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Bringing into focus: SPANISH WATER DOGS by richard L. reynoLds Judges’ Education Coordinator, Spanish Water Dog Club of America

J anuary 1, 2015 brought a new year and new challenges for Spanish Water Dogs. On that date the breed became eligible to compete at AKC shows in the regular classes. Like most breeds achieving full recognition, there was a rush to show our dogs and to compete in the big ring. It didn’t take long before we had our first majors, our first confor- mation champion and some very nice group placements for the breed. With a whole nine months of ring experi- ence under our belts, it is time to look at where the breed has been and where it needs to go. This article is based on our own observations combined with the very valuable commentary received from those who have judged the breed. That experience and valuable input may serve to help us better visualize and evaluate the Spanish Water Dog. In preparing the standard for the Spanish Water Dog that has been adopted by the AKC, the parent club attempted to avoid some of the pitfalls contained in the FCI standard. Mea- surements were converted, translation difficulties rectified and an attempt to clarify the word picture that we use for judging was made by the committee. Most of it is pretty good but, as antici- pated, many judges superimpose their vast experience and individual priori- ties in their judging. This is as it should be and it gives us the opportunity to share these “early returns”—let’s call it focusing on the issues. Coat One of the most controversial issues in SWDs centers on the coat. The standard clearly describes the coat as: “...the recommended length of the coat is between 1" and 5" to demonstrate the quality of the curl or cord.” We have encountered some problems in

ProPortion For most of us, e=mc ² is a concept, for a few others it is provable fact. One might well take that into consider- ation when reading the SWD standard where it states, “Measured from point of shoulder to buttocks and withers to the ground 9:8.” Being realistic, one will have to admit that this is a con- cept; although it may actually be harder prove than Einstein’s theory. It is diffi- cult to determine this close a ratio from across the ring and close to impossible under a corded coat. Given our very limited time to examine and evaluate an exhibit, 9:8 is apt to remain a concept of more likely, in the future to disap- pear from the standard. A significant problem arises whenwe mentally substitute the phrase “slightly longer than tall”. The very word “slight- ly’ encourages individual perception and variation. How much longer than tall should they be? A “tad,” a “scosh,” a “smidgen?” It all leaves us back where we started. In one of our early seminars the inevitable question of length was answered with the response that SWDs might be closer to square than not. That’s close, but it really isn’t correct. So far, every SWD that I have seen is longer than tall. The only problem is “How much?” SLIGHTLY. Very, very slightly. Without a measuring device you cannot determine 9:8 or even 11:8. You need to rely on good judgment (and later experience). Most seasoned judges will be easily able to do this. Excessive body length manifests itself in the rise over the loin and the excessive tuck- up discussed elsewhere. Many of the exhibits being shown are (or appear) longer than the standard intended. If the dog (or bitch) in front of you appears to be well balanced, then the body proportion is probably okay. You still have to make your best effort

translating this word picture into real- ity. First, like the Puli, the Komondor and of course the Poodle, the SWD is a corded breed. At work, the cords serve as insulation from both heat and cold. This is as true in the cold waters of Chesapeake Bay as it is in the mountains of the Iberian Peninsula. Nonetheless we are told by those who work their dogs in open water retrieving that cords that are too long can absorb water, impede working ability and cause the dog to tire prematurely. The same may be true of dogs herding in a very warm environment. There is no question that cords hanging to the ground, or even exceeding five inches or so in length could impede the herding or retrieving functions of the breed. Many breeders and exhibitors are struggling to discover an acceptable way to present mature cords in the show ring. The mature coat, like that of a hard-coated terrier, takes a certain amount of nurturing and care. While breeders and judges of other corded breeds have been most willing and able to help us in this quest, the fact that the SWD has a single coat that forms cords a bit differently and perhaps needs its own management protocol. Untended, the cords become matted and the hair within the cord turns color necessitat- ing that the coat be cut down. Many breeders have learned to separate the cords as they grow to prevent matting and, of course a certain amount of regu- lar bathing is required. The mature cord on an SWD has a small curly and wispy tip. The end is neither flat nor pointed but somewhat ragged leading up to the wispy curl. Anything else would lead to question about grooming techniques. That, of course brings us to other parts of the standard which are cause for even greater concern.

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while examining the dog to find and eval- uate the landmark points, but your overall impression may be your final guide. GroominG “Any brushing, aesthetic trimming or sculpting of the coat that alters natu- ral appearance is to be severely penal- ized.” The severity of the penalty is up to the judge, but “to the extent of being eliminated from competition” comes to mind. If the brushing or grooming leaves the coat smooth or wavy then, of course, the exhibit should be dis- qualified. Surprisingly the large num- ber of SWDs being shown since Janu- ary has fostered a number of different techniques in preparation for the show ring. The fact that obviously trimmed and sculpted dogs have, on occasion, been rewarded leads to even more dif- ficulty and misunderstanding. Although clipping is allowed under the present standard, “the clipping is always com- plete and even.” A dog in cords with little or no hair about its eyes, stop and muzzle is not even and has probably been trimmed. Handlers, both owners and profes- sional, pride themselves on their groom- ing ability. It is, after all, a dog show. The parent club stresses the importance of discouraging and penalizing aesthetic trimming, shaping, combing out or oth- er forms of grooming prohibited by the standard. Our complements and thanks to those judges who dealt with the issue in the ring and those who have sought Many of the exhibits that have been shown since January display a slight rise over the loin and an amount of tuck-up that exceeds that called for by the standard. The standard is explicit in stating, “The topline is straight” and “Tuck-up is slight.” We wanted to keep it simple. If we were preparing an illus- trated standard, I think we might add in explanation that the topline should be straight and level. Assuming the neck rises appropriately, one should be able to place a board along the back and not see daylight. It’s that level. Excessive tuck-up may either actual- ly exist or be groomed into the appear- ance of the dog. We have seen multiple instances of both in recent months. The words “elegant”, “racy” and “agile” are not found in the standard. guidance on the issue. toPline & Body

“Sturdy,” “robust” and “powerful” are more accurate descriptions. The expla- nation we receive is that the dog “will grow out of it” and this may, in fact be true in some cases, but we judge them on the day and an overall lack of substance that often accompanies the faulty topline and excessive tuck-up most often stays with the dog for life. You all know that the only way to accurately assess the topline, tuck-up, croup and a myriad of other anatomy is to get your fingers into the coat and down to the dog itself. To be brutally honest, it is not easy to do this when the dog smells. SWD exhibitors have been very diligent in recognizing this and bring their dogs to the show clean. We hope you will give each exhibit con- sideration in a thorough examination by reaching under the cords, but there is no reason to tolerate a messy, smelly or unclean dog. Color Under the AKC standard as currently written, roan coloration or “ticking” is entirely permissible. The prohibition for ticking found in the FCI standard was deliberately not carried over into the American version. Roan (in dogs) is described as, “A fine mixture of colored hairs with white hairs: blue roan, orange roan, lemon roan, etc.” That really leaves us a bit out of focus. In SWDs some folks are calling it “tweed” while old hound guys like your writer call it “ticking.” Regard- less, you are going to see some very nice dogs that display fine white hairs intermingled with patches of black or brown. There is absolutely no objection to this. There is a good deal of ongoing sci- entific discussion about the genetic fac- tors that lead to this coat color. “Roan” is not the same in horses (where the roaning is widespread and connected) and in dogs where it may be confined to spots or ticking against an otherwise non-pigmented background. The presence, size and shape of the tick marks themselves are determined by genes separate from those which determine the color. Many breeds, such as the English Setter (belton), the English Cocker Spaniel and more recently the Lagatto Romagnolo have embraced roan coloration and included it into their standards. For now, both the American and UK standards are

silent on the issue thuds fully accepting these markings. In the near future we hope to com- plete a comparative DNA analysis to confirm that the gene responsible for roaning or “ticking” is and has been a part of SWD genetics since its devel- opment. While there is no color pref- erence amongst the allowable colors, dogs with roaning or ticking merit full and serious consideration. the Future After nine months in the ring, Span- ish Water Dogs have delivered two or three Grand Champions and a multitude of other dogs have finished. We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ve learned to show our dogs better than we did before being recognized and we’ve gained a better understanding of the show process. It has become pretty clear that we have no endemic health issues in the breed, although there are certainly challenges in that area. We’ve also come to realize some of the more common faults in our dogs that were not so obvious before we began coming together for shows. Many of the champions that have been made up so far vary widely in pro- portion, outline, substance and that all- elusive quality known as “type.” This is not an uncommon situation for newly recognized breed and we look forward to seeing “type” stabilize in the coming years. We are also hoping for more dedi- cated breeders and exhibitors to join the ranks bringing their expertise and perhaps some new bloodlines. From this writer’s perspective, one of the most amazing things (and I don’t use that word often) is the excellent reception that the judging community has afforded the Spanish Water Dog. Some judges have had prior experience with SWDs internationally and have tak- en the time to let us know of problems (and virtues) that they have encoun- tered with these first entries. Others have “gone with their gut” and applied decades of judging experience, calling or e-mailing later to discuss their place- ments. We’ve had so much excellent feedback from so many highly qualified judges that I can truly say that it is our committee that is getting Judges’ Educa- tion. If you are one that has shared your knowledge and views, we thank you. You are helping us to bring this exciting new breed into focus.

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L ike several other breeds, the SpanishWater Dog’s name, may, in itself be misleading. Historically, the breed was commonly known as the Turco Andaluz which was perhaps more appropriate. Th e breed has been known as the Perro Patero (Slippery or Wily Dog) or Perro Rizado (Curly Dog). Unfortunately, none of these is an appropri- ate name either. Although it is a truly multi- purpose and multi-talented breed and has served many purposes, it should be thought of as a smaller, medium-sized herding dog. What is seen most often in the United States are the bloodlines that originated in the southern Andalusian area where the

By Richard L. Reynolds

breed was (and is) used principally as herd- ers. Correct size, balance and coat make it an ideal partner in the movement and control of the goats and sheep that are its primary charges. Th e climate in Spain (and available pasture) necessitates migration of the herds (Trashumancia) over routes of several hun- dred miles on a regular seasonal basis. Th e characteristics of a “drover” are as necessary as those of a “keeper” although, “His loyalty and protective instincts make him a self-appointed guardian,” and the natural suspicion of strangers should be recognized by the judge. Th e Span- ish Water Dog should be approached for examination forthrightly from the front. Any dog that repeatedly shies away from

examination or shows signs of aggression should be penalized. Th e Spanish Water Dog, although a member of the same family as the Barbet, Portuguese Water Dog and Lagotto Rom- agnolo, is a corded breed. Th e coat, when mature, forms rustic cords with tapered tips that are usually flat and fairly narrow in width. Th e coat is highly protective and functional and is one of the important dis- tinguishing characteristics of the breed. Traditionally, Spanish Water Dogs have been sheared annually, removing the cords. Many exhibitors follow that tradition and dogs may be shown with very little coat. Th is is problematic because a “smooth or wavy coat” is a breed disqualification.

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Like a terrier that is shown when recently “stripped”, one cannot judge what isn’t there. An immature coat is not necessarily “smooth or wavy”, but nei- ther does it demonstrate the coat essential to the breed. Th e corded coat is purposeful and rustic. It will also require a bit more time spent in “hands on examination” to determine the actual anatomy of the dog. Th is should be taken into consideration in calculating your ring timing. Aesthetic grooming is severely discouraged (although bathing and hygienic trimming are not only permitted, but desirable). Any brushing, trimming or sculpting of the coat should be severely penalized to the point of exclusion from placement. Th ere is absolutely no reason though, why a corded dog can- not be a clean dog. Th ey can and should be bathed prior to being shown. No one would suggest that an inferior exhibit “in coat” be placed over a superior dog with a less than mature coat, but the extent and quality of the coat must be considered in determining placements. Th e presence or absence of a mature corded, untrimmed coat can and should make a di ff erence. Th e same coat that shields and protects the Spanish Water Dog can make it di ffi cult to accurately determine the true body proportions of a specific exhib- it. Th e standard calls for a maximum height in dogs of 19 ¾ inches and a pro- portion “measured from the point of shoulder to buttocks and withers to the ground 9:8.” Th is would translate into a bit over two inches more length than height in a 19 ¾ inch dog and even less in shorter specimens, making it almost impossible to confirm the ratio in the show ring, particularly with a full coat. We have been asked in seminars, if, given the stated proportion, the Spanish Water Dog should be considered a “square breed.” Th e clear answer is “no.” Th e SpanishWater Dog is slightly longer than tall. While the ideal proportion is 9:8, you will see many excellent dogs that exceed that proportion to some degree. A truly square dog is as much a fault as one with excessive length of body. Th e Spanish Water Dog was and is a utilitarian herding breed. Th e correct type will display good muscle and enough bone to stand up to the rigors of its work. Any lightness of bone or weediness should be penalized as severely as being overly heavy or coarse. Height is not a disqualification, but the judge should keep in mind that the breed is not intended to be overly large and that a larger size could actu- ally be a handicap in working flocks of sheep and goats. An animal much under the minimum height (15 ¾ inches) would be of dubious value in its work. Th e correct height and proportion help insure ease of movement as well as overall suitability. Many judges use visualization of side movement, i.e., apparent reach and drive, to quickly confirm correct front and rear construction. Th is is especially true when confronted with a heavy coat as in the Span- ish Water Dog. Your hands on the dog (under the coat) together with side movement will go a long way toward forming a true picture of the

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anatomy of the exhibit. An excellent specimen will have a front reach coming nearly to a vertical line from the tip of its nose to the ground. Th e top line should remain straight and level at the trot. As a drover, they require ease of move- ment. If the flock moves 12 miles in a day, the dog may cover forty miles or more, back and forth. Th is in turn requires balance. Balance in form and balance in action. As the gait reaches a trot, “the feet converge toward the center line of gravity…” Th is is not an excuse for other obvious faults in gait that detract from e ffi cient movement. Th e degree of rear angulation, while it should be commensurate with that of the front, is vitally important to the dog’s

ability to function as a herder. A careful examination with the hand (again under the coat) is required to gain an accurate assessment of the bend of stifle and short- ness of the rear pastern. Placing an index finger vertically against the pastern can be a useful gauge of its length. Tails are problematic. Some Spanish Water Dogs are born tailless. Others have naturally bobbed tails of varying lengths while still others are docked by breeders between the second and fourth vertebrae at birth. In Europe and the UK there are numerous full tails. We anticipate that American judges will encounter a full tail at one time or another in the future. At present there is no standard or preference

for tail length or carriage except that the “tail is set smoothly into the croup neither high nor low.” Th e remaining disqualifications, for a second color other than white or for “Tri- color, tan point” are fairly obvious and easy to detect. Coloration is currently not a problem in the breed. As with most breeds that are in the pro- cess of recognition by the AKC, the judge will find a wide range of type and quality. Th e stabilization of breed type, and there- fore its success, is dependent on the evalua- tion of the dog as a whole. Th e parent club is grateful to judges who are familiar with the essence and purpose of the breed and make their placements accordingly.

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By Marnie Harrison & Nancy Valley

T he Spanish Water dog is a medium-sized, non- shedding and high- energy dog well suited to an owner with an active life style. Th ey can be clownish and quirky with some having a bit of a stubborn streak. Th is breed thrives on human contact and while a ff ectionate with the entire family, they typically form a particularly strong bond with one person in the family. Referred to at times as “Velcro® dogs,” they are driven to participate in as many family activities as possible and with appropriate support and training from their owners, this participation will be positive and constructive. When provid- ed with opportunities for vigorous daily exercise, this breed generally develops a good “on/o ff ” switch and will be content to just “hang out.” In temperament, the Spanish Water Dog is very much that of a herding breed. Th eir natural guarding instincts can sometimes be hard to manage and they will try to control movement (peo- ple coming and going from the house, children running or biking, etc.). Some possess a high prey drive and require careful management in situations where wildlife or other potential “prey” may be present. Th e Spanish will tell you that these dogs are so dedicated to one owner and one fl ock that, unlike some other popular herding breeds, a Spanish Water Dog cannot be loaned to another shepherd as the dogs generally will not (at least initially) work for others. With their strong herding and protec- tive instincts, Spanish Water Dogs are very loyal to their owners and commonly wary with strangers. In addition to being

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extremely intelligent and eager, they can be sound sensitive, inventive problem solv- ers, strong-willed and territorial. Mental stimulation is as important as exercise and the Spanish Water Dog should be pro- vided with tasks and new learning experi- ences to prevent it from becoming bored. It is also vitally important that the breeder formulate a strong program for socializing their puppies and socialization then needs to be continued throughout the entire life of the dog. A Spanish Water Dog may not be the best choice of breeds for a fi rst time or inexperienced dog owner. Training A Spanish Water Dog Th e versatility described in the histo- ry of this breed extends to the choices of activities in which Spanish Water Dogs thrive. By nature extremely loyal, intel- ligent and athletic, they excel as work- ing and performance dogs and can be found participating with great success in many venues including Herding, Agility, Obedience, Dock Diving, Rally O and Search and Rescue. While there will of course be varia- tion between individuals, SWDs are typically a fairly soft breed best man- aged through positive training meth- ods. Harsh corrective methods may lead to reactivity and/or task avoidance. Reward and praise-based training will enhance the exceptionally strong natu- ral bond that exists between these dogs and their owners and help to continu- ally build the dog’s self-conf idence. Probably of greatest importance in the early work and training with a Spanish Water Dog puppy is the need for ongo- ing opportunities for socialization and acclimatization with new people and sit- uations. From an early age and continu- ing into adulthood, ongoing exposure to many di ff erent people and settings is needed to help these dogs develop com- fort in being approached and handled by strangers, as well as feeling at ease in unfamiliar surroundings.

Photo by "Paws on the Run Photography".

Th ere are many excellent books and other training resources available describing Clicker Training and other reward-based methods. Foundation work can begin as early as a few weeks of age, but owners are cautioned to not put too much pressure on young puppies. In the early months, focus on interactive play and a positive relationship that will sup- port the more formal training that can begin around 6 months of age. As they mature, Spanish Water Dogs are highly

focused on their owner-handlers and are quick and willing learners. Training for herding is quite special- ized and owners who wish to pursue this with their dogs are encouraged to fi nd an experienced trainer with a strong reputation for working successfully with diverse herding breeds. Spanish Water Dogs typically herd with an upright and loose-eyed style and their historical work on small holdings in Spain has resulted in a very capable farm dog.



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