These water-loving canines are ultimate outdoor sporting dogs.

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Miscellaneous Class
  • Height: 19–24 inches
  • Weight: 35–60 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12–15 years

The barbet (pronounced bar-bay) is an ancient and rare water dog who has been used for hunting water game since the 14th century.

The breed has webbed paws to aid in swimming. The eyes are round and dark brown, and the tail is raised with a slight hook at the end. Long hair covers the flat, wide ears. The ears will extend beyond the jaw when brought in front of the face.

The long, curly coat can form strands, and coat colors include solid black, brown, gray, fawn, cream and white, and may have white markings. Large patches of white with other colors is possible, though not common.

2. Where They Came From

Considered an ancestor of the poodle, griffon, otterhound and several other dog breeds, barbets were used to hunt and retrieve waterfowl. They originated in France, and evidence dates the dogs’ appearance in history to the 14th century. The breed nearly went extinct after the World Wars I and II, but thanks to a few fanciers, the dogs survived.

Careful and dedicated breeding has strengthened barbets’ numbers — whereas there used to be around 25 total in the United States, now there’s an estimated 300 barbets in the country.

This breed is a companion pet, water game hunter and retriever. They may also participate in conformation, agility, obedience, rally and retrieval.

The barbet is a rare water dog. By: John McAllister (Top: Same)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Barbets are calm, friendly and affectionate dogs. They are attached to their families and can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time. They are not noisy dogs but will alert you to the presence of a stranger. They enjoy outdoor activities and are gentle with children.

Living with other dogs isn’t a problem, but it depends on individual dogs’ personalities. Coexisting with cats can be done if the dog is socialized with them early in life. Supervision is strongly recommended with smaller animals to prevent a barbet from giving chase.

Intelligent and eager to please, barbets can also be stubborn and bore easily. They don’t respond well to harsh discipline or repetitive training. Varied, fun and consistent training that’s not too repetitive works best for them.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

HIGH: Barbets are active sporting dogs and need regular, daily exercise. Keep yours on a leash or in an enclosed area when outdoors to prevent her from chasing smaller animals. These water dogs will bound into water no matter how cold it may be; their thick skin and coat protects them from the temperature.

Apartment life works for these dogs if their daily exercise needs are met; they do best with active families.

Grooming Needs

HIGH: Although barbets shed seldom and are great dogs for people with allergies, regular brushing and trimming prevents the coat from matting. Barbets are frequent swimmers, and this activity increases the possibility of matting.

Beyond plucking, barbets’ ears require regular cleaning. The ears and paws should also be checked for dirt and debris after swimming or outdoor activities.

Trim the hair between the paw pads — this can be easily done when the nails are cut. The teeth should be cleaned regularly to prevent buildup and periodontal issues.

Health Problems

LOW: Barbets are generally healthy dogs, with just a few health issues noted as common in the breed:

This joyful barbet shows his stuff:

5. Where to Adopt One?

Though barbets are rare, purebred dogs do end up in shelters and rescues, so it’s worth checking with them first. Get started with our adoptable dog search.

If you decide to contact breeders, spend time getting to know them and touring their facilities. Be aware of the warning signs of puppy mills, meet the puppy’s parents and ask for proof of health clearances or tests performed for the eyes and hips.

Additional Resources

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