Barbet (French Water Dog)

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black, grey, brown, fawn, pale fawn, white
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The Barbet (French Water Dog) is a big, fleecy and fun-loving dog with prominent pedigree. Being used for centuries for hunting purpose it has obtained excellent qualities of a field worker and hunting partner. In its native France the dog also takes part in agility contests with astounding success.

The genesis of the Barbet takes us so deep in centuries that exact period of its appearance can’t be determined with certainty. It’s commonly suggested that the dog stemmed from herding dogs, which were introduced to Europe with arrival of the Moors, supposedly in VII or VIII centuries. The breed looks like the today-extinct English Water Dog and might be a forefather of such breed as the Briard, the Poodle, and French Griffons. Early documents show that the Barbet served as companion, hunting assistant, guard dog (not so extensively), sailor’s mate, and helper for farmers. The first mention of the dog as a unique and stand-alone breed was in 1387 in a book written by Gascon Count. But only in XVI century cynologist Fouilloux gave it its original name «Barbet» which is translated from French as «beard».

There are quite few references of the Barbet in historical chronicles and it was always depicted with affection and esteem. In the XVII and XVIII centuries the name Barbet embraced lots of the Water Dog breeds, the Barbet and Poodle were regarded to be the identical dog. During this period different names for this breed existed in different counties: «Barbone» in Italy and «Pudel» in Germany. After the launching of the first dogs exhibitions a selective breeding prevailed and led to complete separation between the Barbet and the Poodle. The first distinct and exemplary pedigree of the French water dog can be traced back to 1891.

At the beginning of the XX century this priceless and highly reputable breed was almost lost in the wake of two Worlds Wars. Tough environment and strong deficit of food supply made it difficult for many people to outlast not mentioning many old and honoured breeds, which found themselves on the brink of extinction. After the World War II only two French breeders were engaged in breeding of the Barbet and through their concerned participation the breed got its second life.

Through the XX century and into today, there are on-going endeavours to preserve and sustain this ancient and dignified breed. In 2007 the breed was assigned to AKC's Foundation Stock Services program (FSS). Despite its growing popularity, the Barbet still remains rare and it counts less than 600 dogs living worldwide. It is used today both as a gundog and as a family companion.


For centuries the Barbet was used to retrieve waterfowl and lost arrows from freezing waters of Europe, which has shaped it into a stout and strong dog. It used to always stay by the side of its owner and up until now faithfully and willingly serves him, being his irreplaceable friend and hunting companion. The Barbet is light-hearted, happy, and vigorous with acute mind and a docile and devoted temper.

The Barbet is perfectly suitable for keeping in families. It’s reckoned to be a calm breed, and it consequently allows the Barbet to be children’s favourite. It behaves towards them with carefulness and is compliant to play all day long. This dog is usually on good terms with everyone and strives to actively participate in family life. The dog makes a sublime companion for those, who prefers active way of life, and sportsmen.

Unfortunately, friendliness of the breed makes it poor guard dog, but it still can make a good watchdog barking and growling as the way to alert its master of possible threat. The Barbet poses no danger for other people and seems to be universally amicable.

On the whole the Barbet behaves itself nicely with other home pets and likes to have fun with other dogs. Though it may keep some hunting drive in its nature and therefore presents danger to small species of animals and birds.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• canine hip dysplasia (CHD);
• hernia;
• elbow dysplasia;
• epilepsy;
• ear infection;
• undershot/overshot bite.

The Barbet is a proud owner of long, dense, waterproof hair. Its grooming is easy but takes tons of time. The breed should be brushed on the daily basis so that its coat stays matts and tangles free. Excess hair should be cut off from between the toes. In order to keep its coat well attended, take your dog to a professional groomer from time to time. The breed sheds very little, so it may be a good option for people who endure from pet allergies.

It’s a good idea to clip the Barbet’s hairs so twigs, dirt and debris won’t cling to it while executing with your dog daily exercise routine. For active dogs a regular bath may become a necessity. The master should spend time to take care for such sensitive parts of dogs’ body as eyes, nose, teeth and nails in order to avert any damage or infection from maturing.

The Barbet is really susceptible to training and loves it as well. Its owner should cultivate in himself leadership traits, since the dog needs a strong hand. The training process should begin as early as possible and persist lifelong, as the Barbet personality demands constant mental and physical challenges.

Patience and gentle encouragement and proper demeanour of the master will significantly reinforce training experience. This witty and fast dog has a fabulous success in all types of dog sports. Its ability to grasp things at once and desire to please provides quick and impressive results in obedience training.

The Barbet is teachable and smart and demands fair amount of mental and physical stimulation, which includes active exercises and time to run. Without proper exercise it can develop behavioural deviation such as being fidgety and overexcited.
An hour of a brisk walk daily is absolutely a must to keep this dog in good health and mood. The Barbet is an eager participant of such activities as Frisbee, fly ball, jumping, and many other agility games.