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Brittanys: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Brittany Spaniel temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Brittany Spaniel dog breed

The American Kennel Club calls this breed a Brittany,  while in other countries it's called Brittany Spaniel. The confusion stems from the breed looking like a spaniel, and yet his hunting style is more like a pointer or setter than a spaniel.

Therefore I say it both ways.

Conveniently-sized, athletic, and agile, the Brittany loves being with you in the Great Outdoors. He thrives with an active lifestyle of very long walks, hiking in the woods, and fetch games.

If left alone too much and not given outlets for his energy, you're likely to see hyperactivity, barking, and destructive chewing.

When well socialized, most Brittany Spaniels are polite and gentle with everyone and peaceful with other animals. But there is timidity and excessive submissiveness in some lines, so early socialization is a must to promote a confident temperament.

Most Brittanys are sensitive dogs with a rather "soft" temperament. They respond best to a calm voice and a light hand on the leash and do not do well in an environment with frequent tension or loud voices.

Some Brittanys, especially adolescents, are excessively submissive. These dogs might suddenly urinate (or dribble urine) when they get over-excited or feel intimidated. This might simply be someone's hand reaching to pet them, or your body looming over them during play. This is not a housebreaking issue! It's called excitable or submissive urination  and it might go away with time as long as you don't punish the dog.

Some Brittany Spaniels tend to whine persistently.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is medium-sized and athletic, agile and light on his feet
  • Has a pretty feathered coat
  • Loves vigorous exercise and athletic activities in the great outdoors
  • Is good with strangers
  • Is peaceful with other animals
  • Is willing to please and excels in a variety of competitive canine activities

A Brittany Spaniel may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • Hyperactivity when not given enough exercise
  • "Separation anxiety" (destructiveness and barking) when left alone too much
  • An inquisitive sniffing machine who will follow his nose right out of sight
  • Timidity toward people when not socialized enough
  • Regular brushing and combing, and occasional trimming
  • Shedding
  • Excitable or submissive urination (tendency to dribble urine when excited or nervous)
  • Persistent whining when excited or stressed

A Brittany may not be right for you.


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Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament  is less predictable than the inheritance of physical  traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

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  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Brittanys have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy.

More traits and characteristics of the Brittany

If I was considering a Brittany Spaniel, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Brittany Spaniels need regular opportunities to vent their energy and do interesting things. Take your Brittany hiking or swimming, and get involved in advanced obedience, tracking, or agility (obstacle course).
  2. Separation anxiety. More than most other breeds, Brittanys need a great deal of companionship and do not like being left alone for more than a few hours. Some Brittany Spaniels become anxious, which they express by chewing and barking.
  3. Emotional sensitivity. Be honest... is there tension in your home? Are people loud or angry or emotional? Are there arguments or fights? Brittany Spaniels are sensitive to stress and can become anxious if the people in their home are having family problems. This breed deserves a peaceful, harmonious home.
  4. Providing enough socialization. Brittanys need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds so that their natural "softness" doesn't become shyness or fearfulness, which are difficult to live with. Learn more about socialization.
  5. Shedding. On a shedding scale, I would rate Brittany Spaniels above-average. In other words, you need to not mind dog hair on your clothing and furnishings.

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.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

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book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
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