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Barbet Dog Breed: Info, Pictures, Facts, & Traits

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Dogster Team

Barbet dog

Barbet Dog Breed: Info, Pictures, Facts, & Traits

If you’re looking for a breed that loves to be near their owners and is bright, friendly, and always up for adventures, look no further than the Barbet. These medium-sized dogs make excellent hunters and have been around as early as the 6th century. Bred for hunting with a willingness to work, these canines are loyal, calm, and intelligent, making excellent family members and hunters.

In this guide, we discuss everything about the Barbet, also known as the French Water Dog, so you can determine if this breed is right for you.

Breed Overview


19–24½ inches


35–65 pounds


12–14 years


Brown, black, gray, fawn, white

Suitable for:

Active families, those looking for a low-shedding dog, hunters


Loyal, intelligent, sweet-natured, calm, gets along with other pets with proper socialization

The Barbet (pronounced bar-BAY) is one of the oldest breeds around, with a history dating back to 6th-century Europe. However, it wasn’t until 1387 that they were first mentioned in a book. The breed has recently gained attention outside of Europe, being newly recognized in the Sporting Group by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2000.1 These curly-coated dogs have an impressive ancestry, including the Bichon Frise, Poodle, Newfoundland, Otterhound, and Briard.

Barbets have a calm, loving temperament and love to be near their owners. They have tireless energy for swimming and have proved worthy of hunting fowl in Europe, as their webbed feet enable them to swim with ease. Bred to locate, flush, and retrieve birds, they will not hesitate to run into the murkiest, swampiest areas to perform their jobs, giving them the nickname, “mud dog.”

Barbet Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Barbet Puppies

Despite the curly coat of the adult Barbet, puppies’ coats appear smoother and wavier; however, it doesn’t take long for the curls to roll in. Puppies are active and inquisitive, and they are always exploring their surroundings with every chance they get. The Barbet is naturally drawn to water, and the puppies waste no time swimming. Barbets have a goofy and clownish side, and puppies exhibit these traits early on.

The Barbet is a lesser-known breed, and finding puppies is not easy. There appear to be just a few reputable breeders in the United States, and even then, you’ll likely be on a waiting list for 1 to 2 years. The Barbet Club of America advises that most U.S. breeders do not breed for quantity or to meet demand, so don’t expect to adopt a Barbet anytime soon.2 The breed was introduced into the States in 1994, and it’s estimated there are roughly 1,000 Barbets in the country.

french barbet water dog
Image Credit: Annabell Gsoedl, Shutterstock

Dogster divider_v2_NEW_MAY_24_Temperament & Intelligence of the Barbet

The Barbet is a happy-go-lucky breed that is always up for adventures. They excel in water sports due to their expertise in hunting fowl and are loyal and loving to their owners. They are friendly, joyful, and fun-loving dogs with a calm nature. These dogs are playful and social with a cheery disposition, and they are also highly intelligent.

The Barbet was bred for centuries to be hunters, and they excel in this activity, especially given their strong, medium-sized builds. Needless to say, the Barbet has an ideal temperament and high intelligence, making them ideal companions with proper socialization.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🧑‍🧑‍🧒

The Barbet makes an excellent family dog. It’s no secret that they are loyal to their owners and desire to be near them at all times. That said, they do not do well being left alone for long periods or with families who lead a sedentary lifestyle. They are happiest with families who go on regular hikes, swims, or any outdoor activity and are easy to live with as long as their daily exercise needs are met. They are also excellent travelers. As long as they are with their family members, all is good. They adapt easily and have enough intelligence to be well-rounded, well-behaved dogs with active owners.

The Barbet makes good watchdogs and will bark if a stranger comes to the door, but once they get the cue from you, their owner, that there is no threat, they will settle down quickly.

They do well with children, especially considering their goofy and clownish side naturally draws them to youngsters. They are inherently gentle with kids, but supervision is always suggested, especially with small children due to the breed’s medium build. Kids must also be taught to respect the Barbet and not pull their tail, hair, etc.

brown French water dog
Image Credit: Tom van Hoorn, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?

The Barbet is considered a good match with other pets. However, much like with any breed, early socialization is key. They should be exposed early to other pets for joyous companionship. Keep in mind that the Barbet is a hunting dog, so supervision is a must around cats and small pets. However, if the Barbet is introduced to cats and other small pets at an early age, they can learn to enjoy their companionship rather than hunt them.

Dogster divider_v2_NEW_MAY_24_Things to Know When Owning a Barbet:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The Barbet should be fed a diet of high-quality, animal-based proteins, such as chicken, lamb, turkey, duck, beef, or fish, considering the breed’s high activity levels. Some breeders recommend a raw diet that consists of organ meats, small amounts of fruits and vegetables, and a few supplements. It’s best to provide dog food approved by The Association of American Food Control Officials to ensure that nutritional needs are being met. The food should also be free from fillers and artificial ingredients.

The Barbet typically requires 2–3 cups of high-quality dog food divided into two meals per day. However, it’s best to consult your veterinarian about feeding requirements, especially when factoring in your Barbet’s age and activity level.

black Barbet dog
Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

These active dogs require moderate daily exercise to be fit and happy. They love long walks on a leash but also love the freedom to run off leash in a large, fenced area (if not hunting). They are agile athletes and love any activity involving water, given they are swamp and marsh game retrievers. They also do well with indoor activities, such as a game of hide-and-seek or chasing a ball around.

The Barbet also loves going on hikes, and they excel in agility, obedience, luring, and other dog sports. After exercising the Barbet for at least 1–2 hours per day, they will happily lounge close to their owners for rest. Physical and mental stimulation is important for the breed, and it’s always advisable to keep interactive puzzles and games on hand to keep them engaged.

Training 🦮

The Barbet breed is deemed agreeable and responds well to training with positive reinforcement. They are intelligent enough to learn quickly and are willing to please their owners. They are sensitive, making positive reinforcement training a must. Harsh training techniques will not work, and the Barbet will shut down if they feel the owner’s mood is negative.

They bore easily with repetitive drills, and it’s best to keep training fun, positive, and interesting to keep the Barbet engaged. Stay firm and consistent, and you’ll have a well-behaved Barbet companion.

French water dog
Image Credit: Tom van Hoorn, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

Barbets are not big shedders, but they do have an undercoat that sheds minimally. In fact, they have thick, curly hair, not fur, and do not shed in the same way other breeds do, such as the Golden Retriever. The hair grows constantly, and trimming is required, especially on the bottom of the paw pads so the hair is flush. You must also brush the hair at least once a week to prevent matting. They require baths only once a month or so.

The Barbet’s nails grow quickly, and it’s imperative to stay on top of nail trims to avoid splitting and cracking. Brush the teeth regularly with dog-safe toothpaste, and check their ears and clean them as needed to prevent wax buildup.

Health and Conditions 🏥

The Barbet is a healthy breed due to selective breeding, but they can still be prone to certain health conditions. There are not many Barbets in the States, and breeders work together to share any health issues to gather as much information as possible to breed healthy dogs.

Minor Conditions
  • Entropion
  • Cataracts
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Allergies
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Epilepsy

Male vs. Female

There isn’t much difference between the sexes, but some owners claim that males are more easygoing than females; however, this might not always be the case. The fact is that both males and females have exceptional traits and are loving, intelligent, and friendly if raised properly.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Barbet

1. The Name “Barbet” Means “Beard” in French

Their name came from the French word “barbe,” meaning “beard,” as they have distinctive beards on the muzzle and jaw. In fact, they are often mistaken for Goldendoodles because they are similar in appearance, and Goldendoodles also have beards.

2. They Are Considered Hypoallergenic

While there is technically no such thing as a hypoallergenic canine, dogs that shed minimally are considered as such due to having low levels of dander, which is the culprit that aggravates allergies. Allergy sufferers can live comfortably with the Barbet, thanks to their low-shedding, non-fur, curly hair.

barbet dog
Image Credit: Annabell Gsoedl, Shutterstock

3. They Nearly Became Extinct

Due to the ongoing world wars during the 20th century, the Barbet almost became extinct. This old breed’s population suffered great damage in France; however, thanks to dedicated lovers of the breed, they worked to revive the population and did so successfully.

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Final Thoughts

The Barbet is a fun-loving, sweet-natured, and intelligent breed. They are excellent workers that have proven to be excellent family dogs and make wonderful family companions for active families. They require moderate exercise to be fit and mentally stimulated but will lounge with the family once they are tired. They are loyal and loving with cheerful dispositions, but you shouldn’t expect to adopt a Barbet from a breeder anytime soon, as there is typically a waiting list of 1–2 years.

Featured Image Credit: Ysbrand Cosijn, Shutterstock

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