Spanish Water Dog

Table of Contents

spanish water dog portrait
Welcome to the wonderful world of the Spanish Water Dog, a breed that's making waves with its unique combination of intelligence, versatility, and low-shedding coat! These curly-haired canines are more than just eye-catching; they're also highly skilled in herding, hunting, and even water sports.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Spanish Water Dog is an excellent choice for active individuals or families who relish outdoor adventures. They may not be ideal for first-time dog owners or those with sedentary lifestyles, as these lively pups need consistent guidance and plenty of exercise to truly thrive.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMESpanish Water Dog
OTHER NAMESSWD, Perro de Agua Español
ORIGINSpain
BREED GROUPHerding Group
BREED SIZEMedium
HEIGHT16-20 inches
WEIGHT30-49 lbs
LIFESPAN12-14 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSVery High
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELLow
POPULARITY RANK163rd
spanish water dog running in the park
Photo: Kurt Pas/Getty Images

Appearance

The Spanish Water Dog is a medium-sized breed that’s known for its distinct and captivating appearance. Males typically stand between 17-20 inches at the shoulder, while females range from 16-18 inches. Their weight varies from 30-49 pounds, with males being slightly heavier than females.

This well-proportioned dog boasts a robust, muscular body, giving it the strength and agility to excel in various tasks.

The head of the Spanish Water Dog is strong and well-defined, with a slightly rounded skull and a moderate stop. The muzzle is straight and wide, tapering slightly towards the nose. Their large, oval-shaped eyes showcase an expressive gaze, ranging in color from hazel to dark brown, depending on the coat color.

The ears are set at medium height, hanging close to the head with a slight lift at the base. These triangular-shaped ears, along with the breed’s soulful eyes, contribute to their endearing expression.

One of the most striking features of the Spanish Water Dog is its distinctive coat. Composed of curly or wavy hair, the coat forms tight, uniform curls all over the body, including the head and ears. This dense, woolly coat is hypoallergenic and doesn’t shed, making it an excellent option for allergy sufferers.

The hair can grow quite long if left untrimmed, but it’s traditionally sheared once or twice a year to maintain a length of about 1-2 inches. This breed comes in a variety of solid and mixed colors, including black, brown, beige, and white, as well as bicolored combinations.

The tail of the Spanish Water Dog is set low and can be either naturally short (bobtail) or long, reaching the hock when relaxed. In motion, the tail is carried in a slight curve, revealing the breed’s lively temperament. Their strong legs and rounded, compact feet enable them to move with remarkable agility and speed.

Overall, the Spanish Water Dog’s appearance reflects its heritage as a versatile working breed. Their sturdy build, combined with their unique coat and expressive features, make them an attractive and easily recognizable companion in the canine world.

spanish water dog sitting on a tree trunk in the forest
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Temperament

The Spanish Water Dog is as captivating as it is versatile. This wooly-coated wonder is known for its intelligence, adaptability, and loyal nature, making it a truly delightful companion for those who appreciate dogs with a balance of playful energy and affectionate tranquility.

The Spanish Water Dog is a beacon of intelligence in the dog world. Their quick-witted nature, coupled with their keen instincts, make them fascinating to observe. But their intelligence isn’t just about problem-solving or learning commands. It’s also reflected in their emotional understanding. They are intuitive creatures, often seeming to sense their human’s moods and reacting accordingly.

Playfulness is another trait that stands out in the Spanish Water Dog. These dogs have a zest for life that is truly infectious. They bring a sense of adventure and joy to every day, their lively spirit adding a touch of fun to even the simplest of activities. Whether it’s chasing after a leaf blowing in the wind or simply prancing around the house, the Spanish Water Dog knows how to turn any moment into an exciting game.

But don’t be fooled by their playful demeanor. The Spanish Water Dog also has a calm, affectionate side. They form strong bonds with their families and are known for their loyalty.

They are happiest when they’re with their loved ones, often displaying their affection in the most endearing ways. A gentle nudge of their nose, a soft paw on your lap, a content sigh as they curl up next to you – these are all signs of a Spanish Water Dog’s love.

Despite their loving nature, Spanish Water Dogs also possess a brave spirit. They are fearless in the face of new experiences, taking everything in stride. This bravery is not about being reckless but rather about having the confidence to navigate the world around them. It’s a trait that makes them adaptable to different environments and situations.

When it comes to social interactions, Spanish Water Dogs are usually even-tempered. They are generally good-natured with people they know and can warm up to strangers once they feel comfortable. Their balanced temperament makes them a pleasure to be around.

One cannot talk about the Spanish Water Dog without mentioning their hardworking heritage. These dogs are natural herders and retrievers, traits that add depth to their personality. While their work ethic does not translate to needing a job in a family setting, it does give them a sense of purpose and fulfillment when engaged in activities that stimulate their minds.

black spanish water dog walking on a road
Photo: Ivica Gulija/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The ideal environment for the Spanish Water Dog is one that caters to their physical and mental needs while providing ample opportunities for socialization and training. These dogs thrive in the company of active, experienced pet parents who are committed to providing consistent guidance and engaging activities.

Physical Environment

A home with a securely fenced yard is preferable, as it allows them the space to romp, play, and explore safely. They enjoy participating in outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, and playing fetch, as well as taking part in dog sports such as agility, obedience, and rally.

These energetic canines need daily exercise to maintain their health and happiness, so a sedentary lifestyle or apartment living is not well-suited for the breed.

Climate Adaptability

In terms of climate adaptability, the Spanish Water Dog can tolerate both cold and hot temperatures reasonably well, thanks to their dense, woolly coat. However, owners should take necessary precautions to ensure their dog’s comfort and safety in extreme conditions.

In cold weather, provide them with a warm, dry shelter and monitor them for signs of discomfort when outdoors. During hot summer months, avoid exercising them during the hottest parts of the day, provide plenty of fresh water, and watch for signs of overheating.

Ideal Owner

The ideal pet parent for a Spanish Water Dog is someone who understands the breed’s unique characteristics and is willing to invest the time and effort needed to train, socialize, and exercise their dog. With the right environment and committed ownership, the Spanish Water Dog can flourish as a loving and devoted companion, sharing countless adventures with their family.

Other Pets

While these dogs generally get along well with other dogs if properly socialized, their strong prey drive might make them less compatible with smaller pets like cats or rabbits. Careful introductions and supervision are necessary when integrating them with other household pets.

spanish water dog with his tongue out
Photo: Jose Garcia Perez/Getty Images

Grooming

The Spanish Water Dog has unique grooming needs due to its distinctive, curly coat. While their grooming requirements are relatively low-maintenance compared to other breeds, it’s essential to understand and follow proper care routines to keep them looking and feeling their best.

Coat Care

The breed’s dense, woolly coat is composed of tight curls that require minimal brushing. In fact, brushing a Spanish Water Dog’s coat is generally discouraged, as it can damage the natural curl pattern and lead to matting. Instead, the coat should be periodically examined for tangles or debris and gently separated by hand if needed.

To maintain the coat’s texture and appearance, it’s recommended to trim the hair to a length of about 1-2 inches once or twice a year, depending on the individual dog’s coat growth rate.

One of the significant advantages of the Spanish Water Dog’s coat is that it’s hypoallergenic and doesn’t shed. This makes them an excellent option for allergy sufferers. However, they still produce dander, so regular baths with a gentle dog shampoo are necessary to keep their skin and coat clean and healthy. Aim to bathe your dog every 6-8 weeks or as needed, depending on their lifestyle and level of activity.

Dental Care

Like all dogs, the Spanish Water Dog requires regular dental care to maintain good oral health. It’s crucial to brush their teeth at least two to three times a week using pet-safe toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush or finger brush. This will help prevent tartar buildup, gum disease, and bad breath.

Additionally, consider providing dental chews or toys designed to promote dental health and reduce plaque.

Nail Trimming

Regular nail trimming is essential for the Spanish Water Dog, as long nails can cause discomfort and affect their gait. Aim to trim their nails every 3-4 weeks or as needed, depending on the individual dog’s nail growth rate. Use a guillotine-style or scissor-style nail clipper specifically designed for dogs, and be cautious not to cut into the quick, which can cause pain and bleeding. If you’re unsure about trimming your dog’s nails yourself, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian for guidance.

Ear Care

The Spanish Water Dog’s drop ears are prone to accumulating dirt and moisture, which can lead to infections if not properly maintained.

Check their ears weekly for signs of redness, odor, or discharge, and clean them gently using a soft cloth or cotton ball moistened with a veterinarian-recommended ear-cleaning solution. Avoid inserting anything into the ear canal, as this can cause injury or push debris further in.

Eye Care

Keep an eye on your Spanish Water Dog’s eyes and make sure they are clear and free of discharge. If you notice any buildup, gently clean the area around the eyes using a soft, damp cloth or pet-safe eye wipes.

spanish water dog sitting in a field during sunset
Photo: Nacho93/Getty Images

Exercise

The Spanish Water Dog is a highly energetic and active breed that requires regular exercise to maintain its physical and mental well-being. These dogs were bred for herding, hunting, and water activities, which means they have an innate need for stimulation and physical exertion.

Meeting their exercise needs is crucial for preventing boredom, destructive behaviors, and ensuring a happy, healthy companion.

Exercise Amount & Types

A daily exercise routine of at least one to two hours is recommended for the Spanish Water Dog. This can be divided into multiple sessions throughout the day, incorporating various activities to keep them engaged and challenged.

Some of their favorite exercises include swimming, hiking, running, and playing fetch. These activities not only cater to their natural instincts but also help build stamina, muscle tone, and coordination.

Dog Sports

In addition to outdoor activities, the Spanish Water Dog excels in dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally, and herding trials. Participating in these competitive events provides both physical and mental stimulation while strengthening the bond between you and your dog.

Training for dog sports can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for both you and your Spanish Water Dog, fostering teamwork and showcasing their impressive abilities.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Spanish Water Dog, it’s important to consider factors such as weather conditions, terrain, and their overall health. In hot weather, avoid exercising during the hottest parts of the day and provide plenty of fresh water to prevent overheating. During cold weather, monitor them for signs of discomfort and provide a warm, dry shelter when outdoors.

It’s also essential to tailor the exercise routine based on your dog’s age, health, and individual needs. Puppies and senior dogs may require modified exercise routines to accommodate their growing or aging bodies. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate exercise plan for your specific dog.

spanish water dog lying on a rock
Photo: Jose Garcia Perez/Getty Images

Training

The Spanish Water Dog is an intelligent and highly trainable breed, with a strong desire to please its owner. Their innate versatility as herding, hunting, and water dogs showcases their ability to learn and adapt to various tasks. However, their intelligence and independent nature also mean they require consistent, positive training methods to ensure success.

Training Approach

When training a Spanish Water Dog, it’s essential to establish a strong bond and clear communication from the beginning. Consistency and patience are key, as these dogs respond best to gentle guidance and firm boundaries.

Reward-based training methods, such as positive reinforcement, work exceptionally well with this breed. Offering praise, treats, or toys as rewards for desired behaviors will help motivate them and reinforce the lessons being taught.

Early Socialization

Early socialization is crucial for the Spanish Water Dog, as it helps them develop into well-rounded, confident adults. Exposing them to various environments, people, and other animals from an early age will foster positive associations and reduce the likelihood of fear or aggression towards new experiences.

Basic Obedience

Obedience training should be introduced as early as possible, starting with basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” As your Spanish Water Dog masters these foundational skills, you can gradually introduce more advanced commands and tricks. Keep training sessions short and engaging to maintain their interest and prevent boredom.

Additional Training Tips

It’s important to remember that each dog is an individual, and the ease of training may vary depending on factors such as temperament, previous experiences, and socialization. However, with commitment, consistency, and a positive approach, the Spanish Water Dog is capable of mastering a wide range of skills and becoming a well-behaved, obedient companion.

spanish water dog with a ball in his mouth
Photo: Jose Garcia Perez/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

What to Feed & How Much

To ensure that your Spanish Water Dog receives the necessary nutrients, it’s important to choose a high-quality dog food that follows the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. These guidelines ensure that the food contains the right balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health.

There are various types of dog food available, including dry kibble, wet food, and raw diets. The choice depends on your personal preference and your dog’s specific needs. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best option for your Spanish Water Dog’s age, activity level, and any special dietary requirements they may have.

The amount of food you should feed your Spanish Water Dog depends on factors such as their age, weight, activity level, and metabolism. Generally, puppies require more frequent meals (3-4 times a day) to support their growth and development.

As they mature into adulthood, you can transition to feeding them twice a day. Senior dogs may have different nutritional needs and might require adjustments in their diet based on their health and activity levels.

It’s essential to monitor your dog’s weight and adjust their food intake accordingly to prevent obesity, which can lead to various health issues. Always follow the feeding guidelines provided on the dog food packaging and consult your veterinarian if you’re unsure about portion sizes.

Treats

Treats can be an excellent tool for training and rewarding good behavior, but they should be given in moderation to avoid excessive calorie intake. Opt for healthy treats, like small pieces of lean meat, fruits, or vegetables, and always ensure that the treats are safe and suitable for dogs.

Avoid feeding your Spanish Water Dog human foods that can be toxic or harmful to their health, such as chocolate, grapes, onions, and garlic.

Water

Fresh water should always be readily available for your Spanish Water Dog. Provide clean water in a suitable bowl and ensure that it’s refilled regularly to encourage proper hydration.

spanish water dog puppy running on the snow
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Health

The Spanish Water Dog is a generally healthy breed with a life expectancy of around 12-14 years. However, like all dogs, they can be prone to certain health issues. Responsible breeding practices, a healthy diet, regular veterinary check-ups, and vaccinations can help maintain their overall health and prevent potential problems.

Common health issues associated with the Spanish Water Dog include:

Hip Dysplasia: This hereditary condition occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, causing the ball and socket to grind against each other instead of sliding smoothly. This can lead to pain, arthritis, and mobility issues over time. Regular check-ups and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition and alleviate discomfort.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an inherited eye disorder that causes the gradual degeneration of the retina, eventually leading to blindness. There is no cure for PRA, but early detection through regular eye exams can help manage the condition and prepare for any lifestyle adjustments required as the dog’s vision declines.

Hypothyroidism: This endocrine disorder results from an underactive thyroid gland, leading to symptoms such as weight gain, lethargy, skin issues, and hair loss. Hypothyroidism can be managed with medication and regular monitoring of the dog’s thyroid levels.

Allergies: Spanish Water Dogs can be prone to various allergies, including food, environmental, and contact allergies. Identifying the allergens and managing them through diet, medication, or environmental adjustments can help alleviate the symptoms and improve the dog’s quality of life.

Gastric Torsion (Bloat): This life-threatening condition occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. Symptoms include a distended abdomen, excessive drooling, and signs of distress. Gastric torsion requires immediate veterinary attention, and preventive measures such as feeding smaller meals more frequently and avoiding rigorous exercise around meal times can help reduce the risk.

To keep your Spanish Water Dog healthy, provide them with a balanced diet that meets their specific nutritional needs, and consult your veterinarian about an appropriate vaccination schedule. Regular veterinary check-ups, including routine blood tests, dental exams, and eye exams, can help detect and address potential health issues early on.

By being proactive about your Spanish Water Dog’s health and addressing any concerns promptly, you can help ensure a long, happy, and healthy life for your beloved companion.

spanish water dog lying on a park bench
Photo: Kurt Pas/Getty Images

History

The Spanish Water Dog, also known as Perro de Agua Español, has a rich history that dates back several centuries. While the exact origins of the breed are not well-documented, it is widely believed that they originated in Spain, where they were primarily used for herding livestock, hunting, and retrieving waterfowl.

Some theories suggest that the Spanish Water Dog’s ancestors were brought to the Iberian Peninsula by Moorish traders and settlers around the 8th century.

These early dogs were likely crossbred with local breeds, eventually developing into the versatile and adaptable Spanish Water Dog we know today. The breed’s distinctive curly coat, which is hypoallergenic and water-resistant, was particularly advantageous in their work as water retrievers.

Over time, the Spanish Water Dog became an indispensable working companion for Spanish shepherds and farmers, thanks to their intelligence, agility, and strong herding instincts.

They were not only skilled at herding sheep, goats, and cattle but also adept at hunting game and protecting their human families from predators. Their versatility and adaptability allowed them to excel in various roles across diverse terrains, including marshlands, mountains, and coastal areas.

Despite their long history in Spain, the Spanish Water Dog remained relatively unknown outside of their native region until the late 20th century.

The breed’s popularity began to grow in the 1970s when two enthusiasts, Antonio García Pérez and Santiago Montesinos, took an interest in preserving and promoting the breed. Their efforts led to the establishment of the first breed standard in 1985 and recognition by the Spanish Kennel Club (Real Sociedad Canina de España) in 1990.

The breed’s popularity continued to grow, and in 2005, the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized the Spanish Water Dog. A significant milestone was reached on January 1, 2015, when the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed and added it to the Herding Group. This recognition has further increased the breed’s visibility and interest among dog enthusiasts in the United States and beyond.

Today, the Spanish Water Dog is still primarily known as a versatile working dog, excelling in herding, hunting, and water activities. However, they have also gained recognition as loyal and affectionate companions, suitable for active families and individuals who appreciate their intelligence, energy, and unique appearance.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Spanish Water Dog in the United States is the Spanish Water Dog Club of America (SWDCA). Founded in 2004, the club is dedicated to promoting and preserving the Spanish Water Dog breed by providing education, resources, and support to enthusiasts and owners. You can visit their website for more information.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Spanish Water Dog’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

spanish water dog puppy sitting in a backyard
Photo: Jose Garcia Perez/Getty Images

Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Spanish Water Dog, it’s essential to carefully prepare and research to ensure a good fit for both you and the dog. Begin by learning about the breed’s temperament, exercise needs, and grooming requirements to determine if they align with your lifestyle and expectations.

Instead of buying from a breeder, consider rescuing a Spanish Water Dog in need of a loving home. Rescue organizations and shelters often have dogs available for adoption, providing a second chance for these deserving pets. Both the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Spanish Water Dog Club of America (SWDCA) offer resources and support to help you find and rescue a Spanish Water Dog.

Before bringing your new dog home, prepare by gathering essential supplies such as food, water bowls, toys, a bed, and grooming tools. Finally, ensure that your living space is safe and secure for your new companion.

FAQs

Are Spanish Water Dogs kid-friendly?

Yes, Spanish Water Dogs are generally friendly and affectionate with children. However, it’s essential to teach children how to interact with dogs respectfully and always supervise interactions between dogs and young children to ensure the safety of both parties.

Can Spanish Water Dogs be left alone for long periods?

While Spanish Water Dogs can tolerate being left alone for short periods, they need regular human interaction and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and separation anxiety. It’s crucial to provide them with daily exercise, playtime, and training sessions to keep them happy and well-adjusted.

Do Spanish Water Dogs have tails?

Spanish Water Dogs are born with tails, but in some countries, tail docking has been a common practice for working dogs. However, many countries have banned or restricted tail docking, and an undocked tail is now more common and widely accepted.

Are Spanish Water Dogs hypoallergenic?

Yes, Spanish Water Dogs are considered hypoallergenic due to their unique curly coat that produces minimal shedding. While no dog breed is entirely allergy-free, Spanish Water Dogs are a suitable option for those with mild to moderate pet allergies.

How much exercise do Spanish Water Dogs need?

Spanish Water Dogs are energetic and require 1-2 hours of daily exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. They enjoy activities such as walking, running, swimming, and participating in dog sports like agility, herding, and obedience trials.

Are Spanish Water Dogs good apartment dogs?

While Spanish Water Dogs can adapt to apartment living, they require sufficient daily exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. A well-exercised Spanish Water Dog is more likely to be content in smaller living spaces.

What is the grooming requirement for Spanish Water Dogs?

Spanish Water Dogs have a low-maintenance coat that requires minimal grooming. They should be brushed occasionally to prevent matting, and their coat can be trimmed or clipped every few months. Regular ear cleaning, nail trimming, and dental care are also essential for maintaining their overall health.

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