By Emily Pikul IRISH WATER SPANIEL HISTORY
I n 1990 the IWSCA had just a few ways to recognize versatil- ity in Irish Water Spaniels. At the time, the number of di ff er- ent venues that an IWS could title in was limited to conforma- tion, obedience, tracking and field. Field included AKC Retriever Field Trials and AKC Retriever Hunt Tests, so that made only five venues to title the breed in. Th e then Board of Directors thought it was important to strive for honoring IWS that could meet the breed confor- mation standard, demonstrate trainabil- ity by achieving an obedience title and show that the dog possessed the needed understanding to do what it was bred to do; find and retrieve birds. So early in the 90’s the IWSCA board approved a parent club award called the “AKC All-Around.” It’s awarded to an IWS earning an AKC title each in conformation, obedience and retriever hunt tests. In the 20 or so years this award has been available, 109 IWS have been so honored. Since that time the AKC has intro- duced agility titles in 1994. Rally became a titling event in 2004. Just last year the
AKC opened Spaniel Hunt Tests to IWS and we already have a Master Hunter Upland and numerous JHU and SHU titles. Today there are a total of 11 venues that an IWS can now obtain an AKC title in with more to come. Irish Water Spaniels can work in so many other venues as well in addition to the original ones. They are therapy dogs and freestyle dog. The AKC offers a ver- satility certificates that recognize dogs with obedience, tracking and agility titles and the IWS have achieved there as well. Outside of the AKC they are also several working IWS service dogs as well as successful flyball, dock-diving and hunting dogs. The IWS as a breed is able to par- ticipate in all these venues for two very notable reasons. First, they are not an extreme breed from a conformation per- spective. The standard wants a moder- ate and balanced dog of medium size. A proper IWS should be an athlete that can swim strongly if not excessively fast, run with speed and grace and be strong enough to both carry large birds and still have the agile ability to navigate tough
terrain. And they should be a hardy dog that can withstand harsh conditions including some very cold water swims. Secondly, IWS are also wonderful companion-minded dogs. In fact, their temperament enables the IWS to be so versatile and capable of excelling in most venues. Th ey love to work with their people and it shows in their performance. Th ey may not o ff er the ultimate precision, but they will always bring enthusiasm and certain inventiveness to the task at hand. All they ask in return is a fair and shar- ing owner, preferably one with a sense of humor and very little ego. Today’s IWS can be found in Best in Show line ups, achieving OTCH’s, MACH’S, PACH’s and CT’s and compet- ing in the Master National. And many, many more can be found as companions of owners that often find themselves just standing there grinning as their beloved IWS creates yet another amusing story for them to share with friends and family. *This article first appeared in the [October, 2012] AKC Gazette and is reprinted with per - mission. To subscribe, visit www.akc.org/pubs.
“A proper IWS should be an athlete that can SWIM STRONGLY IF NOT EXCESSIVELY FAST, RUN WITH SPEED AND GRACE AND BE STRONG ENOUGH to both carry large birds and still have the agile ability to navigate tough terrain.”
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