Despite the relatively recent appearance of these dogs in the U.S. and Canada, the Spanish Water Dog has a long history on the Iberian Peninsula as a herding dog, as well as assisting fishermen and hunters. Known also as the Turco Andaluz or Perro de Agua Español (PDAE) this medium-sized breed is a versatile working dog. Spanish Water Dogs have historically been valued for their intelligence and alert and protective nature, as well as an enthusiastic work ethic. These dogs are exceptionally loyal and devoted to their owners/families.
We are often asked if Spanish Water Dogs are “hypoallergenic.” Although this breed sheds minimally, please remember that there is no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” dog. We have had several potential buyers visit us and our dogs and be disappointed when close contact with the dogs results in an allergic response. Also, there is much more to a Spanish Water Dog than its coat…
If you are considering a Spanish Water Dog for your family, it is extremely important that you have an awareness and understanding of this breed’s temperament. Generally speaking, these dogs are extremely vigilant, and wary of strangers. Although not yappy, they will alarm bark at anything/ anyone that they perceive as a danger or intruder to their space. With their inherent preference to really only interact with people they know, it is imperative that a Spanish Water Dog puppy experience many different people, sights, sounds and situations throughout puppyhood and beyond through a positive and supportive approach. And, even with lots of intentional socialization, a Spanish Water Dog is never going to be that dog that loves everyone.
It is also important to recognize that one of the breed’s primary historical functions was herding. This means that most of these dogs have a strong inherent prey drive. This may show itself through a keen desire to chase wildlife, or perhaps an inclination to nip at heels of running children, or the arrival in your home or yard of people not known to them.
Spanish Water Dogs are highly intelligent companions who love to learn, and are usually biddable and eager to please. In addition to making them a pleasure to train, and highly successful in many dog performance events, this intelligence can also lead to destructive behaviour if they are bored. Think carefully about the time and effort that you can put into a puppy’s first 18 months if you are considering this wonderful breed.
Despite their loud bark and strong, athletic build, this is typically a fairly soft breed best managed through positive training methods. Harsh corrective methods may lead to reactivity and/or task avoidance. Reward and praise-based training will enhance the exceptionally strong natural bond that exists between these dogs and their owners, and help to continually build the dog’s self-confidence. Again, we stress the importance of, from an early age, and continuing into adulthood, ongoing exposure to many different people and settings to help these dogs develop a level of acceptance in being approached and handled by strangers, as well as feeling at ease in unfamiliar surroundings.
There are many excellent books and other training resources available describing Clicker Training and other reward-based methods. Foundation work can begin as early as a few weeks of age, but owners are cautioned to not put too much pressure on young puppies, and never undertake a “dominant pack leader” approach as this myth of behaviour management has been thoroughly debunked. Spanish Water Dogs are often described as “velcro dogs” that bond with their owners very quickly , and are quick and willing learners. “The Spanish Water Dog Book” by Wanda Sooby and Di Williamson is probably the best overall resource for detailed information on the breed. It can be ordered online at http://www.thespanishwaterdogbook.co.uk.
Training for herding is quite specialized, and owners who wish to pursue this with their dogs are encouraged to find an experienced trainer with a strong reputation for working successfully with diverse herding breeds. Spanish Water Dogs typically herd with an upright, loose-eyed style, and their historical work on small holdings in Spain was that of a very capable farm dog.