With his bold and striking coat, soft eyes, and muscular leggy form, the Brittany isn’t exactly your average spaniel. He’s a sight to behold and a joy to live with. Where did this elegant dog come from?
In paintings and tapestries dating as far back as the 17th century, we can see liver and white coloured pointing dogs that resemble today’s Brittany. Certainly, the breed’s most notable stage of development occurred in the 1800s, when English nobles travelled to the Brittany region of France (hence the breed’s name) to hunt woodcock. Naturally, they brought their hunting dogs, a variety of pointers and setters, and at the end of hunting season many of these dogs were left with local families. Matings between these various sporting breeds were key to the breed’s development and laid the foundation for today’s Brittany, which many consider to be the most gifted gundog of them all. Obviously, the designation is subject of fierce debate!
In 1934, the American Kennel Club (AKC) adopted a standard for the Brittany Spaniel, but later dropped the “spaniel” part of the name, which may lead you to ask, “Wait… isn’t he a spaniel?” Most countries have dropped the reference because this breed does not flush, but rather points to its game. As a result, the Brittany doesn’t compete against spaniels in field trials or other shows that are limited to spaniels.
As for looks, the AKC accepts the breed in orange and white or liver and white coat colours, and with either clear or roan (an even mixture of white and pigmented hairs) patterns. Some ticking (flecks or spots of colour on white areas) is desirable, and washed-out colours are discouraged. Ranging from 30 to 40 pounds, the Brittany may be the perfect size for the person who wants a hard-working field dog, but in a smaller package than a pointer or retriever.
The AKC standard emphasizes proportions and height, noting that the Brittany is so leggy that his height at shoulder-level is equal to the length of his body. He’s considerably smaller than setters and pointers, but leggier than other spaniels. All in all, the look is unique, and very striking and elegant.
He’s not just a pretty face, though. The Brittany is absolutely packed with personality. “Soft” is a word that tends to come up over and over when talking about this breed. He’s a sensitive dog by nature, and harsh looks or raised voices will have a strong, negative impact on him. He wants to be with his family, so leaving a Brittany alone for extended periods of time won’t end well. Doing so may lead to separation anxiety or destructive behaviour—or both. He’s tough in the field, but gentle and doting in the home. Notoriously patient with other pets and children, the Brittany, simply put, has a lot of love to give.
That sensitive temperament also speaks to the need for early socialization with other pets and people. This will help the Brittany overcome any shyness. Puppy kindergarten and early training classes are a must, but they’ll be a joy because—guess what—this dog is smart. Very smart.
Heightened intelligence in dogs is wonderful, but it does mean that training is a must. With his soft temperament, the Brittany will thrive only with positive-oriented training. Firm and consistent guidelines are critical—but harshness is an absolute no-no.
That training will pay off, and not just with basic good manners around the home. Want do you want to do with your dog? Name it, the Brittany—bright, fun loving, enthusiastic—is an up-for-anything breed and can likely tag along and partake in whatever it is you’re up to because these dogs love to be busy. Smart, sporting—they love to run and need daily mental and physical exertion to thrive. Yes, the Brittany needs a job. What job? Choose one. Though this breed’s heritage is hunting, take your pick of other activities. Obedience, agility, flyball… you name it, the Brittany can do it all, and this versatile dog will have a blast doing it.
Caring for a Brittany isn’t overly complex. With his short, dense, coat, weekly brushing will suffice, and he’s considered a healthy and hearty breed.
Alert, intelligent, and loving, the Brittany has conquered the field, but rest assured he’ll also rule the hearts in his family home.