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One of the largest and oldest breeds of Spaniel, this dog is often confused with the Poodle by many people. Native to Ireland, this breed is quite a rare dog but has a solid band of breeders and owners who appreciate all this special dog has to offer.
This modern version of ancient breeds of water dogs is thought to date back to the 1100's but no one knows for sure the exact origins of this charming dog. It is likely that the Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog and the now extinct English Water Spaniel played a part in its development, but the real truth is lost to the sands of time.
Whatever the actual roots, a dog named 'Boatswain' is thought to be one of the founding members of the modern breed. Boatswain lived in the mid1800's and is reputed to have been a champion dog, displaying both the physical and behavioural traits to help it work effectively in the field and in the show ring. He was ideally suited to work under harsh, boggy and difficult conditions and was at home in the water, retrieving game and fowl with little trouble using his soft mouth. His easy going intelligence made him the perfect choice to found this breed and as such he sired many outstanding dogs at the time who also went on to be top dogs in their field and by 1890, the Irish Water Spaniel Club had been formed and the popularity of the breed was sealed, with champion dogs been sent to the US and other European countries.
Average height to withers: Being one of the largest Spaniels, this breed ranges in height between 22-24 inches.
Average weight: The weight varies between 25-30 kg.
The dense, rugged and curled coat that this breed sports makes it an excellent choice for people who suffer from allergies due to pet hair, dander or saliva. It sheds very little and does not have the tendency to ingrain its way into clothing and furniture in the same way that many dogs hair does. The generalised colour of this dog is sometimes described as 'puce' and while this is an unattractive name, the actual colouring of this breed can range from liver red to almost a shade of purple on occasion. The only part of the body that is not covered by the thick, curled hair is the tail, which is smooth and moderate in length. The coat is so tightly curled it is very water resistant which in turn provides excellent insulation while swimming. With swimming in mind, the Irish Water Spaniel was developed to have webbed feet which help to power it through the water making it a strong and confident swimmer.
The face of this dog is long and square shaped with a liver coloured nose and eyes which display intelligence and independence.
The name of this dog says it all - it loves water! Very at home in water, keeping this dog out of it may be trouble, but swimming is excellent exercise and helps manage the high energy levels that come with this dog. Naturally nosey, independent and intelligent, it must live with a family that can cater for its needs and take the time to exercise it on a daily basis without fail. Usually energetic and willing to please, this dog makes a fabulous family pet and gets on well with children of all ages, although some dogs have been noted for their lounge lizard tendencies, actually preferring a snooze in bed to a romp outside!
Whatever the activity level though, the family who owns one of these dogs will be guaranteed fun, as it remains puppyish into adult hood and like to 'clown' around at any opportunity. This dog is fairly easy to train and is capable of developing a very strong awareness of its master in the field. They do have a wilful and stubborn streak though, and if they decided they do not want to do something the owner may be fighting a losing battle! With this in mind, a schedule of regular and positively reinforced training is a good idea to get the best of the dog.
They are great dogs to have around children and other family pets but can play rather too enthusiastically for the liking of some on occasion. Bouncy to a fault, if accident do occur it will be because of the dogs natural high and lust for life rather than any aggressive tendencies. Often the most important commands the owner can instil in this dog is 'sit' and 'stay' especially when a new person enters the room to prevent enthusiastic greeting taking place.
A healthy Irish Water Spaniel can live between 13-15 years old. Generally a healthy breed, the main issues with this dog is that of bacterial ear infections and injury. The owner needs to have a regular routine in place to inspect the ears and make sure they are clean and dry, especially after swimming, and to make sure there is no sign of infection or disease. They can also be more prone than other breeds to suffer allergic reactions to some common veterinary medicines and anesthetises.
The coat requires minimal maintenance and can be more or less left to its own devises. The main time required with this dog is the input into exercise and play. This makes it more suited to a family or person who likes to spend time outdoors, taking it on regular walks and making sure its need to be in and around water is catered for. In cold or freezing weather the owner needs to make sure safety is observed on areas of water which have frozen.