Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel

This is the tallest of all spaniels, with adult male dogs standing at 53-58cm and females at 51-56cm. Adults weigh approximately 20-30kg. A smart, compact dog, he is strong and has an unusual-coloured curly coat that is a dark liver with a hint of purple.

Irish Water Spaniel
  • Category size: Medium
  • Grooming requirements: More than once a week
Irish Water Spaniel
  • Shedding: None
  • Allergies: Yes
  • Noise: Not too noisy
  • Dog Group Kennel Club: Gundog
Irish Water Spaniel
  • Alone: Less than 1 hour
  • Other pets: Medium
  • Stability as a guard: Medium


It's thought that Irish Water Spaniels arrived in Ireland with fishermen from France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. His ancestry is unknown but could well include the Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog and Barbet. He was originally used for hunting, flushing and retrieving water fowl from bogs and rivers – hence his nickname of Bogdog! The first Irish Water Spaniel dog we know of was called Boatswain, born in 1834, who belonged to a Dubliner called Justin McCarthy. All modern Irish Water Spaniels descend from this dog.


Although he's called a spaniel, he works as a retriever in field trials and is a very versatile gundog. In the home, as a companion, the Irish Water Spaniel dog is a fun and affectionate pet. Aloof with strangers until he gets to know them, he is even-tempered and confident.


As with many breeds, the Irish Water Spaniel can suffer from various hereditary eye disorders, and hip dysplasia (a condition that can lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.


An energetic dog, the Irish Water Spaniel breed needs two hours or more of daily exercise. He loves romping about the countryside and is, of course, a 'water baby' – jumping into any pond or even large puddle if he encounters one on a walk!


Your dog's diet needs to have the right balance of all the main nutrient groups including a constant supply of fresh water. It's also important to conduct regular body condition scores to ensure you keep your dog in ideal shape and remember to feed him at least twice daily and in accordance with the feeding guidelines of his particular food.


The coat, which is covered in tight ringlets, is naturally oily, providing protection for his when he's swimming in cold water. Use a wide-toothed comb to groom the coat once or twice a week, and bath and trim the coat approximately every couple of months. After combing, use a spray to wet the coat to encourage the curls to reform.

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Is this the right dog breed for you?

All dogs have their own, unique personality, but some instincts and behaviours they’re born with. Try our breed selector and find out which dog breeds better match your preferences and lifestyle. If you and your dog enjoy similar things, you will be more likely to live a happy, fulfilling life together.


What to Consider next


It is incredibly fulfilling to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization. It often means offering them a second chance in life. There are many dogs waiting for a loving family, a forever home. Reputable centers will be very careful about matching the right people with the right dogs. Staff learns all they can about the dogs they take in, and will spend time getting to know you, your family and your lifestyle, before they match you with any of their dogs. They’ll also be happy to give you advice and answer any questions you might have before and after the adoption.

Finding a good breeder

If your heart is set on a pedigree puppy, then your best bet is to find a reputable breeder. Contact The Kennel Club or a breed-club secretary who may have a list of litters available, or should be able to put you in contact with breeders in your area. Try to choose a breeder who is part of the Kennel Club’s assured breeder scheme.Visit dog shows to meet breeders in person and inquire about availability of pups of your chosen breed.

Welcoming your dog home

Whether you’re bringing home a tiny puppy or rehoming an adult dog, this is a hugely exciting time for everyone. While you’re waiting for the big day you might need to distract yourself, so luckily there are a few things you need to sort out before you welcome your new arrival. Click here for more information