Spanish Water Dog: Your Extraordinary Multipurpose Friend

Spanish Water Dog standing in the field
John Walton
Written by John Walton

We all know how hard it is to find a multipurpose dog. Imagine a dog who can hunt, herd, be the best companion, be a rescue dog, is excellent in sports, and an excellent watchdog all in one. If you’re looking for such a reliable dog, you are in luck because this article is about one of the most versatile breeds we know: the Spanish Water Dog (SWD).

The most notable feature of this breed is its unique coat that is curly and woolly from head to toe. This medium-sized breed is athletic, loyal, and intelligent. If you are looking for an acquaintance, a companion, or a skilled hunter, the Spanish Water Dog has all these characteristics.

In this article, we look at the characteristics of this breed and provide thorough and well-researched information on the breed. We will discuss their physical characteristics and mental prowess, as well as how to care for them. This will make it easier for you to decide if you would want this dog in your home.

Breed Characteristics

dark Spanish Water Dog in the field

  • Adaptability: Very Good; the Spanish Water Dog adjusts well and is highly resistant to diseases

  • Trainability: Moderate; the Spanish Water Dog can readily adapt to training though they are sensitive and like to be in control

  • Health and Grooming: Moderate; shearing of the coat should be done once or twice a year

  • All Around Friendliness: Moderate; these dogs have excellent protective instincts. Hence they do not trust strangers. They are friendly and playful especially to children and people that have been brought up with them

  • Exercise Needs: High Maintenance; training of this dog for herding or any other dog sports will facilitate in achieving the physical and mental stimulation they need

Dog Breed GroupHerding Dogs
HeightMale: 17 - 20 inches
Female: 16 - 18 inches
WeightMale: 40 – 48 pounds
Female: 30 - 40 pounds
Lifespan10 - 14 years

The Spanish Water Dog is a herding and sporting dog from Spain. Their origins can be traced back to the region of Iberian Peninsula where they were used as multipurpose dogs in hunting, herding, and helping fishermen to retrieve things from water.

The breed was first given an official status by the Spanish Kennel Club in the year 1985. The American Kennel Club then later recognized the breed in the year 2004.

The breed has very sensitive and strong protective instincts. Hence it is an excellent watchdog. Their intelligence has caused them to be used widely in herding large numbers of cattle with little signaling from the herder.

The Spanish Water Dog has the ability to dive up to 10 feet or more underwater. Due to their excellent skills in swimming just as easily as they can move on different types of terrain, anglers have used this dog in retrieving nets and catching fish that have escaped the fisherman.

The Spanish Water Dog is a quick and exceptional learner. With some minimal training, they learn to obey every command or signal that they are given. However, they need an experienced trainer as they require a lot of patience during training.

The Spanish Water Dog is one of the most loyal dogs in the world. The dog is wary of strangers. We, therefore, recommend that you train your dog from puppyhood to familiarize them with different situations and all the family members. These dogs are very friendly and playful with children if they have been brought up together.

The Spanish Water Dog needs plenty of exercises since they are very active dogs. An owner who is active in jogging and other sports is the best fit for this dog to maintain their playfulness and charm.

Main Highlights

Spanish Water Dog head

  • The Spanish Water Dog originated from the Iberian Peninsula in Spain, dating back to 1110 CE.

  • A number of shepherd dogs were borrowed from the shepherds to establish a breeding program for this breed in the year 1975.

  • In order to promote and recognize this breed, a Spanish Water Dog club was established in the year 1980.

  • The Spanish Water Dog can dive up to 10 feet or more underwater. They have webbed feet that enable them to swim efficiently.

  • These dogs are a known barker, but they rarely bite.

  • They are low maintenance dogs when it comes to their grooming, and they have non-shedding coats.

  • The Spanish Water Dog is an excellent choice for a first-time dog owner who has the time to dedicate to an intelligent and active dog.

  • Due to their charm and playfulness, they make great companions for their owners and are very friendly toward little children.

  • This dog has the ability to drive a large herd of cattle with minimal commands from the shepherd. Due to their sharp guarding instincts, they can bark or chase the cattle when they cross any boundaries.

  • The dog has been used in Guadalquivir River in Servile to help the ships to reach the dock. They do this by holding and pulling the ropes in their mouths as they pull the ships to the dock.

  • The Spanish Water Dog has helped in fishing in many regions like Cantabria and Basque.

  • They are similar in appearance with other water breed dogs like the Portuguese Water Dog, the French Barbet, and the Irish Water Spaniel.

  • The Spanish Water Dog is often used in hunting rabbits and retrieving ducks in rivers.

  • The Spanish Water Dog has a relatively long lifespan of 10 — 14 years.

  • The Spanish Water Dog is hypoallergic.

  • In January 2005, the Spanish Water Dog was allowed to participate in the herding group competition by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Breed History

Spanish Water Dog puppy sitting

The Spanish Water Dog origin can be traced to the Iberian Peninsula in Spain in the year 1110 CE. The dog shares a common ancestry with the Portuguese Water Dog. The Spanish Water Dog is thought to be have been brought by the Turkish boats.

The Spanish Water Dog was primarily used as herding dogs. They were used to drive and guard a large herd of cattle from one grazing region to another. This dog did not require a lot of training since they have naturally strong guarding and herding instincts that come into play from the dog’s puppyhood.

Anglers in the Northern Coastline used the dog in helping them retrieve their fishers net and also to catch fish that had escaped the fishermen. These dogs have excellent swimming skills that are attributed to their webbed feet.

A breeding program was established by incorporating the Spanish Water Dog that had been borrowed from shepherds in the year 1975. In 1980, a Spanish Water Dog club was established to promote and encourage recognition of the breed.

The Spanish Kennel Club gave official status to the Spanish Water Dog in the year 1985. The Spanish Water Dog was accepted for conformational events in 2004.

The American Kennel Club then gave the Spanish Water Dog an official status in the year 2001. The dog was then allowed to participate in herding group competitions in the year 2005.


Spanish Water Dog standing on the ground

The Spanish Water Dog is a medium-sized dog weighing between 30 to 48 pounds. The top of the skull is parallel to the top of the muzzle. The skull is flat. Their eyes are set widely apart.

They have a short and well-muscled neck that is well set to the shoulders. The back is straight and able to withstand pressure or force. The chest is broad with well-anchored ribs. They have a medium-length tail, though some have short tails.

Personality and Character

Spanish Water Dog running

The Spanish Water Dog is an extremely intelligent and versatile working breed. They are very devoted to their owner and family. This breed shows great strength and stamina even in harsh conditions.

As their name suggests, these dogs were used for underwater tasks such as fishing as they are capable of diving 10 feet or more underwater. They are authoritative workers, but they are not aggressive.

See Also: DIY Dog Pool

These dogs are excellent herders. They have an efficient way of driving a large herd of cattle, and they need no training as they have natural guarding instincts. With little instruction given by the shepherd through signaling, the Spanish Water Dog takes the initiative and does the work.

The Spanish Water Dog is an excellent watchdog as they do not trust strangers. This excellent companion will keep their owner and anything they regard as their own safe.

This dog needs an experienced trainer. They can be choosy when it comes to obeying commands. Training them from puppyhood will help them learn to obey orders from all family members.

Health and Potential Problems

Spanish Water Dog sitting in snow

This unique dog is highly resistant to diseases. This makes them able to adapt easily to changing environmental conditions. The Spanish Water Dog has exceptional durability; no matter the harshness of the environmental condition, they still manage to cope. Giving the dog a proper healthy diet and plenty of exercises will boost their health.

In rare occasions, the dog may have the following health problems:

#1: Hip Dysplasia

This condition is caused by the failure of the femur to fit correctly into the pelvic socket. The condition leads to pain and reduced movement as the dog tries to protect itself from the pain. This can be seen by the dog’s hopping or stiffness.

Hip dysplasia is considered to be genetically inherited, though the environment can also contribute to this. The most appropriate way to diagnose this health problem is through a hip scoring test and x-rays. The diagnosis should be done at an appropriate age and repeated at adulthood.

#2: Cataracts

This is a lens opacity health issue and can affect one or both eyes. Cataracts can affect a portion of the lens or the whole lens. This results from nutritional deficiencies, diabetes, inflammation, or trauma. To some extent, cataracts can be genetically inherited.

Regular checkups, use of antioxidant supplements, and the use of a quality diet will help in preventing cataracts in your dog.

#3: Allergies

The most common type of allergy in Spanish Water Dogs is food allergy. When choosing the type of food and the amount of fat and protein the food contains, the owner should take into consideration the activity of the Spanish Water Dog.

It is also essential to know the food that triggers your dog’s allergic reaction so that you can avoid that food.

See Also: The Most Effective Dog Allergy Medicine

#4: Heartworm

Mosquitos are the common cause of this parasite that resides in the heart of the Spanish Water Dog. The mosquito carries the parasite from a contaminated dog and passes it to your dog.

Heartworm screening should be done regularly—more especially every spring—to detect any infestation from the previous year. A number of Spanish Water Dogs die each year because of infestation of this parasite. We recommend that during the mosquito season the dog should be on medication to help in the prevention of this disease.

Further, when you are in a region which has a warmer climate than the one the dog is used to, preventive measures should be taken.

Care Features

Spanish Water Dog lying on grass

The Spanish Water Dog is an active, intelligent, and energetic dog. They need an active owner who is willing to take the dog for walks and other sporting activities. The Spanish Water Dog is an active dog that requires at least 30 — 60 minutes of exercise per day. Lack of exercise will make them lazy, and they will lose their charm and playfulness.

This dog needs to be trained by an experienced trainer. The dog should be trained at an early age before they can roam around freely. These dogs have a tendency to wander and roam. Thus, it is recommended that you teach them to obey a recall command at a young age.

During training, the sessions should be short as the dog gets tired easily and will quickly lose concentration. Avoid any harsh treatment since the dog is very sensitive. Positive reinforcements such as tasty treats work best with this breed. The Spanish Water Dog should be trained to socialize at the early stages of life since they can be moody, territorial, and manipulative.

The Spanish Water Dog should be cleaned every time they get dirty or smelly. Shearing of the coat should also be done at least once a year. Spanish Water Dogs should never be brushed; rather they should be corded four to five times a week.

Cording is a quick and easy process of separating the dog’s curls by hand. Inspections should be done daily during summer to check for fleas and ticks.

The nails of Spanish Water Dogs should be regularly trimmed to avoid splitting and overgrowth. The first trimming and shearing should be done at around 4-6 months. They also need a comfortable place to sleep in apart from the floor and on the sofa.

Feeding Schedule

A well-balanced, high-quality food should be given to the Spanish Water Dog to meet their mental and physical needs since they are an active and energetic breed.

The feeding habit may vary among different SWDs depending on their age. Owners should adapt to the feeding habits of their dog.

For Spanish Water Dogs that are between 8 and 12 weeks, the feeding should be done four times a day. For Spanish dogs that are between 3 and 6 months, they should be fed three times a day. For dogs between 6 months and 1 year old, they should be fed at least twice a day.

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Spanish Water Dogs of different colors

The Spanish Water Dog comes in white, beige, brown, black, or combinations of the four. Spanish Water Dogs require minimal grooming. This dog should be washed when they are dirty with lukewarm water and dog shampoo. Human shampoo should never be used.

See Also: Homemade Dog Shampoo Recipes

The dog’s coat is made up of cords and woolly curls. This coat protects the dog from the elements.

These dogs do not shed, which is a great thing if you are allergic to dog hair. However, the cords should be sheared twice or more in a year.

The ears are often dirty so they should be cleaned as often as possible. The Spanish Water Dog can easily pick up parasites. Hence regular checking of the coat should be done to avoid the spreading of diseases.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

Spanish Water Dog sitting together

The Spanish Water Dog is friendly towards children especially if the dog has been brought up together with the children. The Spanish Water Dog is an active and playful dog. Hence they can become fast friends with young children who tend to be very playful. However, the children ought to be taught how to handle the Spanish Water Dog, as they can sometimes be moody.

The Spanish Water Dog loves to be in control, and sometimes they can be very aggressive and chase after other pets. The dog needs to be trained and socialized at an early age in order to live comfortably together with other pets.

Wrap Up

Spanish Water Dog puppies lying together

The Spanish Water Dog is a very energetic, active, and intelligent dog with very strong and sensitive guarding, hunting, and herding instincts. This makes them a great companion, guard dog, herding dog, and watchdog. With this dog around, you do not need to worry about anything.

This dog loves the outdoors and is a perfect companion for people who love to exercise, to hike, and to participate in any other outdoor activities.

This dog does not shed, which makes them excellent for owners who are allergic to dog hair. The dog is moderately active indoors, and they are great for apartment life provided you exercise them well.

What do you have to say about this multipurpose breed? Do you have one in your home? What’s your experience with him or her? Let us know your opinion about this dog breed. Check out our list of superhero names for dogs if you’ve decided to adopt one of these amazingly versatile dogs.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.