The Irish Water Spaniel, also known at times as the Southern Irish Water Spaniel, the Irish Water Dog, the Bogdog, the Rat-Tail Spaniel, the Shannon Spaniel, McCarthy’s Breed and the Whip-tail Spaniel, is an intelligent breed known for its characteristic topknot and peak of hair between its eyes. It is also known for its unusual tail, which has curly hair the first four inches from the base, while the rest of the tail is nearly hairless. The Irish Water Spaniel was bred as a bird-dog and is the tallest of all spaniels. Unlike other spaniels, this breed was not developed to flush birds but rather to jump into the frigid waters of Ireland to retrieve dead or wounded wildfowl. He loves water, and his coat is naturally water-resistant. The Irish Water Spaniel was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1884 as a member of its Sporting Group.
The average Irish Water Spaniel stands 21 to 24 inches high at the shoulders and weighs between 45 and 65 pounds. A naturally-oily double coat, with tight ringlets, is critical to the breed standard, providing protection for the dog while it is working in water or on land. The hair on the face, throat, tail and lower rear legs should be smooth and short. The unique, dark liver coloration of this breed has an almost purplish sheen. The Irish Water Spaniel should be groomed regularly to prevent matting. This breed is not prone to shedding hair or dander. According to the American parent club, “no existing breed of dog has a more marked individuality of type and no breed has shown less inclination to diverge from it.”