Barbet – Everything You Need To Know

The woolly sporting dog and an archetypic water dog of France, Barbet, is a medium-sized rustic breed that has earned the reputation of being loyal, spirited, fun-loving, adaptable, and recklessly fearless. In addition, these birding dogs are well known for their distinctive, curly coat and beard at the muzzle. These dogs are sturdily built with a square outline, shaggy head, and a thick protective coat. This coat is a defining trait of the breed, being profuse, water resistant, and covering their whole body evenly with thick, natural curls. As agile athletes, they have been primarily bred for retrieving waterfowl for hunters and have webbed feet to prove it. 

If you are looking for a companion with boundless energy and an all-rounder who is active, adaptable, and devoted to their human family, you will see your ideal partner in a Barbet.

Barbet Overview

Barbets are easy to maintain in grooming and nutritional needs, with minimal attention required to keep their distinctive curls in ideal condition. Their devotion to their loved ones and high energy levels makes these breeds perfect for active parents and families with kids. These playful puppies can also live in a home with plenty of outdoor areas and harmoniously with other animals. In addition to its retrieval skills, the Barbet is cherished for its versatility and joyful, intelligent personality. However, they need plenty of mental and physical stimulation, so be prepared to exercise and play to create a happy life and bond with your Barbet dog.

Barbet Pros and Cons

Loyal and loving to family membersNot suitable for apartment living
Doesn’t shed excessivelyHigh energy with high exercise requirements
Energetic and entertainingMay suffer from separation anxiety

Barbet Basic Information

  • Name: Barbet
  • Origin: France
  • Group: Sporting Group
  • Size: Medium
  • Height: 19 – 24.5 inches
  • Weight: 35 – 65 pounds 
  • Coat: Long, dense, curly
  • Color: Black, gray, brown, or fawn, and some have white markings
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Agility, conformation, watchdog, obedience, ratters, companions, and guard dogs.
  • Barking Level: Low
  • Shedding Level: Medium
  • Hypoallergenic: Yes
  • Litter Size: 6 puppies
  • Other Names: Mud dog
  • Breed’s Original Pastimes: Ratters
  • Life Span: 13 – 15 years

History of Barbet

The Barbet was bred initially as a water dog, and they were used mainly in France for hunting water games, as mentioned in 16th-century scripts. After the World Wars, these breeds were nearly extinct, but through the endeavors of devoted fanciers, this rare breed is slowly reborn as a dog for the future. Although rare and in small numbers, these loving canines continue to delight and amaze people worldwide. A keen brilliance, propensity for water, and versatile abilities make it an “all-rounder” dog. The Barbet is a timeless and classic canine breed with a great historical heritage. The AKC ranked Barbets as a “Sporting Group” member in 2020.

Barbet Highlights

  • The Barbets are stubborn and can be unsuitable for new owners
  • They are a perfect match for those who aim for a dog that is highly active and energetic
  • Their thick and dense coats can make them sustain even in extreme cold weather conditions
  • The Barbets are known for excellent retrieving and swimming skills
  • These canines are prone to separation anxiety

Barbet Personality

The Barbet is a fun, good-tempered, and devoted companion who is feisty, energetic, affectionate, domineering, and highly bonded to its owners. The sight of a Barbet is a scene of striking beauty. With their big, goofy smiles and soft curls, these breeds are adorable dogs that make the perfect addition to any family. They are incredible watchdogs but can be snappy towards other kids if not treated gently or respectfully. Some Barbets might be aggressive toward other small pets, but they live peacefully with dogs and cats if introduced to them from the very initial stage. Intelligent and self-assured, the Barbet combines an endearingly medium size and an adventurous gun dog nature. In addition, they portray a range of personalities, such as:

  • Mischievous
  • Outgoing
  • Cuddly
  • Perky
  • Charming
  • Playful
  • Lively

Friendliness Overview

Affection level High
Family-friendly Medium to high
Kid-friendly Medium to high
Pet-friendly Medium to high
Stranger -friendly Medium

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment living Medium
Good to new owners Low to medium
Sensitivity level Medium
Tolerates being alone Low 
Cold-tolerance Medium to high
Heat-tolerance Medium to high

Barbet Physical Features

Head: Barbets have a strong, broad, large head with medium-sized round eyes, wide-set ears, broad skull, squared muzzle, and a large and strong scissors bite.

Neck, Topline, and Body: Strong neck blending well into the body with a well-sustained topline, short and slightly arched loin, athletic body, broad chest, and well-developed elbow.

Tail: Long and low set tails.

Forequarters and Hindquarters: Well-laid-back shoulders with solid and straight legs, flexible pasterns, well-arched toes, and well-muscled thighs.

Coat: Long, dense, and curly coat.

Color: All shades of gray, brown, fawn, and black, with or without white markings. Pied (primarily white with all shades of gray, brown, black, and fawn markings).

Gait: Their movement is free, smooth, agile, and effortless.

Barbet Temperament

Barbets are highly energetic, independent, confident breeds and expect their human family to treat them well. They will easily get along with kids, provided they are socialized as pups and were raised with them. These energetic gundogs are sportive and excel in any canine game, mainly in field trials and conformation shows. With a constantly-wagging tail, Barbets are adaptable and happy to live in an apartment as long as they get good routine walks. 

If you are getting a Barbet puppy, ensure you have enough time and energy to keep them engaged. They might indicate separation anxiety, which most commonly manifests as nervous barking. Also, you can change their stubborn temperaments with proper and continuous training.  

Barbet Training

Training a Barbet can be challenging, given their stubborn attitude and agile build. However, you can take advantage of their intelligence, eagerness to please, and charming nature to ease the training procedure. Delivering constant training for your Barbet to harness their full potential is good. Also, their training sessions must include a variety to encourage their attention until the end. You can train them in complicated tricks and reinforce their learning positively with praise, treats, and special playtime. Agility, dock diving, rally, and lure coursing are all dog sports that Barbets have participated in, and they make for great exercise and mental stimulation. 

Here are some of the training activities that you need to do with your Barbets:

Trainability Overview

Easy to train Medium to high
Intelligence Medium to high
Mouthiness tendencies Low to medium
Barking and howling tendencies Medium
Prey drive Medium
Wanderlust tendenciesMedium

Barbet Exercise Needs

Barbets require much time and space to spend their high energy levels. However, they require proper exercise to keep their mental and physical stimulation for optimum health. Depending on their age and energy levels, Barbets need around 20 – 30 minutes of daily exercise or interactive play sessions. Also, take them on short brisk walks as this is an ideal way to fight their tendency to become obese. They may become destructive or restless without proper workouts. 

Exercising Barbets are essential mainly for three reasons:

  • To keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
  • To avoid any other detrimental behavior.
  • To keep them away from obesity.

You can meet your Barbet’s daily exercise needs by:

  • Teaching new tricks
  • Walking
  • Fetching
  • Chasing
  • Playing with puzzle toys
  • Frisbee
  • Herding trials
  • Flyball
  • Hiking

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy level High
Exercise needs Medium 
Intensity Medium 
Playfulness Medium to high

Barbet Grooming

Grooming is essential to Barbet’s life as it is an intense and potentially expensive proposition. Unfortunately, they have a reputation with groomers as being less than cooperative. This attitude usually arises from a lack of training to accept handling. Hence, positive lessons on how to act on the grooming table are required. Barbets require regular, thorough grooming. Daily brushing at home is also essential to keep the coat free of mats and tangles. Barbet’s grooming needs are as follows:  

Grooming Overview 

Easy to groomLow to medium
Drooling tendency Low
Amount of shedding Low to medium

Barbet Health

Generally, Barbets are a healthy breed. A nutritious diet and good physical conditioning will free them from diseases. However, like all dog breeds, they are predisposed to develop certain health disorders.

Health Overview

Overall health Medium to high
Weight gain tendencies Medium
Size Medium

Hip Dysplasia: A genetic condition occurring when the thigh bones fail to fit aptly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint.

Other reasons:

  • Injuries 
  • Excessive weight gain 
  • Wrong exercises 


  • Pain  
  • Lameness

Elbow dysplasia: When Barbets go lame later in life, elbow dysplasia is the most common cause. It’s a malformation of the elbow joint, loss of motion, driving it to deviate, resulting in pain and, ultimately, lameness.

Allergies: Barbets may be predisposed to skin allergies, which may occur as: 

  • Food-based allergies: If your Barbet is allergic to specific food ingredients, you can adopt an elimination diet involving gradually removing certain ingredients to which your dog may be allergic.  
  • Contact allergies: When your Barbet’s immune system reacts adversely. They suffer from contact allergies due to topical substances such as flea powders, dog shampoos, bedding, and other chemicals. 
  • Inhalant allergies: If your Barbet accidentally inhales airborne allergens like dust, pollen, and mildew and suffers from any signs, they are said to have inhalant allergies. Treatment for these allergies varies with the severity of the disease. 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: The gradual deterioration of the eye’s retina marks the progression of this disease. Affected dogs exhibit night-blindness symptoms, slowly progressing to complete vision loss. However, most affected dogs adapt well to their limited or lost vision if they continue to reside in the same environment when they had a vision.

Entropion: The lower lid folds inward towards the eye resulting in chronic eye irritation. 

Epilepsy: The often-inherited idiopathic epilepsy frequently causes seizures and can occur in moderate and extreme seizures. Unusual actions, such as running as if being chased, stumbling, or hiding, may signify a seizure. Seizures are alarming, but dogs with idiopathic epilepsy have a favorable long-term prognosis. Seizures may be caused by various reasons other than idiopathic epilepsy, including metabolic conditions, respiratory diseases of the brain, cancers, toxin poisoning, and extreme head trauma.

Ear Infections: Given its natural propensity to swim in the water and its floppy ears, the Barbet is prone to creating otitis externa or ear infections. As yeast and bacteria love to grow in damp, warm areas, the ears should be kept clear, clean, and thoroughly dried after a foray into the water.

Recommended Health Tests 

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Dilution Factor
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Barbet Diet and Nutrition

It is advised to measure food 1/2 to 3/4 cups that are high in quality, dry food to your Barbets twice a day rather than letting the food on the plate all day long to eat. Since these pups are potential weight gainers, it is better to watch the food quantity you offer. However, ensure the diet you provide is measured and tailored to your dog’s size, age, activity level, and weight. Also, limit the treats you give your Barbet, specifically while training. You can always prefer high-quality canine food, either homemade or commercially manufactured. 

Barbet Living Condition 

Barbets are the most suitable companion pups who adapt well to their human families. They adore playing and love the company of older children. They are delighted when they are around their family. Unfortunately, they undergo separation anxiety when left alone for extended periods. In addition, they are slightly unfriendly with strangers but get gelled well with other animals if socialized at a very early age.

Did You Know?

  • The term “Barbet” comes from the French word “Barbe,” signifying” beard, “due to their bearded face.
  • Barbets are also known as “mud dogs” because these French water breeds with webbed paws get down and muddy in pursuit of waterfowl.
  • Barbet dogs are non-allergenic and non-shedding breeds.
  • The Barbet almost became extinct after the 2nd World War but has been brought back to popularity by reliable breeders across Europe.
  • As water retrieval breeds, Barbets have long curly fur that keeps them warm and buoyant in the water and webbed feet to help them swim.

Barbet Club Recognition

Barbet Club of America

Adding a Barbet to Your Family

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