Despite the relatively recent appearance of these dogs in the U.S. and Canada, the Spanish Water Dog is an ancient breed of the Iberian Peninsula, and has a long history of working as a herding dog, and 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. As a breed that served many purposes in rural Spain, 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 they are “like Labradoodles” in that they are “hypoallergenic.” While unlike many Labradoodles, this breed does not shed, there is no such thing as a “hypoallergenic” dog. Marnie’s daughter has dog allergies, and her response to our dogs varies considerably between individual animals. Spanish Water Dogs are a true breed, with long established history and pedigrees, and with consistent similarity in their unique characteristics of temperament, appearance and structure. When asked at puppy class why our “Labradoodle” puppy was so calm, I simply replied, “Because it’s not a Labradoodle.”
While there will of course be variation between individuals, SWD’s are 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.
Probably of greatest importance in the early work and training with a Spanish Water Dog puppy is the need for ongoing opportunities for socialization and acclimatization with new people and situations. From an early age and continuing into adulthood, ongoing exposure to many different people and settings is needed to help these dogs develop comfort 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. In the early months, focus on interactive play, and a positive relationship that will support the more formal training that can begin around 6 months of age. As they mature, Spanish Water Dogs are highly focused on their owner-handlers, and are quick and willing learners.
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 and loose-eyed style, and their historical work on small holdings in Spain has resulted in a very capable farm dog.
* See Article written by Marnie in the June 2016 AKC Gazette (and the dog pictured is our very own “Chase.”)