Let's talk Spanish Water Dogs

The name says it all. The Spanish Water Dog does indeed have a propensity for water having been bred to retrieve their quarry there. However, they were originally bred to herd sheep and hunt. Either way, this affable outdoorsy breed is just as content at home in front of a roaring fireplace, as long as you are there. With their magnificent corded coats, even-keeled temperaments and boundless energy - perhaps in spite of the latter, for some - Spanish Water Dogs are wonderful family companions.

Official name: Spanish Water Dog

Other names: SWD, Perro de agua Español

Origins: Spain

Close-up of Spanish Water Dog in black and white

 

 Drooling tendencies  Very low  Warm weather? Medium
 Shedding level  Very low  Suited to apartment living ? Very low
 Energy level*  Medium  Family pet?* High
 Compatibility with other pets  High  Can stay alone?* Medium

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behavior. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 

Inline Image 15
Illustration of Spanish Water Dog
Male
44 - 51 cm Height
18 - 22 kg Weight
Female
41 - 46 cm Height
14 - 18 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  From 10 years

Spanish Water Dog standing in grass, lake in background

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Get to know the Spanish Water Dog

All you need to know about the breed

Enthusiastic could very well be the Spanish Water Dog’s middle name. Full of energy and “what are we doing next?” get up and go, the breed thrives living an outdoorsy life. They love nothing better than having a job to do. But Spanish Water Dogs also have their homebody side, enjoying down time spent with their human families. Not in small apartments, however. Space is a must.

As with many working dogs, they do have a natural herding drive. So you will need to establish early who is in charge and what you expect of your Spanish Water Dog, though they will always have that tendency to guard over their family. Homes with older kids might be better suited to a breed with such instincts. But no stress, the Spanish Water Dog learns fast and wants to please. While somewhat wary of strangers – perhaps due to centuries of working one on one with sheep and goats – training and socialisation as puppies will help temper this.

Known for their illustrious coat, few realise that it comes in as curly waves. But as it grows, it forms woolly cords known as urls. These canine dreadlocks help retain any hair that is shed within the coat itself.

Think of the Spanish Water Dog as ‘the dog next door’, to coin a human phrase – a peaceful housemate, kindly, a lover not a fighter.

Brown Spanish Water Dog standing in a tree

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2 facts about Spanish Water Dogs

1. Herds anything that moves

Spanish Water Dogs were bred to gather, herd and pen sheep, goats and other animals. This natural urge is sometimes stronger than them. Horses, other dogs, kids, cars… Spanish Water Dogs might be hard-pressed not to herd anything heading in the opposite direction. Training helps. And if you have a garden, make sure it is escape route-free.

2. No brushing 

While much is made of the Spanish Water Dog’s rustic and stunning woolly coat, caring for it is somewhat counterintuitive – it must never be brushed. It comes in curly on puppies and, unlike other corded dogs like the Komondor, cords naturally as it gets longer. Relatively low-maintenance grooming-wise, the breed nonetheless needs an owner who either knows how to handle Spanish Water Dogs’ coats or knows someone who does to give you pointers.

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History of the breed

While the Spanish Water Dog certainly hails from the Iberian coast in Spain, few can agree on how they got there. Perhaps with the Moors as they came over from North Africa. Or maybe with Turkish traders – the breed used to be known by the nickname, “The Turkish Dog”. Either way, the Spanish Water Dog’s ancestry is believed to go back to ancient times. First bred to use their finely attuned senses to flush out game, retrieve prey and alert hunters to the presence of both, Spanish Water Dogs are still known today for their incredible sporting abilities and indefatigable natures. There is a theory that the Poodle figures into the genetic makeup of the Spanish Water Dog we know today, as well. That would certainly help explain the texture and look of the latter’s wavy coat traits.

It took breed devotees sniffing around southern Spain in 1975 for Spanish Water Dog specimens to start a breeding programme to boost the breed’s numbers. However, while their numbers are growing – who could resist their many wonderful qualities? - they are still quite a rare breed outside of their native land. To own one, expect to spend time on a waiting list.

Spanish Water Dog lying down looking at camera in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Spanish Water Dogs

1. Coat

Distinctive curly coat worn in natural curls or rustic cords with tapered tips.

2. Face

Expressive eyes, brown shade in harmony with coat.

3. Body

Robust body is slightly longer than tall in profile.

4. Ears

Drooping, triangular ears at eye level with slightly rounded tips.

5. Tail

Tail in balance with rest of body, neither high nor low.

Side view close-up of Spanish Water Dog looking away

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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 Spanish Water Dog
Spanish Water Dog running across grass towards camera

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Caring for your Spanish Water Dog

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Grooming a Spanish Water Dog’s corded, wool-like coat may seem like it would be a drama, but it just takes a little know-how. First rule, no brushing. Ever. Instead, you will need to pick through their coats by hand to get brambles and other caught debris out and pull their urls apart periodically so the cords don’t get too big. Check and clean ears and teeth and clip nails on a regular basis, as with any dog. Your Spanish Water Dog’s exercise needs are on the high end of moderate. This is a boisterous, lively breed so they need to move. Mental stimulation is as important as physical for truly content, obedient dogs. Off the lead time is a must, but only in places you are sure they won’t head off pursuing something more interesting. If there is an ‘out’ in your fence, a Spanish Water Dog would be hard-pressed to resist it. Training a Spanish Water Dog takes patience – highly intelligent, they were nonetheless bred to make flock decisions on their own – and must be positive as Spanish Water Dogs are sensitive by nature. Keep it short and interesting to keep your dog focused on what you are asking of them. Once trained and socialised, Spanish Water Dogs make marvellous pets.

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All about Spanish Water Dogs

Bred to guard and lively by nature, Spanish Water Dogs are not known to be particularly barky as a breed. When chasing their quarry, silence was golden as a tool.  It served them well in the field, and will earn them brownie points from your neighbours for sure.

In a word, no.  First of all, while no dog can claim to be 100% shed-free, Spanish Water Dogs are not shedders.  Any hair that comes loose is trapped in their wool-like cords; it never makes it to your couch. Interesting fact: it is not dogs’ hair but their dander (skin flakes) that causes problems for allergy sufferers, and no dogs are truly hypoallergenic.

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/