Water Training

KEEPING THE HISTORY ALIVE……..

 

The original importers of our breed in the early 1990’s, knowing the history of “agua” in the name, quickly sort to join the local Newfoundland Club to train our dogs in water rescue. Putting their natural retrieve instinct to good use in collecting items lost overboard and swimming out to retrieve surfboards and other small watercraft, even with the odd Newfie on board. Over the years as the breed was becoming established in the uk enthusiasts continued to enjoy these fun activities with their dogs.

2014 saw the official introduction of the SWDC New Natural Aptitude Water Tests designed to keep our dog’s heritage and skills alive, formally encouraging you with rewards for you and your dogs. These tests were developed by the SWDC from some of the historically traditional jobs our breed undertook as part of its daily routine in Spanish coastal fishing villages, in the north Llarado and the south Cadiz.

Tests were designed to complement those skills required by the breed classification within the Gun Dog Group: Minority Spaniel, where formal KC gun dog tests are available, which generally include water retrieves.

Our SWDC tests are specific to our breed and reflect other, more demanding, aspects of traditional water skills used by Spanish fishermen decades ago. These tests are designed to harness and refine the natural skills which are stamped into the DNA of many of our breed. Many of you have already seen how good your dog is in water, retrieving and diving for sunken or lost toys! You are indeed seeing the SWD’s natural abilities which they love to practice. Our aim is to hone these skills and provide you with a framework to gauge and train your dog to be able to achieve our tests, which are recorded to preserve our Breeds heritage and provide you with achievement certificates.

Spanish Water Dog Water Training Awards

Initially we set out three test levels to reflect your dog’s Natural Ability. The Bronze and Silver Levels do not require much or any formal training except basic obedience with the Gold needing a greater skill set from both the handler and dog team.

Together with retrieving skills some of our clever dogs have the ability to dive under the water to find sunken objects,

Naturally, some Spanish water dogs have this capacity to Dive to recover items, you can see some examples of them performing these skills both on YouTube and in the video below.

Here in the UK today we too have a number of dogs at various levels of diving but at the moment about the best I know is Pickle owned by Kate: she is a complete natural and her skill levels have steadily been increasing to underwater retrieving of items trapped under the stern of water craft. On a note of caution here please only try his in a controlled environment, as its is a dangerous risk to your dogs health if not actioned correctly, please train with caution.

The first signs of a potential diving dog is when they are playing in their water bowls and they exhale bubbles from their nose, you will think it looks cute, if rather messy! It means they are blocking water entering the nose naturally and so we see the beginnings of a diver.

Diving can be achieved in one of three ways; 

  1. By them circling in the water and diving;

  2. Swimming down in a corkscrew style; or

  3. By jumping from a height to gain momentum to start the swim down.

Spanish Water Dog Diving into a lagoon

Our breed is known to be fearless, be very aware of the drive you can unleash in making this a fun sport for you and your best friend. In my recent experience, one of my girls whilst accompanying me on a Dolphin watching trip in Wales was fascinated enough to try to jump overboard to join the pod! She who usually is not excited about water, despite being an excellent swimmer, proved with the right stimulus prey drive is a powerful instinct. Our breed has this in bucket loads.

The SWDC will update you on any Water training or Test days we plan in the future.

THE 3 WATER TESTS

The club hold regular water training days to work towards three awards. 

 

This training has been specially designed to gently help the dogs get used to working in the water under controlled situations. Whilst some of the breed show no fear and go diving straight in others can be a little more tentative as they start out and need help and encouragement to introduce them to the water to set their nerves at rest.  It is  vitally important though that  the dog is not pushed into a position it is not comfortable with.  Doing so will only serve to raise its wariness of the water, making it harder to coax them back in.  Let the dog lead in what it's comfortable doing.  That way it's natural ability will grow and start to take over and soon enough they will love it so much you will be struggling to get them out.

There are two sets of water tests, one for Open Water and the other for Indoor Tests, each having three awards; Bronze, Silver and Gold standard.  The following are the test criteria for Open Water:

THE 3 OPEN WATER TESTS

Spanish Water Dog Club Bronze Water Test
Spanish Water Dog Club Silver Water Test
Spanish Water Dog Club Gold Water Test

The tests were designed for open water and until 2019 we were at the mercy of the UK weather and water conditions to host events. Conditions to teach or practice Dive was very difficult!

So, in 2019 I wrote this in our yearbook…….

2019 was a quiet year for water training, as the regular followers had got to a stage where the lake we were using, could not support the diving skills required for the Gold Test. When I was made aware of a fantastic new facility, indoors, chlorine free water, a huge pool even with a 3 -meter rib, for our use, I was in heaven!

I called Nigel and Alison Haslan and found out they are experienced handlers of Leo’s (Leonbergers) and Newfies (Newfoundlands) and were keen to see what our dogs could do. After a very successful meeting I took our crew for a dip resulting in them saying they were keen to host a day of primarily Diving session for SWD.

The Going4Gold Weekend was arranged and as expected was a great help with specific training for diving. A few dedicated Gold seekers camped over and despite the horrible weather outside we had the amazing SWIM4PAWS to ourselves.

Our dogs made great progress, thank you to Nigel and Alison who were great facilitators.

What we learnt from that trial day was our original tests were not achievable in this indoor pool – so we decided to adapt them to fit the new location so people could train and still take the tests indoors at SWIM4PAWS. The advantages are endless building confidence in a controlled environment, clean water, flow jets if required to strengthen muscle tone and learn to swim through resistance, fully equipped for dog and humans.

The Club will be hosting some weekend sessions at SWIM4PAWS for Bronze Silver and Gold Natural Aptitude Skills Tests on the Indoor Test Criteria below:

THE 3 INDOOR WATER TESTS

Please check the website EVENTS for details - or between sessions you can go direct to SWIM 4 PAWS where Nigel has his own tests and activities to enjoy.

Spanish Water Dogs like humans don’t all swim, and many need a little help to swim correctly.

Be aware if you notice your dog swims upright .  It would be better to use a buoyancy aid to help it learn to use its back legs.  Also water ingestion can be fatal so please moderate water retrieves if your dog carries the object low in the water, this can result in the dog swallowing large amounts of water. A constant ‘rasping’ sound signals water hitting the back of the throat, try changing the weight of the decoy, to see if this helps. If training, take regular dog down time to keep your dog’s adrenaline lower and recovery time quicker.

Swimming with your dog is great fun but please remember there are risks and be careful-never swim in water that has Blue Green Algae or if in the sea be aware of rip tides.

How to Prevent Water Intoxication in Dogs

SWD Enjoying Water Training in Other European Countries

My name is Petra van Dam and I live in The Netherlands. I am the proud owner of three Spanish Water Dogs. Two of my dogs and I participate in water training and that’s what I’m going to tell you about in this piece.

Ever since I owned a Spanish Water Dog, I have been interested in the water training. I have always been amazed by their ability to swim and dive, their drive and mentality to work for their owners. It was a real dream to own a SWD that was able to perform the tasks in the water the breed was once bred for. When my homebred boy Jack grew up, it quickly was clear he was a real water dog. We can’t keep him out of the water, and he is always eager to do water retrieves. I went on searching for a group that was willing to let us train with them and after quite a while I found an enthusiastic group that we could join. This group originally only trained Newfoundlanders, but let other breeds join in after a few years. When we went to our first training, our dogs were assessed for their swimming ability. Not all dogs are ‘good’ swimmers, but luckily our dogs passed the test.

The exercises we train are based on the Newfoundlanders, but our Spaniards aren’t inferior to the Newfies! They might not be as big as the Newfoundlanders (or other big breeds), but they are fast, clever, strong and agile swimmers.

For approximately the last two years we train with this group from April to October every other week. At the training it is obligatory for my dogs to wear a life vest, therefore my dogs wear it in all my pictures. Several different exercises are trained, based on the level of the dog involved. It should always be fun and safe for the dog; our dogs sure love the trainings and they’re always eager for their turn!

We have trained our SWDs to jump from the rubber boat and swim to the shore to deliver their retrieve (a dummy) to us. Furthermore, they have learned to swim to the rubber boat when it’s offshore, pick up a dummy and pull the boat back to shore by the dummy. I thought it was amazing our boy could pull the boat to shore with 3 to 4 adults in the boat! Other than they have learned to pick up retrieves the boat when it’s offshore, which can consist of a dummy, a life buoy or a life-sized doll. Jack has also picked up a dropped dummy in the water and brought it back to the boat by request.

It’s great to see how fast they learn and how much they love it.

For approximately the last two years we train with this group from April to October every other week. At the training it is obligatory for my dogs to wear a life vest, therefore my dogs wear it in all my pictures. Several different exercises are trained, based on the level of the dog involved. It should always be fun and safe for the dog; our dogs sure love the trainings and they’re always eager for their turn!

We have trained our SWDs to jump from the rubber boat and swim to the shore to deliver their retrieve (a dummy) to us. Furthermore, they have learned to swim to the rubber boat when it’s offshore, pick up a dummy and pull the boat back to shore by the dummy. I thought it was amazing our boy could pull the boat to shore with 3 to 4 adults in the boat! Other than they have learned to pick up retrieves the boat when it’s offshore, which can consist of a dummy, a life buoy or a life-sized doll. Jack has also picked up a dropped dummy in the water and brought it back to the boat by request.

It’s great to see how fast they learn and how much they love it.

This year I have purchased a wetsuit for the trainings and trained my dogs to pick me up after getting in the water, I play to be a drowning person. My dog is staying with a volunteer at the shore, while I go on the boat. When the boat is quite a bit offshore, I then jumped of it and call my dog. As fast as they can they will swim to me, then I always hand them over a retrieve, and they will bring me back to shore as I will grab their life vest.

It is amazing to see how much fun the dogs have working; they are always happy when they know they’re at the water trainings. It makes me so proud to see what they can do and in my spare time I also love to train them on water retrieves. My dogs don’t see it as a training, they’re just having fun!

I hope you have enjoyed reading my piece and have become curious about the trainings yourself. I would highly recommend everyone to participate in water training if your SWD is loving to swim.

You’ll be amazed about their abilities in the water and it is so much fun for both you and your SWD!

Petra 2016

The Spanish Water Dog Club is proud to be  recognised as the only official Kennel Club Breed Club for the Spanish Water Dog in the UK.

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Spanish Water Dog Bronze Water Test