Photo by Dan lggers

Irish Water Spaniel - Breed Profile:

Origin: Ireland
Colors: Brown
Size: Medium
Type of Owner: Experienced
Exercise: Vigorous
Grooming: Extensive
Trainability: Easy to train
Combativeness: Tends to be dog-aggressive
Dominance: Moderate
Noise: Not a barker

Physical characteristics

The Irish Water Spaniel is a medium to large size dog with a strong build, good boning, and a crisp-textured curly coat. The body is somewhat rectangular, with an overall well-balanced look, neither leggy nor coarse. The deep chest is rather narrow for free movement when the dog swims. The head is cleanly chiseled. The muzzle is long, square and powerful. The lips are fine in texture, tight and dry. The large nose is dark brown. The even teeth should meet in a scissor or level bite. The long pendent ears are well-covered with curls. The eyes are relatively small and almond shaped, with tight eyelids. The "Rat Tail" is a distinctive feature of the breed; it is strong, low set and carried level with the back. At the base, the tail is covered with short curls that stop abruptly. That is for two or three inches long. From that point, the tail is covered with smooth hair, which makes it appear hairless. The gait is free and well-balanced.
Irish Water Spaniels weigh 45 to 65 pounds. The height is 21 to 24 inches. This is the largest Spaniel breed.


Very intelligent, trainable, with a strong desire to please. Bold and confident. Generally easy-going and gentle, but may be quite wilful with diffident owners. Make sure you provide the dog with proper human leadership, a sufficient amount of physical exercise, and discipline. Without it, the dog may develop unwanted behaviour. Puppies should be well-socialized to avoid timidity. A well-balanced Irish dog is devoted, obedient, yet mischievous and fun-loving. It can get along well with other pets if properly introduced. The Irish Water Spaniel doesn't bark vainly but only when necessary.

Coat and grooming

The coat consists of dense, tight, crisp curls. The hair on the face is short and smooth, framed with a distinctive topknot. The topknot is the breed's characteristic which should not be trimmed in an excessive manner. The proper coat of Irish Water Spaniel is very important to protect the dog while working. It comes in rich liver to dark liver with a purplish tinge, sometimes called puce liver. With age, the hair may become slightly grey. The coat tends to mat, so at least once a week or preferably more frequent combing is necessary. Trimming should be done on a regular basis, too. Irish Water Spaniels are unusually good for allergy sufferers since their coat has little dandruff and sheds little to no hair.


Prone to hip dysplasia, hypo-thyroidism and eye entropion. May drool and have ear infections.

Other interesting facts

It's said the Irish Water Spaniel may have originated from the Poodle and the Irish Setter, or the Poodle and the Curly-Coated Retriever, or the Poodle and the Portuguese Water Dog, or possibly a combination thereof.