10 Things You Should Know About the Brittany Spaniel

My best friend and travel buddy, Annie, is a Brittany Spaniel.  Since adopting her and networking with other owners of the breed, it is safe to say that I have fallen head over heels in love.  Their zest for life, their affectionate and intelligent temperament, their sociability and their love of the great outdoors are all traits that I appreciate.

Annie has travelled across Europe with me and has proven to be an adaptable, fun loving travel companion that I wouldn’t want to be without!

Of all the Spaniels, they are probably one of the least well known and there are LOTS of them in rescue in Europe.  The Brittany Dog a wonderful breed and I want to tell you more about them.

Annie, my beautiful rescue Brittany Spaniel

Brittany Dog Breed Information

1. A little bit of Brittany Spaniel history

Unsurprisingly, the breed originates from France and they are a working breed that is still, to this day, used for hunting and retrieving.  They are believed to date back to the 17th century.

Whilst they are referred to as a Spaniel, it is widely suggested that their breed traits are more similar to a Pointer/Setter.  They are point and retrieve dogs rather than flushing dogs, like other Spaniels.

They are also often referred to simply as Brittanys or Bretons.  In France, they are still known as “l’épagneul Breton”.

2. Brittanys are generally such loving dogs

As we always say, every dog is different and they don’t always comply to what is generally expected of a breed, but we love the gentle and friendly nature of most Bretons.

They adore praise and attention and aim to please.  They can be quite sensitive souls and respond well to gentle, positive training.

When I adopted Annie, she had experienced a bad start in life in Spain and was very nervous of people. With some patience, praise and encouragement, she has blossomed into this most affectionate dog who loves nothing more than a cuddle.

She loves the company of her people and is great with other dogs too.

Their gentle personalities mean they usually make a great family dog.  As with all dogs, we always recommend making sure that you introduce children and dogs carefully and make sure that any children spending time with your dog interact kindly and gently, giving them space when needed.

Annie loves to snuggle with her people, even stopping for a cuddle when enjoying some beach fun!

3. Be prepared to put in a LOT of work on their recall

Brittany Spaniels usually have a very high prey drive and they are a very busy breed that is highly motivated by scents.  This means that they love to explore and are prone to wandering. When first letting them off lead, we would always recommend doing this in a secure space and working on getting a reliable recall in this space before moving onto more open areas.  If you are working on their recall in a highly distracting environment, set them up for success. Start working on their recall on a long line and use very high value treats as rewards.

Annie’s recall, whilst I have worked hard on it, can be a little shaky if there is a squirrel or low flying bird around.  When we are in new, unfamiliar environments I will often keep her on lead as a precaution.

Some Brittany dog owners use GPS tracking collars on their dogs as a backup!

In the early days we worked hard on Annie’s recall in a safe space and using a long line lead

4. Their coats are, thankfully, not high maintenance

Brittanys don’t have an undercoat so, unlike Cocker Spaniels, they don’t tend to need as much attention in terms of grooming.  Annie’s feathers do grow quite quickly and, in the wet weather, I do trim her paws and feathers down slightly just to make it easier to clean her off.  Other than an occasional brush and a comb out of her ears, her coat does not need much maintenance.

She does shed a lot more than my Cocker Spaniels, so a good hoover is recommended!

Like many other long eared Spaniels, Brittanys can be prone to ear problems.  We always recommend keeping an eye on their ears. If they like the water this is especially true.  You want to keep their ears as dry and as clean as possible. As always though, we like to remind owners not to clean out the ear canal with a cotton bud.  Pushing a cotton bud down into the ear canal can cause injury and it usually just pushes any dirt further into the ear.

Their coats come in a wide variety of colours.  Orange and white and liver and white are the most common colours.  Roans and tricolours are also often seen.

Annie is a beautiful orange roan.

5. Brittanys are a hardy breed

Known for their robust physical health, these little dogs generally keep in good health and, whilst their average lifespan is  around 12 – 13, they are often still going strong when they are 14 or 15.

They don’t have too many genetic medical issues although they occasionally can be prone to hip dysplasia and epilepsy.

6. Brittany Dogs are high energy couch potatoes

Brittanys are known for their boundless energy and stamina levels.  Used to working in the field, they LOVE being out exploring on walks.  Annie has easily climbed mountains with me and still had energy to spare at the end, whilst I have been ready to collapse.  They do need a couple of decent walks a day to keep them stimulated.

They are often very playful too.  Make sure you have plenty toys and brain train games around to keep them stimulated and entertained.

Whilst they are a high energy breed, they are also known for their love of relaxing.  As long as they get enough exercise, they are usually quiet and settled when in the home and love nothing better than stretching out on the sofa for a snooze

Annie loves nothing more than getting comfy on the sofa or bed!

7. Brittanys can have two tail types

Brittany Spaniels are most commonly born with a bob tail (a little stubby tail) but they can also have a full and feathery tail, which is what Annie has.  

Some of the dogs with longer tails will have them docked as puppies.  Tail docking is no longer legal in the UK though. We agree with this decision as sometimes the docking has been done improperly, causing pain and injuries.

Annie has a lovely, long and feathery tail

8. They make great sports activity dogs

Brittanys have a great enthusiasm for life and boundless energy.  They are extremely eager to please too and this makes them ideal to take part in dog sports.

Annie LOVES Cani-cross (cross country with your dog on a running harness). When her running harness goes on it is hard to stop her and I am often almost pulled off my feet by her enthusiasm!

Lots of Brittanys take part in agility and flyball too.  It is a wonderful way to keep them stimulated and for them to burn off their limitless energy and a great way to strengthen your bond.

9. Brittany Dogs like their grub, so watch their waistlines

Like many Spaniels, Brittanys are generally a foody breed.  This is great for working on training as they are highly treat motivated.  It does mean, though, that they can become overweight if overfed. Make sure they get plenty of exercise, this is needed anyway for this breed, and measure out their food and watch their body condition to avoid slipping into obesity.

10. Consider adopting a Brittany Spaniel – there are LOTS in rescue

In Europe, there are, sadly, an awful lot of beautiful Brittany Spaniels in shelters.  Because they are still used traditionally as a hunting dog, there are lots of hunters that treat them solely as a tool, rather than as the beautiful and loving animal that they are.  If they don’t meet the grade in terms of their hunting skills or they get injured, they are often cruelly abandoned.

Some hunting dogs that have worked tirelessly for their owners their whole life are kicked to the kerb when they are too old to work efficiently for them.  It is heartbreaking.

Annie came from a Perrera (animal shelter) in Spain after she had been abused and abandoned by her hunter owner.  She was extremely nervous of people, especially men, at first. Despite all of this she is the most loving and sweet dog you could ever wish for.

Annie was rescued by Save Our Spaniels Rescue, a wonderful small UK charity that does great work helping to rescue Brittanys across Europe.

Whilst we are huge advocates of dog adoption, we do recognise that some people want to buy a puppy.  If you plan to do this, we always recommend you do LOTS of research and pick a top notch and responsible breeder where you can see mum and her pups together in a well-adjusted, home environment.  We can’t stress the importance of this enough. Irresponsible breeders and puppy farms perpetuate cruel conditions for mothers and their pups, further genetic health problems and poorly socialised, and often, sick puppies.

Annie enjoying a rest during a Hike up Goat Fell  on the Isle of Arran , Scotland. Life is good!

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