Sunday Dinner with Paul Morrison – Part 3

A Strike to the Heart, Dogs, Sunday Dinner

For today’s Sunday Dinner, Paul Morrison has returned to tell us more about the American Water Spaniel. The AWS makes a star appearance in my novel A Strike to the Heart. If you missed the first two weeks of our conversation with Paul, you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!

To start today, can you tell us what makes life difficult for an owner of an American Water Spaniel?

Ha! That is a good question.

If you get one that likes to bark, well, that can be one of the most frustrating problems to deal with. It is not insurmountable though and most of the dogs are no more of a barker than any other breed. They can be demanding of attention, so be ready to give them that through walks, snuggles, pets, and a host of other activities. If a person is looking for a dog that will simply hang-out with them and not need much attention, the AWS is probably not the best choice.

How important is it for American Water Spaniel owners to stay abreast of new knowledge and information about the breed? Why?

If the owners did their research and have come to an understanding of its personality, needs, and abilities, from that perspective, it is probably not all that important. However, when it comes to health issues, knowledge is power and can prevent problems down the road. With veterinary medicine advancing by leaps and bounds, along with the use of genetic analysis, we are learning more and more about what problems affect the breed and how to minimize or treat them. So, “staying abreast” of or researching such issues is probably most important.

What do you like best about owning an American Water Spaniel?

Oh gosh, it is, hands down, their personality. You can find a dozen Retrievers that will fetch a duck or pheasant. Locating a spaniel that will flush birds in the fields and forests, is simple. Even finding breeds other than the AWS, that will do both with great ability, is not all that difficult. But the silliness of the AWS, the loving nature of the breed, the way they look at you with those big brown eyes, can melt your heart. After more than thirty years of living with these dogs, I can’t imagine being without one and I hope I never am.

What do you wish potential dog owners would know about the American Water Spaniel before bringing one into their home?

They need and deserve attention, a job to do, something to keep their mind and body active. This is not a breed to be ignored or left out in the backyard for most of the day. If you got an AWS to have a companion, then be its companion, not its jailer.

What advice would you share with other dog owners about the American Water Spaniel?

I would first say that the owner of an AWS needs is to be mindful of the breed’s uncanny ability to manipulate. The old saying, ‘give an inch and they will take a mile’ holds true with this breed. And why wouldn’t it? They are sweet, cute, cuddly, and great workers but you can’t let all of that distract you when establishing boundaries with these little guys. Therefore, if you are going to purchase an AWS, then make a plan. Know well ahead of time who will care for the dog. Know who will be its primary trainer, while also making sure that everyone else in the household understands that they must be a part of the training too. Come to an understanding of where the dog will sleep, what it will eat, when it will eat, and what skills will be taught. Then, stick to the plan. 

Because a fairly large part of the AWS community promotes this breed as a Retriever, a good number of new owners think they are getting the equivalent of a small Labrador and they are not. Understand that, like some other Spaniel breeds, they can make a great retrieving dog and perform as well as some of the common Retrievers, as is evidenced by the retrieving titles some of the AWS have earned. However, the AWS personality is different from that of many Retrievers because, after all, it is a Spaniel and so you need to work through the nuances of a Spaniel’s character. That personality can frustrate some trainers so understanding this ahead of time is important. 

Another thing is to watch out for misinformation about the breed. For instance, this is not a hypoallergenic dog breed, yet we see that claim made from time to time. The AWS sheds, not bad but it does shed, and it gives off dander. If you have allergies when it comes to dogs, then you might react to an AWS. Some people with allergies do have less or no trouble with some AWS, but you need to investigate that before getting the breed. 

About the breed’s health, understand that while it is reasonably healthy it is not free of problems. You will find some AWS with eye, cardiac, thyroid, neurological, orthopedic, or other problems. Luckily, the AWS, unlike some breeds, is not overrun by any one issue and all of these are kept to a minimal level. Just don’t think that if someone tells you the breed is healthy, that means you will never hear of or see a health problem. Good breeders work hard to minimize the occurrence of these troubles, but we can’t eliminate them all… unfortunately.

The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Paul, if readers would like more information about the American Water Spaniel, where would you direct them?

Well, one of the first places would be to get my book, The American Water Spaniel a Comprehensive Owners Guide. It is out of print, but you can get it on Amazon as an e-book. And no, I don’t make any money from the sale. 

There are two clubs with Web sites where information on the AWS can be found. One is the Great Lakes American Water Spaniel Club, and the other is the American Water Spaniel Club. 

The American Kennel Club Web site also has some good and easy to follow information about the AWS. There you will see graphic representations of various canine traits, showing a comparison of how those traits in the AWS match up to other breeds. 

A few breeders also have Web sites that offer information about the breed and about their breeding program and dogs. Googling ‘American Water Spaniels’ will help you locate magazine articles, book excerpts, and even a blog post or two, providing information on the breed.

Thank you, Paul, for joining us the past three weeks to share your knowledge of the American Water Spaniel with us. It has be a joy to learn all about these adorable dogs.

Readers, if you haven’t grabbed your copy of A Strike to the Heart, you can do so here.

Over Sunday Dinner next week historical romance author Jennifer Deibel will be here to talk about her novel The Lady of Galway Manor, which is set in Ireland.

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