Are Brittany Spaniels Water Dogs?

Watching Brittany Spaniels splash around in puddles of water is sure to make anyone grin; however, are they eternal shallow water waders, or are they, natural-born swimmers?

Brittany Spaniels are water dogs; their sleek builds, water-resistant coat, and webbed toes make them fast, agile swimmers. They are proficient at flushing and retrieving waterfowl from lakes, dams, and ponds. Brittany Spaniels should always be supervised when around deep bodies of water.

Gundogs, like the Brittany Spaniel, are virtually synonymous with water-loving dogs; but does an affinity for water make the Brittany Spaniel an “official” water dog breed?

Is Any Water-Loving Dog A Water Dog?

Unless you are an avid hunter, it is easy to mistakenly assume that any dog who enjoys water is a water dog.

Water dogs are dogs belonging to the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) sporting group. The sporting group is primarily made up of gundog breeds, some of whom function as water dogs. These water dog breeds assist hunters by flushing and retrieving waterfowl.

What Were Brittany Spaniels Bred For?

Brittany spaniels were developed in France during the 17th century by crossing various pointers with spaniels and other French dog breeds. The Brittany Spaniel was the answer to the working class’s desire for a hunting dog.

The French peasants and lower-class population could not afford to support a full kennel of hunting dogs and thus needed a dog that could perform all hunting functions:

  1. Hunting (Scenting)
  2. Pointing
  3. Flushing
  4. Retrieving

The Brittany Spaniel exceeded all expectations and became known as the ultimate all-around hunting dog. These dogs gained notoriety for their performance in all hunting conditions, i.e., cold swampland, woodland forests, dense shrub, etc.

Introduced to America in 1931, the AKC officially recognized the Brittany Spaniel in 1932. The following decades saw a divergence between the American and Brittany Spaniels types, resulting in the AKC shortening the Brittany Spaniel to Brittany.

The American Brittany is considered to be predominantly a pointer, whereas the French Brittany Spaniel has remained true to its “jack-of-all-trades” heritage.

Are Brittany Spaniels Good Swimmers?

Over the years, hunters have bred the Brittany Spaniel to have specific conformational traits suited to water environments.

Overall Body Balance Of The Brittany Spaniel

When treading water, a dog’s natural buoyancy is critical to successful water forays. Dogs with front-heavy conformation associated with barrel-chested breeds tend to sink like a stone.

Basset hounds and Daschunds are notorious for their tendency to go “bottom-up” when placed in water. The breed’s short legs-long body proportions and heavy front halves give them the floating ability of lead.

By contrast, the Brittany Spaniel’s long legs and streamlined physique make them energy-efficient swimmers.

A Brittany Spaniel’s Paws

According to the AKC, Brittany Spaniels’ feet are halfway between a hare-foot and a cat-foot conformation, with short well-arched toes. These paws have a rounded appearance with slightly longer central toes, enabling the dogs to perform well on uneven, waterlogged terrain without risking injury.

The Brittany Spaniels’ webbed toes are the secret behind their speedy swimming, but their perfectly balanced bodies are responsible for their relative buoyancy. Their webbed toes, long legs, and powerful musculature underpin their ability to cut through the water at high speeds.

Why The Brittany Spaniel’s Coat Is Important

The Brittany Spaniel’s smooth, dense coat can be wiry or straight but should never be excessively long. Heavy feathering is severely penalized in Brittany Spaniels, to the extent that almost all heavily feathered Brittany Spaniels are automatically disqualified from the competition.

The judges’ exacting standards and critical appraisal of the Brittany Spaniels’ coat are founded on the breed’s water-based function.

Dogs with thick heavy coats have similar difficulties to people swimming in their clothes. These dogs quickly become fatigued when swimming and are at a high risk of drowning if they swim too far from shore.

The dense, flat coat of the Brittany Spaniel is moderately water-resistant but, more importantly, doesn’t become dangerously waterlogged while swimming.

Is Swimming Good For Your Brittany Spaniel?

Not all Brittany Spaniels are working dogs; in fact, most Brittany Spaniels spend their lives as much loved pets. Regardless of whether your Brittany Spaniel has a job to do, all Brittany Spaniels can benefit from swimming.

Swimming is the exercise that allows your Brittany Spaniel to develop their strength and cardiovascular fitness without damaging their joints and skeletal structures.

Swimming is a low-impact activity making it perfect for older dogs suffering from joint complaints or young Brittany Spaniels, who are still in a vulnerable growth stage.

Until the growth plates are closed (at approximately 8 to 14 months), high-impact exercise can injure the Brittany Spaniels’ growth plates.

Swimming has a high energy cost, making it an ideal activity for the indefatigable Brittany Spaniel.

The Brittany Spaniels’ high energy levels can make it difficult for them to settle down and focus.

Taking your Brittany for a quick swim helps them productively burn off their excess energy without driving their harassed owners mad!

How To Teach Your Brittany Spaniel To Enjoy Swimming?

Most Brittany Spaniels are proficient swimmers, although not all Brittany Spaniels care to exercise their natural talent in the water. Many dogs may become wary and even afraid of deep water due to lack of exposure or a previous bad experience.

The AKC has put together a comprehensive guide on how to teach dogs to swim; however, there are three key points for successfully training your Brittany Spaniel to enjoy swimming.

Never Force Your Brittany Spaniel To Get Into The Water

Brittany Spaniels, who are forced to get into the water before they are ready, will become fearful and afraid.

Like humans, dogs will become overwhelmed and panicked when placed in an unfamiliar situation and forced to engage in an anxiety-provoking activity.

Make Swimming A Positive Experience

The first few times you take your Brittany Spaniel swimming are vital to developing their confidence in the water.

Brittany Spaniels are more likely to willingly enter the water if they can follow another doggy friend in, retrieve a ball or stick from the water, or swim out to join their owners in the lake.

It’s essential that your Brittany Spaniel associates swimming with good things, which is why playing with his human and doggy friends while swimming helps build their confidence.

No one likes swimming in freezing water during winter; taking your Brittany Spaniel to swim on a warm summer day will make them want to repeat their swimming adventure.

Swimming And Deep Water Can Be Dangerous

Swimming and even playing on the shore of a deep body of water can be dangerous for any dog or human. Brittany Spaniels can quickly find themselves in danger of drowning if they become:

  1. Fatigued while swimming
  2. Panicked and unable to find the lakeshore or pool step
  3. Become tangled in underwater vegetation and litter
  4. Are injured while swimming

Your Brittany Spaniel should always be supervised when around water, and if necessary, both dog and human should wear life vests (flotation devices) during their water adventures.

Brittany Spaniels, who have had a near-drowning or bad water experience, will be reluctant to return to the water for any reason.


Brittany Spaniels are water dogs who excel at flushing and retrieving waterfowl from swampy environments and deep lakes.

Although most Brittany Spaniels are proficient swimmers, their owners must remain vigilant when taking their dogs for walks in or around any large body of water.


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