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Honest FAQ for Brittany Spaniels

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books


Once called the Brittany Spaniel, the "spaniel" was dropped in the United States because the breed hunts more like a pointer or setter – freezing into a point upon scenting a hiding bird. The "spaniel" is still used in Canada and Europe, including the breed's native country, France.

What kind of temperament and personality does the Brittany have?

The most descriptive words that come to my mind regarding Brittany temperament and behavior are:

Energetic, athletic, outdoorsy, peaceful, super-sensitive, can be whiny

I give you my honest opinions about Brittany temperament and personality traits and characteristics – positives AND negatives – in my dog breed review, Brittany Temperament and Personality Traits (What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em).

Where did the name Brittany Spaniel come from?

This medium-sized spaniel was the favorite hunting dog of peasants in the French province of Bretagne (Brittany).

In the United States, the spaniel  was dropped from the breed's name because it was felt that the breed hunts more like a pointer or setter – freezing into a point upon scenting a hiding bird. In contrast, spaniels rush through fields flushing birds into the air to be shot by the hunter.

In Canada and Europe, spaniel  has been retained. Notably, this includes the breed's own native country, France.

What were Brittany Spaniels used for?

Hunting game birds such as grouse, woodcock, and pheasant.

What traits would help Brittany Spaniels accomplish their work? That's right... a fantastic nose, athleticism, high energy, hardiness, biddability, and willingness to work closely with his owner.

How big are Brittany Spaniels? Height and weight?

About 18-21 inches at the shoulder, and 30-45 pounds, which puts them in the MEDIUM-SIZE category.

What colors do Brittany Spaniels come in?

In the United States, only orange and white, or liver and white, can be shown in the conformation ring. In the breed's native country and the rest of Europe, Brittanys may also be black and white. You can see these three colors in the photo at the top of the page.

Do Brittany Spaniels come in different "types"?

Yes. Show-type and field-type.

Show-type Brittanys are bred specifically for exhibition in the dog show ring. These dogs are quite uniform in appearance, with a taller, slimmer, more elegant build and a luxuriant coat with longer feathering.

Field-type Brittanys are bred specifically for field work , aka hunting. Britts from field lines are exceptionally athletic, with higher energy and a more "driven" temperament than most show lines. Field-type Brittanys also have a more diverse appearance, often a shorter coat, and more color variations than the show lines.

However... good news! In contrast to most other hunting breeds, the Brittany's working instincts are usually still present even if you go for the show types. Lots of Brittany Spaniels have attained dual championships – one for conformation, one for field work. Many Brittanys also earn titles in obedience, agility, and other performance activities.

So if you choose your lines carefully, and if you provide LOTS of exercise,  a Brittany is a very versatile companion.

Do Brittany Spaniels have a doggy odor?

All hunting dogs have some doggy odor. But it's not extreme in the Brittany.

How much exercise do Brittany Spaniels need?

A lot. If you don't provide enough vigorous exercise and challenging mental stimulation for a Brittany, he might bark up a storm and chew destructively. Don't get this breed unless you're going to get him involved in activities – fetch games, tug of war, hunting, agility, rally, advanced obedience, hiking, jogging, tracking and scent work...

Anything less is just wasting the breed, and you'll end up complaining about behavior problems with their (understandably) bored, frustrated, venting dog.

Do Brittany Spaniels need a fenced yard?

Absolutely. Why a fenced yard? and best and worst fences.

Are Brittany Spaniels easy to train?

Moderately easy. Brittanys do have an independent streak and can be hyper-sensitive to correction, but they do want to please. Here's how to handle behavior problems. Corrections should always be gentle with this soft-tempered breed.

Are Brittany Spaniels easy to housebreak?

Housebreaking is not a problem.

Are Brittany Spaniels friendly with people?

Some Bichons are outgoing and friendly with everyone. Others are more standoffish, but still polite, with strangers. And some Bichons are timid.

It varies. Some Brittanys are outgoing with almost everyone. Others are simply polite, while others are standoffish with strangers, and still others are timid or skittish. This is not an aggressive guard dog!

Are Brittany Spaniels good with children?

Most Brittanys are fine with well-behaved children. But this breed is very sensitive and some are a bit high-strung, so I prefer to see them in a home with respectful kids about 8 years or older.

Are Brittany Spaniels good with other dogs?

Most Brittanys are peaceful with other dogs.

Are Brittany Spaniels good with cats?

Most Brittanys are fine with the kitties in their own family, but strange cats in the yard will be chased.

How much do Brittany Spaniels shed?

Brittany Spaniels shed moderately most of the year, especially in the spring and fall. All told, I put them on the list of breeds whose shedding is on the high side of average.

Are Brittany Spaniels hypoallergenic? Good for people with allergies?

If you're allergic to dog dander, no. If you're allergic to canine saliva, no. Brittany Spaniels are not hypoallergenic dogs.

How much grooming do Brittany Spaniels need?

Moderate brushing twice a week, daily when shedding (to remove the dead hair before it falls on your floor and furnishings!). Be sure to comb out any mats in their "armpits" and keep their private parts trimmed or clipped short enough for sanitary toileting.

Honestly, I recommend shortening the whole coat so that your brushing and combing needs are minimal. The shorter the coat, the cleaner and neater it remains.

What's a good training schedule for training Brittany puppies?

Here's the puppy training schedule I use for Brittany Spaniels: Puppy Training Schedule.

What behavior problems do Brittany Spaniels tend to have?

In Brittanys, I tend to see excitability, jumping on people, barking, and chewing destructively, all very easy to stop... as long as the dog is getting enough exercise and challenging activities! Here's how to handle typical behavior problems.

More difficult to solve are separation anxiety and submissive/excitable urination, which I've seen in a few Brittanys:

  • Separation anxiety can occur when you have (accidentally) encouraged your Brittany to be overly dependent on you. Then when you leave him alone, the dog grows anxious and stressed, which he tries to relieve through barking and chewing. If you need to be away from home much, I don't recommend a spaniel breed.
  • Submissive/excitable urination. An excited or submissive dog doesn't always have complete control of his bladder. If he's very happy to see someone, his bladder might leak (or gush!). If he's a very sensitive, soft-tempered pup and you bend over him, or reach toward him, he might crouch and release a little urine, which is a canine social signal that says, "Don't hurt me. I accept your superiority." Submissive urination is most common in young and adolescent dogs, and in gentle, soft-tempered dogs.... such as Brittany Spaniels.

What health problems might Brittany Spaniels have?

Epilepsy is probably the biggest worry in the breed. Eye diseases can cause blindness. Loose hip joints can lead to chronic lameness and arthritic pain.

What breeds are similar to the Brittany?

Where can I buy a Brittany puppy?

  • If you're looking for a show dog, buy only from a show breeder.
  • If you're looking for a top-notch hunting dog, buy only from a field breeder.
  • If you're looking for a companion dog to do all sorts of fun activities with... you might want to choose a breeder who shows his dogs in conformation AND work them in activities such as agility, obedience, field work, etc.

Read my article.

Where can I adopt an older Brittany?

Rescue group or humane society/shelter? Read my article.

I just got a new Brittany. Which pages should I read first?

  • Brittany Health, which includes my advice on feeding, vaccinations, and daily health care. These pages are very important, because if you start your Brittany puppy off on the wrong foot, he will probably experience health problems later on. Starting off right is essential.
  • Training Brittany Spaniels, which includes my advice on respect training, housebreaking, and socialization. Again, you must start your Brittany puppy off on the right foot by teaching him what he needs to know, and you must avoid doing the wrong things with him so that he doesn't develop bad habits that will be much harder to fix later on.

Do male dogs or female dogs make better pets?

Ah, let the debate begin! Honestly, male Brittany Spaniels have pros and cons, and female Brittany Spaniels have pros and cons. Visit Male Dogs versus Female Dogs

There's an adorable Brittany puppy at the pet shop. The store manager assures me they only buy from responsible breeders. Could this be true?

No responsible Brittany breeder would ever place one of their Brittany puppies in a pet shop for resale. To find out more about pet shop puppies, visit Pet Shop Puppies: Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store.

How do I pick the best Brittany puppy from a litter?

You can do puppy personality tests. Visit How To Choose a Good Puppy.

What's the best dog food for Brittany Spaniels?

3 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food.

I have to take my Brittany to the vet soon for shots. Which vaccinations does he really need?

The schedule of vaccinations that dogs really need has changed dramatically – but unfortunately most vets are not telling you this, because a good chunk of their income depends on frequent vaccinations. Please don't get any more shots for your Brittany until you've read my article on Puppy Shots and Dog Vaccinations.

What are the pros and cons of spaying and neutering my Brittany, and when should it be done?

Spaying and neutering are often recommended too early, which can lead to health problems later in life. Visit Spaying Your Female Dog or Neutering Your Male Dog for the straight scoop on the safest (and riskiest) times to spay or neuter.

I have a question about Brittany Spaniels that I don't see answered on your web site.

It's probably answered in one of my free online books.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

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