Irish Water Spaniel

Group 3: Gun dogs
Male: 53 – 58 cm
Female: 51 – 56 cm

Energy Level:  Moderate to high
Original Function: Retrieving
Lifespan: 9 – 15 yrs

Recommended for: Active people & families, allergy sufferers.

Irish Water Spaniel

About This Breed

The Irish Water Spaniel has been known by a few different names, Rat Tail or Whip Tail Spaniels, Shannon Spaniels and the Irish Water Spaniels as we call them today. They were used to hunt birds on the water and on land.

They respond well to training when plenty of praise is given. They are often referred to as the clown of the spaniel, they are a happy, boisterous dog and with times this exuberance may be too much for the young and the elderly. They can be aloof with strangers.

General Characteristics

Appearance: Smart, upstanding, strongly built, compact, Large sized body. Their distinctive coats make them stand out in the crowd. Domed skull with small dark eyes & long ears that hang to the side of the head. Medium length wispy tail.

Temperament: Initially aloof, staunch and affectionate; with an endearing sense of humour and a stable disposition.

Characteristics: Enduring, versatile gundog for all types of shooting particularly in wildfowling.

Colour: Rich dark liver with purplish tint or bloom peculiar to the breed and sometimes referred to as puce-liver.

Coat: On body, dense, tight, crisp ringlets, free from woolliness. Hair having natural oiliness. Forelegs covered down to feet with curls or ringlets. Abundant all round, though shorter in front. Below hocks, hindlegs should be smooth in front and with curls or ringlets behind down to feet. On skull covering of long curls forming a pronounced top-knot, growing in a well defined peak to a point between the eyes. Ears covered with long twisted curls. Neck covered with curls similar to those on body. Throat smooth, the smooth hair forming a ‘V’ shaped patch from back of lower jaw to breast bone.


Grooming: The oily coat consists of dense, permanent curls and needs regular grooming with a wide gauge comb (weekly) to prevent mats forming. They also need washing every few months to keep the coat odour free.

Because of the density and curl in their coats, ticks and fleas can remain unnoticed. After a thorough combing, they should either be washed or allowed to swim which puts the curl back into their coats. The coat will need to be trimmed from time to time.

The hair must be trimmed around the ears and between the toe pads to prevent infection, and grass seeds from being trapped. It is interesting that asthma sufferers are seldom allergic to the coat, but of course this needs to be kept clean as asthma sufferers are frequently allergic to dust!

Exercise: A fun-loving breed, they have tremendous stamina and are natural water and wetland athletes and will take all the exercise on offer. A high-energy breed that needs both mental and physical stimulation. This breed can adapt to an urban lifestyle but they must be given adequate exercise.