THE SPANISH WATER DOG
The Spanish Water dog is an example of multifunctionality. Its dedication to work in the company of man is in its roots. Distinctively they have been working dogs and still today, there are examples at the foot of the mountains and in the open countryside working as sheep dogs, in salt or mud flats working as retrievers, on the coast lines of Andalucia and Cantabria on fishing boats, helping the fishermen, with men who generation after generation have been accompanied by this dog.
Thanks to the arduous work and the dedication and fondness of the breeders, united in a constant work to encourage and protect the breed of the Spanish water dog, in a relatively small length of time, it has been converted into the Star Canine Breed of native Spain.
ORIGINS AND EVOLUTION
Probably we will search to find, before the earliest water dog of all, how many existed. With respect to the theories of how they originated, no-one consolidated exact dates of their summaries and representations, and therefore, only by conjectures which must be validated or ratified by the archeological discoveries of written documents can we confirm their existence.
In the case of the Spanish Water dog, we can find hypothesis of all types, that it is a direct descendent of a supposed antiquated water dog from the Iberian Peninsula, to claims that it stems from the Barbet (French Water Dog) the chief of origin of all European water dogs.
The main hypothesis we use to maintain and distinguish the origin of this dog is of historical value and amounts to when the Bereberes or Arabs of North Africa arrived on the coasts of the South Peninsular and it is supposed that they brought a dog to Europe know in canine history as the Great Water Dog which seems to be of direct ancestry of Caniche.
George Leclerc, Earl of Bufón, naturist and french writer of 18th century, in his work "Natural History", mentioned that the water dog has possible African origins, referring to a historical dog used by the North African tribes to hunt in aquatic zones. He described the dog as having curly hair, of medium size and strong build: illustrating this description through a print where we can see a dog which strongly resembles our dog, in a rustic scene. This author also confirms that the little Barbet which later could be from Caniche, derived from the cross of "Espagneut" and we therefore consider that the original existence of the water dog originated in Spain, possibly from Caniche.
Another person who also confirms its origin is the great Frenchwoman and president of the French Caniche Club and author of a respected book. Whilst carrying out investigations necessary for her work, she encountered conclusive data that they were taken to Andalucia and said " the water dogs' origin is from the invasion of the Arabs to the Iberian Peninsula."
A curious theory is the naming of the dog as "Turk", and others which, defend the existence of references since 10th century and refer to the possibility that they arrived with the muslim domination of the Iberian Peninsula. Also, they consider the possibility that they were introduced between the end of the 18th and beginning of 19th century when Turkish people crossed by boat to transport Spanish merino sheep to Australia, demonstrating that this dog was greatly used in managing livestock.
The existence of this class of dog which lived in the Iberian Peninusula, and which despite the invasion of foreign breeds of dogs, is still considered a pure breed and has continued, as if by magic, as a stable population. The reason it exists, has not become extinct and has maintained its purity is due to its incredible capacity to work. Therefore, the Spanish Water Dog is a breed chosen for its functionality, intelligence and as a secondary point, the most prevalent distinctive quality, its' coat. The thoughts about the selected water dogs isn't to promote an international image of the dog, but to obtain dogs which go to work for the best possible results.
Until now, the genetic characteristics of the Spanish Water Dog, almost without change, has been thanks to its versatility. The Spanish Water Dog has traditionally and with great efficiency workedshepherding with as many goats as sheep in Andalucia and parts of Extremadura, as a retriever in hunting in all the mudflats/saltmarshes in the peninsula, principally in the South and as an auxiliary for the fishermen emphasising in its work two important factors; one in the North, with coastal associations in Cantabro~astur and the Basque Country, and the other in Andalucian associations, traditionally accompanying the fishermen of both areas assisting in the labours of fishing.
CHARACTERISATION OF THE BREED
A dog of infinite intelligence, naturally gifted with innate conditions that make it almost a circus dog. A man who has trained it, has had information about health, balance of character together with the ability to learn the natural conditions of its work and with the grounding of these parameters has maintained the breed, and also with a traditional and enormous capacity to adapt. Now it has easily adapted to the cold and damp climate of the North and the heat of the Southern Peninusla . From here in the initial forming of the breed we can observe all the population nuclei presented in three principle mutual characteristics: a mutual authenticity, a woolly hair quality and a surprising capacity for work.
A good and correct selection process has preserved the breed during years of crossbreeding their characters and we actually observe a large population, homogenised and in an amazingly pure state. Without doubt, this breed has existed with strict controls, with strict crosses between dogs of the same breed, with a spontaneous tendency to continue the breed from generation to generation. Certainly this has resulted in, and is vitally important for the owners, an extraordinary quality necessary for a working dog.
With this unconscious effort we find a dog, which presents obedience and attitude for devolopment for the distinct task we expect of it, with a natural strength to which it has easily adapted.
It is a dog, in the South, which adapts to shepherding with great efficiency, making it a valuable asset to man. It could be said that this has been its principle activity for years, because it has been, and to date continues to be a substantial image in shepherding and cowherding in Andalucia and areas of Extremadura. But shepherding is not the unique activity of the adaptive "Adalucian Turk", also it is used as a hunting dog, as a working dog to assist fisherman and in experimentally as search and rescue dogs in catastrophes, as police dogs, security dogs etc…
In the North, it was common to see it in the market streets and fishing ports as a canine figure of medium size, a wooly coat, of great vitality and with a magnificent character, before the boats set off to fish, it was, of course, the Spanish Water Dog. Its bond with the sea can also curiously be found with the andalucian fisherman, almost all of who, develop the art of fishing close to the coast, but not only limited to them but also to some ports of Huelva and Cadiz who have set routes towards the Atlantic fishing grounds. Spanish Water Dogs perform extraordinarily in the water; they are excellent swimmers, have an amazing capacity to swim underwater, and can go to some meters in depth.
In their use as a hunting or retrieving dog with a characteristically strong but appropriate mouth they are easily accustomed to contact with feathers and skin. They are excellent retrievers of hunted animals (rabbits), in thickets and scrublands they search and respond well to instructions from their owner, making them totally capable of completing their owners orders on the first instruction. Also they are found obeying instructions efficiently and instinctively have a good sense of smell. But almost certainly, in the future, their function will be as retrievers with their magnificent ability to search.
With its generic character, its coat, we can tell when these dogs have links purely with shepherding of if should be treated as one which has its links with the sea or with hunting. The sheepdog is almost always totally sheered, and almost all are sheered to coincide with the sheering of the sheep, traditionally a sheepdog can be seen with cropped hair around the face, feet and below the abdomen. A dog dedicated to working at sea has hair similar to that of the Portuguese Water Cao, which consists of cropping the entire rear part of the body.