It’s an odd expression, but it gets the point across: One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. Put in canine terms, what’s faulty for one breed can be acceptable in another
In a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, a marcelled coat is very faulty, but in the American Water Spaniel, the breed standard calls for a coat that can range from marcel (uniform waves) to closely curled. The amount of waves or curls can vary from one area to another on the same dog, and puppies in the same litter can have a wide range of coat type among them. Tighter curled coats tend to have less feathering on the legs and tail, but in a conformation ring, there is no preference for one coat over the other.
The dense, curly coat helps shield these hunting dogs from punishing weather and cold water common to the Upper Midwest; it also protects against briars in the woods. We don’t know with certainty where the wavy/curly coated came from, but the now extinct English Water Spaniel, as well as the Irish Water Spaniel and Curly-Coated Retriever have been mentioned in as possible component breeds, and given the coats of those aforementioned breeds, it would make sense.
Some experts believe that this insulating coat makes the breed more suited to cold water conditions than any other spaniel around. In June 1992, an AWS became the first of its breed to win a hunting title through the North American Hunting Retriever Association.
This isn’t to say the breed isn’t versatile beyond the field. Far from it! American Water Spaniels compete in obedience, are used in Search and Rescue, and even participate in Schutzhund – and in 1993, an AWS became the first of its breed to win the flyball championship title FDCH from the North American Flyball Association.
Photo of the two AWS coats shared by Linda McGrath