This shaggy, medium-sized fellow, also called the French Water Dog, is considered rare. Estimates place their numbers in the U.S. at no higher than 200, with only a few hundred more worldwide. Barbet enthusiasts hope more dog lovers will learn about and help raise the popularity of this joyous, versatile, family-oriented dog.
Of French origin, the Barbet was bred to hunt and retrieve waterfowl, and his curly, wooly coat helps protect him from the elements as he goes about his work. Webbed feet make him an excellent swimmer. As an intelligent and happy breed with the retrieving instinct, the Barbet (French for “beard”) needs obedience training and regular physical exercise; however, he is relatively easy to train. Once properly socialized, your Barbet will become a fun-loving family member who gets along well with other dogs, elderly people, children, and other small pets. Given enough attention and exercise, the Barbet can do well as an apartment dog.
Barbets have been around. Although the first known mention of the breed occurred in 1387, the Barbet may have originated as early as the eighth century. His reputation as a water retriever is sterling. Henry IV, France’s king from 1589 to 1610, enjoyed waterfowling with his Barbets. A popular legend asserts that the king's mistress even dared to bring a Barbet to church!
Males stand 23–26 inches tall, while females measure 19.00–24.02 inches. Weight varies between 37–62 lbs. The Barbet is a solidly built dog with an engaging facial expression. His thick, curly coat can be any of several colors — black, gray, brown and fawn are all possibilities, with or without white markings.
It would be hard to find a friendlier or more loyal dog than the Barbet. Because of their naturally upbeat disposition, they want everyone around them to be happy too. Barbets often display clownish behavior that delights their owners. As guardians of the family, they enjoy having all family members present in the same room. They also display considerable sensitivity and will feel troubled in homes where there is a lot of yelling and fighting. As with all dog breeds, training methods should be positive and gentle, using reward rather than punishment.
The loyalty and sensitivity that make the Barbet so loveable also mean he’s not for everyone. The Barbet wants to be wherever you are. Most owners enjoy having their Barbet follow them from room to room, but if you think it would annoy you to be shadowed by a dog, another breed may be a better match for you. This same trait makes Barbets unsuitable for kenneling or long periods of separation from their families.
The average life expectancy of a Barbet is 14 years. Because of their scarcity, the Barbet’s health tendencies are less understood than those of other, more familiar dogs. We do know they can develop hip dysplasia, epilepsy, hernias and ear infections. None of these is a certainty, however, and we urge you to research the breed and speak with an expert or reputable breeder if you are considering adding a Barbet to your family.
Brushing at least weekly is a must to keep your Barbet, and your home, tidy. Daily brushing is even better. The Barbet does not shed in the same manner as most dogs; rather, he loses his hair in clumps. Regular brushing is the only way to stay ahead of his hair loss cycle. The importance of coat maintenance cannot be overstated. Left unbrushed, a Barbet’s coat will develop mats and attract leaves, twigs and other debris from the outdoors. In addition to brushing, regular trimming will be necessary to keep regrowth under control.
Regular exercise is the Barbet’s other care requirement. A moderate investment of time for exercise will help keep your dog content and calm. Walking/running, games of fetch, or even swimming are good exercise options for the Barbet. Dogs that are not properly exercised can grow agitated and misbehave. Please do not bring a Barbet into your home if you cannot commit to a modest exercise routine.
If you are interested in rescuing a Barbet or you know of one that needs rehoming, the Barbet Club of America (http://barbetclubofamerica.com) wants to hear from you.