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Irish Water Spaniel

  • Category Size Medium
  • SheddingNone
  • Grooming RequirementsMore than once a week
  • AloneLess than 1 hour
  • Other PetsMedium
  • VocalNot too noisy
  • AllergiesYes
  • Suitability As GuardMedium
  • Dog Group Kennel Club Gundog


This is the tallest of all spaniels, with adult male dogs standing at 53-58cm and females at 51-56cm. Adults weigh approximately 20-30kg. A smart, compact dog, he is strong and has an unusual-coloured curly coat that is a dark liver with a hint of purple.


It's thought that Irish Water Spaniels arrived in Ireland with fishermen from France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. His ancestry is unknown but could well include the Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog and Barbet. He was originally used for hunting, flushing and retrieving water fowl from bogs and rivers – hence his nickname of Bogdog! The first Irish Water Spaniel dog we know of was called Boatswain, born in 1834, who belonged to a Dubliner called Justin McCarthy. All modern Irish Water Spaniels descend from this dog.


Although he's called a spaniel, he works as a retriever in field trials and is a very versatile gundog. In the home, as a companion, the Irish Water Spaniel dog is a fun and affectionate pet. Aloof with strangers until he gets to know them, he is even-tempered and confident.


As with many breeds, the Irish Water Spaniel can suffer from various hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.


An energetic dog, the Irish Water Spaniel breed needs two hours or more of daily exercise. He loves romping about the countryside and is, of course, a 'water baby' – jumping into any pond or even large puddle if he encounters one on a walk!


Your dog's diet needs to have the right balance of all the main nutrient groups including a constant supply of fresh water. It's also important to conduct regular body condition scores to ensure you keep your dog in ideal shape and remember to feed him at least twice daily and in accordance with the feeding guidelines of his particular food.


The coat, which is covered in tight ringlets, is naturally oily, providing protection for his when he's swimming in cold water. Use a wide-toothed comb to groom the coat once or twice a week, and bath and trim the coat approximately every couple of months. After combing, use a spray to wet the coat to encourage the curls to reform.
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