involved in the sport, my mother, a breeder of ES and later a well respected judge, and my father, a dog lover, supporter and AKC delegate, I really always was “doggie”. I myself have been involved in the sport since the late 60s showing, raising ES and Flat Coated Retrievers plus my finger on several other breeds. I started to judge in 1988; I’ve judged the IWS for at least 20 years. 1. What makes the Irish Water Spaniel an outstanding show dog? What makes him a great pet? MA: Their love of life, both working and as a family pet. MF: The unique characteristics of the Irish Water Spaniel, when combined with an athletic, upstanding gundog, make for an outstanding show dog. The crispy curled, liver-colored coat, the loose curls, the topknot, smooth face and the smooth “rat tail” is a package that I find hard to resist. The breed’s inquisitive nature, loyalty and dual purpose are characteristics that provide for a wonderful pet. HG: Making of an outstanding show dog to me is one that can maintain a strong breed-specific temperament, no matter what the conditions—showing inside, outside, heat, cold, wind, etc. If the dog was used for his purpose he would be faced with all of those elements. You can see this personality come through in the ring. This attitude is even brought out more at home. VL: The outstanding Irish Water must be strong, totally in balance and sound coming and going; but more impor- tantly, he must exude the characteristics of the breed: slightly wicked as befits his Irish heritage, a long, loosely curled topknot, a body covered with a dense, crisply curled coat except for the distinguishing smooth rat tail and face, distinctive shape with the level topline that commonly rises to the rear slightly to create the round- ing that comes with a low set tail and swimming rear strength. He is a great pet because he makes you laugh. Their zany, wicked sense of humor gives their owners great joy. They are caring of children once they have grown up and learned basic manners! (Hmm, maybe I am referring to the children here rather than the Irishman!) WP: His most unique appearance and his eagerness to please under all conditions and situations. JR: Anne Snelling lived about three miles down the road from me and so I watched the development of “Dugan” (Oaktrees lrishtocrat). To me he was the “great show dog”—the emphasis being on show. His mother on the other hand, that was shown to me at a pet show when Anne first got her, was the very antithesis of a show dog.
“the uniQue chArActeristics of
A very good Irish Water Spaniel in type, but not one for the spotlight. As a pet I think his loyalty to his family is important. One day when I tried to go into the Snelling house without proper introductions and Dugan made it clear I wasn’t welcome. AH: Another dog that would rather be hunting or claiming the couch, but his exuberant personality makes him a great show dog if he is willing. They are very smart and can be a bit stubborn. Throughout the years there have been plenty of wonderful examples of the breed with stellar show careers. the irish wAter spAniel, when combined with An Athletic, upstAnding gundog, mAke for An OUTSTANDING SHOW DOG.”
2. What is the most misunderstood aspect of the breed?
MF: From a judging perspective, I feel that a vast majority of individuals awarding ribbons do not truly understand the history of the breed and how it relates to form/function. It is one thing to identify with a unique characteristic, but to truly understand the why, related to the origin and function of the breed brings clarity and richness to the judging process. HG: There is a possibility that a person considered a Sport- ing Dog for home companion or Show dog might think this breed has its drawbacks with coat and its trimming or just general upkeep. VL: I think lack of understanding of correct size, topline and coat of a crisp curl.
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