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BellaOnline's Dogs Editor


The Irish Water Spaniel

Guest Author - Sandy Moyer

The most comical of the group of dogs native to Ireland is sometimes called "a leprechaun in disguise" because of its frazzled curls and clownish personality. The Irish Water Spaniel is a most unique dog, and, according to AKC registrations, one of the most rare. Breeders say they are one of America's best kept secrets.

The Irish Water Spaniel has smooth short hair on its face with a topknot of long, loose curls. It's liver colored coat ranges from areas of dense tight ringlets to abundant soft curls and waves. It's characteristic "rat tail" is covered with short curls at the base and tapers to a thin pointed end covered with short smooth hair.

Though their early history is not clear, their appearance strongly suggests poodle ancestry. A few characteristics closely resemble those of the Afghan Hound. Some sources also suggest a Field Spaniel or Curly Coated Retriever link.

A Dublin sportsman named Justin McCarthy refined the Irish Water Spaniel that exists today. His dog, "Boatswain", born in 1834, was the prototype for the breed. The versatile dogs quickly became popular with Irish and English sportsmen. Irish Water Spaniels arrived in America in the 1870s. In 1877, there were 4 Irish Water Spaniels entered in the first Westminster Kennel Club Show. The breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1878. The very first sporting dog to win an AKC obedience title was an Irish Water Spaniel.

According to The AKC standard. "The Irish Water Spaniel presents a picture of a smart, upstanding,
strongly built sporting dog. Great intelligence is combined with rugged endurance and a bold, dashing eagerness of temperament."

Unlike many other breeds, there is no distinction between today's Irish Water Spaniel "Show Dogs" and "Field Dogs". Both have the temperament of a great family pet. Irish Water Spaniels are alert, happy, playful and energetic dogs. They make loving and devoted pets, but because of a tendency to become either a one person or a one family dog, and, and because they occasionally become dog aggressive, early socialization with other people and with other dogs is strongly recommended.

Irish Water Spaniels are eager, powerful swimmers and rugged, hearty retrievers. Their double coat... a short, dense under coat, plus a longer, water-resistant top coat... protects them even in icy cold waters.

The Irish Water Spaniel's coat needs regular grooming that includes a thorough combing about once a week to remove stray hair and keep it mat-free, plus a light trimming about every 6 to 8 weeks to maintain the shape. They are light shedders. Though there are always exceptions, allergy sufferers might want to consider this breed.

Like most dogs with long droopy ears, they are prone to excessive ear wax and ear infections. Certain medications can have severe side effects on the Irish Water Spaniel! Owners should read this warning - Danger to Irish Water Spaniels.

Many people have difficulty distinguishing between three breeds of "brown spaniels" - American Water Spaniels, Boykin Spaniels, and Irish Water Spaniels. Identifying American Water Spaniels is an illustrated guide designed to help rescue and shelter workers identify the dogs.

The early history of the Irish Water Spaniel is "shrouded in the mists of myths and legends". One of the most colorful tales involves Saint Patrick himself, in his early missionary days. The legend "explains" how the whimsical, curly spaniels got their smooth rat tails and luxurious topknots. See "The Irrepressible Irish Water Spaniel" a breed profile from the archives of the AKC Gazette.

Links to more information about the Irish Water Spaniel.....

AKC Irish Water Spaniel Breed Standard

The Irish Water Spaniel Club of America

Irish Water Spaniel Grooming Profile

Irish Water Spaniel Home Page

The Irish Water Spaniel Page

The Irish Water Spaniel Webring

Irish Water Spaniel Owners -
Why they own and love Irish Water Spaniels

The Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club (UK)

The Irish Water Spaniel Association ot the U.K.

The Irish Water Spaniel Association of Canada

For Irish Water Spaniel Lovers...

Irish Water Spaniel (Comprehensive Owner's Guide)
This book offers everything an Irish Water Spaniel owner needs to know about selection of a puppy, everyday care and training, safety, health and much more. The author details the breed's history in its homeland of Ireland as well as in England and the United States. She shares her many years of experience about the breed's character, told in special stories and photographs. A health chapter by world-famous veterinarian and author Dr. Lowell Ackerman presents excellent up-to-date information about vaccinations, parasite control, spaying/neutering and much more.

Flag: Irish Water Spaniel

Irish Water Spaniel Flag
This Irish Water Spaniel flag is the ideal size to use on your window, garden or porch. It's double sided so you can see the dog's picture from both sides. Made from 100% polyester, the flag is soft and silky to the touch, yet fade resistant and water proof. Get this and other gifts and accessories for Irish Water Spaniels lovers at Animal Den - Gift Shop for Dog Lovers

~~~~ Click on a picture to read about another Irish American Tail Wagger~~~~

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Content copyright © 2015 by Sandy Moyer. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sandy Moyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bettina Thomas-Smith for details.


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