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Barbet Dog

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The Barbet is a medium to large purebred from France, also called the French Water Dog. It is an ancient breed developed many years ago to flush game out for hunters, usually waterfowl, and then to retrieve them too. Today it is a rare breed anywhere other than France and is mostly kept as a companion or show dog where it does well in various events including agility, retrieval, conformation and rally. Its pursuit of waterfowl often gets it pretty dirty getting it the nickname 'mud dog'. Its real name Barbet is from the French word barbe which means beard. This is because it is a bearded dog.

The Barbet at A Glance
Name Barbet
Other names French Water Dog
Nicknames Mud Dog
Origin France
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 37 to 62 pounds
Average height 20 to 25 inches
Life span 13 to 15 years
Coat type Wooly, long, waterproof, dense, curly
Hypoallergenic Yes can be
Color Solid red, fawn, brown, white, grey and black
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Very good – this is a smart dog
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle hot weather just nothing extreme
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle cold weather just nothing extreme
Shedding Low – not a lot of hair left around the home
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobbering or drooling
Obesity Average – make sure food is measured and it gets daily exercise
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – daily cleaning of debris and brushing often needed unless kept clipped short
Barking Occasional – does bark sometimes but not all the time
Exercise needs Very active – needs to be with committed active owners
Trainability Moderately easy for those with experience
Friendliness Very good – social dog that tends to like people
Good first dog Moderate – not a dog best suited to new owners, experience needed
Good family pet Excellent – makes a great family pet with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization
Good with strangers Good with socialization – can be wary
Good apartment dog Good but does best with a yard
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Generally quite healthy – some issues can include hip dysplasia, ear infections and epilepsy
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and pet treats
Miscellaneous expenses $655 a year for basic insurance, grooming, license, miscellaneous items and toys
Average annual expenses $1410 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Rescue organizations Several including Club Barbet Canada Rescue, Barbet Club of America Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The Barbet's Beginnings

The Barbet is first referred to in writings dating back to 1387 but it is suggested by some that it may even be a lot older than that, possibly going back as far as the 8th century. For hundreds of years it was used by regular people and by nobility and royalty as a water retriever. It was developed so its coat would protect it from cold water, its feet are webbed and it has a lot of stamina and is quite smart. It would flush out water fowl as well as retrieve them when the hunters had injured or killed them. It was also used by sailors.

As well as being a valued soft mouthed retriever it was also kept as a beloved companion. One royal fan included Henry IV and there is even a story of the King's mistress being told off for trying to bring one into a church. For a while the name barbet was used to refer to any dog with a woolly long curly coat. It is thought that the dog referred to in the 1750 book Histoire Naturelle by Count Buffon, called a Grand Barbet is where many other water dogs come from such as the Poodle, Briard, American Water Spaniel and Portuguese Water Dog. In fact for many yearsin Germany and in France people referred to the Poodle and the Barbet as the same dog. In the 1800s dog shows became a popular thing and dog breeders started to focus on aesthetics. The Barbet survived this stage but as with many breeds really saw a huge loss in numbers during World Wars I and II.

New Lease on Life

Thanks to the work of a few breeders the Barnet survived the wars and numbers started to increase. In the US this has taken a lot of work, it has been slow going and the breed is still rare. For a while numbers were as low as 25 but are now estimated to be between 200 to 300. They are not yet recognized by the AKC but obviously the French Kennel Club the Societe Centrale Canine recognizes them and there has been recognition from the Canadian Kennel Club too.

The Dog You See Today

The Barbet is a medium to large dog weighing 37 to 62 pounds and standing 20 to 25 inches tall. As mentioned it has webbed paws to help its swimming. Its tail is raised and there is a curl or hook at the end. Its ears hang down over its cheeks lower than its jaw line and are wide, flat and covered in long hair. Its eyes are dark brown and round in shape. It has a long woolly coat that can be wavy to curly and is waterproof. Common colors are black, brown, grey, red, fawn, and white. There can be some white markings on the chest, legs and paws.

The Inner Barbet



This breed is calm and laid back usually indoors, as long as it gets enough opportunities to play and exercise at other times. It makes a great companion and family dog as a result. It is friendly and social and can be a great best friend for adults or for the children. It is also very good in the role as therapy dog or helper in nursing homes, schools and hospitals. It is affectionate and easy going and very easy to love, being happy, joyful and intelligent. The Barbet will get along with everyone in the home with socialization but it does tend to bond closely to one or two more than others and will choose to spend time in the same room as those people over others. It prefers not to be left alone for long periods of time and can suffer from separation anxiety as a result.

It is probably best with experienced owners and with good training is obedient but still has a goofy and fun loving side. It needs to be a part of family activities and included in everything. If it gets bored or lonely it can be destructive, vocal and hard to control. It is can bark to alert you to an intruder and otherwise its barking is an occasional thing. It is not especially dominant and is certainly not known to be an aggressive dog.

Living with a Barbet

What will training look like?

With owners who have knowledge and understanding of dog training this breed will be quick and easy to train. It is intelligent and is not overly dominant or stubborn as long as the owner remains firm, confident and in control. Results may even be quicker than some other breeds meaning less repetition is needed. Make sure you are consistent and that sessions are short, fun and do not become boring. Use positive techniques like offering praise, treats, encouragement. Rewards its successes rather than punishing it when it goes off track and avoid scolding. At least basic obedience training is important even if you are not going to show it or hunt with it. It makes sure it does not develop behavioral problems and gives it some mental stimulation. Early socialization is important too and should not be neglected. Expose it to different people, situations, places, sounds and animals so it gets used to them and knows how to react to them.

How active is the Barbet?

Remember the Barbet was bred to be a working dog so it is not a dog that can be kept indoors all day doing nothing. If under exercised it will become bored, restless, destructive, loud and hard to control. It will need at least a couple of long walks each day as well as some time for play with you, things like Frisbee, fetch and so on, and then it will also need safe time for running off leash. One option is to look to local dog parks and this is also a chance for it to socialize. When walking somewhere not enclosed keep it on a leash as it will try to chase after small animals and birds. Remember it was developed to swim and it can also join you for other exercise you do like jogging, hiking or cycling. This is not a dog suited to apartment living, it needs space and a well enclosed yard. Make sure that as well as getting enough physical exercise it also gets plenty of mental stimulation, learning new things, puzzle toys and so on.

Caring for the Barbet

Grooming needs


The Barbet is a high maintenance breed due to its coat so some commitment from its owners is needed if you are keeping that coat naturally long. Brush it and comb it daily to get rid of tangles and debris, and be warned it picks up that debris really well, things like twigs, burrs and leaves. If you do not keep it clipped short it does shed only a low amount making a possible good option for people who want a dog but suffer from allergies. If the coat is allowed to become matted while it is long that can cause big grooming problems and even lead to tufts of hair falling out. Swimming often also increases the chance of matting. This is certainly a breed that people tend to take regularly to a professional groomer. Its ears and feet should be trimmed of hair and checked for debris after going out.

Its ears should also be checked weekly for signs of ear infection like redness, swelling and discharge. Then they also should be cleaned using a dog ear cleanser and cotton balls or a damp cloth. Only wipe down what you can reach easily though, there should never be any use of cotton buds and inserting them into the ears. That can hurt the dog and cause permanent damage. Its nails should be clipped when they get too long if they are not worn down naturally by its outdoor activity. Use a proper dog nail clipper and take care not to cut into the quick of the nail, the nerves and blood vessels are there and that will hurt them and cause bleeding. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week using a dog toothpaste and toothbrush.

Feeding Time

Barbets eat about 2½ to 3½ cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals. How much exactly can vary depending on its metabolism, level of activity, health, age and size. It should also have access at all times to regularly freshened water.

How is the Barbet with children and other animals?

With early socialization and especially when raised with them it is very good with children. It is gentle, outgoing, fun, playful, energetic and affectionate too. Some Barbets are more so than others, as after like us their individual personalities can vary, but in general this is definitely a good breed to have in a home with children. Always make sure children are taught how to play and touch dogs appropriately and kindly. Most Barbet are fine with other dogs, coming from a hunting background they have in the past been kept in hunting packs after all. With good socialization it can live with other pets like cats but supervision would be needed at first. Care should be taken with it around small strange animals and birds as it will want to chase them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Barbet's life span is about 13 to 15 years. It has a limited gene pool because of its low numbers and that can make it more vulnerable to some genetic health issues. Some concerns that can come up with this breed include hip dysplasia, epilepsy, hernias, eye problems and ear infections.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm in North America in the last 35 years there is no mention of the Barbet as instigating anything. It is not an aggressive dog so its odds are lower anyway but then taking into account the fact that it is so rare, those statistics are not likely to mention it. What prospective and current dog owners need to understand is that all dogs have the potential to become aggressive, sometimes for obvious reasons sometimes not, even those family popular breeds. Size does not matter either, all that changes is how much damage the dog might do. What good owners need to do to lessen that possibility is properly raise their dog, give it the exercise and attention it needs, train and socialize it and supervise it when out.


Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Barbet puppy is not going to be easy to find, there are very few breeders in North America or even anywhere outside of France and even in France it is uncommon. Be prepared to wait on a waiting list if you do find a breeder you can trust. Avoid the temptation to turn to quicker but less savory means of getting your puppy like puppy mills, pet stores or back yard breeders. From a decent breeder prices will start at around $800 but that can go up a lot for top breeders of show dogs. There is also the option of looking at rescues and shelters, especially if the actual breed or even whether it is a purebred does not really matter. Its pedigree does not affect whether you dog makes a great companion and there are plenty of dogs hoping for a forever home that need adopting. Fees can range from $50 to $400 and usually that includes health concerns like spaying or neutering and vaccinations too.

Once you have found the dog or puppy that you want there are some other initial costs to pay out for, health concerns and initial items needed. At home it will need a crate, collar and leash, carrier, bowls and such. These will cost at least $200. Then when it comes home it should be taken to a vet straight away for a physical exam, blood tests, deworming, shots, spaying or neutering and micro chipping. These costs will be at least $290.

Yearly costs are another factor when choosing a dog to bring home. The Barbet will need about $485 a year spent on it for basic health care and pet insurance. $655 a year for license, grooming, toys, basic training and miscellaneous items. Then $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats. That is a total estimated annual starting figure of $1410.


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In general the Barbet is a great dog for hunting with if you need a soft mouthed water retriever, or as a family companion. It can live in homes for most types of people, from houses with young children in them all the way to senior owners. It does need a yard though and space to explore. It is a friendly, loving and devoted dog, it will want to hang out with you and it prefers that you not be out all the time! It is a proud and brave dog that also is quite happy to play around in the mud so get ready for some fun bath times if this breed catches your heart!

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