The agile and energetic Brittany dog breed (originally known as the Brittany Spaniel) was developed in Brittany, France, as a sports dog used for hunting small animals and anything with feathers! Charming and loyal, the Brittany makes a great addition to the family.
General Information And Breed History
The Brittany dog was developed in Brittany, the most western region of France bordered by the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. This abundance of water aided in developing the Brittanys bird hunting instincts.
These instincts made the Brittany a successful hunter of pheasants, ducks, partridge, almost anything with feathers. A rustic, hearty dog, the Brittany proved to be a vital support for the common folk of western France.
Peasants, poachers, and anyone who was thrifty utilized these dogs in their daily life. This versatility is still seen in modern-day Brittany. Frequently depicted in 17th-century paintings and tapestries, it’s clear that the Brittany was a popular companion.
It wasn’t until 1850 a description was formally recorded by Rev. Davies, who described the Brittany as a small dog with bobbed tails, pointed and are excellent retrievers.
In 1900 the Brittany entered its first show in Paris at the Paris Dog Show, bringing wide recognition of its hunting skills to sports enthusiasts worldwide.
This dog was first recognized as a breed in 1907. This recognition led to the first Brittany standard the very same year. As its popularity grew, the Brittany was introduced to America in the 1920s as the “Brittany Spaniel.
” The origin of the word “spaniel” is under debate. It’s believed that it could be a derivation of the French word “éspagneul,” which means to lie down or to stretch as they would lie flat when it found its’ prey so the hunter could throw a net over both the dog and the bird it had found. Or, the word is a corruption of the old French word “Espagnol,” which means “Spanish” since spaniels, setters, and pointers all originated in Spain.
Either way, it became recognized as a breed in America in 1931. The American Kennel Club eventually registered the Brittany Spaniel in 1934. Through the 20th Century, the European and American breeds began to diverge.
The American breed was considered more pointer-like at work, while the French remained more spaniel-like. 1982 saw the word “spaniel” dropped from their name from the American line of dogs, debating the origin of the word spaniel moot.
Happy, versatile, and rugged dogs, the Brittany is one of the most popular and successful field dogs.
Not only a champion in the field, but it is also a champion in the show arena as hundreds of these dogs have won AKC dual champion titles.
General Appearance Of The Brittany Dog Breed
These compact, medium-sized dogs are leggier but still shorter than setters. Their smooth, patterned coats appear in varied combinations of white and orange or liver. A soft but keen expression graces their faces.
The Brittany stands between 17 and a half and 20 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 30 and 40 pounds. The height at the shoulder is equal to the length of the body, making them quite a leggy dog.
They have sloped shoulders, and their short backs slope from shoulders to tail but remain straight. Their neck is of medium length but not throaty. Their skull is medium length, rounded, and slightly wedge-shaped.
A gradually tapering muzzle leads to a fawn, tan, brown, or pink nose with well-opened nostrils—an advantage in tracking the scent of its quarry when hunting. A black nose is not desired and is considered a disqualification. Its expression is eager and alert but soft.
The eyes are well set under heavy expressive brows with well-defined but not drawn cheeks. Dark eyes are preferred, but amber is also acceptable. High-set, floppy ears add to their eager expression. The ears are flat-lying with dense short hair and a little fringe.
The coat of a Brittany is dense and medium in length. The fur is flat or wavy with light furnishings. Boldly colored, the coat comes in orange and white or liver and white with clear or roan patterns.
A tri-colored coat consists of liver and white with marginal orange markings on eyebrows, muzzle, cheeks, inside ears, and under the tail. The legs may be freckled with orange. While tri-coloring occurs but it is not desirable for showing.
Legs & Feet
Their shoulder blades are sloped and muscular but not protruding and sit higher than the rump. The shoulder blade and upper arm form a 90-degree angle.
The pasterns are slightly sloped but forward-facing. The feet are solid and close-fitting, with well-arched toes and thick pads.
Tail & Hindquarters
The hindquarters are muscular and broad on the Brittany, with strong thighs and bent stifles which allow for a strong forward drive when running. Thigh fur is slightly feathered. The tail is high set and naturally tailless, short, or docked to 4 inches. The feet are solid and close-fitting and sport well-arched toes and thick pads.
Differences Between Female And Male
An interesting quirk among female Brittanys has been recorded. It seems that female dogs that spend most of their time indoors may be subject to false or phantom pregnancies.
These pseudo-pregnancies (also known as pseudocyesis) follow a heat. They may produce symptoms you may see with pregnancy including, mammary gland enlargement (with or without milk production), lethargy, vomiting, and fluid retention.
Behavioral symptoms may include nesting, restlessness, possibly aggression. Some dogs may even have false labor and begin to treat small toys as they would a new brood.
How The Brittany Dog Breed Reacts To
The Brittany is a very social, friendly dog making them a great family member. They love child playmates; however, young Brittanys are very active and may overwhelm small children. Care should be taken when the two are at play.
Supervision is a must. However, an older Brittany would be much less overbearing with small children, so if concerned, perhaps an older dog would be a better match for a family with small children.
Being such social dogs, Brittanys are great with other dogs.
Brittanys can accept a cat sibling, but it may require more patience and work to ensure a good relationship between them.
The key is to ensure that the Brittany doesn’t view the cat as an equal, not prey. Otherwise, it will succumb to its instincts and give chase.
Brittanys are easy-going dogs, but the hunting instinct is still strong, so caution should be used when housed with birds or small animal siblings. These small furred and feathered creatures will most likely be seen as prey, and they may be at risk of injury or worse if left alone with a Brittany.
Historically, the Brittany was used on a hunt, often on horseback, so it should accept large animals such as horses.
Care Requirements For The Brittany Dog Breed
Exercising Brittany Dog Breeds
Physical and mental exercise is essential to keep your Brittany healthy and happy. They’re high energy which means they also need a lot of exercise. At least an hour a day of vigorous exercise should suffice.
Good options are long brisk walks, hiking, or running alongside their human. Their physiology makes them excellent long-distance runners. While they love hunting, their natural hunting abilities can be easily translated to other dog sports such as field trials, agility, and dock diving.
Grooming & Coat Info
The soft, feathered coat can be wavy or flat and is relatively short. Their coat naturally sheds dirt and mud, so it rarely needs bathing. Just a brushing once or twice a week with a soft brush or hound glove and a good brushing of the featherings is adequate for good grooming care.
The floppy ears need regular inspections looking matting or burrs to ensure the ear health is good as they may be prone to ear infections. As with any dog, regular nail trimming is a good practice.
Training Your Brittany Dog Breed
The Brittany dog breed is a keen, obedient dog eager to please its human. This sweetheart is gentle-hearted, so training should be done with patience and encouragement. Their natural skills can be used in dog sports with great success.
Early socialization and puppy obedience classes are recommended to give your pup good manners. They’re not protective by nature, so if you’re looking for a guard dog, you’ll be mostly disappointed.
Their natural tendency to find a game may find your dog giving chase to small animals and birds, so a fenced yard may be advisable. They may be prone to barking.
- The Reader’s Digest Illustrated Book of Dogs: Second Edition. Random House
- American Kennel Club
- American Brittany Rescue
- Animal Planet
- VCA Hospitals