Flock of Sheep Passing through the Village in 1962

Once upon a time in a village in the Sierra de Cádiz, back in the year 1962, its streets Toledo, Trinidad, Nevada, Torre, and others were flooded by the largest flock of sheep in the region. They were passing from the valley along the river and its orchards to the high mountains. It was a sort of short transhumance through streets that must have been cattle tracks and paths many years ago when the village had barely any buildings. Hundreds of Merino sheep walked through the streets, led at the front by a large old ram with heavy horns and a hoarse bell hanging from a collar full of calluses. As the streets cleared, the local women with their brooms made of broom and their wooden scoops hurried to gather all the droppings to put them in their baskets and later into their flowerpots, adorning their balconies with beautiful flowers. Behind them, in the rear guard, were the shepherds with several dogs that had been going up and down the sides to prevent any sheep from entering any door or deviating from the route through any of the side streets.

It wasn’t the first time I had seen one of the shepherds who was controlling the flock. His face was familiar to me because he lived on a street near mine, and I knew his wonderful Spanish Water Dog named “Victoria.” The shepherd’s name was José de Miguel, nicknamed “José El Moro,” an employee of the sheep magnate in the region known as “El Santo,” who leased lands with good pastures throughout the mountains and beyond in some hills and plains. I couldn’t say how many sheep there were, as at that age I didn’t understand large quantities.

Winter passed, and I didn’t see the sheep again, but I did see Victoria, José El Moro, and other fieldmen, muleteers who, with their mules and carts, brought hundreds of sacks filled with the wool of those sheep in June. They had just been sheared and stored them in Plaza La Trinidad in the basements of the wool merchant’s house, “Diego Arena.” This gentleman spread the word among his grandchildren to tell the children, who were always playing in the square, to help gather the wool by climbing on top of the sacks, many of which were open or torn to make more space and fit more quantity into those basements. The wool came very dirty, smelly, damp, and full of all kinds of prickles. José El Moro gave orders to the boys, and the dog searched for possible mice or rats hidden in the sacks or gaps in that basement. It was an afternoon of joy for us because Don Diego Arenas gave each of us a few pennies so that we could buy candies at the kiosk of “La Coia Panala.” When we returned home smelling of sheep dung—in my case, my mother, who had her dressmaking academy in the front room of the house filled with well-dressed and perfumed students, called her sister Nati and told her to take off my clothes and give me a bath with a strong soap of those times that washed, disinfected, and perfumed… In less than an hour, I was back on the street, dressed in clean clothes, ready to see how the task of the wool in La Trinidad was going, and I found again that curly black and wet dog that came alongside José. I followed him from afar until he reached a small pen in his street, opened the door, and in one of the stables put Victoria, took a jug with water from the basin, and poured it into a cork basin, closed the door, and left… For whatever reason, I still don’t know. The name of the dog, her type, disposition for work, the image of José El Moro with that horn between his shoulders, his dirty cap, and the smell of the bestial feces tied with zotal of the enclosure.

Joseph had a lot of genius and was not very talkative with children; but he had three sons and two daughters and his wife liked canaries very much. What I wanted was a puppy from Victoria that I never got although I made friends with two of her children, Pepe and Paco. The dog bred once, that I was aware of; but I was a child who was ignored and the puppies were barely weaned to other shepherds who had them.

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Separation Anxiety

How would I define separation anxiety?

And what is separation? It’s when you move away from your dog beyond the reach of its smell, sight, or hearing, causing it to feel alone without you. But… have you ever thought that perhaps it would have been best to start leaving it alone from the moment it arrived home, so that it could get used to spending a few hours entertained with a toy, listening to the radio softly, or even the television?

Let’s assume that separation anxiety is a serious behavioral problem that some dogs experience when left alone at home or separated from one or more of their owners. Certain dogs even show signs of anxiety simply from losing visual contact with their primary caregivers.

What does a dog feel when separated from its owner? Fear? Loneliness? Insecurity?… And what can these symptoms lead to?

I would say that some dogs, when left alone for the first time (and not accustomed to it), hide in a corner of the house, under the bed, and remain mostly still during the time their owners are away. It’s an instinct inherited from their wolf ancestors. Wolf cubs stay inside the den, their lair, without venturing out, hiding as they wait for their parents to return with maternal milk or the first meals regurgitated by their parents.

But it’s not always like that because in many cases, there are destructive behaviors such as tearing furniture, pots, shoes, or even remote controls, whining, howling, loud barking, or defecating in inappropriate places. These are unequivocal signs that the pet is suffering from separation anxiety.

“It is essential that a puppy or a new dog learns to be alone. This can be achieved by leaving it alone for short periods at first, even in a different part of the house.” If we create too much dependency on us, being with it all the time, it will be much harder for it to cope with separation when left alone at home. The dog must learn from the moment it arrives home that it is last in the family hierarchy and therefore must obey everyone above it. When it doesn’t get what it wants, it will protest by whimpering, barking, and even biting furniture, shoes, and even dangerous cables. It must be made to understand that it has its place and that the places of others are not all its own. The behavioral guidelines we implement with the puppy must always be consistent among all family members, otherwise, it will be confused and disoriented. For example, if it is decided that the dog should not climb onto the sofa or enter the bathroom, it must be firmly scolded with a NO. If it does not listen, it should be pushed out of the bathroom and told NOO!!!. The same applies to the sofa, etc. However, if we pick it up and pet it during those moments, it will understand that we liked what it did and will continue doing it.

The system of parks or folding cages works very well. That is, from the moment the puppy arrives home, it must have its park or a folding cage of at least 1 meter long by 60 wide and high prepared. We accustom it to spend time there from the very beginning, and it will be where it has its food. In the case of a cage, it will always serve to carry it in the car with it inside and it may even be its lair inside the house since they become attached to it and go inside by themselves…

The main factor that creates separation anxiety is the excessive dependence we create in the dog. And how have we made the dog so dependent on us? By dedicating much more time than necessary, holding it in our arms too much, constantly petting it, giving it dog treats… Let’s go back to the wolves, their ancestral origins that will always endure in their genetics. The she-wolf leaves the den, cave, or birthplace and leaves them completely alone; no other wolf lies with the wolf cubs while she is gone. At first, she returns very soon as she goes out to defecate and holds out for several days without eating. While the cubs do not stir, they remain still, dozing most of the time. They continue like this until at two weeks they begin to open their eyes and ears, when the exits of the mother are longer since she has to help in the hunt for the rest of the pack to eat well. As they grow, the time span lengthens until they are left alone for an entire day; but they instinctively know that their mother will return, even their father, some sisters from previous litters, etc. They do not protest, cry, whine, howl, bark, but when their mother arrives and the rest of the pack leaves the den and licks the muzzle of their mother to regurgitate the food. In the case of our puppy, from the outset, it must stay alone somewhere in the house where we are not, it will surely cry because it has been separated from its siblings, its mother, and perhaps another familiar dog; but its primitive genetics has prepared it for this and shortly it will relax and doze until we return to it. You should not put water or food for when you are alone because you already have the schedule assigned for it and in our presence, breakfast, lunch, and dinner until the three months, then breakfast and dinner up to the year and from the year only dinner with the corresponding daily amount. The food that you do not eat, you remove it, even if you have not eaten anything. He will not eat again until the next shift.

It is a confirmed mistake to spend 24 hours with the dog during summer, Christmas, Holy Week, long bridges, etc. Spend all the time with it. And then what? We have already accustomed it to be aware of us all day and when the workday begins, we leave in the morning and do not return until late in the evening, late … We will have created that anxiety, that emotional dependence. That is why I say again that since he arrives home, from the first night he has to sleep alone in his place, although he cries insistently, we cannot pick him up and bring him to our bedroom …

Ubrique, summer of 2022.

Antonio García Pérez.
Bachelor of Psychopedagogy (UCA)
Master in Psychology, Education, and Development (UCA)
Master in Dog-Assisted Therapy (US)
English Teacher.

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The Spanish Water Dog and the COVID-19 Lockdown

We were all surprised by this terrible pandemic that has forced us to stay at home for who knows how much longer…

It has also surprised all domesticated living beings and some wild species because they are venturing into spaces that were once difficult for them to reach…

Our dogs, especially the smartest in the world, the Spanish Water Dog, have realized that something is happening. Yes, having their owners at home all day, every day, is not what they were used to. Our dogs must be thinking something happened; but well, for them it’s much better because they are with their loved ones all day and there’s hardly any anxiety or desperation waiting for them to come home.

The routine of daily walks remains the same although there are fewer dogs in the park than before, and people keep their distance and talk less. They see the mask as just another garment, although the muffled sounds from talking through it distort normal voices. They’ve noticed a plastic smell from gloves that masks the characteristic and unique scent of each of our hands.

In the park, they also miss being let off to run a bit, play with other dogs, get among the flowers, or go into the pond; but upon receiving affectionate and encouraging words from their owners, they quickly realize that “today we’re in a hurry” and they have to take a shorter walk.

Back home, they see the joyful welcome from all family members compensates for the short walk, and they happily accept cuddles, kind words from everyone, grab their toy, and present it to the nearest person, inviting them to play, even if there’s little space.

Indoors, there are many games we can play with our dogs… The simplest is to take a tennis ball, place it in a visible spot, and command the dog to fetch or retrieve if they see it (assuming they already know how to chase the ball). Once they master this simple exercise, the next step is to hide the ball where it’s not visible but let them see where we put it, so they can follow our steps. They’ll bring it back quickly, and we’ll show our joy and satisfaction for their success. Repeat this three or four times. Next, hide the ball nearby without them seeing where it goes, give the command “search,” and they’ll find it using their powerful sense of smell… Repeat several times, express joy, and relax.

Dogs don’t forget; they have excellent memory. They’ll always remember which games we’ve taught them and even the time and place where we played. This means we can play every day at the most suitable times for everyone and gradually combine exercises. With so much time ahead, we can teach obedience exercises, like when they should fetch a toy that’s safe for them. Teaching them to find slippers under the bed by putting a ball or another favorite object inside, bringing the leash for a walk, picking up toys from the floor and putting them in the drawer where they belong, etc. Endless activities that will keep us happy, distracted, and help time pass without dwelling too much on the situation we’re in.

Antonio García Pérez. April 25, 2020.

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Tips for Acquiring a Puppy

Thank you for your interest in my breed. Allow me to tell you what I consider most important to keep in mind when acquiring a Spanish Water Dog:

It’s a decision that will change your life and that of those living with you, as the dog will become another family member who will typically be with you for about 15 years (this must always be taken into account, as dogs are not as long-lived as humans). It also means you won’t be able to enter all the places you want to go: bars, restaurants, beaches, public buildings in general, etc. It means you will always be responsible for all aspects of the dog’s life. The owner of a dog shapes, educates, or trains it responsibly so that its behavior is ideal as a companion, working dog, assistance dog, therapy dog, competitor, etc.

The most important thing when choosing a puppy is that the character of its parents is as balanced as possible: loyal, gentle, friendly, affectionate (towards us and towards others entering the home), never timid, distrustful, bored, apathetic, showing sadness or insecurity, aggressive, excessive barkers, or even biters (there are no excuses from the breeder if they do not allow you to play with the parents to see if they enjoy chasing after a ball or similar). In other words, when they hear you speaking to them in a soft, kind, loving tone, etc., they wag their tail as a sign of acceptance. If the parents are like this… your puppy is very likely to be as well. Don’t rely on claims that their parents won in this or that beauty show (where they were “short-leashed,” restrained and subdued against their will in most cases, or hungry and desperate, attentive to their handler for a chance to grab a piece of sausage).

I have seen dogs win shows that, if let loose from their owners’ leash, would run wildly, trembling with fear and insecurity… eager to return to their cage, to their owner’s car…

Antonio García Pérez.

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Yesterday Alegría Died.

Yesterday, May 25, 2018, suddenly and unexpectedly, Alegría left us at the age of 14. Our diving champion Leonpilic de Ubrique was normal, as always, very active and eager to play with her inseparable tennis ball… In the days leading up, as usual, she had been swimming and diving at the beach, dominant among the other female dogs and marking as if she were a very confident male in her territories. Yes, a simple snore and instant heart attack, she didn’t even have time to say goodbye…

Alegría marked a style of diving in a spiral, twisting her whole body over and over to reach the bottom and retrieve the object that had been thrown, or that she herself would throw, spending hours on end at the edge of the pool tossing objects into the water to fetch them. She didn’t need anyone to play with her, she was always quite independent; yet very loyal and obedient, dominating and the leader of all females, respecting only the old Cibelina, who left us this past January 6 at the age of 17.

In beauty shows, she achieved CACs and CACIBs because she had elegance, presence, style, and spectacular movement; but she was white, nearly white, and was born light cinnamon; however, dogs that are white, beige, cream, the lighter ones rarely win the breed or the mandatory points… There!!! why could that be…???

I could write much more about Alegría, she was an excellent hunter, she hated rats and killed many around our house, she also caught some rabbits… She was one of the bravest and most confident dogs we’ve ever had. Her father LEON, Ch. Pontlajac de Ubrique, also left us this year; he lived in Sweden with Jenny Linderot, and I was with him in February walking through the snowy Swedish fields.

Gradually, the time comes for our water dogs, who fortunately die of old age, and in Alegría’s case, she knew how to live until she died well. She will always be in our memory…

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The Spanish Water Dog as an Educational, Assistance, and Therapeutic Resource

Since 1987, Antonio García Pérez began using dogs in schools as an educational resource for children with special needs. Back then, it was not allowed for a dog to enter the school premises, let alone the classrooms…

Antonio, who passed his exams specializing in English, was assigned to that school as a Special Education teacher for two groups of children with special educational needs due to circumstances within the educational system at the time. In addition to enrolling in all the special education courses offered by the teachers’ center during the 1987-1988 school year, Antonio contacted specialists in special educational needs, colleagues who already had some experience, the educational guidance team, the educational inspection, etc… all to understand clearly how to work with specific children…

It so happened that one of his students, a child with Down syndrome, lived right in front of the school, and from the playground, they could see his balcony where a beautiful black Spanish Water Dog would bark when the children went out for recess…
Without much thought, Antonio approached the school’s director, also named Antonio and a dog lover, and convinced him to allow the dog to come into the school playground during the half-hour recess… Thus, without permission from any higher authority but with the director’s approval, for the first time in the history of dog therapy in Spain, a dog entered the school…

We won’t recount here how well that new experience worked, although we have the logbook that explains those daily situations and very curious instances of the dog’s loyalty and positioning towards its owner during crowded recess periods.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Antonio’s project was approved by the Education Department of the Andalusian Regional Government with grants to implement it in schools and high schools in Cadiz, Seville, Malaga, and others… Antonio had a great team of collaborators who were very enthusiastic at first to undertake such a beautiful educational task using dogs as an additional resource within the school… But the crisis radically cut off funding for the project, and the collaborators had to leave because there was no money even for travel expenses from Ubrique to towns in Seville, Cadiz, and Malaga…

Currently, Antonio García Pérez, now licensed in Educational Psychology, Mastered in Psychology, Education and Development, Evaluation and Educational Guidance, and Mastered in Therapy Assisted with Dogs, continues personally and completely free of charge, assisting four educational centers in the province of Cadiz and a nursing home with his group of Spanish Water Dogs (all females) prepared at all levels: health, social, training… to carry it out with children and the elderly of all kinds.

It is crucial to know that not every Spanish Water Dog is suitable for therapy. They must be very balanced in character, never timid, fearful, easily scared, distrustful, aggressive, or sad… They must be cheerful dogs, full of life, always eager to play with anyone because a good therapy dog DOES NOT MAKE DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN PEOPLE…

The photo illustrates any of the moments when Antonio and his dogs visit these schools on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays of any week…

We will continue to inform and illustrate on this topic…

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A Longevity Record

Summer of 1999 (July 28), it seems like yesterday, yet more than 18 years have passed since we embarked on a journey from Murcia to Ubrique to meet Antonio García Pérez. We were warmly welcomed by him and his family, as well as by the large family of the Spanish Water Dog. We wanted a female, and Antonio appeared with one: chocolate-colored with white socks, a white neck, and part of her chest, a little doll, a plush toy you just wanted to cuddle. We called her Cala, her official name being Lamocala de Ubrique, daughter of Lasso de Ubrique and Mokeh de Ubrique.

She grew up healthy, with love, lots of play, and many tennis balls, her great passion. Faithful, obedient, sociable, affectionate yet independent, an tireless worker—she always wanted to be with us everywhere. When we walked as a family and let her loose, she treated us like a flock of sheep, always surrounding us at every moment to ensure her particular flock did not disperse.

Strong as an oak, she only needed good food, love, walks, and toys to work with—a happy and devoted dog. In her long life, she only visited the vet twice for reasons other than routine vaccinations.

Brave and determined, she protected her family—even once confronting an intruder whom she intimidated by climbing on top of her owner and growling like a lioness, knowing that was her duty at that moment without anyone ever telling her what to do. Just as another time, walking near a pond with ducks, without hesitation she jumped into the water to chase them, returning tired of swimming shortly after—it was incredible, Cala.

She has been and will always be the breed of our life, overflowing with tenderness, giving us love without asking for anything in return. She left us 18 years and 3 months later (October 26, 2017), with test results that young dogs would envy. The veterinarian told me he had never seen anything like it, so old and yet so healthy, only a stroke that paralyzed her left side could defeat her.

Proud to have contributed to giving her a long and good life, yet saddened by her departure, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the great work Antonio and his family do, a lifetime dedicated to this incomparable, irreplaceable, and pure breed.

The best companion our family could have had.

Warm regards,
Jose Madrigal and family

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