Spaniel (Irish Water)

Last updated March 1994

A breed standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.

From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Breed Watch information related to this breed for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure. However, if a dog possesses a feature, characteristic or colour described as highly undesirable, it must not be rewarded in the show ring.

General appearance

Smart, upstanding, strongly built, compact.


Enduring, versatile gundog for all types of shooting, particularly in wild fowling.


Initially aloof, staunch and affectionate; with an endearing sense of humour and a stable disposition.

Head and skull

Head of good size. Skull high in dome; of good length and width allowing adequate brain capacity. Muzzle long, strong, somewhat square with gradual stop. Face smooth, nose large and well developed, dark liver colour, overall an impression of fineness.


Comparatively small, almond-shaped, medium to dark brown, intelligent and alert.


Long, oval-shaped; set low, hanging close to cheeks.


Jaws strong, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.


Strongly set into shoulders, powerful, arching and long enough to carry the head well above level of back.


Shoulders powerful and sloping; chest deep, reasonable width and curvature between forelegs. Forelegs well boned and straight.


Ribs carried well back, so well sprung behind shoulder as to give a barrel shape. Back short, broad, and level, strongly coupled to hindquarters. Loins deep and wide.


Powerful; well angulated stifle and low set hock.


Large round and spreading, well covered with hair over and between toes.


Short, not reaching to hock joint, straight, thick at root and tapering to a fine point. Low set, straight and below level of back. 7.5-10 cms (3-4 ins) of tail root covered by close curls which stop abruptly. The remainder bare or covered by short straight, fine hairs.


Moves freely and soundly, with reach and drive; characteristic rolling motion accentuated by barrel-shaped rib cage.


On body, dense, tight, crisp ringlets, free from woolliness. Hair having natural oiliness. Forelegs covered down to feet with curls or ringlets. Abundant all round, though shorter in front. Below hocks, hindlegs should be smooth in front and with curls or ringlets behind down to feet. On skull covering of long curls forming a pronounced ‘top-knot’, growing in a well-defined peak to a point between the eyes. Ears covered with long twisted curls. Neck covered with curls similar to those on body. Throat smooth, the smooth hair forming a V-shaped patch from back of lower jaw to breast bone.


Rich, dark liver with purplish tint or bloom peculiar to the breed and sometimes referred to as puce-liver.


Height: dogs: 53-58 cms (21-23 ins); bitches: 51-56 cms (20-22 ins).


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

*Note for prospective puppy buyers

Size – The Kennel Club breed standard is a guide and description of the ideal for the breed; the size as described does not imply that a dog will match the measurements given (height or weight). A dog might be larger or smaller than the size measurements stated in the breed standard.