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Irish Water Spaniel

Afghan Hound
German Pinscher
Griffon Bruxellois
Irish Water Spaniel
The Poodle (Part 1)
Russian Black Terrier

By Margaret McLeod, Stoneyburn, West Lothian

The Irish Water Spaniel we know today has changed little since being accurately recorded in the 1830s.

The breed developed from long established lines and was kept by the same families from many areas of Ireland.

It is believed that Justin McCarthy, who interbred dogs with a unique coat pattern, established what our breed is today.


The two most striking features are the "look" and the "character". Many descriptive terms are applicable, the "clown" or "a bundle of rags in a cyclone" come to mind.

The Irish Water Spaniel is a highly intelligent breed and express themselves in an uncanny manor. If you should ever be fortunate enough to be accepted as a friend of an IWS, you will be rewarded with truly loyal devotion. Should you ever meet or try to trim an uncooperative Irish Water Spaniel may I suggest a tin of spinach, lots of coffee and have a Hedex to hand. Patience and a kind, sympathetic word may ease the indignity of being relieved of those stinking matted, but precious, brown ringlets. The look you will get will say more than words could.

The best possible situation is a proud owner who looks after their dog’s grooming. They need lightly trimmed all over, just enough to enhance their shape. Trimming from behind the ears, neck and along the topline. A skirt is optional, but, as fashions in the show ring dictate change, they look very smart with the body trimmed the same length all round, enhancing the "barrel rib". Also to trim the inside of the back legs, leaving a feather to the front to emphasise a good bend of stifle works well.

The coat pattern is quite unique, perhaps similar in some points with the Afghan. The face is naturally smooth. Also there should be a smooth ‘V’ shape on the throat. A smooth patch should also be found low down on the inside of the back legs. This can also happen on the front legs i.e. "setter front" but, this is not desirable and should be disguised when possible. The "rat tail" should be naturally smooth, but can be trimmed if necessary. The top knot and ears should only be trimmed with discretion.

The only colour, "puce liver", can vary from light with a woolly texture, to dark which holds a better curl and is easier to look after.

Bitches are notorious for dropping their coats after a season and they can develop bald patches.

Unfortunately, some owners will leave a grooming visit until the coat is matted.

Clipping everything off does nothing for the dog’s dignity, but, a routine which the dogs become accustomed to and will look quite smart within a short time.

Good luck with your Irish Water Spaniels, and if the Hedex fails – try a Jamieson’s!


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Opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of Northern Groomers.

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Copyright 2000 Northern Groomers
Last modified: January 13, 2001