American Water Spaniel

Other Names: American Brown Spaniel, American Brown Water Spaniel, AWS

Country Of Origin: USA

Dog Group: Sporting/water dogs

Size: Medium

Recommended For: Families, couples, single owners

Maintenance Level: Medium

Lifespan: 10-13 years

Temperament: Clever, obedient, friendly


Good For First-Time Owner: Yes

Good With Children: Yes

Good With Other Animals: Yes

Good With Strangers: Yes

Good For Apartments: Yes

Exercise Requirements: Daily walking

Can Live In Hot Weather: Yes, within reason

Can Live In Cold Weather: Yes

Can Tolerate Being Left Alone: Yes

Grooming: Moderate/high

Trainability: Moderate

Breed Overview:

American Water Spaniels are recognized by their distinctive coat, which is usually some shade of brown and is slightly wavy, particularly around the ears.

They were bred as water hunting dogs, and were used to retrieve game (such as ducks), however they’ve grown in popularity as a friendly family pet thanks to their good temperament.

One of the main draws of the breed is that they’re suitable for both apartment and house living, although they’ll need much more exercise if kept in an apartment. They make a good choice as a first dog because they’re generally easy to look after, and quite low maintenance.

Color: Various shades of brown (including chocolate and liver)

Height: Males and females – 15-18 inches

Weight: Males and females – 25-40lbs

Personality and Temperament:

American Water Spaniels were bred as retrievers for water sports, and so are very clever and obedient.

They’re obviously very good swimmers and appreciate spending time in the water. Water Spaniels are very friendly dogs, and love attention from their owners.

They’re also known to be very loyal, and can be protective of their owners if they feel threatened.

Another side effect of their role as a hunting dog is that the breed is considered a pack animal, and so gets on very well with other dogs.

They can be kept with other pets too, but should be socialized from an early age, and owners should be very careful keeping them around small rodents or birds.

Although much of a dog’s hunting skill is taught, they still retain some kind of hunting instinct, and so might go for a smaller pet if the opportunity presents itself.

The AWS is very responsive to obedience training, and can pick up commands very quickly. However, their intelligence also means they can become bored easily, and so might appreciate more complicated commands to keep them entertained.

As with any other breed of dog, training should be started as early as possible to ensure its success.

The ability to train can also be affected by their stubbornness, and the fact that American Water Spaniels can take a long time to mature from puppyhood.

While this does mean that they’ll stay playful for much longer than some other breeds, it also means owners need to be quite strict with obedience training and commands.

American Water Spaniels make excellent family pets, and are good with children.

American Water Spaniels enjoy playing, and so make good company for young children, but owners should always be on hand for the first few meetings to make sure the dog doesn’t do anything silly.

Owners should also be careful about young children being over friendly with the breed because they’re not as resilient as some other bulkier breeds, but this is nothing some careful monitoring can’t solve.

American Water Spaniels are suitable for both apartment living and house living, although they thrive when given some land to play in.

If you decide to keep one in an apartment, you should be prepared to give it much more exercise because they can become bored if under stimulated.

Boredom can lead to destructive behavior and depression, so you should always give them plenty of attention.

In terms of exercise, the breed’s use as hunting dogs means they can take as much exercise as you can give them.

You should aim for daily walks of about an hour, and this should be supplemented with some playtime at home too. The more exercise and mental stimulation you give them, the happier and healthier they’ll be.

The breed are good for first-time owners because they’re friendly and easygoing, and other than grooming, they don’t require much exercise.

American Water Spaniels are good with strangers, but can become possessive of both people and property, so owners might experience some barking if the dog feels their home is under threat.

However, you can do something about this through obedience training. They can also tolerate being left alone, but this is much easier if you own other dogs, and they should always be rewarded with attention and play when you get home.

AWS can tolerate both hot and cold weather, although owners should be careful in warmer climates because the breed’s coat is very good at insulating.

After all, they were bred for spending time in water, and so needed a way to keep warm. You should be able to counteract this by clipping their coat in warmer months, but should also be careful about exercising them in the heat.


American Water Spaniels have a double-layered coat that is very thick, and is also waterproof.

You should aim to brush them weekly with a pin brush or other suitable brush, ideally one with long points to brush out their curls. A slicker brush is also useful for keeping their coat in good health.

AWS don’t shed too often, and this can be kept in check with regular brushing. Their coat thins in the summer, and should be clipped shorter if you live in a warm climate.

Contrary to popular belief, the American Water Spaniel isn’t a hypoallergenic breed, as they do still shed.

American Water Spaniels enjoy baths, but you shouldn’t need to give them too often. Their waterproof coat means that most things simply run off, and anything else should be removed with brushing.

Other than that, you should brush their teeth several times a week, and clip their nails regularly. Dogs who receive plenty of exercise won’t need their nails cutting that often, as they’ll get worn down on walks.

Common Diseases and Conditions:

Unlike many other purebred dogs, the American Water Spaniel doesn’t suffer from the normal hereditary conditions, such as hip dysplasia.

However, they do suffer from eye problems such as cataracts, and this can begin at an early age, sometimes under the age of 1.

American Water Spaniels are also susceptible to diabetes, epilepsy, and a range of allergies.

Unfortunately, many of these conditions aren’t diagnosed until symptoms appear, so always be vigilant for things like loss of appetite and skin irritation.

Many of the allergies can also lead to baldness, but this is a late onset symptom, and conditions should ideally be diagnosed before they reach this stage.


The American Water Spaniel was first bred for use in the 19th century, and originated in Wisconsin, where it was used as a hunting companion for both land and water game.

They were bred smaller than their British cousins so they were easier to transport in small boats along the Fox River.

The American Water Spaniel was bred using a variety of breeds, including the Irish Water Spaniel, the Curly Coated Retriever, and the Poodle.

Up until the end of World War 2, the breed began to decline in popularity due to the introduction of other hunting breeds in the area, and almost became extinct.

However, Fred Pfeifer set up a kennel specifically to save the breed from extinction. He sold them across America, and branded them as an all-American hunting dog.

They were recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1920, and the Field Dog Stud Book in 1938.

Although popular within some circles, the breed remains quite a rare one. This is mainly because they almost became extinct, and because of the presence of better-known breeds that are very similar in appearance and temperament.

Although the breed is considered quite rare in America (it’s ranked as the 143rd most popular breed, out of 167), they’re very popular among die-hard owners.

American Water Spaniel Facts & Figures

Did You Know?

  • The American Water Spaniel is the official state dog of Wisconsin, and was recognized as such in 1985.
  • The breed is very rare, and in 1998, only 233 puppies were registered in the USA. There is believed to only be about 3,000 in existence around its native area of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
  • Fred Pfeifer’s American Water Spaniel, Curly Pfeifer, was the first of the breed recognized by the United Kennel Club.
  • American Water Spaniels were bred specifically to retrieve game straight from the boat. This meant they needed to be small enough to fit in a boat, but strong enough to carry a duck or goose on their own.
  • Many owners claim that the breed has a special taste for bananas, although there’s no evidence behind why this is. However, bananas make a suitable treat for any breed of dog.
  • The American Water Spaniel is rumored to be an ancestor of the Boykin Spaniel. Differences between the two breeds are very small, and some even believe that the first Boykin Spaniel was actually an AWS that had gotten lost during transit. However, this claim has never been verified, and is refuted by a number of kennel clubs.

You can find more United States Dog Breeds in the links below:

About the author: Driven by his lifelong passion for dogs and an insatiable curiosity about their diverse breeds, Pablo Pascua founded Through this website, he seeks to expand his knowledge and share his findings with fellow dog enthusiasts. Having owned several dogs throughout his life, Pablo’s experiences have fueled his interest in learning more about these beloved animals. His mission is to provide accurate and comprehensive information to help pet owners make informed decisions about their furry companion.