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French Spaniel

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French Spaniel

The French Spaniel is a medium to large dog from France bred and developed to be a hunting dog as far back as the 14th century. While its origins and main development happened in France there has also been some in Canada. It is described as being a Spaniel like Setter and is one of the largest Spaniel types around with a life span of 10 to 12 years. It is a friendly dog and as well as being a good hunting dog it could be a good family dog and companion.

The French Spaniel at a Glance
Name French Spaniel
Other names Epagneul Français, Canadian Setter, French Setter
Nicknames FS
Origin France
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 45 to 60 pounds
Average height 21 to 25 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Straight, or a little wavy and medium length
Hypoallergenic No
Color White and brown markings
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Above average
Tolerance to heat Good
Tolerance to cold Very good to excellent
Shedding Light to average – some hair will be around the home
Drooling Moderate – not especially prone
Obesity Average – measure its food and make sure it is well exercised
Grooming/brushing Average – brush twice a week
Barking Occasional – does bark but should not be constant
Exercise needs Very active – need active owners
Trainability Moderate – need to be gentle and positive as it is sensitive
Friendliness Very good to excellent – social dog
Good first dog Good to very good
Good family pet Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization as has high prey drive
Good with strangers Good but need socialization – can be wary
Good apartment dog Low – needs space and a yard or even better some land
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Fairly healthy but some issues include joint dysplasia, ear infections, acral mutilation and analgesia
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1000 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $900
Rescue organizations Eastern Canada French Spaniel Club Rescue, Gerdy's Rescues and Adoptions – also check local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported

The French Spaniel’s Beginnings

Reference to Spaniel type dogs in France can be found dating to the 1300s and was popular in hunting especially in the Middle Age period, becoming quite a favorite with the French royalty and nobility. By the middle of the 1800s there were various sized long haired pointing dogs in many parts of western Europe. In France there were a number of sizes and colors and there were some clear regional differences. For a long time they had been grouped all into one called the spaniels of France but in the late 1800s when there was more interest with breeding and standards it was decided to split them into different breeds. One such as the French Spaniel and its standard was drawn up in 1891.

At the time it seemed like a good thing for the breeds but in fact many dogs were nearly lost as a result, imports were coming from Britain and those French breeds were spread out in small populations. As a result there was a lot of crossbreeding and finding a pure French Spaniel was hard. James de Coninck wrote, “ There is no breed, in fact, that has been subjected to as many crosses”.

By 1906 Abbe Fournier, a French priest, made the decision to spend the rest of his life reviving the breed. He brought together as many pure or almost pure dogs as he could and started a breeding program to save the dog from becoming extinct. In 1921 a club formed to encourage strict breeding practices and Fournier was its president. At first success could be seen but then came the two world wars which has a devastating impact on many of the world's dog breeds but especially those in France. The French Spaniel reached all time low numbers.

French Spaniel

New Lease on Life

After World War II further efforts were made using the very few numbers remaining to revive the breed. Thankfully by the 1960s progress could be seen, the numbers were up and French Spaniels were once again appearing in shows and trials. In Quebec in Canada in 1975 hunters imported dogs and started breeding and formed their own club, the Club de l'Epagneul Francais. The Canadian Kennel Club gave the breed recognition in 1985. It has become somewhat popular in Quebec since, with over 12 breeders registering around 100 puppies a year. In France in continued to grow in numbers and has become one of the more popular French pointing breeds. The FCI and the UKC have also given it recognition but it is not recognized by the AKC yet nor the Kennel Club in the UK.

The Dog You See Today

The French Spaniel is a medium to large dog weighing 45 to 60 pounds and stands 21 to 25 inches tall. It is the second tallest spaniel type, the tallest is the English Springer Spaniel. It has a deep chest, strong legs and muscular body with a back that slopes a little, large muscled thighs and a tail that is long, low set and tapers to the tip. Its neck is medium length, powerful and arched. Its coat is medium length and can be wavy or straight. It is water resistant, dense and there is longer feathering on the back of the legs, ears and tail. Common colors are white with brown markings which can be any shade from dark liver to a light cinnamon. The head is in proportion to the rest of the body, it is medium length and chiseled. It has large oval eyes that are dark amber and hanging ears set back and lined up with the eyes. Its nose is wide and brown and the upper lip does not cover the lower.


The Inner French Spaniel


The FS is an outgoing, sweet, happy and friendly dog who forms strong bonds with its owners and when well exercised is even tempered and calm. It is intelligent and while it is a hunting dog when it is not out in the field it should not be an aggressive dog. It really likes to have people around it, it needs human companionship and therefore need owners who are not out for long hours at a time, all the time. It does suffer from separation anxiety if it is left alone for too long. It is affectionate and loving to its family and will demand a lot of attention from you.

French Spaniels are eager to please but needs gentle handling even though you still need to be firm. It also needs active owners, with too much scolding, physical handling or not enough exercise and mental stimulation it can become unhappy, hyper, destructive and nervous. How this dog gets on with strangers can vary, some are more friendly which means they are not the best watchdog, and some are polite but a bit more wary. It certainly is too social and non aggressive to be a guard dog. Its faithfulness and affection for its owners can mean that it greets you too enthusiastically when you come home from being gone, so that may need some training.

Living with a French Spaniel

What will training look like?

As mentioned they are intelligent and eager to please which makes training potentially easy as long as you keep in mind while you need to be firm, with this dog you also need to be positive and gentle in your approach. It is easily intimidated and will withdraw should you get harsh or physical with it. Stick to the rules and be consistent still but be patient and use positive techniques. Offer it lots of praise, encourage it, reward its success, use things like treats to motivate. Also make sure you give it socialization from early on by introducing it to different people, situations, animals, sounds and such so it learns to deal with them and how to react in an acceptable manner.

French Spaniel

How active is the French Spaniel?

Remember the French Spaniel is a working dog and has been bred to have a good amount of stamina. It is very active needing a good amount of physical and mental stimulation each day. When hunting it is well able to go for hours and can deal with difficult terrain and even the water. It is very enthusiastic about it, it loves to be out there searching for the scent and then pointing and retrieving. When not hunting it needs to be taken on brisk and long walks a day and also played with each day. It is not an apartment dog, it needs space as it tends to be active indoors sometimes, and needs at least a yard for outside time, even better would be some land. It also enjoys having jobs to do.

Caring for the French Spaniel

Grooming needs

The medium coat does shed a light to average amount so there will be some hair around the home to deal with. It should be brushed at least twice a week to keep in it healthy and clear of debris and loose hair. Only give it a bath when it needs one as a lot of issues with dogs who are having skin problems can stem from owners making bath time a scheduled and frequent thing. That can actually damage the natural oils in its skin which it needs for good skin health and coat health. For the same reason when it is needing a bath only use a shampoo made specifically for dogs.


As well as brushing and bathing it will need some other things done to take care of it. Its nails should be clipped when they get too long using a proper dog nail tool and taking care not to cut too far down. That can lead to bleeding and cause pain as it is where the nerves and blood vessels are. Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week and check its ears weekly for infection. Also give them a wipe clean with a damp cloth or use a dog ear cleanser. Never insert anything like a cotton bud down the ear as that can hurt it and do permanent damage.

Feeding Time

The FS will eat between 2¼ to 3¼ cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals to avoid issues with bloat. It should also have access to water. The amount it can eat varies from one spaniel to another because of differences in size, level of activity, metabolism rate, health and age.

How is the French Spaniel with children and other animals?

French Spaniels are usually very good with children with socialization and especially when raised with them. They care gentle with them, affectionate and playful. In fact the two together can help burn off both of their energy! It is important that any children are taught how to touch and play in an appropriate way though. It also gets on well with other dogs and in fact prefers to have another dog or two around for companionship. It prefers dogs that are about the same size as it is though and ones that have the same kind of energy levels. It does not get on as well with other non-canine pets as it is a hunter and does have a prey drive, keep it on a leash when out so it does not chase other strange animals. It can learn to put up with a cat in the home if it is raised with one.

French Spaniel Puppy

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

With a life span of 10 to 12 years the FS is fairly healthy but there are some issues to be aware of. Acral mutilation and analgesia is a newly recognized dermatological issue and symptoms start in a puppy between the age of 31/2 months and 12 months. Those affected will bite and lick at extremities causing injury, infections, ulcers and in really severe cases self amputation occurs. Most dogs are euthanized. Other issues can include ear infections, joint dysplasia and bloat.

Biting Statistics

These statistics come from looking at reports that list dogs who have been involved in attacks against people that have done bodily harm. They span 35 years and cover Canada and the US. In them there is no mention of the French Spaniel, it is not an aggressive dog to dogs or people so it is unlikely to get drawn into such things. However no dog is 100% safe or guaranteed to avoid all situations. Things can happen and to give your dog the best tools to avoid such situations you should give it good socialization, training, supervision, exercise and mental stimulation, feeding and attention.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A French Spaniel puppy will cost around $900 from a decent breeder, and more than that for something from a top breeder. In North America you are more likely to find breeders in Quebec in Canada, though there are a small number in the US itself. In Europe the majority are in France, but some are still in some of Western Europe. Avoid using breeders with poor reputations like puppy mills, backyard breeders and even some pet stores. There is the option of checking shelters and rescues. Adoption is $50 to $400 but you are more likely to find a mixed breed than purebred, and older dogs rather than puppies.


Once you have found your dog and it is soon coming home there are some things to buy for it. A carrier, crate, bowls, leash and collar and such will cost about $240. Then when it has settled in you should get it to a vet for some tests and such. A good physical exam, deworming, shots, blood tests, spaying or neutering and micro chipping will cost another $290 or so.

The yearly costs for being a responsible dog owner are another factor to think about. Feeding it will cost about $270 a year for a good to excellent dry dog food and dog treats. $245 a year should cover miscellaneous items, license, toys and basic training. Then another $485 is about what it will cost to cover basic health care like shots, flea and tick prevention and check ups along with dog insurance. This gives an estimated starting yearly cost of $1000.


Looking for a French Spaniel Name? Let select one from our list!

The French Spaniel is best suited for owners who are very active, have experience and can take it out to hunt, and out for good amounts of exercise. It does not like being alone and will need you around often, and possibly at least one other canine that is much like it, to have as a friend. It is a very good family dog and as well as being a gorgeous dog to look at is also affectionate, loyal and joyful to have around.

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