This dual-purpose breed was bred to be both a waterfowl retriever and a herder. They also make relatively good companions and can be utilized as watchdogs in some cases.
Active families with plenty of time
Loyal, affectionate, smart
Their wooly coat sets them apart from most other breeds and helps them stay warm even in cold water. It’s naturally curly and resembles the coat of a sheep, hence the term “wooly.” If it is grown out, it will form tight cords. However, many people keep their dogs’ coats cut short.
These dogs have often been described as “rustic.”
Spanish Water Dog Characteristics
Spanish Water Dog Puppies
Spanish Water Dogs are a bit rare. Therefore, they are considered to be a bit on the expensive side. These loyal dogs are perfect for active families. They are very smart and affectionate.
We highly recommend purchasing from a breeder, as they do all the proper health testing to ensure that their dams and sires are healthy before breeding. If you want the guarantee of a healthy dog, this step is necessary.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Spanish Water Dog
The Spanish Water Dog is known for being a great family pet. They are devoted to their people and bred to bond closely with their owners. For this reason, they are often great for families of all sorts.
They aren’t quite as affectionate with strangers, though. Therefore, they can be utilized as watchdogs in some cases. They do require a bit of socialization to ensure that they are at least somewhat open to family guests.
Since they are working dogs, you can expect this breed to be excitable and active. They are playful, so they are best for an active family that would enjoy hours of outdoor play. If you’re looking for a dog that will just sit around and cuddle, this probably isn’t the right canine for you.
As these dogs were bred to work closely with their owner, they are quite trainable. They can learn most commands and listen when those commands are given in real-life situations. They may not be as obedient as a German Shepherd, for example, but you should have no issue training them to function in normal family life.
These dogs aren’t that vocal. They will bark when surprised or if they notice strange people outside the house. However, they are not alert dogs in the least.
Their mental stimulation need is quite high. They were bred to be constantly active and thinking about something. Unless you can provide this level of activity, you may want to consider purchasing a different dog.
Puzzle toys and obedience training are easy ways to mentally stimulate this breed. Hunting, retrieving, and other canine sports are also great options.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪
For the right family, this dog can be perfect. They are affectionate with their family and bond closely with all members. They are not one-person dogs like some other breeds.
They can be good with children as long as they are socialized properly. You should have them be around children frequently, starting at a young age.
Their medium-size build is perfect for children. They are large enough to prevent getting injured easily, which makes it more likely that the dog will be comfortable around kids. Most bites aimed at children are due to fear, which usually derives from the dog getting hit or being stepped on by the child.
But they also aren’t so large that they will easily knock children over.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?
Spanish Water Dogs are great with other canines. They are a bit pack-oriented, so they often bond easily with other dogs and even get along with dogs that they don’t know well.
That said, you still can’t skip out on socialization. You should socialize this breed just like you would any other breed to ensure that they are friendly with members of the same species. Otherwise, they may not gain the social skills that they need to thrive.
However, these dogs have a big prey drive. You should not expect them to readily accept cats and other small pets. In many cases, they will assume that they are prey animals and will chase them appropriately.
Socialization doesn’t always work to prevent this. These dogs were simply bred to chase things.
Things to Know When Owning a Spanish Water Dog
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
These dogs don’t have any breed-wide special dietary needs. They tend to do well on just about any high-quality dog food, whether it is fresh food or decent kibble.
Sometimes, though, owners will need to consider food allergies. Spanish Water Dogs are somewhat prone to this problem, though not to the extent that some other breeds are.
If your dog has food allergies, the only way to prevent symptoms is to avoid whatever ingredient they are allergic to. Often, this is some sort of protein, like chicken or beef. Grain can also be a cause of allergies.
Since these dogs were made to be active, you should be careful about their body weight. If they are kept as a companion animal alone, they may not exercise to the extent that they should. In many cases, this can lead to obesity and similar issues, which can gravely affect the dog’s health.
Be careful about adding too many treats and table scraps to your dog’s diet. While they can be an important part of training, they can also cause health problems.
This breed was bred to work all day, so they are extremely active. They have some of the higher energy levels of any breed, so you must take them outside to exercise frequently.
Without the right exercise, these dogs can be prone to obesity. They may also become destructive due to boredom.
You should preferably let these dogs run around outside at least once a day. A fenced-in area is often best for this. However, you can also try riding a bike while walking the dog or something of that sort.
As long as you properly keep them exercised, they can behave in a home without much of a problem.
These dogs are strong swimmers and often like to be around water. However, they do require an introduction to water at a young age if you want them to take well to it. If you wait until they are adults, they often won’t enjoy swimming that much.
If you like boating or something involving water, this breed may be perfect for you.
The Spanish Water Dog is both intelligent and active, which makes them easy to train. They love problem-solving and take well to positive reinforcement training.
This breed is eager to please and often just wants to make their owners happy. They aren’t stubborn in the least. Their versatile nature enables them to learn many different things
However, it is important to remember that these are herding dogs, so they have a decently high prey drive. They will chase just about anything, and many may be unable to restrain themselves from chasing smaller creatures. Therefore, they are not great for off-leash work. Some of them may never be trusted to actually stay with you.
These dogs are extremely affectionate with their owners and family members, but they can be a bit aloof around strangers. Therefore, socialization is essential to prevent them from potentially becoming aggressive.
When it comes to grooming a Spanish Water Dog, the rules are much different than for any other breed. First, you should never brush their coat. It should also be kept at the same length all over if you wish to trim it at any point.
How short you keep it depends on your preferences. There are many options for this breed. Some owners have their dog trimmed every month, while others may choose to let it grow for many months. If it is allowed to grow long, the coat will form cords.
While this breed is usually easy to groom, the cording process does require a certain amount of ongoing attention. Cording this breed is different from cording some other breeds, so you should be sure to get information from someone specifically capable with the Spanish Water Dog.
Often, you can speak with the breeder whom you purchased the dog from to get information on cording their coat if that is something that you want to do. Once you are taught how to cord their coat, it is quite straightforward.
Health and Conditions 🏥
Typically, these dogs are healthy. They are not as prone to genetic problems as some other breeds out there. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are completely free from all health problems.
They are most commonly prone to hip dysplasia, though this is a problem with large breeds in general. This condition is linked to genetics, but it is also caused by environmental issues, like improper diet or exercise.
That said, hip dysplasia in Spanish Water Dogs doesn’t seem to lead to the debilitating arthritis that is common in some larger breeds.
Spanish Water Dogs are also prone to a variety of different eye conditions. These range from glaucoma to progressive retinal atrophy. Many of these can be detected by genetic tests or exams. Therefore, it is recommended that you only purchase puppies that were bred from parents with the proper eye clearances.
This breed is also prone to hypothyroidism. It is recommended that dogs are tested for this condition before they are bred to ensure that they aren’t carriers for this issue.
Male vs. Female
There is no significant difference between males and females of this breed. There may be a slight size difference, but it is often too small to be seriously noticeable. There are no temperament differences beyond the usual ones. Females will go in heat, and males may be more likely to wander (especially if they smell a female). However, these are normal differences that are apparent in all breeds.
3 Little-Known Facts About the Spanish Water Dog
1. The Spanish Water Dog was once in the sporting group.
When they were originally recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), this breed was put into the sporting group. However, in 2011, the breed was placed into the herding group instead upon request from the breed’s parent club.
2. They weren’t allowed to compete in AKC herding events until 2008.
Originally, these dogs were not allowed to compete in herding events despite being herding dogs. This was changed in 2008, before the breed was put into the herding group.
3. This breed was utilized for many different purposes.
When they were originally bred, the Spanish Water Dog was utilized for many different purposes. One of these was waterfowl retrieving, hence the dog’s name. However, they were also companion animals.
Spanish Water Dogs can be good companion animals if you have the time to take care of them properly. They do require quite a bit of exercise, and their intelligence means that they can easily become bored and destructive.
In the end, this means you have to do quite a bit of work to keep these dogs happy and healthy.
However, they bond closely with their family members and are quite obedient. If you have the time to devote to them, they may be the dog that you’re looking for.
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Featured Image Credit: Daz Stock, Shutterstock