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Spaniel (Irish Water) Mobile

Irish Water Spaniel

The tallest and possibly the most striking looking of all the spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel has an unusual luxuriant curly coat that comes in a rich dark liver shade with almost a hint of purple to it.  A smart, compact dog, they are strong, tall and athletic.

  • Dog suitable for non-experienced owners
  • Extra training required
  • Generally healthy breed
  • Enjoys vigorous walks
  • Enjoys one to two hours of walking a day
  • Large dog
  • Some drool
  • Requires grooming every other day
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Barks and alerts to visitors/anything unusual
  • Generally friendly with other dogs
  • Gets along with other pets with training
  • May need additional supervision to live with children
  • Needs a large garden
  • Can live in semi-rural areas
  • Can be left occasionally with training

Key Facts

Lifespan: 10-12 years
Weight:  20-30kg
Height:  53-58cm for males and 51-56cm for females 
Colours:  Dark liver shade with hints of purple
Size:  Medium
UK Kennel Club Groups: Gundog


Family-friendly: 5/5
Exercise needs: 5/5
Easy to train: 5/5
Tolerates being alone: 3/5
Likes other pets: 4/5
Energy level: 5/5
Grooming needs: 2/5
Shedding: 1/5
Irish Water Spaniel standing on the ground


The Irish Water Spaniel is really a versatile gundog able to retrieve flush and hunt. Excellent at work whether the job is traditional gundog work or field trial competition, they are also a fun and affectionate pet at home. Aloof and standoffish with strangers, they are even-tempered and confident once mature and make friends with relative ease. As puppies they can be sensitive and slow to mature, and so care must be taken not to overwhelm them.

History and Origins

Country of Origin: Ireland

Although they carry the word spaniel in their name, the origins of the Irish Water Spaniel include retrieving dogs such as the PoodlePortuguese Water Dog and Barbet, and their function was retrieving from water, flushing and hunting. Their original name was the Irish Water Dog and the first documented example of the breed was a dog called Boatswain who belonged to a Dubliner, Justin McCarthy. All modern Irish Water Spaniels decent from this dog, born in 1834!

Health and Common Issues

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. Check with the Kennel Club and breed club for up-to-date health information.

Exercise Needs

The Irish Water Spaniel is a dog who needs two or more hours of dog exercise, out and about, exploring the countryside and covering distance in whatever the weather happens to be doing (as the breed has a water-proof, weather-proof coat0. Countryside walking and taking in the delights of whatever pond, stream or river they happen across, the Irish Water Spaniel is energetic and knows how to have fun – and so needs an owner with exactly the same attitude to life and leisure time! 

Space Requirements

The Irish Water Spaniel requires a home with a decent-sized garden and secure fencing. They do not cope well with busy, frantic or noisy environments so a rural or quiet suburban home are best. Access to a wide variety of rural walking is vital to keep this clever, energetic breed happy.

Nutrition and Feeding

The Irish Water Spaniel needs to have a balanced diet including all the main nutrient groups and 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 your pet at least twice daily and in accordance with the feeding guidelines of their particular food. 

Grooming Irish Water Spaniels

The coat of the Irish Water Spaniel, which is covered in tight ringlets, is naturally oily, and provides protection when 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. They are excellent at collecting water and mud so it’s important to dry them off well after walks and check the coat, particularly paws and ears for debris and matting. Find out more about dog grooming and daily care with our article.

Training Irish Water Spaniels

The Irish Water Spaniel is a sensitive yet clever breed. They take to dog training well as long as it is done with kindness, patience and plenty of reward. Do not over-face the young Irish Water Spaniel with too much work or difficult tasks, but work to build a strong bond of trust and co-operation first and you’ll be rewarded for your patience later with a rock-solid companion who can take part in a variety of activities, from walks that end in the pub to high levels of competition. 

Best Family Dog Breeds

The Irish Water Spaniel is Ideal for the active family who enjoy long walks, outdoor activity and training. Better with older, quieter children and teenagers who want to get involved in some sort of dog sport or activity. A little too sensitive for very young families with small children or very busy, noisy households. 

While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with each other and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them. 

did you know?

Did You Know?

  • The actor Geena Davis owns an Irish Water Spaniel, and it is via her dog that she met her husband. He got in touch with her to let her know her dog had bitten him when he visited a mutual friend’s home where the dog was staying at the time. The dog was obviously forgiven though as not long after they got married!
  • Geena Davis has another Irish Water Spaniel connection, in the film The Long Kiss Goodnight, starring Geena and Samuel L. Jackson, an unnamed Irish Water Spaniel has a 30 second cameo!

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