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A Guide to the Multi-talented Irish Water Dog

Why This Breed Could Win a Doggie Gold Medal

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Irish Water Spaniels photo

Is The Irish Water Dog Right For You?

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    Irish Water Spaniels are known for their lovable yet tough attitude.

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    A clever and quick learner, the Irish Water Spaniel makes a great watchdog.

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    Irish Water Spaniel puppies should be trained and socialized early.


The Irish Water Spaniel, said to be the largest of all the Spaniels, could be a hybrid of the Poodle, Irish Setter, and Portuguese Water Dog (or some combination thereof). There's evidence of the dog's ancestors as far back as the 7th century, but Justin McCarthy is credited with isolating the breed in 1859. Irish Water Spaniels were an integral part of duck hunting for the 19th and 20th centuries. Later replaced by the Labrador as the duck hunter's preferred breed, the Irish Water Spaniel is now considered rare. They were recognized by the AKC in 1884.

quick facts

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    10 to 12 years

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    Hair Length


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    Male Height

    20-24 inches in height

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    Male Weight

    45-65 pounds

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    Female Height

    19-23 inches in height

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    Female Weight

    45-65 pounds

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    Litter Size

    4-12 puppies


The largest Spaniel, the Irish Water Spaniel has a curly, brown coat and a thick undercoat to keep them warm in even the coldest climates. Their domed skull ends in a strong, square muzzle. They have long ears and a deep, narrow chest, and webbed paws making them ideal for swimming.


The Irish Water Spaniel is an intelligent, hardy, and daring dog, having been bred to brave the cold North Sea as retrievers. They are a loving dog and are great with kids, and can be good with pets if properly introduced. They may not take to strangers, being shy or reserved. They should be socialized early on to avoid them becoming overprotective, or just mischievous. While they were bred to be hunting dogs, because of their tendency to not be vocal unless they detect something awry, they can also make a good watchdog.


The Irish Water Spaniel can be either deep puce, dark brown, or liver in color.

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health concerns

The breed has a life expectancy of 10-12 years. The Irish Water Spaniel has a tendency to develop:

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