The Barbet is a rare French breed. The name is from the French 'barbe', meaning 'beard'. The dogs were used by sailors and hunters to retrieve ducks and other water fowl, and they are very good swimmers. They became popular in the mid-19th century as companion dogs, but it was only in 1891 that they were registered as a breed.
Barbets remain rare in the US, with fewer than 200 in the country. Responsible breeding and imports from Canada and Europe are giving the breed a firmer footing here, though. They may be fully registered in the US with the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) or the United Kennel Club (UKC), and in the last few years there has been an acceptance of Barbets in the American Kennel Club (AKC) Foundation Stock Service Program.
Barbets love to please their owners, and make great family pets. They are good with children and the elderly, and generally like to be around people. This makes separation anxiety a common problem in the breed, and they do not suit being left alone for long periods of time. Their sociability usually extends to strangers, other dogs, and even cats in the home - as long as they have been socialized from puppyhood.
As they crave company, Barbets are only a good choice of breed if someone is going to be around for most of the day, or someone with an job where they can take the dog with them. Intelligent and loyal, Barbets love to please. They are quick learners and thrive on new tricks and play sessions. When training them you need to be consistent and firm, but they will enjoy learning quite complex fun tasks. They tend to be rather sensitive, and react badly to shouting and anger. Play, positive reinforcement and lots of praise works best with this breed.
Barbets excel at water fowl competitions and agility. They love games of fetch, with balls, sticks and frisbees alike. They will happily play these games all day. Their paws are webbed, a result of breeding having focused on their skills as water dogs. Not surprisingly, therefore, they absolutely love to swim. If you can combine games of fetch with water, by throwing floating objects into the river or pond, it will bring them great pleasure, and let them have a great work out too.
This breed needs lots of exercise, and a long walk daily, and a swim whenever possible, is important in order to keep them physically and mentally happy. Once they have burnt off all that energy, they like nothing more than snuggling up with you on the sofa. It's hard to train them not to climb next to you on the sofa (or bed), though, so be warned! They simply want to be as close to you as possible.
Barbets have a long woolly, curly coat, similar to a Poodle, and this needs regular brushing and trimming to prevent it tangling and matting. The coat is dense to repel water, which is fine when they're retrieving ducks from lakes, but not so handy when you want to groom them. They will need trimming three or four times a year to keep the coat in good condition, and occasional brushing will help too. They don't shed very much, though, and are one of the hypoallergenic breeds.
Like other water-loving dogs, Barbets can suffer from ear infections. The ears should be kept free of too much hair and checked regularly. Due to their very limited gene pool, hereditary diseases are unfortunately common. When considering buying a Barbet, it's a good idea checking all pedigrees carefully to avoid problems.
Barbets are intelligent and companionable, and respond well to training. They become very attached to their owners. They love water, and like getting muddy when out and about. You will not be able to keep them out of water, and nor should you - it's a very natural habitat for them. They are good family pets and rarely show aggression, beyond the occasional bark at the arrival of a visitor. Young Barbets can be boisterous, and being large they can easily knock over toddlers or frail grandparents, so be warned!
Barbets are rather in-bred, and can suffer canine hip dysplasia (CHD) and epilepsy.
- Status: Endangered
- Life Expectancy: 13 - 15 years
- Weight: 31 - 62 lb
- Height: 20 - 25"
- Rare: Yes
- Coat: Medium - Hypoallergenic
- Grooming Requirements: Everyday
- Town or Country: Either
- Minimum Home Size: Large House
- Minimum Garden Size: Large Garden
- Breed Type: Gun Dog
- Size: Large
- Energy Level: High