Barbet

Barbet is a medium size water dog from France, that the American Kennel Club calls “a timeless classic.”

The breed is still a rarity in most places in the world.  While one estimate claims only 400 Barbets live in the U.S.

If you can find a Barbet around your neck of the woods, you’ll discover a friendly and sociable dog. A water hunting beast and devout companion.  A breed that is well deserving of their nickname the “Mud Dog.”

What makes them such a great pet and where is this breed from?

Here is what you need to know about the Barbet.

History

What would a dog’s history be without debate and lack of clarity? The Barbet’s history is no exception.

First, the Barbet gets their name from the French word, “barbe,” which means ‘beard.” This makes sense since the Mud Dog wears that distinctive beard so famously.

There is a slight mystery as to the first appearance of the Barbet. Some say the breed descends as far back to the 7th or 8th century, when the Moors were migrating from North Africa with their herding dogs into Europe. The theory believes the dog the Moors brought with them began crossing with local breeds between France and Central Europe.

Another theory claims the breed came out of Asia, because there was no dog resembling the Barbet in Africa during that time.

One thing for sure is, the breed quickly flourished throughout Europe in places like: Russia, Spain, U.K. and Ireland.

However, many writers and historians agree that the first reference about the Barbet seems to be in 1387.  

The Barbet Club of America claims the first attempt to categorize the breed was in a 1570 treatise written by Dr. Johannes Caius.  Dr Caius, who was Queen Elizabeth’s doctor, lists the Barbet as a group of dog for hunting and fowling.

Word spread, and by the 1600’s, more accounts would pop up about the breed. An English poet and writer, Gervase Markham describes the breed as an everyday occurrence. Markham went as far to call the Barbet ‘a normal part of life in England.

By 1758, the English made attempts to differentiate the Barbet from other breeds, which some would confuse them with the Poodle and Spaniels. It was clear to many that the Barbet and its distinct characteristics were worthy of their own standard. Also, many would note that the Mud Dog was much more eager to go into the water than Spaniels. 

That said, the Barbet found a role as a geese and duck hunter. They were also wonderful companions and could herd sheep as well. 

In 1891, J. de Coninick wrote a standard favoring the Barbet as a water dog more than a gundog.

World War 2 took a toll on the breed, as the Barbet nearly became extinct. Thanks to the good fortunes of Dr. Vincenti and his daughter, Madame Petre, who began breeding the dog right away.

Today, the Barbet is making a comeback, so to speak. The breed will become the 220th pedigree dog breed in the U.K. as of April, 2018. They are the tenth breed to be entering the UK club since 2008. That’s quite remarkable considering the first female Barbet entered the United Kingdom back in 2007.

However, the French Water Dog isn’t officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. Although the breed can compete in miscellaneous class competitions. 

Size

This breed is a medium size dog and both males and females are even in size, according to the American Kennel Club.

The French Water Dog can stand between 19 to 24.5 inches in height. They may also weigh between 35 to 65 pounds.

Personality/Temperament

Many historians in the past held the Barbet in high regard as a faithful and loyal companion. They can be your best friend and a wonderful hunting mate.

You can take them just about anywhere with you. This breed loves sniffing out trails, they love long hikes and interacting with others at dog parks. Take the Mud Dog to a body of water and watch them show off their impressive swimming skills. 

They do require regular exercise as a high energy breed. Plenty of mental stimulation and versatile dog tricks and games are necessary with this breed. The Barbet can bore easily. You won’t want to leave them alone for long periods of time. However, if you pair them up with a female companion, they should be fine. This breed is fine with cats.

Smaller children should be fine, although you may want to supervise your child’s behavior around the dog. They don’t like harsh techniques and have a tendency of shutting down in response to anger or crate training.

Barbets make wonderful protectors as they do bark when someone approaches the door. That said, you can get them to stop on cue. The breed is incredibly loyal, friendly, sociable and upbeat. 

This breed is great for people who have allergies or can’t stand pet dander. Barbets are fine for novice owners and okay with apartment living. The breed’s adaptability skills are fine.

Health

The Barbet’s health is relatively good. This can be somewhat misleading due to the few numbers of Barbets around the world. Not a lot of information has been found. With that in mind, the Barbet will live between 12 to 14 years.

When you buy from a breeder, you should always obtain the right paperwork and documentation clearances. This helps you avoid an unhealthy Barbet. You should always work in tandem with your veterinarian and make regular visits to maintain good health.

While your Barbet may not encounter all or any of these complications, there have been links to the breed. For instance, Hip Dysplasia, which is a disease to the hip, where the ball and socket joint won’t properly align. The joint rubs and grinds making it difficult to run or elevate. In addition, this most common skeletal disease found in dogs reduces quality of life.

Also, Elbow Dysplasia is something to worry about. This abnormal growth in cells, tissue and bone can lead to Osteoarthritic processes. Moreover, this complication leads to pain, lameness and discomfort. 

Another uncertainty but many Vets warn about with this breed is Epilepsy. Test haven’t been able to indicate that the Barbet is a carrier of Epilepsy. The scary part of this condition is anything can trigger an outburst of electrical activity. This can lead to problems affecting the kidneys and organs.

Entropion and Cataracts are a couple of complications that affect the eyes. Your dog can live with these conditions, but they can cause a great deal of irritation and sometimes pain. Many dogs with Cataracts adjust to the condition and live their lives.

Care

There isn’t a great deal of care involving the breed. Above all, patience and being gentle is the most important element in raising a friendly Barbet. You will want to commit with early socialization when they are pups. Being positive and mixing up their training and routines will help. They are very intelligent and catch on quick.

Early socialization makes them a better all around pet with other animals especially cats and female dogs. Smaller children may take some effort but they tend to do fine with them.

Regular exercise is advisable. At the very least 30 minutes of a walk per day.

You will want to pluck and clean their ears once a month. Watch out for bacterial infections. Consult with your veterinarian about the best products to use on your dog. This breed may need the bottoms of their paw hair trimmed on occasion.

Feeding

Your dog may not require the diet that many recommend for Barbets. Also, there are a few factors that should play into consideration when it comes to feeding your dog. For instance, how active of a dog are they? Of course, metabolism and age play a part in the volume of food you feed your Barbet.

Nevertheless, your Barbet should always be fed top quality dry food and meat should be the first ingredient. Anything from chicken, turkey, lamb, or salmon is fine. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids will help provide the proper nutrients they need to keep their coat and skin healthy. 

Again, this may or may not apply to your dog, but the universal suggestion is 2 1/2 to 3 cups of kibble per day.

The following is a good indicator of how many calories your dog will require basing it off weight and activity.

For instance, light duty working dogs at 35 and 65 pounds should consume 1115-1775 calories per day respectively. Conversely, a heavy duty dog at 35 and 65 pounds can consume 2230-3548 calories per day respectively. Finally,  your typical, laid back Barbet will need less calories per day. At 35 and 65 pounds, an intake of 1004-1597 calories per day will suffice.

As always, you should leave your Barbet fresh drinking water.

Coat

Many consider the best attribute of the Barbet to be their coat. One thing for sure is: the coat is easy to handle but only if you can keep a handle on it. They don’t technically have fur rather hair. The coat can tangle and mat if you don’t brush on occasion. Once a week should reduce the amount of excess hair from gathering around your home. A scissor clip a few times a year will help manage the length of the coat. 

Barbets have long, thick and natural curls. They have that distinctive beard, and the top of the head-hair reaches the bridge of their nose.

They don’t shed as much and are considered to have a non-allergenic coat. A Barbet possesses a “rustic coat,” which is essentially one that is suitable to farming, country and rural lifestyle. 

As far as colors, you can find their dense, waterproof coats in solid black and brown or fawn and cream. The solid colors may have white markings or not.

Fascinating Barbet Facts

  • France’s King Henry IV had a Barbet and would take his dog with him to go water fowling.
  • The American Kennel Club allowed the breed into their Foundation Stock Service in 2007.
  • Even today, Barbets have many different references. For starters, in England, they are known as the “Great Water Dog.” In Germany, “Pudelhound,” France, “Barbet,” and in Italy, “Barbonne.”
  • The Toy Poodle and Bichon Frise trace their roots to the Barbet.
  • An old expression, “muddy as a Barbet,” stems from the breed’s activity in France during the 18th and 19th century, when the breed would hunt in marsh and wetlands.
  • Barbets used to be sailor’s assistants.
  • Once in the AKC “Sporting Group.”
  • Ancestor of many dogs likes the Newfoundland, Poodle and Otterhound.

Closing Words

It’s hard to believe that the Barbet nearly became extinct and is as rare of a breed around the world as they are. Yet, the writing seems to be on the wall. More groups are recognizing the breed for their masterful work ethic and unwaivering loyality.

Add their intelligence, sweet nature and reputation as a wonderful companion, the canine community should soon expect bigger things  from the Barbet.

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