Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel At-a-Glance

Irish Water Spaniels, or IWS for short, are one of the oldest dog breeds, existing since the seventh century. However, the modern version that we know today was bred in Ireland in the 1830s. They are the largest of all spaniel breeds and are used frequently by duck hunters.

As their name implies, they love water. With their playful personalities, they are known as the clowns of the spaniel breeds and can keep you laughing with their funny antics

Weight (pounds)
Male: 55-70
Female: 45-60
Height (inches)
Male: 22-24
Female: 21-23
Lifespan (years)

Dog Breed Group

Characteristics Ratings

We rate 19 characteristics for each breed, divided into three categories:
Highest Rated – Characteristics for which this breed is rated 4 or 5 stars (on a 5 star scale).
Neutral Rated – Characteristics that rated 3 stars.
Lowest Rated – Characteristics that rated only 1 or 2 stars.

Highest Rated

  • Good Family Dog
  • Kid Friendly
  • Good With Other Dogs
  • Low Shedding
  • Low Drooling
  • Friendly to Strangers
  • Likes to Play
  • Handle Change Easily
  • Easy to Train
  • Low Amount of Barking
  • Tolerates Cold Climate
  • Tolerates Hot Climate
  • High Intelligence

Neutral Rated

  • Protective Nature
  • High Energy Level
  • Suitable for Small Yards/Apartments
  • Tolerates Being Left Alone

Lowest Rated

  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Good General Health

General Overview

The IWS has a lively and loving personality that makes them excellent family dogs. They are good with children but as with all large breeds should be supervised when interacting with smaller children.

They get along well with other dogs and pets but can be wary around people they don’t know, so early socialization is important with this breed. While not naturally aggressive, with proper training, they can become good guard dogs and will loyally protect their family.

Even though they are good family dogs, most Irish Water Spaniels will recognize only their owner as the alpha and that is the only person they will obey.

These are clean and easy to maintain dogs. Their coat is easy to groom and has almost no shedding, which makes them a good choice for many people with allergies. Another plus is they do little, if any, drooling.

Unlike many other breeds, they can tolerate being alone occasionally, so long as it’s not for an extended amount of time. With enough regular exercise, they can adapt to apartments or small yards, but as with most large breeds they do best with lots of room to roam.

They have a moderately high amount of energy and almost unlimited endurance. They can easily handle marathon walks and hikes and in fact, need them as part of their exercise regimen. Otherwise, mischievous behavior can result when they aren’t given enough activity.

Since swimming is a basic part of their nature, they also need frequent access to a body of water. Otherwise, they can become irritable and depressed. 

Irish Water Spaniels are both intelligent and eager to please. They learn new commands very quickly and overall are easy to train.

That said, they can be somewhat headstrong, so an experienced trainer is needed who can provide firm and patient training. The result will be a sociable and well-behaved member of the family that loves its owner.

Some of the health concerns common to large breeds can occur more frequently in Irish Water Spaniels. These include elbow and hip dysplasia, eye problems, and hypothyroidism. Some veterinarians also report a higher sensitivity to vaccinations and certain prescription medicines.

However, when it comes to climates, this is a hardy breed that can tolerate both hot and cold temperatures.

And, despite the health issues, Irish Water Spaniels enjoy a longer than average life span for large breeds of 12 – 13 years.

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