Meet the Spanish Water Dog: A Fancier Reflects on the Breed’s Path to AKC

Spanish Water Dog
Spanish Water Dog. Photo: Jumpstart Imagery

 

February 15, 2016: My alarm rang romptly at 6 this morning, waking me in time to catch the flight from Calgary, Canada, to New York City to watch Spanish Water Dogs make their way into the ring at Westminster for the very first time. I know the dogs, I know the people, and I can hardly wait!

The journey really began more than 20 years ago. That was when the first Spanish Water Dogs arrived in the United States, imported by individuals who had encountered a unique, medium-sized, and compact, curly-coated dog while traveling in Spain. The first American-born litters soon arrived, and in time (and with the help of the Internet), the scattered owners of the breed began to find each other. That in turn led to the formation of the first breed club, in the early 2000s.

Even in those early years, there were some far-sighted individuals who looked forward to the day when the breed would achieve full recognition with the AKC. So many of us were delighted, relieved, and proud of all of the hard work when that milestone was celebrated on January 1, 2015. Bring on the shows!

2015 was an exciting year for Spanish Water Dogs in the U.S. While there had been a handful of our dogs participating very successfully in a variety of performance events for several years, that previously unattainable “Champion” title could now become a reality for our dogs. This year we have celebrated our first champions and grand champions. Several owners have enjoyed the thrill of their dogs being awarded group placements. The Spanish Water Dog Club of America (SWDCA) held its first fully sanctioned specialty at the prestigious Morris & Essex Kennel Club show in October, with a wonderful gathering of dogs and friends of the breed. And, as I write this, owners and handlers are preparing for the breed’s first entry at the Westminster Kennel Club show.

Of all of the steps required by the AKC as this breed moved through Foundation Stock Service, then the Miscellaneous Class, and on to full recognition, the process that inspired the most passion was the writing of the AKC breed standard. The individuals on the club’s standard committee took painstaking care to broaden the scope of a very limited FCI standard and create a document that clarified details while maintaining the integrity and historical “type” of our breed. The committee also included experienced judges who helped make the wording most meaningful through use of appropriate canine structural and movement terms.

The standard and the history of this breed are completely intertwined and are most strikingly embodied in two critical qualities of the breed: its medium size, and the distinctive nature of the coat, as emphasized and described in detail in the standard. Substantial variations in either of these elements detract significantly from the essence of the breed.

Much to my dismay, there are already dogs being presented in the show ring groomed in a manner very much contraindicated by the standard.

As with any breed new to the AKC, effectively educating the purebred dog community in general, and particularly the judges, is an ongoing responsibility of the parent club. The SWDCA is respectfully and persistently working to support the knowledge of judges, their understanding of this breed, and its correct presentation. It is of utmost importance in this early stage of the breed’s involvement in the conformation setting that judges support this breed and its future in the U.S. through careful and accurate interpretation of the standard.

Authentic and meaningful evaluation in the show ring will be critical to maintaining the interest and enthusiasm of Spanish Water Dog exhibitors, as well as to the integrity of breed type.

Marnie Harrison, Spanish Water Dog Club of America

From the AKC Gazette

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