The American Water Spaniel (AWS) is a versatile breed known for its excellent hunting skills, companionship qualities, and unique appearance. Originating in the United States in the mid-19th century, the AWS was developed in the Midwest region, primarily in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. It is believed that other water-loving breeds like the Irish Water Spaniel and the Curly-Coated Retriever could be among the AWS' ancestors. Bred to be an all-around hunting dog, the AWS was valued for its ability to retrieve from small boats, which was a common requirement during market hunting in the Great Lakes region.
American Water Spaniels are generally healthy dogs, but can suffer from hip dysplasia and eye and heart conditions. Genetic testing for conditions such as degenerative myelopathy and progressive rod-cone degeneration can assist veterinarians with diagnosis and proactive care, as well as help breeders identify affected and carrier dogs.
American Water Spaniels are known for their intelligent, energetic, and eager-to-please personalities. They have a friendly demeanor, are usually good with children, and can get along well with other dogs if properly socialized from a young age. However, they can be somewhat reserved or cautious with strangers.
This breed is highly trainable, although they can occasionally show a stubborn streak. Positive reinforcement methods work best when training an AWS. These dogs require regular mental and physical stimulation due to their working origins, so they are best suited to active households where they can get regular exercise.
The American Water Spaniel was the first breed developed in the United States as an all-around hunter that could retrieve from boats.
The breed was named the state dog of Wisconsin in 1986.