It’s July’s edition of our Vulnerable Breeds series! This month, we are looking at the Irish Water Spaniel.

The Kennel Club’s Native Vulnerable Breed list has many native breeds that are under threat, so the LWDG have asked breed clubs to tell us about their breed to help promote them.

We asked the Irish Water Spaniel Association to help us educate about the breed. A huge thank you to them for contributing to this blog!

Breed Profile

The IWS (Irish Water Spaniel) is a highly intelligent dog and may not be for the ‘fainthearted’.  You will need a lot of patience for this slow, maturing breed. However, this will be rewarded with a loyal companion.

It is best to start them at a few weeks old to recognise the whistle by using it to call them in at feeding times (this imitates the recall when working later on). As they grow, ‘little and often’ obtains the best results! They will naturally carry their toys, etc around. To build on this, we introduce some basic obedience to gain control, which you will realise is of utmost importance as you progress. Training can start in your garden or enclosed area.

Socialisation is paramount once they are able to go to public areas because as a breed they can be ‘aloof ‘ and wary of strangers.

What Does The Kennel Club Say?

The Irish breed club was founded in 1890 although liver-coloured water dogs with curly coats, top knots and rat tails had been known for centuries before that date. One of the most influential dogs in Ireland, Boatswain, was born in 1834 and his bloodline can be found throughout the world. His breeder Mr Justin McCarthy was a pillar of the breed.

Although the breed is classified as a ‘spaniel’ he works as a retriever, particularly in retrieving from water. In the UK he runs in retriever trials.

Theories on the ancestry of the breed include the French Barbet, the English Water Spaniel (now extinct) and the Poodle, which was originally used as water retrieving breed.

IWS with a pheasant
Working The Breed

The IWS are a compact powerful dogs which was an old Irish breed for working the peat bog areas (sometimes fondly referred to as the ‘Bog Dog’). They have large webbed feet to obtain stability on soft ground, also making them great in the water. As a Spaniel, some do naturally quarter however for competition purposes the KC here in the UK classify them as a Retrieve. This is also the same as the Irish KC.

A Note From The Irish Water Spaniel Association

To progress with your IWS, try to locate a trainer with knowledge of the breed. There are 2 KC registered Breed Clubs for IWS. The IWSA holds various events throughout the year catering for all aspects of the breed; including Training Days and access to experienced owners who work their dogs. For help and advice, more details can be found on their website. Alternatively, you can find them on Facebook at UK Irish Water Spaniel Association.

The Sporting Irish Water Spaniel Club (SIWSC) also has a website and a Facebook page for details of their activities. As you gain experience, you could decide to go on some shoots picking up or beating, some may decide to compete in Working Tests or Field Trials.

In conclusion, the IWSA would like to wish you every success in anything you try to achieve with your IWS companion.

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