American Water Spaniel Breed Information Guide: Quirks, Pictures, Personality & Facts

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

October 11, 2019

Intro / Overview

(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)

Those wavy locks are reason enough to love the American Water Spaniel. Floppy ears, soulful eyes and happy attitudes make them even more lovable. There are only around 3,000 American Water Spaniels in the U.S., making them a rare breed, but one you can still find to adopt. There’s plenty to love about an American Water Spaniel, and important things to know, too. Here’s a guide to get you acquainted with these charming pups. 

Also Known As…

American Brown Spaniel. American Brown Water Spaniel. Little Brown Dog. AWS.


American Water Spaniels were bred in the United States, dating back to the 1860s. They were bred in the Midwest, particularly in Wisconsin and Minnesota.  The AWS was developed as a hunting dog, bred for certain abilities to hunt effectively in the Great Lakes area. They don’t have a precise lineage, but were likely bred between the Irish Water Spaniel and the Curly-Coated Retriever, among others. 

The AWS was bred as a hunting dog with top-notch retrieval skills and ability to spring toward prey including quail and pheasant.This dog was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1940 and was named the official state dog of Wisconsin in 1985.


The American Water Spaniel ranges from 15 to 18 inches tall at the shoulder.

Weight Range

On average, the female AWS weighs 25-40 lbs, and the male AWS weighs 30-45 lbs.


american water spaniel smiling

American Water Spaniels are known to be friendly and lively dogs that listen well and love to be around humans. They can be barkers when left alone for several hours at a time, which is something to keep in mind when adopting this kind of dog. They’re happy dogs that love playing for hours outside, and are considered fine athletes.

The American Water Spaniel will charm you and grow especially close with their owners, but may be standoffish with strangers. They also love to hunt and swim, giving an outdoorsy owner plenty of opportunities to bring their pups outside. 

Intelligence / Trainability

American Water Spaniels are known to be fairly intelligent dogs that can learn well with the right owner. You’ll need to be consistent in your training and establish yourself as a leader the AWS can follow, as they have a stubborn streak. They need mental stimulation so they don’t get restless and take it out on their surroundings or bark excessively.

Best Training Techniques For American Water Spaniels

It’s always a good idea to engage in positive, reward-based training with a dog, and that’s true for the American Water Spaniel, as well. They don’t respond well to negativity, becoming moody and sulky when scolded. It’s better to use treats, affection and praise when training these dogs. The AWS loves to please their owner, making them good dogs to train. 

Ideal Environment

American Water Spaniels have plenty of energy to burn, and are best suited for those with an active lifestyle. As dogs on the smaller side, they can do well in apartments or smaller homes as long as they get plenty of activity. They’re hunters at heart, which means they love to sniff out a trail. Take them on nice, long walks with plenty of time to sniff and they’ll be happy. However, similar to other tracking dogs focused on small prey, they may have trouble resisting a trail, so be cautious about training an American Water Spaniel to go off leash, especially if you notice they have a particularly short attention span. They have a tendency to roam.

Good For Families And Kids?

American Water Spaniels can make for great family dogs. With plenty of people to play with, the AWS can be happy in a family setting with kids around. They’ll favor their owner above all – especially if they’re the person who feeds them regularly – but get along well with others, including children.

Average Lifespan

American Springer Spaniels live an average of 13-15 years.


American Water Spaniels are relatively healthy dogs, but are prone to developing hip dysplasia in later years. They also tend to gain weight easily, making those daily walks even more important. They can sometimes develop epilepsy and eye disorders such as progressive retinal atrophy and some heart abnormalities.

Take your AWS in for regular checkups, and keep your eye out for health issues, particularly later in life.


American Water Spaniels are full of energy, so make sure you get them regular exercise. If not, they’ll bark and whine, and may become destructive, especially when left alone. They need to get out their energy, which means they’re perfect for similarly energetic or outdoorsy humans looking for a walking, jogging or playtime companion. Get ready for plenty of games of fetch. After a nice workout, they’ll love to cuddle up, too, giving the right owner a nice balance between activity and couch time.

Friendly With…(Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other pets?)

The American Water Spaniel is a friendly dog that gets along very well with humans. That said, they may be standoffish with strangers, but will soon adapt to making new human friends. If socialized well, the AWS can make friends with other dogs, too, but they’re not known as the most dog-friendly pooches out there. Proper socialization can make a big difference in this arena.

The AWS can be friendly with other pets, but remember that these dogs were bred as hunters, and may have trouble distinguishing between small pets and prey.

Coat & Grooming

American Water Spaniels have a double coat. They have a short undercoat that helps protect them against water, underbrush and cold weather. Their undercoat tends to be oily, which makes it so effective at warding off water and other debris, so you may find some oily spots on your furniture if you take home an AWS.

Their outer coat is defined by their curls, which can be tight or wavy, depending on the pooch you bring home. Their foreheads are covered with short hair, while their ears and bodies are covered in their signature curls or waves. 

Keep a brush handy and give them a good brushing each week year round. You’ll need to brush an AWS more frequently during the spring shedding season to prevent fur from gathering along your house. Bathe an American Water Spaniel only when they’re dirty after a serious play session or when they begin to smell. This will prevent their coats from becoming any more oily. You’re better off going months between baths rather than bathing them any more regularly than that.


The American Water Spaniel can be a barker, especially when left alone or when feeling particularly stubborn. 

Toys American Water Spaniels Would Like Best 

American Water Spaniels are happy, playful and energetic, which means they love a good fetch toy. You can’t go wrong with Fetch Toys like the Best Balls Ever, which they’ll chase happily. Grab yourself a Tug Toy to keep your little brown dog occupied inside on those rainy days when you can’t get in a long walk with your dog.

They’ll also love a Plush Toy for indoor play, and so you can play fetch with them with a toy that won’t hurt any of your possessions.

Recommended Diet or Supplements 

Feeding your AWS (or any dog) the freshest whole food diet you can afford (trying to eliminate fillers, grains, or inflammatory proteins such as chicken), can go a long way to decrease health issues and increase longevity.

American Water Spaniels are prone to hip dysplasia, so consider giving them hip and joint supplements to keep their joints healthy and strong.

Fish Oil Skin & Coat Supplement

These delicious, vet-formulated chews are made with all-natural ingredients including Omega 3, 6, 9, and Vitamin E. They are designed to support immune health, provide relief from itchy allergic skin, and promote a healthy coat. ($19.99)

Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil

BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)

Glucosamine Supplement For Hip & Joints

These veterinarian-formulated supplements are made with all natural glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, all packed into a delicious soft chew. ($32.99.)

Recommended Products

American Water Spaniels, just like any dog, love to take a load off after a long day of…running around for hours on end or whatever they’re doing. That’s why they deserve their own bed, especially if they have joint issues.

Orthopedic Ultra Plush Memory Foam Dog Bed

This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed provides support for even the most active of dogs! The combination ergonomic memory foam and gel foam relieves pressure points, and helps ease body aches caused by hip dysplasia, arthritis and other orthopedic issues. ($27.99-64.99.)

Find the American Water Spaniel of Your Dreams

Ready to take home one of these adorable creatures? They’re relatively rare in the U.S., with around 3,000 purebred American Water Spaniels around. That doesn’t mean you can’t find an AWS with a bit of mutt in them, and the right pooch for you. Check with your local rescue organizations to find one in your area.

Notable Instagram American Water Spaniels

Check out these Instagram accounts for more floppy-eared, curly-haired American Water Spaniels.


There are two American Water Spaniels to check out at this Instagram account. They run, play, and stare into the camera with those soulful eyes. How can you resist?


Just hanging out on the water, a favorite activity for this little brown dog.


This charming American Water Spaniel is always up for some solid time outdoors.

Pug Noodle BarkBox Knights Of The Hound Table

***Looking for a gift to blow your American Water Spaniel’s mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂

Featured image via Winnie_AmericanWaterSpaniel/Instagram

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

October 11, 2019


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.