Meet the Brittany Spaniel, one of the world's favorite sporting breeds. These active dogs are excellent companions and hunting dogs, and are known to work more closely with hunters than other pointing breeds.
History and Origin
The origins of the Brittany Spaniel extend back more than 1,500 years in Northern France and the province of Brittany, the region for which the breed is named. Although there are no significant records to tell us how the breed was developed, many believe Brittanys are the result of breeding between English Setter breeds and French Spaniels. These dogs certainly display characteristics of both.
Although the Brittany was referred to as a Spaniel from the beginning, the name has undergone a slight change in the United States. The American Kennel Club dropped the word "Spaniel" from the name in 1982 because they felt these dogs resembled setter- and pointer-type dogs more closely. In the U.S., this breed is known simply as the Brittany, although the rest of the world still refers to the breed by the full name.
These dogs were developed to track and capture game. They do their job so well; they rank among the favorite hunting breeds. Even if you aren't searching for a hunting dog, this could still be the breed for you.
The Brittany Spaniel is a solid, medium-sized dog with a square frame when viewed from the side. The breed is very energetic, but they are sure-footed and typically only clumsy as pups. These dogs may be born with no tail at all, or they may have a tail up to 10-inches long at birth. The breed standard calls for docking the tail to a length no greater than 4 inches, and breeders typically dock their dogs if their tail length exceeds the standard, where docking is allowed.
There is no true size distinction between males and females.
- Height: 17.5 to 20.5 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 30 to 40 pounds
The Brittany's coat may be flat or wavy, and carries some feathering around the legs and rear. Coat colors include:
- Orange and white
- Liver and white
- Roan in either color
Freckling is also quite common in this breed.
The typical Brittany Spaniel is good-natured and outgoing. The breed loves to spend time with people as much as they love working in the field.
Brittanys can be very rambunctious and need a great deal of exercise for those long legs, so having enough property to let them run on becomes essential to keeping these dogs healthy in mind and body. A Brittany is not a dog who is content to spend long hours cramped in an apartment.
Along with being so good-natured, these dogs are also intelligent and naturally cooperative, willing to do whatever you ask of them so long as they understand what you want.
The Brittany excels at:
As with the English Springer Spaniel, be careful not to reprimand a Brittany too severely or your dog will become fearful of you. Make sure you are giving your pet clear signals about what you want them to do and there should never be a need for strong scolding. These dogs are eager to please you in every way they can.
It's critical to give the Brittany plenty of exercise. A simple walk around the block is insufficient. If their fundamental needs for exercise aren't addressed, they are likely to become anxious and hyperactive, as well as destructive.
Brittanys, like all dogs, enjoy having a purpose, but they are exceptionally task-oriented. You can't expect your Brittany to be calm without sufficient exercise both mentally and physically.
At the end of the day, they will be thrilled to see you, but also make time to run and play. Expect to provide at least one hour of exercise each day.
Brittanys are hardy dogs who do well in all types of weather and are known to be relatively healthy. Still, they are prone to several health conditions:
- Canine hip dysplasia: A painful joint and skeletal disorder that tends to affect larger, active dogs.
- Hypothyroidism: A disease of the endocrine system that can lead to weight loss, lethargy and a dull coat and skin conditions.
- Chronic ear infections: These are common in this breed.
Brittanys are a relatively healthy breed with an average lifespan of 13 to 14 years.
This breed has a dense coat, but is a relatively light shedder, so keeping it well groomed is a fairly easy task.
Brushing should take place once or twice a week, or any time the dog has been in the field. This will help you quickly find and remove any burrs that have attached themselves before they can cause your pet discomfort. Bathing can be carried out on a bi-monthly basis or as needed, and the ears should be cleaned out once a week.
Fun Facts About the Breed
Brittany Spaniels, or Brittanies, aren't well-known, but they are popular to those who love them.
- Although the AKC dropped "Spaniel" from the breed's name, they are still often referred to interchangeably as the Brittany or Brittany Spaniel.
- More than any other Sporting Group breed, Brittanys have received the distinction of Dual Champion.
- They were frequently represented in hunting scenes in 17th-century French and Dutch paintings and tapestries.
- In other parts of the world, this breed is often known as Epagneul Breton.
Purchasing or Adopting a Brittany
If you're looking for a Brittany puppy, a good place to start is the American Brittany Club. They have a breeder directory available as well as helpful tips on how to find responsible breeders with quality dogs. The AKC Marketplace page also has a breeder search. Expect to pay around $700 to $1,500, although higher-end show dogs from champion lines can cost as much as $6,000.
If you would prefer a rescued dog, the American Brittany Club lists breeders who are involved in rescuing the breed. Petfinder and Save-a-Rescue have directories available as well. You can also contact these breed-specific Brittany rescues:
- American Brittany Rescue: A nonprofit organization rescuing Brittanys in the United States and Canada.
- New England Brittany Rescue: Rescuing and adopting out Brittanys in New England and Pennsylvania.
- Texas Brittany Rescue: A rescue organization dedicated to rescuing and finding homes for Brittanys and mixes throughout Texas.
Is This the Breed for You?
Unless you can provide the type of athletic life this breed is meant for, it's better to choose another dog. Brittany Spaniels need plenty of exercise in the open air to thrive. Keeping them contained in a home situation that might suit more laidback breeds would lead to a great deal of frustration for these dogs and simply wouldn't be fair. Visit a breeder and watch these splendid canines in the field, then you'll understand.