You feel lucky to have the rare breed, the American Water Spaniel, and you’re also just happy to have a four-legged friend in your house. His curly brown coat is soft and pretty, he’s playful as can be, and he’s loyal and protective of you, too. But you’ve noticed he communicates a little differently than your other dogs. Rather than bark, he lets out a yodel. Sometimes it even sounds like he’s channeling his wolf ancestors for a sort of howl-yodel. You’re probably thinking, “What kind of dog did I get?” But he’s cute and lovable and his propensity to yodel is nothing too concerning, just one of the lovable traits of the American Water Spaniel.
The Root of the Behavior
The American Water Spaniel was bred in the American Midwest, specifically Wisconsin. The breeder’s goal was to have a dog sturdy enough to withstand cold weather and hunt successfully on land and in water. This medium sized dog was probably a cross between the English Water Spaniel (now extinct) and the Irish Water Spaniel or Sussex Spaniel. It’s a rare dog today, with only 3,000 reported living today. And this rare dog comes with a rare gift, which is yodeling. When the American Water Spaniel yodels, he’s often indicating excitement. You could be feeding him, playing with him, or maybe he caught something while hunting, but if he gets excited, he’ll probably let out a little (or a lot) of yodeling. Like their cousins, the wolf, dogs have the inherent ability to howl. This sometimes comes out as a yodel in some dogs. American Water Spaniels aren’t the only ones who yodel; Irish Water Spaniels and Basenjis are known for their yodeling performances, too.
Yodeling is used to communicate with the pack or to show solidarity with their pack against intruders. Pack dogs are communicative with each other and rely on each other for help in situations, like alerting or protecting the pack. The American Water Spaniel was bred as a pack dog. When you adopt your American Water Spaniel, you are now his pack. By yodeling, your dog is tapping into his instinct to communicate with you. The American Water Spaniel is not a pup you want to leave alone for too long. He needs companionship and might make a bit of noise without it. Dogs tend to howl when they’re lonely or isolated, so your little yodeler might start a noisy show if you’re gone for long stretches. Make sure you have enough time on your hands to provide mental and physical stimulation to him.
Encouraging the Behavior
Listening to a dog yodel can be entertaining. Since most dogs don’t actually yodel, you have an already interesting conversation topic when guests come over. He’ll probably perform if you get him excited by playing a game, which will amuse your company. Like any dog, consider your surroundings. If you live in a quiet apartment complex or a neighborhood where there is a cranky neighbor who hates animals, an American Water Spaniel may not be the best breed. The yodel might prove too loud for the small community. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to have one of these cute pups. Training the American Water Spaniel early is vital to harmonious living.
These dogs are trainable, but need to be socialized and given more exercise than most dogs. If your dog lacks these activities, he might make more noise than you or your neighbors can handle. Consider the amount of space in your yard or your proximity to a park. If there is plenty of space for your dog to run, jump, and play, then he should be one happy and relatively calm yodeling pup. However, a country setting of a large yard or field would be best. While American Water Spaniels need attention, they are capable of entertaining themselves. Train them early so that they learn positive self-entertaining techniques and not destructive ones, like chewing the wall or yodeling excessively.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Unless you are well experienced in training dogs, you should direct training the American Water Spaniel to a professional. These curly haired dogs take a lot more effort than other dogs to train and they don’t respond to harsh training techniques. Their training needs to be approached with more patience, respect, and consistency than you would need for most dogs. Your dog’s desire to yodel is a healthy one and if he’s trained, well attended to, and mentally and physically stimulated, he shouldn’t be yodeling excessively. If he is yodeling too much or if he’s not making any sounds at all, take him to the vet. He might be telling you something else that you cannot translate from dog to human speak.
With that voice and coat, your American Water Spaniel is bound to turn heads and have people go “aww.” Once he is trained and socialized properly, you’ll have a cute dog to show off. And who knows, if you can show him your yodeling skills, he might let you join him! Start practicing “Yoda La He Who!” just be mindful of the neighbors.