The American Water Spaniel breed originated in the hunting grounds along the Fox River and its tributary, the Wolf River, in the early 19th century. At that time, people developed new territories and hunting was an important part of their life. Accordingly, the hunters needed a dog that could get game out of the water, and find it in dense thickets of bushes and reeds.
That dog had to be versatile, and be able to help on the water as well as on land. Also, it had to be small in size so that it could be placed on a boat. In addition, the Fox River had very cold water for most of the year, and therefore the animal was required to have the appropriate coat.
The American Water Spaniel was originally known as the American Brown Spaniel – small, sturdy, with an excellent nose and a double, slightly frizzy coat that resists water, thorns, and bushes. This dog weighed up to 20kg. Over time, their population dwindled as people stopped using hunting to survive, so there was no need for highly specialized dogs anymore.
In addition, the duck population in these areas had also been steadily declining. The American Water Spaniel is believed to be the basis of the breed involved in the development of the Boykin Spaniel. The following breeds were used to create the American Water Spaniel:
- English Water Spaniel;
- Indian Pariah dog;
- Irish Water Spaniel;
- Curly-Coated Retriever;
- Sussex Spaniel;
In 1985, these dogs became the official breed of the state of Wisconsin. They are not classified as retrievers or spaniels and cannot take part in AKC field trials but they can participate in AKC hunting tests (spaniel and retriever tests) and AWSC-sponsored retriever hunting tests in the USA. The breed is small but in recent years there has been a small jump in popularity.
They are small dogs with a strong build, broad skulls, and hanging ears. Limbs are of medium length. Their coat is two-layer, and it comes in 2 types – the first is more curly on the outer layer, and the second lies in waves. The inner layer protects the dog from water, and the outer one from damage (thorns, branches, etc.). The breed standard states that the eye color must be the same as the color of the coat and cannot be yellow.
When the American Water Spaniel was first created as a breed, these dogs were distinguished by their peculiar disposition, stubbornness, strong hunting instincts, and a pronounced, unfriendly attitude towards strangers. However, over time, breeders have done a serious job of selecting and harmonizing the character of these dogs. The individuals living in current times have a more open, friendly, and affectionate character.
However, their hunting instincts still remain, as well as some stubbornness. These dogs do not swim very fast but they can do it for a prolonged time because of their excellent endurance. They need activities – walks, games, and mental stimulation. Their intellect is very high. The American Water Spaniel can sometimes express opinions, be noisy, and generally be the center of attention. Much, of course, depends on upbringing and innate qualities.
Small animals and birds are perceived exclusively as prey – it is impossible to get rid of these properties. The attitude towards children is generally friendly. It can be said that the American Water Spaniel is a classic example of a single-family dog. If you transfer this pet in adulthood to another family, it will be very difficult for him to adjust.
Moreover, even within its own family, the animal often chooses a main owner, who will enjoy its special trust and obedience. Training is perceived well, giving preference to interesting, active training. They adapt well to life in an apartment, with a sufficient amount of walks and activity. When deficient, they can become destructive.
The American Water Spaniel is prone to the following diseases:
- Progressive retinal atrophy;
- Diseases of the glands that cause baldness.