About the Dogs
Characteristics and Temperament
Spanish Water Dogs are lively, athletic and versatile. They are incredibly intelligent, willing working dogs and are easy to train, having the ability to learn quickly and remember for a long time. Their memories are amazing. However, such clever dogs are apt to learn the wrong things as quickly as they do the right ones! They are also adept at training their owners, which can be problematic as many of them are inherently “bossy”, and inclined to take matters into their own hands if they believe themselves to be “in charge”!
People are often drawn to this breed by their curls and their appearance. Spanish Water Dogs are cute – very – in more ways than one! With their curly coats and sparkling eyes they look adorable but in reality they are serious workers in sheepskin coats ! They will do anything we can train them to do but they are very sensitive, they do guard and they do like to be in control. They can be independent when working and will often work things out for themselves. They can be quite vocal but as long as this is not encouraged it should not be a problem!
In Spain, they are the ‘all purpose’ dog and can be trained to herd, hunt and guard. In this country they are trained in a variety of disciplines including gundog work, water work, agility, flyball, search & rescue and obedience. They are not couch potatoes!
Spanish Water Dogs make excellent family pets but the whole family should be involved in their training so that they give 110% to everyone. They are, by nature, aloof with strangers and have a strong guarding instinct. This reserved temperament can be mistaken for timidity or nervousness but this breed will take time to weigh up and accept people they don’t know. Early socialisation is vitally important for puppies and the ideal age for a puppy to go to its new home is from seven to eight weeks of age. The puppy should attend training classes as soon as possible but care should be taken to choose modern, motivational trainers as these dogs will not respond well to old-fashioned punishment-based training methods. Harsh treatment, choke chains and “firm” voice training will result in a dog that is unable to trust people and therefore unreliable later in life.
The Spanish Water Dog is a very primitive breed that has been living in the modern world for a relatively short time. There are aspects of its character and development that can become problematic if the dog is handled roughly or unsympathetically. The critical time with many Spanish is the second fear imprint stage that usually commences at around ten months, lasting from four to six months. At this time many previously relaxed dogs suddenly appear to become wary of people or rush around barking and trying to drive people away. If handled correctly this difficult time will pass and the loveable puppy will grow into a well-balanced dog. Advice should be sought before acquiring a puppy so that the situation is fully understood.
Spanish Water Dogs are particularly agile and can scale or jump substantial heights. They are also very fast. They are beginning to make their mark in the gundog field as well as agility and flyball. Of course, their ability to work in water is a joy to watch and anyone who is thinking of coming into the breed may have to be prepared to live with a dog that loves to be wet and dirty! Regular swimming helps to keep the coat in the correct condition.
The Coat and Appearance
This breed is described as ‘rustic’ and the coat is kept in a natural state. The coat should have a woolly texture and it grows into curls which then develop into cords. The cords should be separated only by using the fingers. It should not be brushed or combed.
In Spain, each spring, the farmers would shear the sheep and do the dogs at the same time. This has been adopted as the correct way of keeping the coat so when the coat reaches the maximum length and is becoming matted it is clipped off. The clip should be even, all over, with no sculpturing or shaping. (ie no pompoms!) For showing purposes the coat should be 1.5 inches to 5 inches in length in tight curls but not matted. If the dog is not being shown it is often clipped off more frequently.
The breed standard describes the various physical aspects of the breed but the Spanish Water Dog should be lithe and well muscled, particularly at the rear. They should have the ability to cover the ground effortlessly and have a tendency towards single tracking.