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Water Dog Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Federation Cynologique International (FCI)

Native Country

Other Names
Barbet, French Water Dog, Barbillot

Life Expectancy
Approximately 13-15 Years

Litter Size
Average 6-9 Puppies

Breed Group
FCI-Water Dogs

General Description

Barbets have well rounded bodies, short but strong arched loins and wide well developed chest. When the dog is moving the tail is raised horizontally forming a hook at the tip. The feet, the same as the rest of the body are covered with hair. These dogs are distinguished from other breeds for its webbed feet. The webbed feet aid the dog in swimming as these dogs are noted to be tireless swimmers.

Breed Standard

Head: Round. Broad, round skull. Pronounced stop. Short nosebridge. Very angular muzzle. Thick, pigmented lips.
Ears: Set on low, long, flat, furnished with long hair forming tufts.
Eyes: Round, preferably dark brown. Hidden by hair on the skull and nosebridge.
Body: Powerful. Strong, short neck. Broad, well-developed chest. Curved ribs. Short, flat, arched loin. Very slightly domed back. Rounded croup.
Tail: Set on low, raised but not as high as the topline, slightly hooked at the tip.
Hair: Long, woolly, wavy, sometimes curly, forming tufts. This thick fleece is good protection from cold and damp weather. Hair on head should hang down to the nosebridge, hiding the eyes. Long beard, bushy mustache.
Coat: Black, grey, brown, fawn, sable, or white with no markings or with a certain degree of patching. All shades of fawn and sable are allowed.
Size: Dog: at least 54 cm (21 in). Bitch: at least 50 cm (20 in).
Weight: 20 to 25 kg (44-55 lb).


The Water Dog has existed in Europe since the Middle Ages, when he was known simply as the Waterdog. Mentioned in sixteenth-century writings and represented in several drawings from the same period, the breed was used on duck and swan. Buffon mentioned the breed in Natural History, and Spallanzani used it to conduct the first successful artificial insemination in 1779. The Water Dog nearly went extinct in the late nineteenth century, when he was used for hunting only by poachers and country folk. He may be considered the ancestor of all breeds with long, woolly or curly hair (including bichons and the Poodle) and a direct cousin to sheepdogs like the Briard, with whom he has many similarities. The standard for the Water Dog was updated in 1986. Still fairly rare, his survival is threatened.


Very powerful, tough, and vigorous, the Water Dog is resistant to cold and dampness. He loves the water and swims very well. With a good nose and slow gait, he is used by waterfowl hunters. He is a very good retriever and has also been employed as a sheepdog to guide herds. Even-tempered, never aggressive, and gentle, he is an affectionate pet.

He can live in the city but must not be confined alone for long periods. He needs regular walks. Because of his thick coat, he does not tolerate heat well. Without regular dematting, his hair can become tangled.


Hunting Dog, Companion Dog.


Due to the extremely low number of Barbet in the world, little is known about long term health issues. Some issues that have exhibited themselves are ear infections, hip dysplasia, hernias, undescended testicles, undershot/overshot bites, and epilepsy. Most breeders today hipscore the parents before any matings and A, B, and C hipscores can be used.

The most common of these issues are ear infections, a problem in most water dog varieties. Ear problems can be minimized by proper ear care. A veterinarian should be consulted if the dog shows signs of an ear infection. The ear should always be clear of any hair, and inspected very regularly.

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