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American Water Spaniel Price

Water-spaniel_001Finally—although unexpectedly—the decades-long classification controversy within the (AWSC) has ended with an almost beyond-belief win-win outcome. To appreciate this happy ending, you need to know the history of this breed, within which this intense controversy developed.

For better insight into all of this, I interviewed three AWSC members: Paul Morrison, Debra Parker and Nick Wansha.

Developed by 19th-century market hunters in the Upper Midwest, the American water spaniel has always been a dual-purpose dog, equally talented for waterfowl and upland gamebird hunting. From the beginning and continuing to this day, AWS owners have been determined to maintain the breed’s dual résumé. Ironically, that determination has prevented them from displaying the AWS’ versatility in the field events of the (AKC).

These events come in three distinct formats: one for pointing breeds, one for retrievers and one for spaniels. Thus, for a breed to participate, it must not only be AKC-recognized as a Sporting Group breed, but must also be grouped in one and only one of AKC’s three classifications: pointing breed, retriever or spaniel. AKC doesn’t allow dual classifications.

Over-Qualified
AKC requires that the national breed club sponsoring the breed request one specific classification. AWSC sponsors the AWS, but for decades after AKC’s 1945 recognition of the breed, members could not agree on a single classification for their dogs. Some would accept classification as a spaniel; others would accept classification as a retriever; but down deep, most felt that only dual classification as spaniel and retriever would help breeders maintain the dog’s many talents. However, dual classification wasn’t on AKC’s menu.

Consequently, although recognized by AKC as a Sporting Group breed, the AWS wasn’t classified and therefore couldn’t participate in AKC field events.

“All along, ” Paul Morrison said, “since dual classification wasn’t possible, I would’ve accepted either classification as better than remaining unclassified. Of the two, I would’ve preferred spaniel because I feel that fits our breed slightly better than retriever.”

“My husband Frank and I, ” Debra Parker said, “favored spaniel classification. The AWS’ work ethic and talents lean slightly more in that direction.”

“I preferred spaniel classification, ” Nick Wansha said, “because in AKC hunting tests, the spaniel format fits the duality of the AWS better than the retriever format. The spaniel format includes both upland game flushing/retrieving and waterfowl retrieving, but the retriever format lacks upland game flushing.”

The Breed
A brief look at the AWS will help you understand the breed’s duality. The AWS stands 15 to 18 inches at the withers and weighs 25 to 45 pounds. Such a dog fits nicely into a small boat or canoe and rides comfortably in a car or truck.

The AWS has a double coat, with a downy, insulating undercoat for warmth and a wavy or curly outer coat that protects the dog from cold water and rough cover. The color, which may be liver, brown, or chocolate with perhaps a little white on the chest and toes, blends in with almost any background.

Unlike most other spaniel breeds—but like all retriever breeds—the AWS has a full-length tail. Overall, the breed looks like he’s made up of equal parts spaniel and retriever, a “spantriever, ” if you will.

His temperament supports this dual-dog assessment. When quartering in the uplands, he bounces back and forth quickly like a spaniel. When challenged by a hostile crippled honker, he tackles and body-slams it like a miniature Chesapeake.

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