Sometimes Spanish Water Dogs come into Rescue simply because their owners' circumstances have changed, and occasionally due to illness or bereavement in the family. The main reason, however, is that this fascinating and complex breed is often not fully understood.
Part of the popularity of the breed is due to its non-shedding coat, making it attractive to allergy suffers. Indeed, it often comes up as a 'suitable choice' on many websites where people can search for a breed that will fit their family and their circumstances. Other features that may attract potential dog owners are its size and its intelligence.
While it is true that these are all positive features of the breed there are other factors to consider that owners are often not aware of. These are clearly explained in About the Breed. Due to its primitive nature the mental development of the Spanish Water Dog is similar to that of a more natural wild dog and as they approach teenage they sometimes experience a much more severe 'second fear period' than more domesticated dogs. This can result in a previously happy, sociable puppy becoming bossy, difficult and even, in a few cases, a 'fear-biter'. For this reason a great many of the dogs that come into Rescue are between ten and fifteen months of age and are more often male. One of the drawbacks for Spanish Water Dog puppies is their 'cute' factor! People are so attracted to this adorable bundle of curls that they may find it difficult to imagine that their little 'darling' could one day become a problem. If owners fail to appreciate the natural intelligence of the breed and treat their puppy like a child they sometimes have a rude awakening as the puppy grows up.
Lack of early socialisation is a common reason for dogs coming into rescue, too. Due again to its primitive nature the Spanish Water Dog requires socialisation and exposure to the scary things in life from a very early age. After the second vaccination is too late! Socialisation should start with the breeder and carry on as soon as the pup is in its new home. This can be done safely provided the puppy is not put on the ground where other dogs may have been. A puppy that has been reared in a kennel or outhouse and then not taken out until twelve weeks may never recover enough to become a confident dog. Spanish Water Dog puppies that have not been socialised by the breeder, and even some that have, may react fearfully when first taken out. It is very hard for caring owners to ignore this fear but that is what they must do. Reassuring a frightened puppy is the quickest way to turn it into a nervous dog.
Another common reason for dogs becoming difficult is the way they have been 'corrected' or 'punished'. Spanish Water Dogs do not react well to physical punishment; it destroys their trust in people. There are still people out there, even in this enlightened age, who advise owners to 'scruff', 'smack' or 'pin down' their puppies for such things a puppy play-biting. We have had dogs come into Rescue whose owners had been given this advice by breeders, trainers and veterinary nurses, resulting in dogs who had no trust in humans, were afraid of the human hand and would bite if they were touched. Fortunately, up to now, we have always been able to rehabilitate and rehome them, but wouldn't it be a better world if they didn't have to be treated like this?
Whatever the reason for dogs coming into our care we will do all in our power to get them ready for, and find for them, a forever home where they can reach their full potential.