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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Spanish Water Dog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Spanish Water Dog
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Spanish Water Dog is one of the lesser known breeds here in the UK, although their numbers are slowly rising with more pedigree puppies being bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. The SWD is a medium sized dog that boasts having a distinct and attractive corded coat that covers their entire body. They are intelligent dogs with a tremendous amount of stamina which is one of the reasons they have always been so highly prized for their sporting abilities. However, the Spanish Water Dog is just as happy in the home environment and thrives on being part of family which makes them a great choice as a family pet thanks to their kind and loyal natures.
The actual origins of the Spanish Water Dog are a bit of a mystery, but they are believed to be one of the oldest breeds on the planet with some people believing the breed could have existed as far back as the Middle Ages or even to Roman times. These handsome dogs were first bred to herd sheep in their native Spain, but they proved themselves to be extremely good at retrieving game on water and land too which soon led to them being highly prized in their native Spain.
It is thought the breed was created using the Poodle as one of its founding breeds and that the Portuguese Water Dog may even be related to the SWD and they may well share the same ancestry. In the Andalusian region of Southern Spain, the Spanish Water Dog was often referred to as the ‘Andalusian Turk’ as they were thought to have descended from animals brought to the country on boats from Turkey, although experts are keen to point out that there were colonies of SWDs in Spain before Turkish traders arrived in Spain.
It was not until 1975 that breed enthusiasts travelled through southern Spain in search of examples of the breed with an end goal being to establish a breeding programme. Their endeavours led to the creation of the Spanish Water Dog we see today. In 1985 the breed was officially recognised by the Spanish Kennel Club, although it wasn’t permanently recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale for another 14 years. The breed did not arrive on British shores until 1992 and were recognised by The Kennel Club with more examples of the SWD being exhibited at dog shows today than ever before.
However, the Spanish Water Dog remains relatively unknown here in the UK with very few puppies being bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year, although their numbers are slowly rising. As such, anyone wishing to share a home with a SWD would need to register their interest with reputable breeders and go on a waiting list.
Height at the withers: Males 44 - 50 cm, Females 40 - 46 cm
Average weight: Males 18 - 22 kg, Females 14 - 18 kg
The Spanish Water Dog is a charming looking, medium sized dog that boasts a wonderfully corded coat. They have very elegant heads with just a slight hint of a stop. Their skulls are rather flat between the ears and dogs don't have a very prominent occiput. They have wide open nostrils with the corners of their lips being well defined. Their eyes are a nice oval shape and medium in size with dogs having a very kind and expressive look in them. They are set well apart and slightly obliquely on a dog's face and can be either a nice hazel or dark brown colour depending on the colour of a dog's coat.
Their ears are V-shaped being slightly rounded at the tips, medium in size and set just above the level of a dog's eyes. They drop down which dogs hold slightly forward when alert or excited. The Spanish Water Dog has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are quite short, but muscular with no dewlap and set nicely into a dog's shoulders. Front legs are well muscled, straight and strong without showing too much bone.
The SWD has a compact body and a nice level backs that’s slightly higher at the wither. Chests are deep and ribs well sprung with briskets reaching down to a dog's elbows. Hindquarters are powerful with dogs having strong back legs with well-muscled first and second thighs. Feet are tight and round with strong paw pads and toe nails that match the colour of a dog's coat. Tails are medium set and taper to the tip. Dogs carry their tails low, in the shape of a scimitar when at rest, but raised when excited or alert.
When it comes to their coat, the Spanish Water Dog boasts a striking corded coat which has a very wool-like texture. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
When a Spanish Water Dog moves, they do so with great purpose showing a brisk and athletic gait when they do with lots of power coming from their hindquarters.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
The Spanish Water Dog boasts having a tremendous sense of smell, sight and sound. As such they are true working dogs that enjoy nothing more than being out and about in the great outdoors. They are intelligent and sensitive by nature being just at ease in a home environment as they are working in the field. They form strong bonds with their owners and families and are known to be even-tempered dogs which is just one of the reasons they make such great family pets.
They are also known to have a very enthusiastic personality which sees these dogs being ultra-willing and eager to please. However, puppies must be well socialised from a young enough age for them to mature into well-rounded, obedient adult dogs. They are a great choice for families where the children are slightly older and who therefore know how to behave around dogs. Spanish Water Dogs tend to be a little aloof and wary of people they don't already know, but rarely would one of these dogs ever show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards a stranger, preferring to keep their distance until they get to know someone.
They are not the best choice for first time owners because a Spanish Water Dog needs to be handled and trained by someone who is familiar with this type of sporting dog and their specific needs. However, in the right hands, these striking dogs can be trained to be obedient dogs with particular attention being paid to the "recall" command. They are never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. They also need to know what an owner expects of them which in short, means their training must be consistent and always fair right from the start and then throughout a dog’s life.
As their name suggests, SWDs love being in water and are naturally strong swimmers which means care should be taken when walking them anywhere near more dangerous water courses just in case they decide to jump in.
Spanish Water Dogs are a good choice for first time dog owners providing they have the time to dedicate to an intelligent, active dog and one that enjoys being out and about as often as possible. They are renowned for being great around children of all ages which is why they are such a good family pet.
Spanish Water Dogs are very social by nature and even though they have working and hunting dogs in their lineage, they do not have a very high prey drive. However, this is not to say that a dog would not give chase to a smaller animal when the mood takes them and this includes squirrels and the cat from next door.
SWDs have a very playful side to their natures and enjoy playing lots of interactive games more especially activities that involve retrieving things which brings out their natural talents. They adore being in water and taking part in all sorts of watersports which they are especially good at.
Spanish Water Dogs are better suited to people who live in the country or who have secure back gardens they can safely run around in whenever possible. As such, they are not the best choice for anyone who lives in an apartment.
Although Spanish Water Dogs form strong ties with their families, they do not generally suffer from separation anxiety when they are left on their own providing it is never for too long that is. No dog likes to be left to their own devices for too long and it could lead to them developing behavioural issues which includes being destructive around the home which is often their way of keeping themselves entertained.
Spanish Water Dogs are not known to be "barkers" although they will voice an opinion when needed, bearing in mind that although they were originally bred to herd livestock, they proved extremely skilled at retrieving game from marshlands and water which they did efficiently and quietly only letting their handlers know when they found a bird.
All SWDs as their name suggests, love swimming and will take to the water whatever the weather is doing. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Spanish Water Dog off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
SWDs are not natural watchdogs although this is not to say a dog would not be quick off the mark to let an owner know when there are strangers about although they would rarely do this aggressively, preferring to keep their distance and bark to let an owner know they are upset about something.
The Spanish Water Dog is an intelligent character, but they do have a bit of a "wandering off" streak in them which is why it's so important to teach these dogs a strong "recall" command from a very young age. With this said, socialising them from a young enough age is extra important and their training also must start too. It's best to teach a SWD the basics when they are still puppies and to start their training in earnest as soon as they have been fully vaccinated and slightly older.
Being sensitive dogs by nature, a Spanish Water Dog does not respond well to any sort of harsh correction or heavy-handed training methods. The key to successfully training them is to use positive reinforcement and to make a training session as interesting as possible. It’s best to keep things nice and short without too much repetition which helps keep a Spanish Water Dog more focused on what is being asked of them which as a result achieves the best results.
Spanish Water Dog puppies like all other puppies are incredibly cute and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in their new homes. However, owners must start out as they mean to go on by teaching a puppy the ground rules. This helps them understand what is expected of them and what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. It also helps establish a "pecking" order and who is alpha dog in a household. All dogs need to know their place in the pack and the earlier they are taught this the better. As such, the first commands a SWD puppy should be taught are as follows:
Spanish Water Dogs make great family pets in households where the children are older and who therefore know how to behave around dogs. With this said, any interaction between younger children or toddlers and an SWD should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure things stay nice and calm.
If they have grown up with a family cat in the house, they usually get on well together, however, a Spanish Water Dog would not hesitate in chasing any other cats they don't know. Care should be taken when they are around any other smaller animals and pet, just in case.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Spanish Water Dog is between 10 and 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the SWD is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active, handsome dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
SWD puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Some SWDs gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart.
Spanish Water Dogs are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Spanish Water Dog breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
As of October 2008, Spanish Water Dog puppies with naturally occurring bobbed tails can be registered with the Kennel Club. This allows for a record to be made of lines that carry the gene responsible for naturally bobbed tails. The correct paperwork must be submitted at the time of registration which must be accompanied by a letter from a qualified UK vet.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured Breeders to use the following schemes on their stud dogs and all other breeders are strongly advised to follow suit:
As with any other breed, Spanish Water Dogs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
SWD puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including SWD puppies, bearing in mind that they are quite sensitive by nature and do not respond well to raised voices. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned, Spanish Water Dog puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Spanish Water Dogs need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a Spanish Water Dog in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include taking a look at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Spanish Water Dogs need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older SWDs don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
The Spanish Water Dog has a medium length coat that's made up of lots of cords or wooly curls which offers them a tremendous amount of protection from the elements. However, they are low maintenance in the grooming department although their coats do tend to pick up brambles and other debris all too easily which must be removed sooner rather than later. As their cords grow, they need to be gently pulled apart so they don't get too big. They don’t shed which is another great thing about a Spanish Water Dog's coat and which makes them a good choice for anyone who suffers from allergies, although the dander a dog sheds can also trigger an allergic reaction in people too.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Spanish Water Dog is an intelligent, high energy character and one that needs to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded, obedient dogs. This means giving them at least 60 minutes exercise a day and more if possible, which must include lots of "off the lead" time so they can really express themselves.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these energetic and lively dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, SWD puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a SWD puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Spanish Water Dog puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 12 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Spanish Water Dog must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult SWD can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Spanish Water Dog, you would need to register your interest with breeders and go on a waiting list because not many puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything from £400 to over £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Spanish Water Dog in northern England would be £26.85 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £61.72 a month (quote as of January 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a SWD and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1200 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Spanish Water Dog would be between £80 to £120 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree Spanish Water Spaniel puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Although not as well-known as other breeds, the Spanish Water Dog is gaining a fanbase in the UK which means that well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Spanish Water Dogs there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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