Spanish Water Dog: Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Spanish water dog in a field

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The Spanish water dog is a medium-size herding dog breed from Spain that has a low-shedding, medium-length curly coat that often forms cords when it grows out. Although somewhat uncommon in the United States, this breed has many qualities that make it a superb companion. It is typically very affectionate, playful, and loyal with its family, and it excels at training. Plus, it’s an excellent breed for people with an active lifestyle who like spending lots of time outdoors. However, it might not be ideal for some first-time dog owners, as it needs lots of mental stimulation and exercise. And it has strong protective and herding instincts.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Herding

HEIGHT: 15.75 to 18 inches (female), 17.5 to 19.75 inches (male)

WEIGHT: 31 to 40 pounds (female), 40 to 49 pounds (male)

COAT: Medium length, curly, corded

COAT COLOR: Black, black and white, brown, brown and white

LIFE SPAN: 12 to 14 years

TEMPERAMENT: Active, alert, protective



Characteristics of the Spanish Water Dog

High energy is the cornerstone of the Spanish water dog’s personality. These dogs generally have an upbeat temperament, and they like having a job to do. They are also quite smart and eager to learn.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Spanish Water Dog

The origin of the Spanish water dog is unclear, as it has existed in parts of Spain—primarily the Iberian Peninsula—for hundreds of years. It’s possible that its ancestors came from Northern Africa, though another theory suggests the dog came by way of Turkish traders.

People in the area needed a dog that was adaptable to different weather conditions. They also wanted a breed that could work in a variety of roles, including herding, swimming/waterfowl retrieval, and protection. And the Spanish water dog fit the bill on all counts. 

The breed dipped in popularity toward the end of the 1900s as machines had replaced many of its jobs. However, breeders worked to preserve its traits. The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 2015.

Spanish Water Dog Care

It is crucial that a Spanish water dog gets ample daily exercise to keep it happy and healthy. Likewise, it needs consistent training to make sure it's a well-mannered dog. Plus, it does have some particular grooming needs, though they aren't overly time-consuming.


Spanish water dogs have a lot of physical and mental energy to burn. They should receive at least one to two hours of exercise per day via long walks, running, hiking, swimming, vigorous games of fetch, and more. They can make excellent companions for people who want a dog for jogging. And ideally they should be allowed to stretch their legs running and playing in a secure area off leash, too. They also excel in dog sports, including agility and dock diving, which can challenge them physically and mentally. 


The Spanish water dog’s low-shedding coat doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, but its care is somewhat atypical. Traditionally, the coat is never brushed, combed, blow-dried, or trimmed. Instead, it is sheared to the skin as necessary, just like a sheep. Some owners let it grow out to a moderate length before shearing while others allow the curly hair to grow longer and form its natural cords. Depending on your preferences, you often can go several months before the coat needs shearing.

Maintaining the cords does take some work, as they must be separated to prevent mats. Also, bathing a dog with a corded coat is different from bathing a typical dog. You must use a mild shampoo (no conditioner) and gently squeeze the shampoo into the coat rather than rub or scrub. To rinse, you must again squeeze the coat gently as the water runs through it. To dry, blot the coat with a towel (no rubbing), and then simply let it air dry.  

Beyond that, check your dog’s nails roughly every four to six weeks to see whether they need a trim. And aim to brush its teeth daily. Also, look in its ears at least weekly for wax buildup and any abnormalities. Make sure to dry the ears well after your dog goes swimming. 


Spanish water dogs are highly intelligent and have excellent problem-solving skills. They respond well to positive training methods, such as clicker training that uses plenty of tasty treats and praise. Harsh corrections can cause them to shut down and not learn. Begin training as young as possible to prevent these smart dogs from learning they can get away with bad habits. 

Moreover, start socialization when your dog is a puppy by exposing it to different people, other dogs, and various locations. Positive experiences can go a long way to help quell this dog’s protective instinct and teach it to be comfortable and confident.  

brown and white Spanish water dog puppy on grass
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Spanish water dog diving off dock
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Spanish water dog digging in sand on a beach
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Common Health Problems

Overall, Spanish water dogs are hardy and healthy. But they are prone to some hereditary health issues, including: 

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available for your dog. And feed a quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. It’s common to feed two measured meals per day, rather than leaving food out all day, to ensure your dog gets proper nutrition. But be sure to discuss the type of diet and the amount with your vet.

Some Spanish water dogs are prone to food allergies, so your vet might recommend a special diet. Plus, very active Spanish water dogs might require a performance diet that has more calories and fat. Always keep an eye on treats and other extra food to prevent your dog from overeating.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Spanish Water Dog

The Spanish water dog is a rare breed, so it might be difficult to find one. Still, it’s worth checking animal shelters and breed-specific rescue groups for a dog in need of a home. If you’re looking for a reputable breeder puppy, expect to pay around $1,500 to $2,500, though this can vary widely depending on bloodline and other factors.

For further information to help connect you with a Spanish water dog, check out:

Spanish Water Dog Overview

  • Intelligent and easy to train

  • Watchful and protective

  • Minimal shedding

  • Needs a lot of exercise 

  • Not always friendly with strangers

  • Not the best choice for young children

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Be sure to do plenty of research to make sure a Spanish water dog is right for your lifestyle. Talk to veterinarians, breed owners, rescue organizations, and reputable breeders. Also, try to spend some time around Spanish water dogs if possible.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • What were Spanish water dogs bred for?

    Spanish water dogs were bred both to herd livestock and to retrieve waterfowl for hunters. They still have a strong herding instinct and are adept swimmers to this day.

  • Are Spanish water dogs good family dogs?

    While this breed is typically protective of its family, it also might be too energetic for some children, especially small children, to manage. Its herding instinct also might cause it to nip at the heels of children.

  • Are Spanish water dogs aggressive?

    Spanish water dogs have a protective instinct and can be wary of strangers. But as with any breed, proper training and socialization can help to prevent aggression.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Spanish Water Dog Health. Spanish Water Dog Club of America.

  2. Spanish Water Dog. BeChewy.