The largest of the spaniels, (20-22 inches for bitches and 21-23 inches for dogs at the shoulder), they are always a rich, dark liver colour with a distinctive coat of dense curls and ringlets, except for the face, throat and tail which should be smooth. The only spaniel that has never has it's tail docked which gives rise to the nickname "Whiptail".
The topknot of ringlets falling from the slightly domed head, brown, smallish almond shaped eyes, a long, strong and square muzzle with a gradual stop all help to give an endearing expression of intelligence, kindness, affection and humour.
The Irish Water Spaniel should be well boned, with a barrel shaped rib cage and a unique rolling gait. They have wide loins and well muscled quarters, well bent stifles and low set hocks. The overall look is of an alert, smart, compact, strongly built, powerful and hardy dog.
The Kennel Club Breed Standard states that the Irish Water Spaniel is an "enduring, versatile gundog for all types of shooting, particularly wildfowling".
The breed as we know it today was bred in Eire to hunt, flush and retrieve snipe and wildfowl in the bogs, marshes and river estuaries, giving rise to its other nickname of "Bogdog".
Its large, spreading and sometimes webbed feet give it the ability to work terrain where other dogs struggle, whilst its dense and waterproof coat gives great protection against the cold, as well as enabling it to blend into the landscape. Its strength, stamina and barrel rib cage make it a powerful swimmer, able to cope with the toughest of conditions. An all-round gundog that is equally at home rough shooting, beating in line, or picking-up, the Irish Water Spaniel is gifted with an exceptional nose and often points game, an added attribute for a hunting dog.
Slower to mature than some breeds, they require patient, kind, firm and careful training, but are capable of giving many years of honest and reliable work.
The coat does carry the dirt and requires some grooming plus occasional washing and trimming. This is perhaps one of the reasons that the breed is not so popular as its working talents would otherwise indicate. Unlike most other breeds, the IWS does not moult, and for most asthma sufferers the coat is non-allergenic.
The Club runs several events each year around the country, catering for beginners and novices, as well as for the more experienced and advanced handlers and dogs. These include Working Weekends, consisting of both training classes and working tests, usually with a well-known professional gundog trainer, breed confined water tests, breed confined shooting days on live game, breed confined introduction days, inter-breedmatches and any variety working tests.
The Club is extremely active and its events are well attended, enjoyable, educational, competitive as well as social occasions.
The Club also publishes Newsletters and News-Sheets each year. We try to make them interesting, informative, amusing and frequently controversial!
Written by Martyn Ford