Other Names: French Water Dog
Country Of Origin: France
Dog Group: Water dog
Recommended For: Families, couples, single owners
Maintenance Level: Medium/low
Lifespan: 13-15 years
Temperament: Friendly, obedient, intelligent
Good For First-Time Owner: Yes
Good With Children: Yes
Good With Other Animals: Yes
Good With Strangers: Yes
Good For Apartments: No
Exercise Requirements: Daily walking
Can Live In Hot Weather: Yes
Can Live In Cold Weather: Yes
Can Tolerate Being Left Alone: Yes
Grooming: Weekly brushing
The Barbet is quite a rare breed of dog, originating in France. It was originally bred to hunt waterfowl but are also kept as family dogs.
In 2007, one of the last years for which records exist, there were only 176 registered across the world.
The breed is easily recognized by its curly coat, which is ideal for keeping them dry while working.
Although they were bred as a working dog, the Barbet is very good with children, and so makes an excellent family dog.
Color: Brown, fawn, white, solid black, pied
Height: Males – 23-26 inches, Females – 21-24 inches
Weight: 37-62lbs (both males and females)
Personality and Temperament:
The Barbet is known for its friendly and loyal personality, and forms lifelong bonds with its owners.
Barbets are incredibly happy dogs, and love to be with their owners as much as possible. They’re not particularly independent dogs, but they are still very clever.
When it comes to obedience training, Barbets are very easy to teach. They pick up simple commands easily, and can be trained to pick up much more complex commands.
This is because of their use as a working dog, but also means they’re ideal for entering into obedience competitions.
When used in their role as a working dog, they get trained to act without being told, which is where their independence comes from.
Barbets are good with children, but are friendly with people of all ages. For this reason, Barbets make perfect family dogs.
They can often be left alone around children with little or no problem, but this will obviously vary between dogs.
Although the breed isn’t massive, owners should be wary leaving the dog around small children, and any meetings should be supervised and started as early as possible.
Due to their easy trainability and low maintenance, Barbets make a good choice for first-time owners.
However, being a rare breed means they’re quite expensive and difficult to source, which might put many first-time owners off the idea.
If money isn’t a problem though, you could do much worse than a Barbet as your first dog.
French water dogs were bred to work as hunting dogs, meaning they need daily exercise.
A walk lasting around 30 minutes is the absolute minimum exercise the breed requires, but either one long walk or multiple short ones are better.
This should also be supplemented with play time in the house, and Barbets absolutely love to play fetch.
This need for exercise means Barbets aren’t a good choice for keeping in an apartment.
They’re generally too energetic a breed for such a small space, and much prefer to have plenty of land to play on.
The ideal situation for a Barbet is a house with a large, secure backyard, although the dog should also be microchipped because they have a love of escaping.
Barbets are great around other animals, including both other dogs and small pets. However, owners should obviously be wary keeping a Barbet around birds, and small rodents should be monitored.
The breed has quite a strong fetching instinct, and while they’re not bred to really do the hunting themselves, there’s always a chance the dog will get carried away if it thinks it’s playing.
Barbets were bred for use in France, meaning they can tolerate quite high temperatures.
Their coat is quite thick and is designed to repel water, so owners should be wary about exercising them too heavily on very hot days because the breed can overheat. That said, it’s nothing a quick swim wouldn’t fix!
On the reverse of this, Barbets can also tolerate quite low temperatures thanks to their coat.
Owners should still beware of temperature extremes, particularly in the winter, and it might be worth buying the dog a coat if it gets very cold.
On the whole, Barbets are very good around people, including strangers. This obviously means they’re not suited to being a guard dog, but Barbets may become defensive if they believe their house is under threat. However, plenty of training from a young age will prevent any potential issues around people.
Barbets have a long, wooly coat that is quite dense and curly. While this means they’re great at keeping warm in the water, it does mean it requires a bit more attention than a shorthaired breed.
Brushing should be done at least once a week using a wide-tooth comb. This will help to remove any knots in the coat, but be careful when doing this because it might become painful if you pull too hard.
One big advantage of Barbets is that they shed very little hair. The vast majority will be confined to seasonal changes, although they don’t get a completely new coat like some other breeds.
That said, the Barbet is not a hypoallergenic breed because they do still shed, even if it’s not very often.
You should bathe your Barbet every other week or so because it will help to keep their coat looking nice and fresh.
The coat should then be blow dried to help straighten it and set the curls. Owners should trim the coat up to 5 inches every few weeks to help keep it in good condition.
Their fluffy coat also means you need to check their ears regularly, as it’s common for things to get stuck in them, which can lead to infection.
Check them several times a week, removing all debris and cleaning out the wax whenever necessary.
As with all dogs, make sure you trim a Barbet’s nails regularly, which will be as often as needed.
Dogs that get plenty of exercise won’t need them done as often, but make sure you always keep an eye.
Similarly, you should brush your Barbet’s teeth several times a week to minimize the risk of tooth decay.
Common Diseases and Conditions:
Because the breed is so rare, there is very little known about the common conditions Barbets suffer from.
However, some breeders have recognized the common occurrence of conditions such as hip/elbow dysplasia, ear infections, and epilepsy.
These conditions aren’t generally tested for by breeders because there’s currently no evidence to confirm they’re genetic.
Bear this in mind if you’re thinking of buying a Barbet puppy, and perhaps get them tested before committing to adoption.
Ear infections are probably the most common, and most easily treated, condition the breed suffers from.
A Barbet’s ears should be checked every few days, particularly if the dog is going in the water a lot. Infections can generally be treated with antibiotics or cream, so make sure you visit your vet early enough.
Throughout their history as a working dog, the Barbet has actually been several different breeds.
In the days before modern breed classifications existed, the name was used as a general term for any working dog with a curly coat.
Barbets are also an important part of working dog history, and there are many popular breeds that can trace their ancestry back to a Barbet.
They were primarily used for hunting and fetching waterfowl, but were also used in a number of other working roles. Some families even just kept them as a companion dog.
The first official Barbet to be recorded was in Histoire Naturelle, a book written in 1750.
It’s believed that this exact dog is the one that newer breeds can trace their lineage to, including poodles, the American Water Spaniel, and the Portuguese Water Dog.
The breed is incredibly rare outside of France, and it’s believed that there are currently between 150 and 200 Barbets in the USA.
Barbets are recognized by the American Rare Breed Association and the American Kennel Club Foundation Stock program. As it stands, there currently aren’t enough specimens in the USA for it to be fully recognized.
Barbet Facts & Figures:
Did You Know:
- The name Barbet comes from the French “barbe”, which means “beard”. Considering their fluffy faces, it’s no surprise this name stuck.
- Barbets almost became extinct during WW2, mainly due to German occupation of France. However, a group of breeders managed to bring them back from the brink of extinction.
- They’re recognized as one of the most agile breeds, making them a great choice for competitions.
- Barbets were frequently used as sailor’s companions, and the breed even gave its name to the ship’s cannon positioned on the bow (the Barbette).
- The breed was also used as a livestock herding dog, particularly for herding sheep.
- The Barbet’s rarity means there’s quite a limited gene pool for future breeding. This means the likelihood of genetic conditions will probably increase.
*More French Dog Breeds below: