How to Train a Barbet

An archetypic water dog of France, the Barbet is a rustic breed of medium size and balanced proportions who appears in artwork as early as the 16th century. In profile, the Barbet is slightly rectangular with a substantial head and long, sweeping tail. He has a long, dense covering of curly hair and a distinctive beard. An agile athlete, the Barbet has been used primarily to locate, flush, and retrieve birds. He has a cheerful disposition and is very social and loyal. The defining characteristic of this rustic, medium-sized bird dog is the dense curly coat that covers him from the top of his large, broad head to the tip of his curving tail. The coat comes in shades of black, gray, brown, or fawn, sometimes with white markings. The breed’s delightfully shaggy coat and amiable nature creates the impression of a Muppet come to life, but the Barbet is a strong, solidly-built dog bred for centuries to be a keen hunter and tireless swimmer. Barbets are very intelligent and learn new things quickly. They have a calm nature and are easy to live with as long as their exercise needs are being met.


The Barbet is more than a versatile gun dog. It is a joyful, smart, loving, and devoted breed. The Barbet was originally a water dog and was primarily used in France for hunting water game, as mentioned in 16th century scripts. Other references to the breed are throughout history, doing various jobs with historical lineage, always referenced with respect and admiration.

After the World Wars, the Barbet was nearly extinct, but through the efforts of a very devoted few, this old breed is slowly being reborn as a dog for the future. These loving canines, although rare and in small numbers, continue to delight and amaze people around the world. Keen intellect, propensity for water and versatile abilities make it an “all round” dog. With such an extensive historical lineage, the Barbet is a timeless and classic breed of canine.

Quick Facts

Temperament: friendly / bright / sweet-natured

Height: 19 to 24.5 inches

Weight: 35-65 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Foundation Stock Service 


The Barbet is solidly built with adequate bone to perform his tasks as a true sporting dog, and as such is sturdy, with a moderately sized and constructed frame. Given the small genetic pool from which the Barbet draws, it is a surprisingly healthy breed thanks to wise, cautious selection by breeders. Responsible breeders screen for health conditions such as as hip and elbo dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), seizure disorders and allergies.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
  • Hips
  • Elbows
  • Dilution Factor


Grooming can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your dog. The proper grooming of a Barbet starts with a full brush-out, a comb through to the skin, and a good bath. An after-bath blow drying will straighten the hair and make a fluff ball ready for a scissor trim. An all-over trim to approximately 3 to 5 inches in length to show the shape of the body is preferred, while the head, ears and tail remain longer. For the purpose of showing, the hair on the head must reach the muzzle. After the trim, the Barbet must be wet down and left to air-dry to regain his natural curls. A Barbet’s strong, fast-growing nails should be trimmed regularly with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting and cracking. Ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris, which can result in infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.


Bred as a marsh/swamp game retriever, the Barbet is an agile athlete and loyal partner in any activity, especially if it involves water. He actually has webbed paws specifically for swimming. Besides swimming, other options for exercise include play time in the backyard, preferably fenced, or taken for walks several times a day. Exercise can also come in the form of indoor activities, like hide-and-seek, chasing a ball rolled along the floor, or teaching them new tricks. The Barbet enjoys plenty of playtime with dogs and people, but is then content to lounge nearby indoors. He is happiest when well socialized and prefers not to spend too many hours alone.


Positive interactions and and upbeat training environment are needed for a Barbet, as the breed has a sensitive, but even, temperament. Training should be a relatively easy task, as Barbets are friendly, responsive, and agreeable. Agility, rally, dock diving, and lure coursing are all dog sports that Barbets have participated in, and make for great exercise and mental stimulation.


The Barbet should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Typically not voracious eaters, Barbets can benefit from oil supplementation during drier months. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.