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 versatile Spanish Water Dog has been a fixture of the Iberian Peninsula’s lakes and meadows for so long that the AKC is not quite sure how it got there.
One theory suggests it was brought from North Africa by the Moors who once occupied Spain. Another proposes that the breed was introduced to Spain by Turkish traders, hence its old nickname “The Turkish Dog.”
Spanish Water Dog Appearance
The Spanish Water Dog is 15 to 20 inches tall and weighs 31 to 49 pounds and is slightly longer than tall. They are a sturdy, athletic dog that is suited for performing a variety of tasks including herding, hunting, and assisting fishermen. 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).
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 with some owners choosing to let it grow for many months to form cords.
The Spanish Water Dogs life expectancy is 12 to 14 years. They are loyal working dogs with strong herding instincts. His working ability is attributed to an intense desire to please. They are deeply affectionate, energetic, and faithful. They thrive on the challenges and adventures of an active lifestyle becoming your most loyal companion for life.
Their high-energy requires a lot of mental and physical exercise. They also thrive on human contact. If you’re the active, outdoorsy type who loves getting the blood pumping, they are all in. Even better, give them jobs to do or participate in dog sports like agility, flyball or tracking.
They are protectors. For an independent type, the Spanish Water Dog is deeply loyal and faithful to their people, although they may have a favorite among family members. And because they are so loyal, with an instinct to protect, they may decide they are the guardians of their family and their territory. They are, above all, herders. In fact, they will herd anything that moves including the kids, other animals, and moving vehicles. Make sure small children are socialized with the Spanish Water Dog. Although protective in nature, SWDs should not be shy or aggressive.
The Spanish Water Dog is easy to train. They have a strong desire to please their owner and a quick intelligence. However, without a strong pack leader (meaning you) they may decide they are the boss. Their strong will and need for mental and physical stimulation requires a structured routine.
Caring for a Spanish Water Dog
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Spanish Water Dog.
While some owners do encounter occasional food allergies with their Spanish Water Dogs, the breed should do well on a high-quality dog food. A Some dogs are prone to becoming 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.
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. SWDs are extremely biddable and willing to please. 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. Ongoing socialization as well as positive new experiences are essential from an early age.
The SWD seems to be a very healthy breed; however, the following health issues have been found in them:
- Compensative Autoimmune Thyroiditis: The body’s immune system begins to attack the thyroid gland, sometimes before two years of age. Dogs may exhibit all, some or none of the following symptoms: lethargy, dullness, hair thinning or loss, intolerance to cold (hypothermia), obesity, elevated cholesterol levels.
- Congenital Hypothyroidism with Goiter (CHG): CHG is caused by inadequate thyroid hormone production and is generally detectable within the first two weeks of life. Untreated, it is lethal. The disease is passed through a simple recessive gene.
- Allergies: There are three main types of allergies: food-based allergies, contact allergies, and inhalant allergies.
Because Spanish Water Dogs are so active and energetic as puppies, they may seriously injure themselves from too much running and jumping when their skeletal structure is still developing.
Their ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection and cleaned regularly with a damp cloth; never use cotton swabs as they can damage the ear canal. SWD teeth should be brushed often, ideally every day, using a toothpaste formulated for dogs. Plaque and tartar buildup can result in infections which can cause organ damage.
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