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Irish Water Spaniel Temperament: Ready for A Curious, Intelligent, Clown?

The Irish Water Spaniel temperament is a playful, brave, and hardworking one. For this reason, he would do well as either a family companion or a working dog.

In fact, despite his name, the Irish Water Spaniel doesn’t act like of a Spaniel at all. In fact, he acts more like a Retriever and a hunting dog, compared to what you might expect from a typical Spaniel.

Portrait of Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel Temperament and Personality

Let’s examine the Irish Water Spaniel Temperament a little more closely, shall we?

Get Ready to Laugh!

One thing owners of the Irish Water Spaniel breed can agree on is their clownish behavior. They have a seemingly permanent smile, and they love nothing more than to make their humans laugh!

Irish Water Spaniels do everything with enthusiasm, and man, are they smart!

You’ll be amazed to watch your Irish Water Spaniel solve a simple problem using more advanced methods, simply because he wants to see the shocked look on your face.

They Aren’t for Beginner Dog Owners

Irish Water Spaniels are, first and foremost, hunting dogs. They are extremely smart, bold, and curious.

While these traits make for an interesting breed, they aren’t the best qualities for first-time or inexperienced dog owners.

However, if this isn’t your first rodeo, then you may find life with an Irish Water Spaniel to be the most rewarding experience you can share.

Because he is a hunter at heart, he naturally wants to please his master. Once he understands that you are the master and he the servant, then the rest is smooth sailing from there.

They’re Loyal Dogs – But Only with Their Family

Irish Water Spaniels are loyal to their family, but they aren’t always as welcoming of strangers.

In fact, when it comes to strange dogs, he may respond with aggression, since he believes he must protect his family from them.

The best way to combat this is with early socialization. The more you socialize him, the more you can fight his instinct to challenge every strange dog or animal he meets.

Photo of Irish Water Spaniel Sitting in Lush Green Grass


These are alert dogs, which makes them great watchdogs, but they are not barkers.

So, while they’ll let you know that danger may be afoot, they won’t do much to stand in the way of it. It’s more like “Mom, can you check that out? I think there might be a threat outside.”

Irish Water Spaniels May Prefer to be Your Only Pet

Unless you raise them together, Irish Water Spaniels don’t always get along with other dogs or cats. This is especially true if they live in the same house.

The Irish Water Spaniel may become jealous of your relationship with the other pet.

In fact, he may go as far as to claim you for himself by doing such things as standing in the way when you want to pet your other pet.

He can even become aggressive with other pets if you don’t keep this negative trait in check, so be sure to train him out of it right away.

He does well with children, though, so long as the children are older and well-mannered. He may be too large and/or rambunctious for younger children.

They Aren’t Meant for Apartment Life

Irish Water Spaniels are too large and need too much space to live in an apartment. They do best in a home with a large, fenced-in backyard. So, if you live in an apartment, you may be better off with a different breed entirely.

A Brief History of the Irish Water Spaniel Breed

The Irish Water Spaniel has an ancient history dating back to the Stone or Bronze age.

However, while there might have been dogs who looked like the Irish Water Spaniel throughout time, the actual origin of this breed remains unknown. The purebred Irish Water Spaniel is only a recent development.

Bred as a water retriever, the Irish Water Spaniel is actually a rarity today.

How Do You Train an Irish Water Spaniel?

Photo of Irish Water Spaniel  Min Min

Although they often have a willful streak, Irish Water Spaniels can be easy to train – for the right owner. You must show him who’s boss, or he’ll assume it’s him, and he’ll walk all over you.

Irish Water Spaniels love a mental challenge. They are quick learners, but they also enjoy putting their own spin on what you are trying to teach them.

They can be stubborn dogs, but if you find out what motivates them – be it treats, praise, or play – you’ll get the results you’re looking for.

Only use positive reinforcement when training your Irish Water Spaniel. Harsher training methods, like scolding or spanking, can cause him to withdraw and make training efforts harder or even impossible.

Keep training sessions fun and light, as he loves to think he is playing a game. Only you need to know he is actually learning something in the process.

Early socialization will help your Irish Water Spaniel puppy grow into a well-mannered adult. Since he can be wary of strangers, frequent socialization will also help teach him to be more accepting of new people.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Irish Water Spaniel dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

The Irish Water Spaniel Appearance

Often mistaken for the Portuguese Water Dog or Spanish Water Dog, the Irish Water Spaniel is a bit larger than both of these dogs. In fact, he is the tallest Spaniel there is!

Irish Water Spaniel Weight and Height

The size of a full-grown Irish Water Spaniel is between 21 and 23 inches tall for a female, and between 22 and 24 inches for a male.

Females weigh between 45 and 58 lbs., and males weigh between 55 and 65 lbs.

Irish Water Spaniel Colors

As for their colors, the Irish Water Spaniel comes in one color only: liver, which is, essentially, a deep red-brown color.

Caring for the Irish Water Spaniel

1. How Do You Groom an Irish Water Spaniel?

Irish Water Spaniels have a double coat. This means they have both a top coat and an undercoat. They have tight ringlets on their back and sides, along with long, wavy hair.

His tail is one of his most striking features. It is wide where it meets his body, and it tapers off into a fine point at the other end.

These dogs hardly ever shed, but you still need to brush them two or three times per week to prevent matting or tangling. As for allergies, this breed falls into the “hypoallergenic” category, even though no dog truly is. All this means is that you are less likely to suffer from an allergic reaction to his particular fur.

Irish Water Spaniels have floppy ears and are therefore prone to getting ear infections. Clean and dry his ears every time he goes swimming or gets wet to prevent moisture from building up in there and causing problems.

Something interesting to note is this breed’s feet. Over time, the pads of the Irish Water Spaniel’s feet will grow accustomed to harsh conditions. This will allow him to accomplish tougher tasks, to the point where he can walk over sharp rocks without issue.

Follow this step-by-step guide to successfully grooming your Irish Water Spaniel.

2. Staying Healthy: Watch Out for these Irish Water Spaniel Health Issues 

Irish Water Spaniels can live up to 13 years. This breed is a rather healthy one, but they can still develop health conditions, depending on the individual dog. in particular, Irish Water Dogs are prone to developing:

I know this may sound like a myriad of health problems, but don't let that scare you off from pursuing an Irish Water Spaniel. Some people shy away from the breed because they don’t want to take on a dog who might develop health concerns later, but you can nip most problems in the bud if you catch them early.

Just make sure you are prepared to spot and handle potential health issues before they become a major problem for you and your dog. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health will save you time, and money. Get a copy to keep at home.

3. Exercising your Irish Water Spaniel

Like many other hunting dogs, the Irish Water Spaniel is an active breed who needs a lot of activity. If you’re not prepared to run this dog ragged, then you’re not prepared to own an Irish Water Spaniel – simple as that.

Unsurprisingly, like his name would suggest, the Irish Water Spaniel loves water. He would love nothing more than weekly (or daily!) swims in the pool or at a nearby lake.

Irish Water Spaniels can become hyper and/or destructive if they don’t get enough exercise. In fact, experts have proven that exercise can work wonders for bad-behaving dogs.

One thing’s for sure: Irish Water Spaniels make excellent hunting dogs, thanks to their incredible stamina and reliable tracking abilities.

Top Irish Water Spaniel Mixes

Because this is a rather rare breed in and of itself, there do not exist many Irish Water Spaniel mixes. However, you may still be able to find a Russian Water Spaniel in the wild, which is a combination of an Irish Water Spaniel and a Black Russian Terrier.

Finding the Perfect Irish Water Spaniel

Before you dive into the prospect of finding the perfect Irish Water Spaniel for you and your family, first consider your lifestyle. Are you able to handle adding a puppy to your family? Will you have the time and patience necessary to give a puppy the training, grooming, and exercise he needs?

If not, then an adult Irish Water Spaniel from a rescue may be the better option for you. Adults dogs have typically already received training and know basic commands, like “sit” and “stay.”

First, begin your search with the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America. You can find information on Irish Water Spaniel breeders here, as well as information pertaining to Irish Water Spaniel rescue services.

Irish Water Spaniel Puppies for Sale

The average cost for Irish Water Spaniel puppies for sale is between $800 and $1000.

This price is largely dependent on several factors, such:

  • The location of the dog and breeder
  • The availability of the particular dog you’re looking for
  • And the dog’s lineage. For instance, a dog who comes from purebred parents is going to cost more than a dog with average parents.

Irish Water Spaniel Rescue and Adoption

As I noted earlier, the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America is a great resource for answers to questions you may have regarding Irish Water Spaniel rescues.

They list common questions about rescue dogs on their site, such as, “Are all rescued Irish Water Spaniel ‘problem’ dogs?” (Spoiler – they’re not!).

Additionally, they answer questions about how to meet up with a dog prior to committing to buying or adopting one, as well as what happens if the meetup doesn’t quite work out the way you had planned.

Irish Water Spaniel Breeders

An Irish Water Spaniel for sale from a breeder is a great choice if you are looking for a purebred puppy, or for a puppy with a superior lineage.

A great resource for finding an Irish Water Spaniel puppy is the American Kennel Club Marketplace.

Not only do they have a breeder registry on their site, but they also provide information on the breed, should you need answers to questions that I did not answer here.

A Final Word about the Irish Water Spaniel Temperament

The Irish Water Spaniel temperament makes him the perfect dog for the experienced dog owner. He is personable, smart, and energetic.

Though intelligent, Irish Water Spaniels can be stubborn and willful, but they typically respond well to positive reinforcement training methods.

Irish Water Spaniels love to swim so, if you live near a lake or pool, he will be one happy dog. Irish Water Spaniels are easy to get along with, so this dog will easily become your best friend in no time – sometimes to the detriment of your other pets!

One thing I can promise you is that you’ll always be laughing with an Irish Water Spaniel. That’s because their zest for life is positively infectious!