Spaniel Journal

When it comes to water work the AWS makes for a nice little retriever. This is especially the case when one remembers that the breed was really 'developed' for marsh conditions and not big open water retrieves. It is not that the AWS cannot do such retrieves but I would rather have a Chesapeake Bay Retriever or Lab for such work than a small AWS. When hunting the potholes of the Dakotas or the marshes of the Great Lakes area though the AWS will really show its owner that it is as much a dual-purpose spaniel as any of its distant cousins. The AWS can work easily out of a small canoe or boat and takes direction well on retrieves when properly instructed. Again, its tenacity toward retrieving game and its great nose has saved me from losing many a crippled duck in heavy reeds and cattails. One trait that I have always liked in my AWS 'duck' dogs is their ability to spot a flight of incoming ducks well before I do. My second AWS, Gunner, was such a dog and rather than craning my neck to watch the sky for birds all I had to do was keep an eye on Gunner as he sat in his spot on shore or in the blind. A sudden shift of Gunner's gaze followed by a slight two step with his feet meant that ducks were coming in, or at least nearby, and I had better get on the ball.

Historically the breed has been credited with being a duck and goose dog. I will not take too much issue with its reported prowess as a goose dog but I will say that, once again, one needs to remember that the breed was meant for use in the marsh. I have taken more than a few geese over my AWS and I have been pleased with their work on them but they have always been in marsh conditions. If I were hunting a large field spread of decoys in the Dakotas or Texas and dropping goose after goose throughout the morning I think that I would rather have a Chessie or Lab. An occasional hunt like this might be one thing but as a regular occurrence I really think that I would opt for a different breed. Still, one should never question whether an AWS could handle a goose for it can and it will. Not long ago I had a ten-year-old AWS who weighs but 34 pounds chase down a crippled Greater Canadian Goose that weighed in at 14.5 pounds. That goose was almost half the size of the dog, had only one broken wing, and had run off into heavy grass cover before the dog could get to the bird. Within minutes the dog had run the 80 yards or so to the bird, fought a small battle with it, and grabbed it by a wing to drag back to me. It was quite a sight but neither the dog nor I would have missed it for the world.

Neither would I miss for the world these past years with my AWS. They have been years of joy and learning that I would have never experienced without this breed and my wife's suggestion to examine it. Now, fifteen years after I first began to get interested in the American Water Spaniel, people who have a similar interest have a far greater chance of obtaining information regarding the breed. With the advent of the Internet and the formation of two separate and, unfortunately, divergent breed clubs there is a great deal of information that can be found regarding the AWS. Whether individuals are seeking the AWS for companionship in the field, home, or other activities they will find both written information and a network of breed enthusiasts that are willing to share their thoughts and experiences with

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