Dr. Fred J. Pfeifer of New London, Wisconsin is credited with a prominent portion of the American Water Spaniel's history. He gained the first official recognition of the breed in 1920 with the UKC. In 1938 the Field Dog Stud Book followed the UKC's lead and entered the AWS into their records. The AWS gained recognition with the AKC in 1940.
AWS are a primitive breed and were actively "pack bred" through the early part of this century; in fact, some folks were still doing a form of pack breeding through the early 1960's. AWS, up until the last few years, were NOT always bred with temperment or looks in mind, but rather, one good hunting dog to another, there by preserving the hunting instincts, but not always getting "good" easy going temperments or particularly beautiful dogs.
AWS are smart, determined and often want to make their own decisions. Understanding how a pack works will enable you to work with your AWS much more easily.
Many people will tell you that AWS are natural hunters; they are, for themselves. You need to work with from a fairly early age to establish a partnership. AWS need to be treated firmly but fairly. They are very smart and will get bored with repetition. They tend to follow you around the house or yard to see and to be a part of what you are doing. They mature mentally more slowly than other sporting breeds; they get their independence, ie. the spaniel questing nature at an early age, but tend not to take to more formal training until they are 9-11 months old. Play training is very effective. Many of the other sporting breeds are considered *finished* by that age.
AWS tend to do best as a part of the family. In other words... a House Dog. If you plan to hunt with your AWS, it is very important to have some obedience work before you take your dog into the field or the duck blind. This will help to establish the working partnership needed for a rewarding hunting life.