Buying a Spanish Water Dog Puppy

So You Are Thinking About A Spanish Water Dog Puppy?   Buying a SWD puppy, or any puppy for that matter, can be a very emotional experience. It is all too easy to see a cute, little bundle of fluff and instantly fall in love. Sometimes you can get lucky and fall into the right situation at the right time and take home the perfect puppy, but too often people make the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons and end up with a lot of heartache in the long run. It is thus the purpose of this article to help you, the puppy buyer, to make an educated choice when buying your very own SWD puppy.

Why A Spanish Water Dog?

Spanish Water Dogs are a truly versatile breed. First and far most they are a herding breed.  They are agile hunting, retrieving and working dogs: they are also extremely intelligent animals and can become wonderful family companions. A very endearing quality of SWDs' is their intense desire to please their owners; this makes them quick learners and loyal friends.  SWDs' are naturally reserved with strangers, however, their personality should not be either shy or timid. They do have strong territorial instincts and are naturally possessive and protective of their owners and their home. When raised with children, SWDs' love kids and quickly become a predictable and devoted family member. SWDs' do not need a huge yard to run in, but they do need daily exercise and attention. They love to play ball and Frisbee. It's hard to keep most of them out of water. And they make great foot warmers curled up at the end of the bed.

Male or Female?

Although male and female Spanish Water Dogs share many of the same characteristics, there are also distinct differences between the two sexes. The female SWD will typically stand between 15.75 - 18.11 inches at the point of her withers and will on average weigh around 30.86-39.69 pounds. Her personality will generally be more sensitive and laid-back. Females will come into season approximately every 6 months and will need to be confined for 2-3 weeks during this time. If you are not planning on breeding your female, you should consider spaying her to avoid this inconvenience and to prevent any unwanted breeding. The male SWD will usually stand 17.32-19.69 inches and will weigh around 39.69 - 48.5 pounds. As with most animal species, the male SWD is the showier of the two sexes, heavier bone, and a more masculine head. He typically has a very regal air about him. Males do have a tendency to be territorial and do not always take well to having to share their space with other male canines. Again, if you are not planning on using your male for stud, you should think about having him neutered to make life easier for all parties concerned.

Pet or Show Quality?

Pet puppies are those, which are healthy and happy but are less than perfect when compared to the breed standard. Often these imperfections are minimal and are things that the lay person would not even notice. Nonetheless, these animals would not be likely to do well in the conformation show ring, and they should NOT be used for breeding since they will not contribute to the improvement of the breed. "Pet" quality animals are eligible to be shown in both obedience and herding competitions, even if they have been spayed or neutered. It is important to remember that just because a puppy is termed a "pet", it should not have any health or temperament defects. If you have any thoughts of either showing or breeding your pup, advise the breeder of what your intentions are. In this situation you are going to want to buy the pup that comes the closest to perfection according to the breed standard. Not every pup is a future champion, and no one can guarantee you that any puppy will grow up to be a perfect specimen of the breed. But a knowledgeable breeder can spot potential qualities and will be honest with you in evaluating their puppies as future show or breeding prospects.


 Proper raising of a litter of healthy, happy SWD pups takes time and effort on the part of a conscientious, informed breeder and is an expensive proposition if done properly. The breeder has invested in good nutrition, good veterinary care, showing, stud fees to a top quality dog, along with a great deal of time and love in the hope of producing better specimens of the breed and quality dogs for the prospective buyer.

 Price should be consistent with the quality of the pup and the time and expense it has taken to raise that pup. Beware of the cheap puppy because it may not be such a bargain once you get it home. Remember too that your initial investment in a puppy is going to be next to nothing in comparison to the investment you are going to make in that puppy's future.

Where To Buy?

 If you have a regular vet, you may check with them to see if they can recommend how to go about finding a SWD breeder. The Internet is a source for locating puppies. Another avenue is to attend an UKC or ARBA dog show. The Spanish Water Dog Association of America holds shows approximately once a year. You can contact any member for show dates, times, and location. If at all possible, try to visit a show or two and spend as much time as you can observing the different SWDs present. Notice the differences in colors, size, temperaments, etc. Talk to as many people as you can, and ask LOTS of questions! Find out which people have puppies for sale or who may have any planned litters. Collect cards and phone numbers and make appointments to go see any litters that sound promising to you.

Note-- When making appointments to see litters, try to avoid visiting more than one litter a day. If this is unavoidable for some reason, inform the breeder that you have been to see other litters and request that they disinfect you and others in your party. This will show conscientiousness on your part, and may make the breeder much more kindly disposed towards you. Be cautious of a breeder who doesn't ask if you've been somewhere else that day. The typical disinfectant used is a bleach and water mixture, so prepare to smell like bleach for the rest of the day. Bleach is used since there are a few canine viruses (in particular Parvo and Distemper) that resist most other disinfectants. Bleach is also less than one tenth the price of the next useable disinfectant. Wear clothes with which you are not worried about possible bleach stains. It might be a good idea for you to mix your own bleach water and carry it with you in your vehicle, which again shows conscientiousness on your part. Any manual spray bottle should work well for the mixture and will be easy to use. Appropriate ratios for the mix are between 1:1 bleach vs. water and 2 bleach: 1 water.]

What To Ask

The following is a list of questions to take with you when you visit each breeder and litter. Do not feel embarrassed asking all these questions; a responsible breeder will welcome your interest and will admire your knowledge and concern for the breed.

1. Ask for a pedigree on the puppies. (This should include at least 3 generations of ancestry, preferably 4 to 5 generations.) Make sure you get a copy you can take home with you so that you can review it later in more detail. One note here, a pedigree full of champions does not always guarantee a future champion. And vice versa, many top winning dogs have come from non-champion sires and dams.)

2. Was the breeding planned or unplanned?

3. If the litter was planned, ask why the Sire was chosen for this particular Dam. (Was it a matter of convenience because they own the Sire or was it because they felt the qualities of the Sire would compliment or even improve the qualities of the Dam?)

4. What are the faults of both the Sire and Dam? (A conscientious breeder should be both knowledgeable and willing to talk about their dog's faults as well as about their dog's assets.)

5. What was the goal of the breeding? (For profit? To produce the ultimate show/working dog? So the kids could experience the miracle of birth?)

6. What area does the breeder feel these pups will excel in? (Obedience, working, show, family pet?)

7. What kind of support services will the breeder offer you to help you attain your goals for your puppy? (If for show, obedience, or working is the breeder willing to spend some time with you helping you to get started in these areas, and will the breeder be there if you have any questions or problems regarding housebreaking, digging, barking, etc?)

8.  Are both the Sire and Dam OFA certified? And, if so, what are their numbers and ratings? (OFA stands for the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, which is the organization that evaluates and certifies hip joint conformation. Only SWDs that are free from hip dysplasia are granted OFA numbers. Any breeder who does not know what OFA stands for or who cannot provide you with copies of both parents OFA certifications are breeders to be very wary of. Only an OFA rating can provide you with proof that the parents are not dysplastic; do not let anyone tell you that they know their dog is not dysplastic because of the way it runs or lays down, etc. Dysplasia is a hereditary defect, so if you are not sure about the parents, what about that cute little puppy you are about to take home?!)

9. Have both the Sire and Dam had a current eye examination? An organization called CERF deals with the certification of eyes just as OFA does for the hips. Some breeders will send the results of their dog's eye exam in to CERF for an official certificate; while other breeders may just have the eye exam results signed by a qualified veterinarian. Be sure to look at the exam report carefully to see that it matches with the correct Sire or Dam and that the vet has made a notation that the eyes are clear from any visible defects. Eye exams are normally done on an annual basis, so also check to see that the exam is current. Again, eye defects (cataracts, PRA, collie eye anomaly) are hereditary, so the best way to make sure your new puppy will not be affected with any of these problems is to verify that the parents are free from any problems themselves.

10. What type of guarantee does the breeder offer if the puppy is later found to be affected with any hereditary defect? Breeding only dogs that have been cleared free of any defects will greatly reduce the possibility of reproducing puppies with congenital defects; however, genetic throwbacks do occur. Some breeders offer different alternatives if you happen to have a puppy that ends up with a hereditary problem. These alternatives will vary depending on the breeder and depending on whether the puppy is bought as either pet or show quality.

11. Is the puppy's health guaranteed? Most breeders will give a 7-10 day health guarantee; however, if the breeder does not offer this, find out if you can return the puppy within a day if the puppy does not pass a health examination given by your vet.

12. Will a written contract be provided to cover the above issues? If offered, ask to read the contract before purchasing the puppy to see if it covers all the breeders stated guarantees.

13. Is the breeder a member of any breed club?  If not ask them why?

Registration Papers

 If your new pup is sold with registration papers it is important to make sure the papers you receive are from the correct registry for your purposes. SWDAA stands for Spanish Water Dog Association of America, Incorporated and is the parent registry for the SWDAA, founded in 2001. SWDAA keeps studbooks on all registered SWDs; registers purebred Spanish Water Dog pups and adults; sanctions conformation and obedience shows.

ARBA stands for American Rare Breed Association, and SWDs may be registered through them.

FCI stands for Federation Cynilogical International and is the European registry through which all dogs being imported into North America should be registered.

UKC stands for United Kennel Club.  

AKC stands for the American Kennel Club. At the time of this writing, Spanish Water Dogs have not yet been accepted for registration under the Foundation Stock Serves. All purebred SWD registered with either UKC, ARBA or FCI can apply for SWDAA registration papers; this process will continue until accepted into to AKC. After that time, only pups out of AKC registered Spanish Water Dogs will be eligible for AKC recognition. 

SWDAA stands for Spanish Water Dog Association of America.  They are the National Spanish Water Dog  Breed club.

Presently a Spanish Water Dog may be registered with UKC, ARBA and SWDAA; this is where the term double or triple registered comes from. Check with the breeder to find out which registry their pups are eligible for, and ask to see the registration application(s) if you have any doubts. If you have no intentions or showing or breeding your puppy, then the registry your pup is eligible for is not as pertinent. There are many pros and cons to the AKC debate. Talk to the breeder for background information and to anyone else who can shed light on the situation, and then you will have to make the AKC "to be or not to be" decision for yourself.

Making Your Decision

Make a point to look at several litters before making your final decision. Take notes of the conditions the adults and pups are being raised in; is their environment clean, is there adequate room for exercise, plenty of shade and shelter, etc? Do the older dogs appear to be happy and well cared for? Ask to see the sire and dam if possible. Do they seem to be well mannered and not aggressive or fearful? Remember that the dam may still be a little protective if introduced around the pups, and her condition may not be the best since raising a family is quite demanding. The pups should be outgoing and eager to play. The puppies should look well fed, their coats should be clean and healthy, their gums should be pink, their eyes should be clear of any discharge, the inside of the ears should not be red or inflamed, and the pups in general should have a healthy, happy attitude. Spend some time playing with the puppies and get a feel for their different personalities. Ask the breeder for further background on puppies that catch your eye; sometimes a pup may have a slightly different character than the one he displays while you are visiting. A concerned breeder will be honest and candid in discussing each puppy with you since their goal is to find the pup that will most likely match your lifestyle and fulfill your expectations. After leaving, make notes on the puppies you liked and on your general impressions. Do this with each litter you visit. Then, when you feel like you have a good basis of comparison, sit down and go over your notes. Call back with any additional questions you might have. Or go back and visit again if you need to. Emotions are still going to play a big part in your decision; but at least with all this information at hand, you now have the basis for making an educated decision as well.

Things You Should Receive With Your New Puppy

When you make your final selection, make sure the following items are in order before you pay for your new puppy.

____ 1. An individual registration application, or a registration certificate, or a written agreement signed by both parties stating the reason for not giving any registration privileges.

____ 2. A written sales agreement outlining all terms and conditions which the buyer and seller have previously agreed upon.

____ 3. A minimum of a three-generation pedigree.

____ 4. A photocopy of the OFA Rating Certificate of both the sire and the dam.

____ 5. A photocopy of either the CERF Certificate or the veterinary eye exam papers of both the sire and the dam. Today this info can be obtained via the CERF web site.

____ 6. A schedule of dates and types of vaccines, worms, and any other treatments the puppy has received, as well as a recommended schedule for further vaccinations and worms.

____ 7. A feeding schedule and enough of the puppy's regular food to last at least 24 hours, as well as recommendations on what types of food to feed.

____ 8. Any reading material on the breed or puppy care that the breeder may have to offer.


Craig Pope.
Copyright 2003 de Chesapeake Kennel. All rights reserved.