absolutely critical.  IWS will go through a couple of fear periods including 8-13 weeks and one from about the age of 8 -15 months.  It is critical during these stages that they receive positive experiences to develop into a well adjusted adult.  Your breeder should be able to give you specific information on how best to socialize your IWS.

Irish Water Spaniels are a heavily coated breed and as such require regular grooming.  They should be thoroughly brushed at least once a week with a brush or comb.  They should be bathed and trimmed every 4-6 weeks in order to keep the coat in good condition. Keeping a dog in show coat requires additional grooming and care. A good breeder will provide instructions as to how best care for your dog's coat.  Whether a pet trim or show coat, maintenance is important.

We hope you will find the information in this website helpful and informative with assisting you in your decision on whether an Irish Water Spaniel is the right dog for you.  We encourage you to learn more about the Irish Water Spaniel and we always welcome people to meet them.  Please explore the pages on Glider, Flare, Sloane, Polly, In-Memory (past dogs), and Litters to learn more about our Irish Water Spaniels and please contact us if you have any questions.  The best way to contact us is through email and the contact information is on the Contacts page.

In late June 2010, my Irish Water Spaniels were filmed for the Animal Planet "Dogs 101" show on the Irish Water Spaniel. Scout, Clark and Glider were filmed along with my Megan/Marley litter that were almost 8 weeks old.  My dogs were not the main feature of the story but it was fun to do and even more fun to see them on TV.  Click here to see the Dogs 101 (IWS).avi episode.  It gives a pretty good overview of the IWS.

Why or Why Not an Irish Water Spaniel

  • Maybe you have fallen in love with their unique looks.  Never get a breed just because of the looks.  You may love the looks but not the upkeep, the temperament, energy level, or nature.
  • They have energy, drive and enthusiasm.  They are not happy just going in a backyard or being couch potatoes.  While many can settle down in the house very nicely, they need exercise and training to make this happen.  You must be willing to put the time and energy into socializing them, teaching basic manners, and you must be willing to give them exercise.  You don't need to compete in formal events with them but they do need an outlet for their energy.  Walks, retrieving, obedience, agility, tracking or whatever, they need something to do.  If they don't get proper exercise, they will make up their own games which you might not be in favor of.
  • IWS have a long history of being bred for a job. They were bred to hunt in the Irish terrain in all kinds of conditions that included cold and mud. This is a job that required determination and strength and an ability to ignore pain and hardship.  They will swim in the coldest of weather. Many dogs have been known to work though significant pain so it is your job as the owner to monitor their health at all times.
  • They are very intelligent, learn very quickly, and can be a lot of fun to train.  Sometimes, however, they are too smart for their own good and they may learn things you didn't intend to teach them.  Be careful what you train your puppy.  While it may be cute when they are a 15 pound little pup, it may not be so cute as a 60+ pound adult.
  • They love to work and have lots of energy and drive.  Their first love is hunting and retrieving. They are athletic dogs that love agility and obedience.  They need to understand what is expected of them, however, they cannot tolerate harsh training.  If you are too soft, they will walk all over you.  The breeder should be able to help you with training advice.
  • The IWS requires a lot of socialization, not only in the first couple of months but the first couple of years and you must be committed to do this socialization.  If you do not properly socialize your IWS, you can make the most outgoing IWS become shy and insecure.  The breeder can only do so much, on-going socialization by the owner is critical.
  • Some people believe that the Irish Water Spaniel is hypoallergenic and better for people with allergies.  There is no scientific data to prove this so if this is a concern, you should meet an Irish Water Spaniel.  However, do not get one just for this reason.  There are several breeds that may be okay with people who have allergies and not all are as high energy as the IWS.
  • Some Irish Water Spaniels are outgoing while others are more reserved and selective with strangers.  Their priority is to their family, not strangers, and they just want to be involved in whatever their people are doing. They should not be scared or aggressive.  They can make great family pets.
  • The IWS is a relatively healthy breed but like any dog, there are certain health issues/concerns for the breeders that any perspective buyer should be aware of.  IWS may be have occurrences of hip, elbow and shoulder dysplasia.  They may also have juvenile cataracts.  Some IWS have had epilepsy and of course, cancer is always a concern. You should ask any perspective breeder that you are considering getting a puppy from what health tests they perform and what health issues they have experienced in their lines in the past.

If you want an intelligent, driven dog an IWS may be for you.  If you want a dog that can do almost any performance event or activity, you may want to consider an IWS.  If you want a dog that you can build a great relationship with, you may want to consider an IWS.