American Water Spaniel Overview
The American Water Spaniel dog is a rare breed, not well known in America outside of the Great Lakes area. In fact, it’s estimated that in the entire country, there are only about 3,000 American Water Spaniels.
The American Water Spaniel (often simply abbreviated as AWS) is a medium-sized hunting dog weighing 25-45 pounds and standing 15-18 inches. As you might suspect from the name, the AWS is mainly used for hunting waterfowl, but can also be used for other small game. The breed is active and versatile, and if you’re an athletic owner, this might be the right breed for you.
Given the rarity of the breed, if an AWS speaks to your heart, you should start now looking for a breeder (more on this later on). You could expect to wait quite a long time to get an American Water Spaniel puppy, since there aren’t all that many born in any given year.
American Water Spaniel Puppies
At simplyfordogs.com we’re very much of the opinion that one of the great pleasures of owning a puppy, of any breed, is watching it grow up. Properly raised and trained, your AWS dog will become a strong, healthy adult and a credit to your family. Of course, in order for this to happen, you will need to make sure that he’s properly socialized, house trained, and obedience trained.
There’s something that you’re going to have to do, though, even before you bring your puppy home, and that’s to “puppy proof” your home. Take a look around, and make sure that there are no electrical cords your puppy could chew. If your lower cupboards are easily open, install latches – the last thing you want is for your AWS puppy to decide that cleaning fluids, ant poison and other toxins might be good to investigate!
It’s also best, if you can arrange it, to have your puppy under constant supervision for the first little while. If you can’t be at home all the time, you might want to secure the help of a friend or relative who can “puppy sit” while you’re at work or out of the home for other reasons. If this isn’t possible, get a crate to keep your puppy safe while you’re away.
Does that sound cruel? It’s really not. To a dog, a crate is like a little den where he feels safe. As long as there’s food, water and toys in the crate, it’s not a prison. It IS, however, a prison if you use the crate to confine your puppy when you have other things to do and don’t want to be bothered. If you don’t want to be bothered, why would you even get a puppy in the first place?
When you’re home, and busy, and can’t supervise all the time, use the “umbilical” method instead. This is simply using a long leash, with the clip end attached to your puppy’s collar, and the loop end tied around your waist. With very little effort on your part, your American Water Spaniel puppy can follow you everywhere you go. It’s a safe, easy way to supervise, and it also helps with bonding!
You’ll want to get to work as soon as you bring your American Water Spaniel puppy home, so start by taking him places with you. Go to the mall, go for walks, go visit the neighbors. The more people your puppy meets, the better socialized he’ll be. It’s also a good idea to enroll your new best buddy in puppy kindergarten, so that he can meet other dogs.
Most dog owners report that house training is the most difficult, frustrating part of raising a puppy. If you have a problem with cleaning up urine and feces, it might be best if you consider an adult dog, maybe a rescue, that’s already house trained. Otherwise, you’re going to need patience, along with soap and water.
A lot of puppy owners make the mistake of thinking that their puppy has to be punished after he does his business indoors. This is actually going to do no good at all. Your puppy won’t know what he did wrong. You need to be alert to what’s going on, and take your puppy outside before he actually needs to go potty. This means that he goes out about half an hour after every meal or watering, first thing in the morning, and last thing before going to bed.
No matter how closely you watch your puppy, there will be accidents. When they happen, just stay cool. Clean up and try not to be discouraged. House training isn’t going to happen overnight, but you’ll see progress day by day. Eventually, your AWS puppy will get the idea that you want him to do his thing outdoors. Then, you can move on to obedience training.
Obedience training is essential for any breed of dog, and it’s best to begin early. Training sessions should be brief, usually about 10 minutes at a time. You can of course, have several sessions throughout the day. Here are the five things your American Water Spaniel needs to learn, in order.
It’s very easy to teach your dog to sit. This is the first command you’ll teach him, because it’s the basis for all the other commands. To train your dog to sit, place him facing you. Hold a treat in your hand, and move your hand over his head in the direction of his butt. As your dog raises his head to look at the treat, his butt will naturally move toward the floor. As soon as it makes contact, give him the treat and praise him.
Once your dog will sit on command without needing a treat, you can progress to “Down.” Get him to sit, and with a treat in your hand, lower your hand toward the floor and use a sweeping motion to bring it toward your feet, while saying “Down.” Again, your dog will follow the motion of the treat, and lower his front end. Once he’s lying down, even if it’s only for a second or two, praise him and give him the treat.
You’ll be switching things up a bit with this command, since it’s a little more difficult to teach. It’s one of the most useful, important commands, though, simply because a dog that will stay when you tell him isn’t going to run into danger.
“Stay” follows from either “Sit” or “Down,” so put your dog in the position of your choice. Then, facing your dog, hold your hand up at cheek level, and say “Stay.” Back away a step or two. Your dog is probably going to want to move toward you. If he does, just put him back in position and try again. If he’ll hold the stay, even for a few seconds, praise him and give him the treat. As he begins to get the idea, move a little further back and have him hold the position for a bit longer.
Of course you’re never going to expect him to stay forever, so you need a way to release him from the position. That’s one reason to teach him to come!
This is the most difficult command to teach. It’s also very important, for the same reason that “Stay” is important. You want to be able to call your dog to you and have him respond each and every time. That way, if it looks like he’s about to get himself in trouble, you can get him out of danger.
Once your AWS has mastered “Stay,” you can teach him to come on command. Have him sit or lie down, and tell him to stay. Then take a treat out of your pocket, and with the hand that’s not holding the treat, pat your shoulder several times and say “Come.” He might be a bit hesitant, because after all, you did tell him to stay, but keep encouraging him until he comes to you. Then tell him to sit and give him the treat.
If you’re working outdoors with your dog, you might consider investing in a long training leash. This will keep your dog safe as he learns.
It’s easy enough to walk a puppy on lead and reel him back in if he tugs at the leash. It’s not so easy with a mid-size dog like an adult American Water Spaniel. Adult dogs are much easier to handle if they’re trained to walk at heel.
With this command, we’re getting back into easier territory. Fill your pockets with treats, and go for a walk with your AWS puppy. Let him explore for a bit, and once he’s calm, you can get to work.
Take a treat out of your pocket, and place it next to your knee, on the side you want your dog to walk (most people have their dog on the left, but unless you’re training him for show, it’s up to you). Obviously, your dog is going to move in the direction of the treat. Say “Heel,” praise him and give him the treat. A gentle tug on the leash can provide reinforcement.
If your dog doesn’t catch on to obedience training right away, just be patient. Remember that no dog is ever going to respond well to scolding or other harsh treatment, and the AWS is no exception.
American Water Spaniel Price
Given the rarity of the breed, you can expect to lay out a fair bit of money for an American Water Spaniel puppy. A breeder of American Water Spaniels will want anywhere from $1200-$1500 for a puppy.
American Water Spaniel Breeders
As of tme of this writing (early November of 2019), the AKC Puppy Finder is showing only one breeder of American Water Spaniel puppies, with one litter, operating out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no other breeders out there, just that they’re not registering, and you’ll have to be careful.
If you’re looking for an American Water Spaniel puppy, your natural inclination is going to be to go on line, but you could be stepping into a minefield of heartbreak and financial loss. There are tons of scams out there. For more information on this topic, see 9 Ways to Avoid Dog Scams, and 3 of the Most Common Ones.
The worst scammers are the ones that offer you “next day delivery” on the breed of your choice, and even say that they’ll deliver your puppy via “AAA cargo,” right to your door. In the first place, real breeders plan their litters well in advance, and there’s no such thing as “next day delivery.” In the second place, there’s no such thing as “AAA cargo” – when an animal is shipped by air, there’s only “cargo,” no enhanced level, and you’ll be expected to pick up the animal at the airline’s freight facility – he’s not going to be brought to your door.
Finally, in the third place, there is no way that a responsible breeder of American Water Spaniel dogs, or any other breed for that matter, is going to let you have a puppy without meeting you. They’re going to want to get a feel for who you are and what kind of home you’re likely to give a puppy.
The converse is also true – if you want to get a good puppy, then you have to meet the breeder. You want to see what their kennel looks like, visit the parents, see he rest of the litter and so on.
Don’t put yourself in the position of being scammed. Vet your potential breeders carefully, and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
American Water Spaniel Shedding
When it comes to the American Water Spaniel, shedding isn’t really much of an issue. AWS dogs will shed a bit, but if you brush a few times a week you’ll be able to get the dirt and excess hair out of the coat. When grooming, make sure to trim the hair that grows in amongst the foot pads. Be careful, though, not to cut into the webbing.
American Water Spaniel Temperament
American Water Spaniels are typically docile and respond well to training. They love being active, but they also love snuggling up to their humans. They can sometimes be a bit stubborn, though, and this is why early training is so important.
AWS dogs also have a tendency toward barking if they’re deprived of human companionship. Although not prone to separation anxiety, the AWS is happiest when he’s with his family. No dog should ever be left outside for long periods, of course, but this is especially true of this breed.
American Water Spaniels are generally cordial with everyone. However, an AWS will often bond the closest to one member of the family – usually the person who devotes the most time to him. American Water Spaniels are typically good with kids and other animals.
Here’s a quick Q&A – 5 questions you may have that weren’t covered in the preceding material.
1. How long do American Water Spaniels live?
Properly cared for, an American Water Spaniel can live for 13-15 years.
2. Are Boykin Spaniels good family dogs?
In your search for the perfect spaniel, you may also have considered a Boykin. Like the AWS, the Boykin makes a great family dog. They’re good with kids and other animals.
3. What breeds are in a Boykin Spaniel?
The Boykin was created by crossing American Water Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers and English Springer Spaniels.
4. How much is a Boykin Spaniel?
Depending on quality and availability, you should expect to spend anywhere from $650 to $1500 for a Boykin.
5. Is a spaniel hypoallergenic?
No. Although spaniels don’t shed all that much, they cannot be considered remotely hypoallergenic.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to the American Water Spaniel. These beautiful, intelligent dogs are enjoying something of a revival in the United States, and we hope there will soon be more breeders, and more families with American Water Spaniels!