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Irish Water Spaniel temperament

The AKC Standard says, "Great intelligence is combined with rugged endurance and a bold, dashing eagerness."

The tallest of the spaniels, with a unique quizzical expression, the Irish Water Spaniel has a distinct, purposeful presence.

He varies in personality more than some other breeds, but most are bold, inquisitive, and eager to play. Irish Water Spaniels need plenty of vigorous exercise, including retrieving and swimming.

He should be accustomed to a variety of people and new situations at an early age, as he tends to be reserved and often protective, and these traits could easily slide into shyness or sharpness.

Irish Water Spaniels can be aggressive with strange dogs, sometimes even with other pets.

Most have strong opinions and are not hesitant about expressing them, yet he is capable of learning a great deal from an owner who knows how to lead.

Handled properly and given outlets for his exuberance, the Irish Water Spaniel is a fun-loving, extremely perceptive dog.

However, this is not a breed to be teased or ignored, nor one to be chosen by a nonassertive owner.

  • Is strong and rugged, yet quick and agile
  • Thrives on vigorous athletic activities
  • Makes a keen watchdog and has protective instincts
  • Is extremely perceptive and sensitive to the moods and emotions around him

An Irish Water Spaniel may be right for you.

  • Vigorous exercise requirements
  • Rowdiness and exuberant jumping, especially when young
  • Destructiveness when bored or not exercised enough
  • Suspiciousness or fearfulness when not socialized enough
  • Aggression toward other animals
  • Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Regular brushing and trimming of the curly coat
  • Waiting lists (hard to find)

An Irish Water Spaniel may not be right for you.

If I was considering an Irish Water Spaniel, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Irish Water Spaniels MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored - which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing.
  2. Bounciness. Young Irish Water Spaniels (up to about two years old) romp and jump with great vigor, and things can go flying, including people.
  3. Providing enough socialization. Standoffish by nature, Irish Water Spaniels need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become shyness or suspiciousness, which are difficult to live with and could even lead to defensive biting.
  4. Potential animal aggression. Because of their strong temperament, some Irish Water Spaniels, particularly males, may not be tolerant of other male dogs. Some Irish Water Spaniels do not get along with cats.
  5. Mind of their own. The best Irish Water Spaniels are versatile working dogs, capable of learning a great deal, but they have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative, and some are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
  6. Grooming. To keep their coat short and free of mats, Irish Water Spaniels require regular brushing, and also clipping and trimming every few months. But don't expect your pet Irish Water Spaniels to look like the show dogs you've seen in books or on TV. That particular look takes hours of work by experienced show groomers.
  7. Finding one. In the United States, only about 125 new Irish Water Spaniel puppies are registered each year. (Compare that to over 60, 000 new Golden Retriever puppies.).

To learn more about training Irish Water Spaniels to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.

It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Irish Water Spaniel the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.

Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.

My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Irish Water Spaniel. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.

Once you have your Irish Water Spaniel home, you need to KEEP him healthy - or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.

Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.

When you're acquiring an Irish Water Spaniel PUPPY, you're acquiring potential - what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.

But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Irish Water Spaniels who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual - and enjoy!

Save a life. Adopt a dog.


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