What is a Spanish Water Dog?

Spanish Water Dog

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Spanish Water Dog

A black bicolour Spanish Water Dog
Other names Perro de Agua Español
Nicknames SWD
Country of origin Spain

The Spanish Water Dog or Perro de Agua Español is a breed of dog developed by the shepherds in Spain as a multi-purpose herder who was also used sometimes as a gundog, as well as an assistant to fishermen.


The SWD is a medium size, athletic, robust dog that is slightly longer than tall. Their tails are usually docked in the US, but undocked tails are not a fault in conformation showing if the dog was bred in a non-docking country.

The head should be strong and carried with elegance. The skull is flat and the top is parallel with the top of the muzzle. The nose, eye-rims and paw pads are the same colour as the darkest part of the coat or darker. The eyes are expressive and set fairly wide apart. They should be hazel, chestnut or dark brown in color, depending on the coat colour. The ears are set at medium height on the skull, and are triangular.

Coat and colour

It has a distinctive curly coat which is woolly in texture and may form cords when long. The coat should not be clipped or groomed for aesthetic purposes. Instead, it should look entirely natural, as though it is not groomed at all. It should never be trimmed, but sheared down at least once a year. SWD puppies are always born with curly hair.

The SWD can be seen in a variety of colours. It may be black, beige, brown, white or bicolour where the second colour is white (brown and white or black and white). Tri-coloured dogs are strictly prohibited by the currently held (worldwide) standards for the breed as are black and tan or brown and tan colour combinations


The Spanish Water Dog is a medium-sized dog. The approximate measurements are:

  • Males
    • Height (at the withers): 44 to 50 cm (17 to 20 in)
    • Weight: 18 to 22 kg (40 to 49 lb)
  • Females
    • Height (at the withers): 40 to 45 cm (16 to 18 in)
    • Weight: 14 to 18 kg (31 to 40 lb)


The SWD is diligent, loyal, affectionate, and intelligent. They have very strong natural herding and guarding instincts. SWDs thrive on work and play. Their athleticism and extremely hard working nature illustrates how they need a lot of exercise. They enjoy working, and can be trained to perform a variety of tasks. They can be wary with strangers, and early and continuing socialization with a variety of people and other animals is essential for a well-adjusted, social dog. Good socialization at an early age greatly helps them adjust to small children.


SWDs require minimal grooming.

  • SWDs should never be brushed, instead, as the cords grow they should be checked for matting. When matting does occur they should be gently pulled apart without tearing the cords. If there is too much matting the cords should be sheared.
  • SWDs should be bathed only when dirty in lukewarm water. Use a neutral shampoo, never use human shampoo. SWDs should be allowed to air dry.
  • The cords must be sheared one or more times a year.
  • Ears and eyes should cleaned as often as they are dirty.
  • As with all dogs nails should be trimmed.
  • SWD puppies should be trimed for the first time at around the age of 6 months


The breed’s life expectancy is about 14 years. Recent health testing has uncovered the following issues:

  • Hip dysplasia[1]
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (prcd-PRA)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Addison’s Disease
  • Endocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
  • Allergies
  • Cataracts


There are many different theories as to its origin. but one of the most popular ones is that it was introduced by the Turks who traded in sheep and used them as sheepdogs. In Spain it is often called the “Andalusian Turk”. It was also known by many other names such as, “Perro de Agua”, “Perro Turco”, “Laneto”, “Perro de Lanas”, “Perro Patero”, “Perro Rizado”, “Churro”, “Barbeta” and most recently “Perro de Agua Español”.

Regardless of its exact origins, it is documented that there was a wooly coated Shepherd Dog on the Iberian Peninsula around 1100 AD. Historically, the SWD were primarily used as Herding dogs to move the flocks of sheep and goats from one pasture to another. The dogs were also called upon to work wherever a dog was required. For example, they were taught to work with fishermen as well as being taught to retrieve when hunting with the farmers.

Revival of the breed

Spanish Water Dogs are highly versatile. This one is herding sheep

In about 1975, two enthusiasts, Antonio Garcia Perez and Santiago Montesinos travelled around the countryside of Southern Spain, through the remote villages and farms of the mountainous region of Andalusia and bought or borrowed a number of dogs from the shepherds that they felt most fit the type they were looking for to establish a breeding program.

In 1980 the Spanish Water Dog Club (Spain) was formed in order to promote the breed and help get it recognized in its own country.

In 1985, after a lot of hard work and displaying the breed at various venues and dog shows the Spanish Kennel Club accepted it and gave it official status. It was provisionally recognized by Fédération Cynologique Internationale until 1999, when it was permanently recognized.

The SWD was officially recognized in the United States by the United Kennel Clubin 2001 and fully accepted for conformation events in 2004. Jerry and Ken Mann were instrumental in facilitating recognition in UKC. They presented the first SWD to be shown in an AKC Rare Breed Conformation venue in Inverness, Florida in January 2000. They presented an Introduction Seminar at a UKC venue in South Carolina in 2001 and showed the first SWD at a UKC Mult-Breed show in the Summer of 2004. They spearheaded the first International SWD discussion list and were the first owners to use their SWD for herding in the United States.

The American Kennel Club Foundation Stock Service recognized the breed in 2005 through the efforts of Lisa Harper and the Spanish Water Dog Club, Inc. The AKC approved the breed to begin competition in AKC herding, agility, obedience, and tracking beginning January 1, 2008. Additionally, the breed was recognized by the American Herding Breed Association in 2007.

The Canadian Kennel Clubs Listed and Miscellaneous Breeds was amended to include the Spanish Water Dog as a listed breed effective September 1, 2008.


  1. ^ http://www.spanishwaterdog.org/ Spanish Water Dog Association of America: Health Issues

External links