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The origin of the Spanish Water Dog (Perro de Agua Español) is not fully recognized, just like the most of domestic dog breeds. The first record of a similar dog in written sources appeared as far back as in 1100. A water herding dog from the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula used to round up sheep and goats in dry as well as in humid regions of Extremadura, and Algarve in Portugal is described in that record as medium-size, curly hair resembling wool, strong, brave and very intelligent dog, which likes jumping into water and chasing ducks.
Other theories argue that the breed ̓s roots go back to the later period. Some link them with the epoch of Moor domination in Spain, assuming that just the Moors were those who brought their dogs to the Iberian Peninsula. The others refer to the end of 18th c., when fully developed cattle trade, dominated by Turkish merchants, existed in that part of the Mediterranean. They often traveled with their dogs guarding sheep flocks. Another name of the bread – Turkish Andalusian Dog (perro turco andaluz) can derive from these dogs. The brought dogs could crossbreed with the local ones and the next generations were accustomed to new tasks. Among other things, fishermen exploited the animals, training them for pulling the mooring ropes of vessels. The illustration published in Buffon ̓s Natural History, presenting the oldest type of water dog, which is almost identical with contemporary breed ̓s representatives, originates from this period (1750).
The journalist, explorer and one of the greatest experts in Spanish breeds - Carlos Salar Medero gathering all that information, drew the conclusion that the marshes surroundings Spanish River Guadalquivir were the cradle of the Spanish water dog. The breed that could serve various purposes was created there. Water dogs were ideal for wetlands, they got along in green meadows as well as in dry tablelands, equipped with unique aptitude for finding animals in water.
The breed has been becoming increasingly popular in Spain since 1864, when the dog named Tim described as Spanish poodle won the dog show in Manchester. Breeding true-bred water dog began slightly over 100 years later, in 1973. Several connoisseurs turned their attention to herding dogs with extraordinary abilities, living in Moròn de la Frontera in Seville and started searching for similar animals. The animals shown as a result of that activity were presented in 1981 on the dogs show in San Pedro del Alcántara, near Malaga, where they attracted the spectators attention. The Royal Spanish Kennel Society, after elaborating the bench standard, accepted the new breed - Spanish Waterdog on the national level in 1958. The breed gained international approval after 17 years, it received nᵒ 336 and became classified to the 8th group, as a water dog. The Spanish cynologists, enlisting the breed into the registers, made an effort to estimate its origin. Generally, very different parts of Spain were assumed to be places of the breed forming and an ancestor guarding dog or hound dog - both well known in the area of Spain from the early Middle Ages, can not be defined with certainty, because it is not possible to establish which breed was first. Genetic admixture of dogs brought by Turkish merchants is not excluded, either. These dogs gave also the origin to Portuguese Water Dog and French Barbet Water Dog. Division into various local sub- types, of which particular breeds were formed came into effect in part very early, however, in a way, as late as in the 19th century.
The Spanish Water Dogs from the beginning of their existence, being utility breed, assist in pasturing works, hunting, and act as rescue dogs on land and in water. Dogs selected to these tasks have to pass adequate socialization training in order to create strong bonds with humans. This process is extremely important for a dog and should start already between 5th and 7th week of a puppy᾿s life and intensify between 8th and 12th week. Later, when a dog reaches the age of 5 months, a specialized training, conducted always with an adult individual, which serves as a guard-mentor, starts. A dog trained properly is ready for individual work in 1 year from its birth. Dogs of this breed, owing to their intelligence, speed and bravery are, as formerly, irreplaceable assistance for people working with herds of cattle, sheep, goats in difficult mountain regions and wetlands, despite present technology progress. Spanish Water Dog was also traditionally used for hunting rabbits, birds and sometimes larger game. Lack of shooting phobia and perfect skills of swimming or even diving and also inherent predispositions to retrieving are its advantages in this case. The breed has also been for years one of the best in rescuing victims of various disasters. They shine in this field with immense diligence, perfect sense of smell and strength, which enables them to pull a burden being seven times bigger than their own weigh. Spanish rescue teams, working with dogs of this breed, participated in rescuing victims of disasters in Iran, Mexico, Colombia, Morocco, Honduras and India. Numerous families owe saving life of their loved ones trapped under ruins just to Spanish Water Dogs.
Lack of hair loss, attentiveness in relation to puppies, perfect health, temperament, attachment to a master, vitality, sociability, activity, curiosity to unknown are the advantages of the breed. Spanish Water Dogs are also highly esteemed on dog beauty shows. These qualities caused that at present, dogs of the described breed can be met in many countries of Europe: Finland, Scandinavian countries, Belgium, France, England and both Americas.
Spanish Water Dogs as pets require much attention and time for playing, much sensitivity from owners part and then they learn willingly and quickly. They have considerable mobility needs, they like swimming and fetching. In return, they become very attached and loyal to their master. They achieve good results in obedience and retrieving competitions. They usually live in harmony with other dogs, domestic animals, other pets and children It is advisable to acquaint them with cats in order to avoid possible discord in mutual contacts between these animals. These dogs warn against dangers barking, but they do not do much more.
For more information about dogs our race look in printed books:
Cristina Desarnaud - Spanish Water Dog: Special Rare-Breed Editiion:A Comprehensive Owner's Guide, 2003 Irvine
Di Williamson Wanda Sooby - The Spanish Water Dog Book, 2007 Singapore