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Before you get an SWD

Here are some points to ponder before purchasing a Spanish Water Dog (SWD). The SWD is historically a working dog who was used by the shepherds to herd livestock, therefore they have strong herding instincts.  They are very intelligent, faithful, energetic and happy dogs. Sometimes they are known as "velcro" dogs and usually stick very close to their owners. They are very organized by nature and generally do not like things out of place. They will alert you by barking if someone is at the door or there is something outside. They will protect your home and your family by alerting, but they are not attack dogs. They also have a tendency to nip as puppies, and might try to "herd" your young children or other pets. As with any dog, they should not be left unsupervised with children.

  • Many times the SWD will attach himself to one person in the family, and follow that person around.  They will accept the rest of the family with no problem, but they usually have their "favorite" person.
  • The SWD usually requires attention and does not do well left alone for very long periods of time.
  • The SWD requires some kind of daily exercise. Because of their energy and intelligence, they do better when they have something to do which challenges their bodies and minds. Getting involved with your dog in an activity like herding, showing, therapy, agility, obedience, is a good way to exercise and bond with your dog
  • Because the SWD is a very intelligent breed, they must be obedience trained. They are usually best suited for people with previous dog experience rather than first time dog owners. They respond best to positive training methods.  They do not respond well to hard corrections.
  • SWDs' loyalty and protective instincts make them self-appointed guardians to their owner(s), family, and property. SWDs should be neither timid nor shy, but are naturally suspicious of strangers.
  • The SWD is a non-shedding breed, however they still track in leaves, dirt, seeds, etc. in their coats from outside. People with severe allergies or asthma might still be allergic to the SWD as many people are allergic to the saliva.
  • Because of its naturally wary nature, the SWD MUST be socialized at a young age to people, other animals and many different situations.

Points to consider when looking for a reputable breeder

Interview many different breeders. Location should not affect where you purchase your puppy. Purchasing a puppy is a very big commitment. Make sure you feel comfortable having a relationship with this breeder for your puppy’s lifetime. Ask for references, and contact them. Ensure that the breeder has performed appropriate health testing on his breeding stock. Ask to see documentation of any hip evaluation (OFA or PennHIP), eye clearances (CERF), OptiGen test for prcd/PRA, thyroid panel or any other health testing that has been performed. The SWDCA  recommends the following tests be performed on breeding stock:

Hip Dysplasia

  • OFA Evaluation, or
  • OVC Evaluation, or
  • PennHIP Evaluation

(For more information, see SWDs Health.)

Eye Clearance

  • CERF evaluation - annual examination recommended - also recommend Gonioscopy as part of the eye exam is optional.

Autoimmune thyroiditis

  • OFA evaluation from an approved laboratory

Breeding dogs should have a full thyroid panel done, including TgAA which is a predictor of future Hypothyroid.

prcd-PRA DNA Test

  • DNA based test from an approved laboratory

Elbow Dysplasia (Optional)

  • OFA Evaluation, or
  • OVC Evaluation


This goes for imported dogs as well. Ask to see the health certification from the registry in that country. All dogs in the United States should be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC).  Read and familiarize yourself with the Code of Ethics on this web site. Every breeder should be adhering to the Code of Ethics. A responsible breeder will not mind a prospective buyer who asks many questions, and will not mind answering them. In fact, a responsible breeder will respect a buyer who has done his "homework" and is truly interested in the welfare of the SWD.

Never leave the breeder's home without registration papers. By purchasing a pure bred dog, you are purchasing the registration. Registration papers should never be withheld for any reason. The practice of withholding registrations is even illegal in some states. Check your state's lemon laws. The practice of withholding registrations is against the Code of Ethics of all US Registries.

  1. Why are you doing this particular breeding?  What are the sire and dam's good and bad points and how do they complement and/or enhance each other? There is no perfect dog, so a breeder should tell you the good and bad things about each parent. A responsible breeder will breed to improve the breed, not just out of convenience or to sell pets. If at all possible, you should visit the breeder and see the sire and dam before you commit to a puppy. Too often, people purchase puppies off the Internet.
  2. What is the health of the parents?  They should provide both hip and current eye certifications, a CERF exam should be done every year. The parents of the puppies should be OptiGen tested to determine carrier status. Thyroid testing should be performed. There are too many dishonest breeders (in every breed). If they tell you that the certifications are in a locked file cabinet somewhere, and they can't get to it right now.....do not trust the breeder.  You MUST see the certification. Do not accept just an X-Ray--the X-Ray can be from any dog.
  3. Ask how long the breeder has been in the breed, specifically the Spanish Water Dog. If the breeder's web site says "Experience for 40 years or since 1985" ask how long they have been in THIS breed.  Keep in mind that the SWD was just recognized in Spain in 1985. The SWD was bred in the US beginning in the late 90's.
  4. Ask if the breeding was done by them, or someone else.  Are the puppies brokered? Breeders purchase puppies in Spain from a broker for a small amount of money and then resell them here for a lot of money.  You don't know if the pedigree is accurate or if the puppy is even pure-bred.  You will not have any contact with the actual breed in most cases, and therefore have no recourse should something go wrong.
  5. Ask the ages of the sire and dam. Some breeders in this breed are breeding dogs way too young.  The sire and dam should be at least two years old. If they aren't, you should go elsewhere.
  6. Ask how many times the sire has been bred. Ask about the health of his offspring. If a sire has been bred more than three times in a calendar year or seven times in his lifetime, then there should be DNA. Also, this is a rare breed. There is no reason to saturate the gene pool with one sire, unless it is out of convenience or just to make money.
  7. Ask how many times the dam has been bred and about the health of her offspring.
  8. Every puppy purchaser should get a registration when they pick up their puppy, or shortly thereafter. When purchasing a purebred dog, what you are paying for is the registration papers.  There are breeders withholding registrations for spay/neuter.  This is illegal in some states.  Check your state's "Puppy Lemon Laws".
  9. Ask what instincts the breeder is breeding for. Is the breeder breeding for herding? Hunting?Fishing? If they are breeding for herding, have they herded their dogs? The SWD is primarily a herding dog. If a breeder is breeding for anything else, they are not interested in preserving the breed. If a breeder claims to breed for hunting, ask how the SWD works in the field.  Ask if they have any hunting titles on their SWD.  Ask if they are a member of NAHVDA or another hunt club. In the same vein, ask what the breeder does with their dogs.  If they show, ask how many shows they go to every year.  If they claim championships, ask if the dogs had any competition at the shows...in breed, group, etc.  Ask which show venues they go to.
  10. Ask about the temperaments of the sire and dam. If the breeder tells you the dam or the sire is a "tad shy" beware. Shyness is not acceptable in the SWD. Remember, the puppies learn from their mother in the whelping box. Many times shy mothers produce shy puppies. Ask how the puppies are trained in the whelping box. Ask how the puppies are socialized when they are with the breeder.  Ask where the puppies are kept.
  11. Ask if the breeder will take the dog back for any reason.  Ask what the health guarantee is and for how long.
  12. Ask about the contract.  What are the conditions?  In many states it is illegal to withhold registration papers, even on a spay/neuter agreement.  Ask if they require a deposit and if it is refundable.

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