Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed: Pictures, Guide, Info & Care

Irish Water Spaniel Dog Breed: Pictures, Guide, Info & Care

Irish Water Spaniel standing on grass

The Irish Water Spaniel isn’t a breed that you hear about on a regular basis. These dogs are primarily water retrievers and are one of the best hunting dogs you can find. They have a lot of energy that takes a specific kind of owner to keep up with, but they make up for it in their personality and soft, teddy-bear coat.

Breed Overview


21­ – 24 inches


45 – 68 pounds


12 – 13 years



Suitable for:

Active families or individual owners with time to train, socialize, and exercise


Intelligent, alert, active, quick

As most sporting dogs, the Irish Water Spaniel is a people-pleaser by nature and enjoys being around family as much as possible. Don’t leave them to their own devices unless properly trained because too much boredom could cause a slew of bad behavior. Despite a few health issues, these dogs are beautiful breeds that will stick by your side for years to come.

Irish Water Spaniel Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

divider-dog paw

Irish Water Spaniel Puppies

Typical Irish Water Spaniel
Image Credit: Nikolai Belyakov, Shutterstock

If you or your family are full of energy and always on the move, then the Irish Water Spaniel is the dog for you, especially if you’re an avid hunter. Despite their long history of being trained, you’ll have to be persistent if you want to keep them behaving properly. These dogs have some of the highest energy levels, and too much time spent bored in the house could create some bad habits.

The biggest downfall of this breed is that they have quite a few health problems that could leave you spending a lot of time at the vet. Despite this, they have an average lifespan and are some of the most social dogs out there.


Temperament & Intelligence of the Irish Water Spaniel

The Irish Water Spaniel is a goofy, enthusiastic breed that enjoys making their family members laugh. This doesn’t mean that they’re like this all the time, though. This dog was bred to be a serious hunter, which makes them intelligent, brave, and incredibly curious. These qualities sound great, but they’re not always the easiest to handle. Even though they are loyal to family, they aren’t always as welcoming to strangers, and they don’t always get along well with other cats and dogs unless socialized from a young age.

You must give an Irish Water Spaniel plenty of mental challenges. While training them, you might notice that they’re stubborn, so it is important to find out what motivates them. Like most hunting breeds, these dogs are tireless. They pair best with active owners and families who can give them plenty of daily exercise. If you aren’t a hunter, channeling their energy into dog agility sports or taking them as your running or cycling buddy are good ways to wear them out.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

With the right training and socialization, Irish Water Spaniels make the perfect companion to an active family. Their goofy and loving personalities entertain the kids, and their loyalty is something that most parents look for. Because they care so much about you, they also make a good watchdog. Be sure that you work with these dogs from a young age. The more exposure they have to children, strangers, and other pets, the better behaved they will be.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

How well this breed gets along with other pets, whether it be dogs, cats, or another animal, depends on the individual dog and their socialization. You have a better chance of them being more welcoming if they are around other animals from when they are a puppy. However, all dogs have different personalities, and some have a more difficult time of adjusting than others.

Brown Irish Water Spaniel in the garden
Image Credit: Radomir Rezny, Shutterstock


Things to Know When Owning an Irish Water Spaniel:

Do as much you can to understand a dog breed before bringing it home. The more you familiarize yourself with their basic needs, the better prepared you are to give them a full life and keep them healthy.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Irish Water Spaniels do best when given high-quality dog food recommended by your veterinarian. The back of the packaging will always have directions specifying an appropriate amount of food for their age and weight. On average, this breed eats between 1.5 and 2.5 cups of dry food per day, divided into two separate meals.

Treats are great for training, but too many of them cause obesity. Always watch your dog’s calorie consumption and adjust it based on their activity level. On top of food, make sure they always have access to clean water.

Exercise 🐕

Hunting dogs always benefit from a good amount of exercise every single day. Because of this, make sure you are able and willing to take them outside to get at least 40 minutes of exercise per day. If you live in the city, a dog park or long walk is a great way to keep their activity levels high.

irish doodle in water_Joca de Jong_Shutterstock
Image By: Joca de Jong, Shutterstock

Training 🎾

These dogs do tend to be a little bit stubborn when it comes to training, so make sure you are dedicated to the job and patient enough to break through their stubborn streaks. Encourage them with treats for their good behavior. Over time, their intelligent minds take over and they learn exactly how to please you.

Grooming ✂️

Grooming is a bit more challenging with an Irish Water Spaniel than with other dog breeds. Their tightly curled coat is short but thick to provide warmth and keep their skin from getting wet win in the water. There is another longer coat on top of that for added protection. Try to comb their coats up to three times per week. Comb all the way down to the skin to get rid of matting and use a slicker type of brush to remove dead hair. Trim their long coats every six to eight weeks at a professional groomer, including around the footpads.

Always rinse off your dog whenever they get wet and are covered with chlorine, algae, or slat. Keep their ears clean and nails trimmed. These dogs also drool a lot, and you may find yourself buying rags to keep their faces wiped clean and dry.

Irish Water Spaniel
Image By: PxHere

Health and Conditions 🏥

Minor Conditions
Serious Conditions

divider-dog paw

3 Little-Known Facts About the Irish Water Spaniel

1. They are one of the oldest breeds of Spaniels.

There are over a dozen spaniel dog breeds, but the Irish Water Spaniel is one of the oldest. There is evidence to support that these dogs were around as early as 7th century AD, and their name is used to describe all dogs that were located south of Ireland’s Shannon River.

2. Nobody knows which two breeds were used to develop them.

The exact history of the Irish Water Spaniel isn’t known. The breeder credited with their present appearance, Just McCarthy, didn’t keep any records. However, people guess that they might be a cross between a Portuguese Water Dog and a Poodle, and an English Water Spaniel. Still, nobody knows for sure.

3. They are considered the clowns of the Spaniel family.

These dogs are often referred to as clowns likely because of their curly hair that gives them an exaggerated poof on top of their heads, as well as their boisterous personalities.

Irish Water Spaniel playing in the yard
Image By: Bokehboo Studios, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

The Irish Water Spaniel might not be the most popular dog breed on the block, but these dogs are a hidden gem among all other types of hunting breeds. They are fun to be around, affectionate, and truly dedicated to being your lifelong companion. They have a few flaws like any other breed, but don’t let those get in the way. If you’ve done your research and you think that an Irish Water Spaniel is a good fit, don’t be afraid to contact some certified breeders in your area and set up a meeting. We know that you’ll want them by your side the moment you set eyes on them.

Featured Image Credit: Julie Morrish, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets