Irish Water Spaniel

  • Overview

    Irish Water Spaniels live up to their name — they love to swim and retriever from the water. In fact, their coat looks its best with continual hydration, so make sure they get plenty of opportunities to splash around. These large dogs stand up to 2 feet tall and weigh between 45 and 65 pounds.

    The Irish Water Spaniel is an excellent family companion for active families who are eager to accept the challenge of socializing, training and grooming these frisky, curly-coated dogs.

  • Personality

    The tallest of the spaniels is a spaniel through and through. Smart, trainable and inquisitive, the Irish Water Spaniel has an endearing personality. They are quick to learn and eager to please, but they are independent dogs who know they're smart. Training should emphasize their skills and intelligence in order to be successful. Irish Water Spaniels are clever, and they often develop their own amusing ways of doing things.

    Irish Water Spaniels love to play, especially outdoors. They are happiest when they get plenty of exercise each day. Although they are a water-loving breed who can become skilled swimmers, don't expect your dog to pick this trait up late in life. If they aren't exposed to the water as puppies, they won't have much interest spending a lot of time splashing around.

  • Coat Care

    Irish Water Spaniels are covered in a curly coat of tight ringlets. The thick coat is crisp to the touch. They have a smooth rat-like tail that is relatively hairless other than at the base, where it is covered in curls. Their coat is always a unique shade of liver that can appear purple.

Brushing

To avoid the dreaded frizz, comb your Irish Water Spaniel's coat carefully with a metal comb. Make sure to comb out mats and debris, because the thick curls can attract dirt. Brushing also helps distribute natural oils that help the coat stay healthy. Spray the coat down with water after brushing to ensure that the curls form correctly and retain their texture. The curly ringlets will benefit from frequent exposure to water, because it helps shape them.

Bathing

With preparation, perseverance and a positive attitude, bathing can become a fun and fulfilling part of the regular grooming cycle, while helping your dog avoid many diseases and infections.

The general rule of thumb for dog bathing is every three months but breeds with curly and wavy hair should be done more frequently, usually in the six-to-eight week range. The coat should end up fresh smelling, shiny, with no loose or shedding hair. First give the dog a good brushing to remove dead hair and mats. Place a rubber mat in the tub to provide secure footing and fill the tub with three to four inches of lukewarm water. Use a spray hose, pitcher or unbreakable cup to wet the dog, taking caution to avoid getting water in the eyes, ears and nose. Massage in pet shampoo, saving the head for last. Immediately rinse thoroughly, starting with the head to prevent soap from dripping into the eyes. Towel dry.

Hair Clipping

Unlike the Poodle, for whom these dogs are sometimes mistaken, the soft hair on their face is naturally short and does not require any trimming to stay smooth and short. The rest of the coat can be trimmed periodically to maintain the correct shape, because the Irish Water Spaniel does not shed.

Nails

Many dog owners are apprehensive about trimming their dog’s nails because they are nervous about cutting into the quick. But with the right conditioning and careful cutting, nail clipping can be a simple, stress-free activity for you and your dog.

Provide your dog with plenty of positive reinforcement and even treats to help associate nail clipping with a positive experience.  As you start to clip, gently press on your dog’s paws to help him become accustomed to the feeling of having his nails clipped. Then, work gradually, shaving down just a thin portion of the nail at first to make sure you don’t reach the quick. Clip one nail, reward your dog with a treat, and stop to give him some positive reinforcement before moving on. Gradually increase the number of nails you clip in one sitting to help your dog get used to the process. Never trim extremely long nails down to a short nail in one sitting, because this is an excellent way to accidently quick the dog’s nail. Instead, work gradually, shaving small portions of your dog’s nails off each time.

You can tell if you’re getting close to the quick by the texture of your dog’s nail. The nail is hard closer to the surface and becomes softer as you get closer to the quick. If your dog’s nail starts to feel softer, that’s a good indication that you’re getting close to the quick.

Eyes / Ears

Not all breeds and coat styles require routine trimming in and around the eyes and ears but all should undergo regular inspection and cleaning around these sensitive areas. Doing so will help prevent the development of infections that could seriously damage these amazing organs.

It is always important to routinely clean your dog's eyes and ears, and examine for potential infections. Curly and wavy coated dogs have large, sensitive ears covered in hair that  need to be checked weekly for infection and cleaned with a cotton ball. Gently wipe a cotton ball moistened with mineral oil, olive oil or witch hazel in your dog's ear, being careful to avoid the ear canal. Never use a Q-Tip, which could cause damage to the inner ear if your dog suddenly shakes or jerks his head. Bushy hair growth within the ear can be thinned with tweezers or blunt scissors. Use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around the eyes, ears and face. Poodles are prone to developing tear stains around the eyes, so clean around their eyes with a cotton ball or soft cloth and use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around their eyes.

Teeth

Many owners do not realize how important it is to brush your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. Some dogs are prone to dental problems and sensitive teeth, especially small dogs with tiny teeth and dogs with special diets. These problems can be easily combatted with frequent brushing.

Cavities are rare with dogs but gum disease caused by tartar buildup is not, which is why they require regular brushing with toothpaste and a toothbrush formulated specifically for dogs. While daily brushing is ideal, doing so on a weekly basis will be a big help in avoiding the need to bring your dog to a veterinarian for a cleaning, which usually has to be done under sedation.