What is the history of the breed? Although rare, the Barbet is one of the original water dogs who were primarily used in France since the 16th century for hunting water game. References to the breed are found throughout history, doing various jobs with various historical lineage, always referenced with respect and admiration. Yet after so many centuries of serving man, the Barbet is not a common nor well known breed as they are a victim of the changes of the history they helped shape. After the World Wars, the Barbet was nearly extinct and through the efforts of a very devoted few, this old breed is slowly being reborn as a dog for the future. Barbet are mentioned in 16th century scripts as water dogs used as pointers for hunting game birds. This breed will search for game hidden in water vegetation, locate it, and flush it out. He then retrieves the fallen game to the master.
How do you pronounce Barbet? Bar-Bay. The Barbet is a dog of French origin. The name Barbet comes from the French word barbe’, meaning beard.
What colors do they come in? Solid black and brown, with or without white markings, are the most common colors. Barbet are also seen in fawn and cream colors. Large amounts of white can also create a pied or parti-coloring with black, brown, or fawn.
What is the Barbet personality like? Barbet are friendly, joyful and fun loving dogs that get along well with others and love to be with their owners. They have a goofy and clownish side to them. They enjoy accompanying their owners while hiking, swimming, and traveling. They have a calm nature and are easy to live with as long as their exercise needs are being met. Because they are very devoted to their owners, they do not do well when left alone for long periods of time.
How do they see? The hair on the Barbet is very light, and can blow out of the eyes as the dog moves. It is acceptable to trim and thin the hair between the eyes, and a pet Barbet can be kept in any kind of trim.
Are Barbet good with children? Yes, most Barbet have a natural affinity towards children and are inherently gentle with them. It is always important to make sure that children and dogs are supervised when together and that the children are taught how to treat dogs with the respect that they deserve.
Are Barbet good with other pets? Barbet are considered to be “good mixers” and as such get along well with other dogs. Proper socialization as puppies with positive supervised interactions will result in your dog knowing how to behave with other dogs and enjoying their companionship. When Barbet puppies are introduced to cats at a young age they do very well with them. As a Sporting breed, the Barbet may chase small animals and pets.
How big do they get? Barbet are medium sized Sporting dogs. Average weights are 35 to 60 lbs and heights are 19 – 24 inches at the withers. Males are on average larger than females. As with many breeds there will be some Barbet that are larger or smaller than average and this is to be expected in a breed that is rebuilding its numbers.
Do Barbet shed? Barbet have hair, not fur, so they do not shed in the same way as other breeds such as the Golden Retriever. Their hair needs to be thoroughly combed through frequently to prevent matting and maintain healthy skin. You will sometimes see little tufts of hair on the carpet from your dog. You will never have the problem of cuddling with your dog and getting covered in dog hair. If you don’t brush your dog regularly (down to the skin) the coat will tangle in the coat and form mats.
How much grooming do you have to do? Regular brushing and combing is required to keep the dog free of mats. At least every week, the dog will need a thorough comb-through. Frequent swimming will accelerate matting. Since the hair grows continuously, trimming is required. Some owners prefer to keep their Barbet is a shorter all-over trim of about 1-2 inches to facilitate maintenance. The ears need to be kept plucked and clean. The hair on the bottom of the dogs paws needs to be trimmed to be flush with the pads of their feet as well. Responsible breeders will provide detailed instructions on grooming and coat care when you pick up your puppy.
What are their exercise needs? Barbet are sporting dogs and require a moderate amount of regular exercise. Long on-leash walks as well as the opportunity to run free are beneficial to these active dogs that love being in the great outdoors. When introduced to water, many Barbet become avid swimmers; their thick skin and woolly coats protect them from even the coldest water. Barbet are calm indoors as long as they are given appropriate regular exercise.
Is there a difference between males and females? As a general rule males have been known to be more easy-going than females. Both male and female Barbet are wonderful and when raised properly they will have the loving, intelligent, and friendly personalities that the breed is known for, no matter what the sex.
Are Barbet easy to train? Yes and no. Barbet are very intelligent and learn new things quickly. They make excellent obedience partners and are in general quite willing to please. Some can be stubborn and some can bore quickly, repetitive drills don’t go over well with these dogs. Harsh training techniques will not work with this breed as many are sensitive to their owner’s moods and will shut down and refuse to work. If you are gentle with your Barbet while still being firm and consistent you will make much more progress in your training. Keep your training fun, interesting and positive and you’ll have a Barbet that enjoys working for you.
Are Barbet good watchdogs? Barbet are loyal, intelligent and alert dogs. They will often bark if someone comes to the door but will take their cue from you and will soon settle when they see that you approve of the visitor. By nature the Barbet is not a noisy dog.
What are the health issues in the Barbet? The Barbet is in general a healthy breed. However, because numbers are still low there is not too much information available concerning the health of the breed. Responsible breeders and breed clubs are working to gather as much information about the health of their dogs as possible. They share this information with one another in the hopes of breeding the healthiest dogs possible.
The main concerns at present in the breed are hip dysplasia, eye disease (such as entropion and cataract) and epilepsy. Responsible breeders health test their dogs and receive certification from board certified specialists that their dogs are free of conditions that are considered to have a genetic component. They share this information on the public databases and make the clearance certificates available to those interested in purchasing their puppies. See AKC’s CHIC program (www.caninehealthinfo.org) for a list of Barbet who have passed OFA (hip and elbow dysplasia) and CERF (eye) clearances.
Are they hypoallergenic? There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog but Barbet are considered to be good with those who have dog allergies. Many Barbet owners who are normally allergic to dogs find that they can live quite comfortably with their Barbet. If you or someone in your family is allergic it is advisable to spend some time with the breed to see how you will react.
How long do they live? The average life expectancy of the Barbet is 12 – 15 years.
What events can I participate in with a Barbet in the United States? As of January 1, 2020, Barbet are now in AKC's Sporting group and can participate in all allowable conformation and performance events. Other venues where the Barbet has full privileges include UKC, IABCA, ARBA, NAVHDA, and NAHRA.
© Judy Descutner & Stephanie Dixon 2020
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