AMERICAN WATER SPANIEL
Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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Official Standard for the American Water Spaniel General Appearance: The American Water Spaniel was developed in the United States as an all-around hunting dog, bred to retrieve from skiff or canoes and work ground with relative ease. The American Water Spaniel is an active muscular dog, medium in size with a marcel to curly coat. Emphasis is placed on proper size and a symmetrical relationship of parts, texture of coat and color. Size, Proportion, Substance: 15 to 18 inches for either sex. Males weighing 30 to 45 pounds. Females weighing 25 to 40 pounds. Females tend to be slightly smaller than the males. There is no preference for size within the given range of either sex providing correct proportion, good substance and balance is maintained. Proportion - is slightly longer than tall, not too square or compact. However, exact proportion is not as important as the dog being well-balanced and sound, capable of performing the breed's intended function. Substance - a solidly built and well- muscled dog full of strength and quality. The breed has as much substance and bone as necessary to carry the muscular structure but not so much as to appear clumsy. Head: The head must be in proportion to the overall dog. Moderate in length. Expression is alert, self-confident, attractive and intelligent. Medium size eyes set well apart, while slightly rounded, should not appear protruding or bulging. Lids tight, not drooping. Eye color can range from a light yellowish brown to brown, hazel or of dark tone to harmonize with coat. Disqualify yellow eyes. Yellow eyes are a bright color like that of lemon, not to be confused with the light yellowish brown. Ears set slightly above the eye line but not too high on the head, lobular, long and wide with leather extending to nose. Skull rather broad and full, stop moderately defined, but not too pronounced. Muzzle moderate in length, square with good depth. No inclination to snipiness, the lips are clean and tight without excess skin or flews. Nose dark in color, black or dark brown. The nose sufficiently wide and with well-developed nostrils to insure good scenting power. Bite either scissor or level. Neck, Topline, Body: Neck round and of medium length, strong and muscular, free of throatiness, set to carry head with dignity, but arch not accentuated. Topline level or slight, straight slope from withers. Body well-developed, sturdily constructed but not too compactly coupled. Well-developed brisket extending to elbow neither too broad nor too narrow. The ribs well-sprung, but not so well-sprung that they interfere with the movement of the front assembly. The loins strong, but not having a tucked-up look. Tail is moderate in length, curved in a rocker fashion, can be carried either slightly below or above the level of the back. The tail is tapered, lively and covered with hair with moderate feathering. Forequarters: Shoulders sloping, clean and muscular. Legs medium in length, straight and well- boned but not so short as to handicap for field work or so heavy as to appear clumsy. Pasterns strong with no suggestion of weakness. Toes closely grouped, webbed and well-padded. Size of feet to harmonize with size of dog. Front dewclaws are permissible. Hindquarters: Well-developed hips and thighs with the whole rear assembly showing strength and drive. The hock joint slightly rounded, should not be small and sharp in contour, moderately angulated. Legs from hock joint to foot pad moderate in length, strong and straight with good bone structure. Hocks parallel. Coat: Coat can range from marcel (uniform waves) to closely curled. The amount of waves or curls can vary from one area to another on the dog. It is important to have undercoat to provide sufficient density to be of protection against weather, water or punishing cover, yet not too
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coarse or too soft. The throat, neck and rear of the dog well-covered with hair. The ear well- covered with hair on both sides with ear canal evident upon inspection. Forehead covered with short smooth hair and without topknot. Tail covered with hair to tip with moderate feathering. Legs have moderate feathering with waves or curls to harmonize with coat of dog. Coat may be trimmed to present a well groomed appearance; the ears may be shaved; but neither is required. Color: Color either solid liver, brown or dark chocolate. A little white on toes and chest permissible. Gait: The American Water Spaniel moves with well-balanced reach and drive. Watching a dog move toward one, there should be no signs of elbows being out. Upon viewing the dog from the rear, one should get the impression that the hind legs, which should be well-muscled and not cowhocked, move as nearly parallel as possible, with hocks doing their full share of work and flexing well, thus giving the appearance of power and strength. Temperament: Demeanor indicates intelligence, eagerness to please and friendly. Great energy and eagerness for the hunt yet controllable in the field. Disqualifications: Yellow eyes .
Approved March 13, 1990 Effective May 1, 1990
THE AMERICAN WATER SPANIEL An All-Around Hunting Dog & Companion
BY AARON FIELD
A s a hunter in search of a new hunting partner, the options can seem endless. To make it more compli- cated, I’m fairly convinced that all of the options are good ones. My search, some ten years ago now, con- sisted of hiding in the back of a classroom and scouring the Inter- net researching hunting breeds. I sometimes wonder how much better I might have understood ecological statistics without these distractions, but some sacrifices are worth making. After all, I have my American Water Spaniels. I live in western Minnesota and hunt a variety of species. My dogs and I primarily pursue ducks, geese, pheasants, and grouse. We also try to take a trip further from home occasionally, the most recent being a trip to Wyoming for a sage grouse hunt. My dogs need to be versatile, tough, and driven. They need to be steady, non-slip retrievers, but they also need to cover ground in the uplands. And they need an excellent nose and good marking
ability (the ability to spot and remember the location of a fallen bird). I like dogs with grit, willing and able to continue working hard when conditions are tough and birds are few. I also like a dog with personality. A companion that can lighten the mood on long days—whether hunting or otherwise—is worth its weight in gold. I knew I needed a dog with a good coat. Hunting here involves icy water and wet snow for much of the season. (There are many fine hunting breeds that needed to be ruled out from the get-go for this reason.) I also put a lot of weight into overall breed health. I wanted a dog that was unlikely to suffer from hereditary health issues, and one that was likely to live a long, happy life. During my search, I was living in an apartment. Although sev- eral larger Sporting breeds intrigued me, I couldn’t get one at the time without having to move. Besides, the smaller breeds that I’d hunted with in the past had always gotten the job done, without taking up quite as much space in a car or a duck boat.
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THE AMERICAN WATER SPANIEL
muskrat lodges. From 90-degree tempera- tures on September dove hunts to below zero days on late season ducks and pheas- ants, I have yet to be disappointed. When seeking a breed to serve as an all-around hunting dog and companion, there are many choices. In my opinion, all of them are good. But none are better than the American Water Spaniel.
Wisconsin’s often harsh conditions. To my reading, the AWS breed standard is a little less prescriptive than many, with empha- sis on how the dog’s structure enables it to do its job. This, to me, helps explain the fact that many of the most accomplished conformation show dogs in the breed also carry top-end hunt titles. The entire stan- dard encourages function through form, and rewards capability. My males are on the top-end of the breed size standard, around 45 pounds and 18 inches tall. They are powerful dogs with substantial bone and muscle for their size. My females are more feminine, weighing around 35 pounds, but solidly built and very capable. They hunt with intensity. Some breeds may display a bit more “flash,” but the AWS attracts the eye with desire and drive. In my area, my dogs have hunted just about every legal species in every type of cover you can imagine. They have retrieved birds in ponds, lakes, and rivers (frozen or otherwise). They have tracked, blood-trailed, and air-scented game. We’ve hunted from blinds and boats, but we’ve also tucked into weedy patches next to stock-water tanks, or perched on top of
After carefully considering nearly every AKC Sporting breed (and ignoring count- less statistics lessons), I had my short list. I visited breeders of several Sporting breeds, and all would have been good choices. What I really think settled it for me was James Spencer’s description of the AWS in his book, HUP! Training Flushing Span- iels the American Way . In the book, Mr. Spencer shares several colorful stories of the breed, and descriptions of the breed’s hunting abilities. In his closing remarks, he laments that the breed is not more popular and states, “Too bad, for no other breed can do so many things the Ameri- can hunter needs done.” I’ve always been a sucker for an underdog, I guess. And so, I was eventually able to bring home my first AWS, a male whom I call “Pike.” Pike has since been followed by several others, each of whom display the traits listed above. Developed in Wis- consin, the AWS was a hunting dog from the start. Bred to serve a variety of purposes, this catch-as-catch-can hunter found game, flushed it for the hunter, and retrieved. They were able to retrieve from a small boat without upsetting it, and they had the coat and grit required to tolerate
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Aaron Field is an ecologist, hunter, and American Water Spaniel enthusiast. He is a member of the American Water Spaniel Club, Inc., and he occasionally breeds AWS under the prefix “Cordgrass.” He and his family live in western Minnesota with their five dogs. When not hunting or training, Aaron enjoys working on improving wildlife habitat on the family’s property.
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