American Water Spaniels are characterized as intelligent, playful, energetic, and usually friendly dogs. As with other spaniel breeds, the American Water Spaniel is used in hunting, which takes advantage of its keen sense of smell as well as its swimming, and retrieving abilities. However, barking stemming from the American Water Spaniel's hunting background can impair its bonding to a family. Reward-based training helps to minimize fearful behaviors occasionally seen in American Water Spaniels, while using food rewards for dropping items can help to reduce tendencies to retrieve or guard items not intended for play.
The American Water Spaniel originated around the mid-nineteenth century. The breed was developed in the Midwestern United States, probably in the areas of the Fox River and Wolf River valleys of Wisconsin. Hunters needed a dog that could function on land as well as in the marsh, while easily fitting into a canoe or skiff without taking up much room and the American Water Spaniel fitted the bill perfectly. The breed has the reputation of being an excellent hunter and farm dog. Its direct ancestors include the Curly-Coated Retriever and the Irish Water Spaniel as well as the English Water Spaniel, the Field Spaniel and possibly the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The breed reached its peak of popularity sometime between the 1920's and 1930's. But, with the tenacity of spirit that exemplifies this little brown dog, the breed's enthusiasts have managed to maintain a reasonable population that is not likely to disappear any time soon. The American Water Spaniel was formally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1940.