Spanish Water Dog

The inexhaustible Spanish Water Dog is a dual-purpose breed whose hallmark is a coat of wooly curls. Used as both a herder and waterfowl retriever in his homeland, this rustic charmer is a lively family companion and vigilant watchdog.

The unique look of these inexhaustible workers begins with the coat. It’s naturally curly and wooly head to toe, and when grown out will often form tight, tapered cords. In full coat, the facial hair covers the expressive brown eyes. Colors can be black, brown, beige, white, or particolor (black, brown, beige, with white). ‘Rustic’ is the word often used to describe the overall look of this sturdy dog of medium size (a male will stand a little under 20 inches at the shoulder).


The versatile Spanish Water Dog has been a fixture of the Iberian Peninsula’s lakes and meadows for so long that we’re not quite sure how it got there. One theory suggests it was brought from North Africa by the Moors who once occupied Spain. Another posits that the breed was introduced to Spain by Turkish traders, hence its old nickname ‘The Turkish Dog.’ The Spanish Water Dog was always a dual-purpose breed, utilized as both a waterfowl retriever and a sheepherder.


Responsible breeders will screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia and eye anomalies. As with all breeds, the Spanish Water Dog’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, ideally every day, using a toothpaste formulated for dogs.


The most important basic guidelines for a properly groomed Spanish Water Dog are that the coat is never to be brushed, and it should be the same length all over. Frequency of clipping is up to the owner’s preference for the length of hair on their dog, with some owners choosing to let it grow for many months to form cords. While the breed is typically described as having a low-maintenance coat, the cording process does take ongoing attention and some expertise. Because the cording process for this breed is different from that of other corded breeds (such as the Komondor or Bergamasco), owners wanting to undertake this for the first time are encouraged to find someone experienced with Spanish Water Dog coats. The breed’s national parent club, the Spanish Water Dog Club of America, has members on its e-mail list who are always willing to give advice and help.


Spanish Water Dogs benefit from a good run at least once a day. Once they have reached full maturity and the bone growth plates are closed, they have the capacity for lengthy, strenuous exercise and make great companions for activities such as running, hiking, or snow-shoeing. With their moderate size and natural athleticism, they enjoy being active, but they also have a good “off switch” for more settled time at home. SWDs are usually strong swimmers, and playing fetch in the water is a great way to burn off energy without the risk of injury that repetitive impact through retrieving on land can cause.


This is a highly intelligent and active (both mentally and physically) breed. They thrive on the problem-solving nature of positive training using a clicker or similar training style. SWDs are extremely biddable and willing to please and are showing themselves to be highly capable and very versatile. Harsh training methods may cause the SWD to lose his enthusiasm for the tasks asked of him, and he may “shut down.” Potential owners are reminded that as herding dogs, some SWDs have a very high prey drive. They need a reliable recall. Even with diligent training, some will not be able to resist the temptation of a squirrel, rabbit, or deer. The temperament of the Spanish Water Dog deserves special consideration. These dogs are very loyal to their owners but can be quite wary of strangers. Ongoing socialization as well as positive new experiences are essential from an early age.


While some owners do encounter occasional food allergies with their Spanish Water Dogs, the breed should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior).Owners will want to consider the activity level of the dog when choosing the type of food and level of protein, fat, and so on. Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times. SWDs are also strong chewers and enjoy a substantial knuckle-bone from time to time, which may also help to keep their teeth clean.

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