The American Water Spaniel was developed in 1800s in the America Midwest in the Great Lakes region, particularly in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin hunters needed a good hunter that could work on both – land and water and indeed, the American Water Spaniel is a good versatile hunter. We are not sure about the exact AWS ancestry, but the breeds involved in the breeds development are thought to have included the Irish and English Water Spaniel, Curly Coated Retriever and probably some native Indian breeds, Poodle and some field Spaniel.
2) Boat dogs
The hunters had several needs when developing the American Water Spaniel. The first one was that the dog must withstand colder temperatures, so the dog must have thick coat. The second one was of course good hunting abilities. And the dog also needed to be small enough to be able to ride on a small boat or skiff, but the same time strong enough to to bring back a duck or even a goose. And that is exactly why the American Water Spaniel was favourite for hunting waterflow.
3) Almost extinct
In the 20th century, the American Water Spaniels population dropped drastically. There were several reasons. The most important was, that the hunting was not so popular and needed anymore, just as in the 19th century. Also, many other hunting breeds, including english setters, pointers and various spaniels were imported to Wisconsin, which allowed specialization in hunting and the all around American Water Spaniel suddenly had a big competition in these new breeds. Luckily, a Dr. Pfiefer decided to save the breed and he was succesfull. He also developed a breed standard and founded a breed club.
4) State dog
It is clear, that this dog is closely related to Wisconsin and even today, they are mostly popular in this area. So it is no wonder, that the American Water Spaniel was designated as the official state dog of Wisconsin in 1985.
Even though, the American Water Spaniel is not on the verge of extinction these days and there are several breeders who ensure the future of this breed, this is still a very rare breed. It would be almost impossible to find them outside the Northern America and even outside the Midwestern United States. In 2010, the breed was ranked 143rd most popular breed in the United States, out of 167 breeds and only several hundreads of new puppies are registered each year with the American Kennel Club.
This is a medium sized, well muscled and athletic dog breed with average height between 15-18 inch which is 38-46 cm and weight is typically between 25-40 pounds, which is 11-18 kg.
The American Water Spaniel is not only an extraordinary hunter, they also make good companions. They craves for companionship and creates strong bond with its owner. They tend to be friendly towards their whole family, but they are alert and suspicious towards strangers. Also, even though they are quite smart, they know how to be stubborn, which is why the obedience training is not the easiest and they definitely need a patient trainer. But overall, because of their high affection and loyalty towards it family, this dog makes awesome companion.
As you can probably imagine, this is pretty active dog, who needs daily proper physical stimulation to stay healthy and happy. They are natural retrivers, so most of them will love to play fetch. The American Water Spaniel will be always ready for a longer walk or hike accompanied with swimming or some playtime. If the dogs exercise needs are not met, they can become very noisy and bored American Water Spaniels are known for a lot of digging and chewing. You can try some dog sport with this breed, for example flyball or agility.
The American Water Spaniel has unique and distinctive curly or wavy doublecoat in liver or dark chocolate color. The coat is very dense, which is to protect them from cold water and weather and also from scratchy underbrush. The amount of curl or wave can vary from one area of the dog's body to another.
This is pretty healthy and hardy breed that does not suffer much from hereditary health problems. The typical lifespan is between 13-15 years. Of course, just like all the dog breeds, they can suffer from some health problems, for example from cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy, mitral valve disease, hypothyroidism or hip dysplasia.