Irish Water Spaniel

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Is the Irish Water Spaniel right for you?

Species group:

The basics:
The tallest of the Spaniels, the ancient Irish Water Spaniel dates back to the 7th century AD. By the 12th century, they were known as Shannon Spaniels, because they were found near southern Ireland's River Shannon. Its curly hair between the eyes and playful personality have caused people to call it a canine clown. However, don't be fooled. It takes its responsibilities as a hunter and retriever of waterfowl seriously. The best specimens found their way into royal courts, and it was one of America's most popular sporting dogs in the late 1880s.

If you are not a waterfowl hunter, you should be an outdoorsy owner who loves being active with your dog and giving it interesting things to do. These exuberant dogs will make their own destructive brand of fun if you don't provide enough mental and physical stimulation.

Appearance / health:
Largest among spaniels, the Irish Water is a smart, strongly built sporting dog. Their distinctive features include a topknot of long, loose curls, a body covered with a dense, crisply curled liver colored coat, contrasted by a smooth face and a smooth "rat" tail. The muzzle is square and long. The liver-colored nose is large. The hair on the face is short and smooth except for a short beard. The dark eyes have an intelligent, quizzical expression. The ears are long, set low, and abundantly covered with long curls. The body is of medium length and slightly rectangular. The ribs are well sprung and carried well back.

They shed little. They need a good, thorough brushing about once a week. Trimming is required every six-eight weeks to shape the coat.

They require moderate to high amounts of daily exercise. Owners may go for long walks and jogs with their dogs. If possible, owners can provide them access to a swimming pool. Alternatively, they may take their dogs for a swim as often as possible.

Irish Water Spaniels, as with many breeds with long ears, are prone to excessive earwax and ear infections. Some dogs may also be prone to entropion, a condition where the eyelid turns inward and the lashes can scratch the cornea; visible to the naked eye. Thyroid problems, allergies, hair loss, and cancer may occur in some dogs. Certain medications may have adverse effects on these dogs.

Behavior / temperament:
Irish Water Spaniels are versatile, capable of hunting upland game as well as waterfowl. These specialized swimmers possess unique coats that retain very little water even after swimming. They are hardy dogs that can withstand difficult terrain in cold climates. They have been bred to work silently. Their exuberance and independent streak is only suited to an experienced owner who provides adequate training and socialization.

Early socialization and training is extremely important to prevent timidity or aggression in the dog. Socializing the dog with a variety of people, places, and situations will help the dog adjust into the owner's lifestyle with few problems. Obedience training is essential. Patient, kind, consistent training works well and helps the owner form a long-lasting bond with the dog.

Irish Water Spaniels are generally quiet and seldom bark.

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