Known as the “little brown dog,” the curly-coated American Water Spaniel is the classic “big dog in a small package.” With a weight range of 25 to 45 pounds, he looks small and cute, but he’s a tough hunting dog who’s known for having a stubborn streak. Although he’s called a spaniel, the AWS is primarily a water retriever and has a fine reputation as a hunting dog among those in the know. His claim to fame is that he is the state dog of Wisconsin, where he was developed in the mid-19th century in the Wolf and Fox River Valley region.
The AWS has something of a dual personality. He’s tough-minded, independent (read: likes to do things his way) and will take any opportunity to be top dog with people or other dogs, but he is also a smart dog who responds well to gentle, consistent training techniques. With the right owner, he is willing to please. For best results, use positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise, and food rewards. Begin training and socialization early to ward off problems such as food-guarding, shyness, and aggression toward unknown dogs.
Like any retriever, he’s tireless and needs daily exercise. A long walk will do, but you can also channel his energy into dog sports such as agility and flyball. He’ll love anything that involves getting wet and is an excellent choice for boaters, including canoers and kayakers, seeing as how he was developed to hunt from a boat.
Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the American Water Spaniel needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy AWS who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
Other Quick Facts
The American Water Spaniel is a highly versatile hunting dog on land and in water. His job is to hunt, flush and retrieve all kinds of game.
The AWS stands out for his solid liver or dark chocolate-colored coat.