Irish Water Spaniels are one of the tallest spaniels registered with the AKC. They were bred as gundogs in Ireland, so they excel at locating and retrieving game, particularly waterfowl.
Aside from being brave and hardworking hunting companions, they’re also playful and love family life. And best of all, they don’t shed much hair!
The Irish Water Spaniels is a low shedding breed with a hypoallergenic coat, which means they are generally considered more suitable for those with pet allergies than most dogs. Their curly, waterproof double coat isn’t the easiest to maintain though, so regular brushing is needed.
Read on to learn more.
How Much Do Irish Water Spaniels Shed?
Irish Water Spaniels are a low shedding breed.
They shed about the same as most types of Poodles and Schnauzers, and a little less than the American Water Spaniel. So they are great for people who are looking for a medium to large working dog that sheds very little hair.
Why do they shed so little?
How much hair a dog sheds really depends on the breed. Some owners may tell you it’s because they have “hair” but this isn’t entirely accurate. Hair and fur are the same thing, the only difference is that hair tends to have a longer growth cycle than fur.
And the longer it takes for hair to grow (and remain in the anagen phase) the longer it takes for it to fall out. Which overall means less shedding.
Another reason that the shedding of an IWS isn’t very noticeable is because of the texture of their coat. Their hair is very curly, so when they do shed, it tends to get trapped within their coat. Which is why you generally won’t notice much hair floating around the home, it will mostly be contained within the brush.
So to sum it up.. they do shed, just not very much. And the hair they do molt is more easily trapped in their coat, which makes it less noticeable than a dog with a short, straight coat. And it doesn’t cling to upholstery and furniture as easily as some types of dog hair.
You may also notice a little more shedding during seasonal changes like spring and fall, but nothing like a heavy shedding breed like the Newfoundland for example.
Are Irish Water Spaniels Hypoallergenic?
Yes, Irish Water Spaniels are considered to be hypoallergenic by the American Kennel Club
However, it’s important to understand that no dog is ever truly hypoallergenic. Not even dogs that are completely hairless. Because it’s not the hair that causes pet allergies, it’s actually the dog’s dander (dead skin), saliva, urine, and sweat.
So, at best, some dogs are more suitable than others for those who suffer from allergies. And it’s typically the ones that shed less, because dander attaches itself to their hair, so the less a dog sheds the better.
Learn more about non-allergenic dogs in this shedding FAQ.
What is the IWS Like to Groom?
Irish Water Spaniels have a curly, waterproof double coat that is liver in color. A double coat simply means they have a top coat of hair and an undercoat which, in this case, is soft and dense.
This sort of coat suits working dogs well, especially those that love going in the water like the IWS does, because it helps to insulate them in both cold and warm weather. However, the nature of the IWS coat means that it is going to take more effort to groom.
And there’s a few reasons for this:
Firstly, the top coat is curly and they have an undercoat. Why does this matter? Curly top coats are naturally prone to mats and tangles, and you’re brushing two layers of hair instead of just one, so brushing will take more effort as a result.
Second, their coat tends to be quite oily, which is a good thing in the sense that this makes it more water resistant, but it does attract and trap dirt and debris quite easily. So brushing a few times per week is needed to remove the dirt and debris, along with any mats and knots he may have accumulated.
Third, it’s best to have them trimmed with scissors every two months to keep their coat from growing into one big mess. This isn’t “essential” as such, but it’s worth doing to keep their coat in good shape.
What sort of brush should you use?
It’s ultimately up to you which sort of brush you like to use. But for an IWS, a slicker brush or pin brush, and a metal comb works well. Just be sure to brush all the way down to the undercoat to remove the dead fur, which is where you may find a slicker (or an undercoat rake) works best.
Reducing Excessive Shedding
Since the IWS is such a low shedding dog, there’s not much you need to do to keep the shedding under control, most of the dead fur will be removed through regular grooming.
And it’s not just about shedding. Brushing also helps to maintain his coat and spread the oils evenly, which keeps him looking his best. So it’s well worth the effort.
With that being said, if you are noticing excessive shedding, there may be cause for concern. Sometimes they shed due to allergies, fleas, stress, or poor diet for example, so if you’re concerned, it may be worth contacting your local veterinarian.
At the end of the day, Irish Water Spaniels do take some effort to groom, there’s no denying it. But a healthy, well groomed, IWS won’t drop much hair around the home. And considering how special they are, spending time grooming can actually be enjoyable.