Let's talk Frisian Water Dogs

Frisian by name and frizzy by nature, Frisian Water Dogs are intelligent, independent-minded and hardy on the inside and magnificently curly on the outside. This physically strong – and sometimes also strong-willed – breed needs firm but kind training and is not an ideal choice for a novice owner. But for the right humans they make an excellent, affectionate companion and a committed, alert watchdog, all in a wonderfully wavy and water-resistant package.

Official name: Frisian Water Dog

Other names: Wetterhoun

Origins: Netherlands

Black and white portrait of a Frisian Water Dog
 Drooling tendencies

Very low

Warm weather?
 Shedding level
Suited to apartment living?  Very low
 Physical activity needs (high, low, medium): Medium Kid-friendly? 

 Compatibility with other pets Medium
Can stay alone?*

We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches.
Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour.
Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.
Inline Image 15
Illustration of a Frisian Water Dog
Male
59 Height
25 - 35 kg Weight
Female
55 Height
25 - 35 kg Weight

 

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 12 months
 Adult age  1 to 7 years
 Mature age  7 to 10 years
 Senior age  10 years onwards

Frisian Water Dog laying in the grass

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Get to know the Frisian Water Dog

All you need to know about the breed

The Frisian Water Dog’s thick and coarse curly coat is the breed’s most distinctive feature – a robust water-resistant jacket that was just the thing for this dog’s original purpose: splashing in and out of freezing water in search of prey such as water fowl and otters. If the modern-day Frisian Water Dog (thankfully) now enjoys much more gentle pursuits, this breed has kept all its stamina, hardiness and courage as well as its technical all-weather gear – thick and curly all over except on the head and legs.

Frisian Water Dogs, which take their name from the Netherlands province where they originate, are friendly with their humans but can be aloof with strangers, making them ideally suited to the role of guard dog. Once trained, they get on well with children, although like any other breed they should not be left unsupervised with them. Frisian Water Dogs are intelligent, making them quick learners. But nobody, and no dog is perfect and they can have a stubborn streak, meaning calm and patient training will be necessary.

While they remain pretty rare outside their homeland of the Netherlands, this is a shame: for experienced dog owners who will know how to handle them, alert and independent-minded Frisian Water Dogs make great, loyal and affectionate companions.

Close-up of a Frisian Water Dog looking into the distance

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2 facts about Frisian Water Dogs

1. Curly ear test

While your first impression on setting eyes on one of these lovely canines might be of a mass of curls, take a closer look and these dogs’ locks can actually provide a clue as to their pure-breed status. According to the breed standard, Frisian Water Dogs’ ears should ideally be covered with longer, thicker hair close to the base of the ear, gradually getting shorter towards the tip.

2. Multi-named water dog

The most widely accepted alternative name for the Frisian Water Dog breed is Wetterhoun. So far so good – this makes sense given their marshland-splashing origins. But the breed has also amassed an impressively long string of other names, given its rarity: Dutch Water Spaniel (even though they are not spaniels), Dutch Water Dog (simple but effective) and Otterhoun (not to be confused with the Otterhound, a separate breed). Clear?

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History of the breed

Frisian Water Dogs get their name from the Friesland province of the Netherlands where they were originally bred for hunting. Their exact origins are not clear, but they are thought to have descended from old breeds of water dogs (possibly a now-extinct breed known as the Old Water Dog), which were the precursors to modern-day retrievers.

The breed has an ancient pedigree – it has been known in the Netherlands for several centuries – but was only formally recognised in the 1940s. However, Frisian Water Dogs are rare today and most of these wavy wonders, also known as Wetterhouns or Otterhouns, are to be found in their native Netherlands.

Black and white portrait of a Frisian Water Dog

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Frisian Water Dogs

1. Coat

Thick curly coat in solid black/brown or with white markings.

2. Head

Broad, solid head with trowel-shaped, mid-length ears.

3. Body

Strong body with short, straight back and broad chest.

Frisian Water Dog trotting through long grass

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Frisian Water Dog
Frisian Water Dog walking over the grass

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Caring for your Frisian Water Dog

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Those lovely locks are surprisingly low maintenance, just a quick groom from time to time should keep them in good condition. The naturally oily and waterproof nature of the Frisian Water Dog’s coat means frequent baths are not necessary. Make sure you clip their nails and brush their teeth regularly. Frequent exercise is important to keep these outdoorsy dogs healthy and content. Make sure off-the-lead runs are in a safe enclosed space. Training a Frisian Water Dog may not be a walk in the park with these independent-minded dogs. It is possible – but it will require plenty of patience and a firm but kind attitude. Remember to subtract any food rewards from your dog’s daily rations to avoid them becoming overweight.

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All about Frisian Water Dogs

This breed is not known to be aggressive – and Frisian Water Dogs are affectionate with their families. They do have the reputation of being naturally wary of strangers, making them ideally suited to the role of guard dog.

The breed sheds less than you might expect, given their lavishly curly coats. However, that doesn’t mean they are hypoallergenic, as no dog breed is – dander (skin flakes) and not hair or fur is responsible for sparking allergic reactions in humans.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/