Show Work.

What it means to be a show dog....

Many people are not really sure what it means when someone says a dog is a “show dog”. Or even more confusing is when people say a dog is “show quality”. What does this really mean? To understand this it is helpful to really understand what a dog show is.

There are different organizations that sponsor “dog shows” but I am going to address the type of shows referenced on this web page when we refer to a dog that is a champion.We are referring to dogs that have competed successfully at American Kennel Club (AKC) events and have won enough championship points to earn the title of champion from the AKC. Originally, a dog show was a venue to determine if dogs meet the “breed standard” based on the dog’s conformation so that it could be considered of quality for breeding. It also was useful to determine how someone’s breeding stock produced or passed on positive traits to the next generation. All breeds of dogs were developed for specific task and to be able to reliably produce dogs that could do the job they were bred for was a goal for all breeders.

The dog show has changed much over the years and now is a hobby for many, a vocation for some, a social outlet for others but still a test of the success of a breeding program. Like all types of competitions based on subjective judging, conformation shows can have pluses and minuses. But to earn a championship on a dog is still a testimony to quality.

When someone asks for a “show quality” puppy, they are usually saying that they are interested in competing with that dog at some point to try and earn championship points. They also are saying that they want a reasonable expectation that when mature that dog should be able to complete its championship. But there are people that ask for a “show quality” puppy with no expectations of actually showing it. They just want a good looking dog that they can proudly enjoy life with. From a breeder’s perspective, any dog that does not have a disqualifying fault could be shown. The IWS Breed Standard does not have any disqualifications other than those put forth by AKC for all dogs. Males must have two testicles or they cannot be shown. Any dog that displays aggression in the ring will be disqualified by a judge. This means that most IWS can be “show dogs” if the owner desires. It does not mean that when shown they can earn the required 15 points for a championship. And some might be able to win the 15 points but not be of quality to earn the two major wins that are also a requirement to garner the title of champion. Some of that depends on where the dog is being shown, also. Points are earned by defeating other dogs but the number of dogs you need to defeat to earn points is not the same in all parts of the USA. It can be complicated.

If anyone purchasing a puppy or dog from me is interested in showing, I will spend the time they need to understand the system. But for the purpose of information about the dogs on this web page it is just important for you to know that I do show my dogs to their championship. But, just because a dog earns a championship does not mean I will automatically use it for breeding. In fact, I have breed more champion IWS than any other breeder in the history of the breed but many of those dogs were never used as breeding stock. There are other considerations such as temperament, health and work ethic. Breeding is part science, part art, part intuition and a big glob of luck!

Bella is owned by Michelle Cummings in California. Michelle has had IWS for 20 years. One of her previous IWS was a wonderful multiple group winning and multiple IWSCA National Specialty winner, BISS Am/Mex/Int'l CH Sylmar’s St. Paddy’s Pride CD. Michelle wasn't sure she wanted to go back down the show dog road but Bella captured her heart! Bella has been a consistent winner for Michelle placing often in the group. Bella recently gave Michelle the thrill of her life by winning a Best in Show! Bella is sired by MBIS MBISS GCH CH Poole’s Ide Got Water RN and her dam is CH Whistle Stop’s The Wind Moriah CD RA JH.

A littermate to the above dogs, Annah is also sired by MBIS MBISS GCH CH Poole’s Ide Got Water RN and her dam is CH Whistle Stop’s The Wind Moriah CD RA JH . This litter of record breaking IWS was co-bred by Colleen McDaniel and Stacy Duncan. Annah is Stacy’s girl from that litter. She was the “yellow” puppy in that she wore the yellow colored rick-rack. As a pup we called her Anna Banana and when she finally went home with Stacy she became a much more dignified “Annah”. Although she is a multi-Best in Show winning girl, National and local Specialty winner, Best of Opposite (to her sire) National and local Specialty winner and much, much more, she is still “Anna Banana” to me. That is why I used this picture as not only does it show what a lovely girl she is, her prize is yellow (although she has many blues). Annah is currently working at some field training along with her sire, Keegan, who also lives with Stacy.

Merlin is one of those dogs that “was just meant to be”. He was shown the first time as a six month old puppy and left the weekend with three major wins. He then went to the National Specialty as a nine month old puppy and won Winner’s Dog and Best of Winners the first day and went Reserve Winner’s Dog the second day. On his first birthday he went to Canada and won Best of Winner’s at the Canadian National Specialty. He completed his AKC championship by going Best of Winner’s at the IWSCOPS Specialty show in August at 13 months of age. And that was the end of his show career in the USA. He left for England in March, 2011 and started his show career with his new owner, Judith Carruthers. And what a show career that ended up being. Quickly winning the three CC’s needed to be a show champion in the UK; Merlin also went on to multiple Best in Shows and many Group Placements. In 2012 Merlin won the Gun Dog Group at Crufts and in 2013 he was not only the #1 Gun Dog in the UK but the #3 dog of all-breeds. He has earned over 20 CC’s. The prevailing comment from judges is how sound of a dog he is in both conformation and temperament. His tail never seems to stop wagging. Merlin is sired by GCH CH Poole’s Ide Got Water RN and his dam is CH Whistle Stop’s The Wind Moriah CD RA JH and he is owned by Judith Carruthers in England and co-owned by Colleen McDaniel.

The above picture is Riley earning her recording breaking Best in Show! She is now the top female IWS in the history of the breed in the show ring. And this year, 2013, she was the Best of Breed IWS at the IWSCA National Specialty. Riley was originally sold to the Urban’ family as a pet. Bethany Urban had grown up with an IWS and wanted her then seven year old daughter, Madeline, to have the same experience. After Riley completed her championship, the Urbans teamed up with “MR IWS” Greg Siner of Poole’s Ide kennels and Riley began her meteoric career as a show dog. Although sold as a pet Riley was sure she was born a Princess and was able to convince “team Riley” to make sure the rest of the world knew it. Riley is sired by MBIS MBISS GCH CH Poole’s Ide Got Water RN and her dam is CH Whistle Stop’s The Wind Moriah CD RA JH .

NordicW-11-12, DanishW-11-12, SwedishW-11-12, Int CH, Swedish CH, Norwegian CH, Danish CH, 11 GCH-CH Whistlestop’s The Wind on Fire “CLAIRE”

Claire recently returned from her stay in Sweden where she racked up a very impressive record. She was a multiple Best in Show winner, Group placer and Group Winner including 2012 and 2013 Gun Dog Group Winner at the Stockholm show which is the third largest show in the world. She finished last year as the #2 Gun Dog in Sweden and the #9 show dog of all-breeds. She also was shown at Crufts in 2012 in England, the largest dog show in the world, and won the IWS Bitch CC beaten only by her brother, Merlin, for Best of Breed. She left the USA as a Champion and Grand Champion. Upon her return she was shown twice. Her first time out she won the Sporting Group and went Reserve Best in Show. Her next forte into the ring was at Westminster Kennel Club where she won Best of Breed under a world renowned judge with stiff competition. She has not been shown since then. Claire is owned by Greg Siner of Poole’s Ide Kennels. Her sire is GCH Poole’s Ide Got Water RN and her dam is CH Whistle Stop’s The Wind Moriah CD RE JH . Claire constantly impresses people with her happy attitude about life.


That of a smart, upstanding, strongly built moderate gundog bred for all types of shooting, especially for water-fowling. Great intelligence is combined with rugged endurance and a bold, dashing eagerness of temperament. Distinguishing characteristics are a topknot of long, loose curls and a body covered with a dense, crisply curled liver colored coat contrasted by a smooth face and a smooth “rat” tail.


Strongly built and well-boned, the Irish Water Spaniel is of medium length making it slightly rectangular in appearance. A well-balanced dog that should not appear leggy or coarse.

  • Dogs - 22 to 24 inches (measured at the highest point of withers)
  • Bitches - 21 to 23 inches
  • Dogs - 55 to 68 pounds
  • Bitches - 45 to 58 pounds


The head is cleanly chiseled. The skull is large and high in dome with a prominent occiput and a gradual stop. The muzzle is long, deep and somewhat square in appearance with a strong underjaw. Lips are fine in texture, tight and dry. The nose is large and dark liver in color. The teeth are even with a scissor or level bite. Hair on the face is short and smooth except for a beard of long, loose curls growing at the back of the lower jaw which may continue up the side of the face as sideburns.


A characteristic of the breed, the topknot consists of long, loose curls covering the skull and falling down over the top of the ears and occiput. The contrast between the smooth face and the topknot is evident in a well-defined peak between the eyes. The topknot, a breed characteristic, should not be trimmed in an exaggerated or excessive manner.


Set almost flush, the eyes are comparatively small and almond shaped with tight eyelids. The color is a warm tone of medium to dark brown, dark amber but never yellow. The expression is keenly alert, intelligent, direct and quizzical.


Long, lobular, set low, hanging close to the head and abundantly covered with long loose curls of hair.


The neck is long, arching, strong and muscular and is smoothly set into cleanly sloping shoulders.


Strong, broad and level. TOPLINE: The rear is equal to or slightly higher than the front never descending or showing sag or roach.


Medium length. The ribs are carried well back and so well sprung behind the shoulders as to give a barrel shape. The chest is deep with a brisket extending to the elbows. The loin is short, wide, muscular, and deep so it does not give a tucked-up appearance.


The entire front gives the impression of strength without heaviness. The forechest should be moderate. Shoulders are sloping and moderately laid back, clean and powerful. The upper arms are approximately the length of the shoulder blades with clean elbows set close to the body. Forelegs are well boned, muscular and straight, set well under the withers.


Sound hindquarters are of great importance to provide drive and power while swimming. They are as high as or slightly higher than the shoulders with powerful, muscular, well-developed thighs. The hips are wide. The croup is rounded and full with the tail set on low enough to give a rounded appearance. The stifles are moderately bent. Hocks are set low and moderately bent. Balance of front and rear angulation is important.


Large, round, somewhat spreading. Well clothed with hair. Pads are thick.


The “Rat Tail” is a striking characteristic of the breed and is strong, low set and carried level with the back and is not quite long enough to reach the point of the hock. The tail is thick at the root where it is covered for two to three inches with short curls which stop abruptly. From that point the tail is covered with smooth hair and the tail tapers to a fine point.


Proper coat is of vital importance to protect the dog while working. The coat on the face is short and smooth framed by the distinctive topknot and ears of long, loose curls. The coat on the throat is smooth forming a V-shaped patch from the back of the lower jaw behind the beard to the breastbone. The remainder of the neck, body and base of the tail are covered with dense, tight, crisp curls. The remainder of the coat on the tail is short and smooth coated. Forelegs are covered down to the feet with curls or waves all around. The hind legs are also abundantly covered with curls or waves except that the hair is short and smooth on the front of the legs below the hocks. Feet are well clothed with hair. Dogs may be shown in natural coat or trimmed. However, no dog should be groomed or trimmed so excessively as to obscure the curl or texture of the coat.


Rich liver to dark liver with a purplish tinge, sometimes called puce liver. No white hair or markings except for the graying of age.


Moves freely and soundly with balanced reach and drive. Should be true, precise and not slurring; may have a characteristic rolling motion accentuated by the barrel-shaped rib cage.


Very alert, inquisitive and active. Stable in temperament with an endearing sense of humor. May be reserved with strangers but never aggressive or shy.


The foregoing description is that of the ideal adult Irish Water Spaniel in hard working condition. Any deviation from the above-described dog must be considered to the extent of the deviation, keeping in mind the importance of various features toward the basic original purpose of the breed, which is that of a gundog used for work in all types of shooting and particularly suited to water fowling in difficult marshy terrain.

September 1, 2009