Brittany Spaniels are one of the less well-known breeds. Most people are familiar with Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels but would be hard-pressed to tell you much about the Brittany Spaniel. Brittany Spaniels are more popular in hunting circles. Potential owners need to know about the Brittany Spaniel’s character, grooming requirements, and training needs.
Brittany Spaniels are popular gundogs that scent, flush, point and retrieve. There are two types; the French Brittany Spaniel and the American Brittany. They are gentle, friendly dogs that are good with people and other animals. They have high energy levels and need physical and mental stimulation.
Brittany Spaniels are popular amongst hunting circles but are not well known as pet dogs. There is even some argument about what they should be called.
The History Of Brittany Spaniels
Brittany spaniels evolved in the province of Brittany, France, during the 18th century. The breed was developed by crossing various pointers with spaniels and other French dog breeds. There is evidence of a Brittany-type breed in French tapestries and paintings from the 1700s.
The first official recording of Brittany Spaniels was when an orange and white male dog named, Boy, was registered in France in 1907. The American Kennel Club recognized the Brittany breed in 1931.
Brittany Spaniels were primarily developed for the French working class’s need for a hunting dog.
The French peasants and the lower-class population did not have the money to support a full kennel of hunting dogs, such as was common in rich households. They needed a dog that could perform all the hunting functions:
The Brittany Spaniel was developed and became the ultimate hunting dog in France. These brave dogs became well known for their ability to hunt in all conditions and environments. Cold swamps, thick forests, open hills, and dense shrubs were all the same to the Brittany Spaniel.
Are Brittany Spaniels True Spaniels?
There is conflict as to whether Brittany Spaniels are true spaniels. In France, the Brittany has remained a jack of all hunting trades and performs all the tasks it was originally bred to do. French Brittany Spaniels are smaller and generally work in closer proximity to hunters, similar to the way Cocker Spaniels do. They will adapt to the terrain and their handlers’ instructions.
Brittany Spaniels are described as HPR dogs – hunt, point, retrieve – in Britain. Because the dogs are classified more as pointers and retrievers, the word ‘spaniel’ was dropped from their name, and they are now called Brittanys.
American Brittany dogs were further developed with the addition of setters to the lineage. As a result, these dogs are larger and function predominantly as pointers. The name was changed by the American Kennel Club from Brittany Spaniel to Brittany in 1982.
Do Brittany Spaniels Have Tails?
Some Brittany Spaniels are born with bobtails. Most Brittany dogs have long tails, which may be docked to ten to fifteen centimeters. Since docking tails has become illegal in many countries, dogs born with long tails are now mostly not docked.
What Type Of Coat Does A Brittany Spaniel Have?
The Brittany Spaniel has a smooth, dense coat. The dog’s coat may be wavy or straight, but it should never belong. Heavy feathering in Brittany Spaniels is penalized by show judges. It may result in the dog being excluded and disqualified from show competitions.
Brittany Spaniels were bred to retrieve in water. A long heavy coat is considered a safety hazard for the dog, which is why long coats are excluded from competitions.
The forelegs may have slight feathering. The hindlegs are feathered to mid-thigh.
Brittany Spaniels need to be brushed two or three times a week. Burrs and grass seeds should be combed out after a day in the field.
What Colors Are Brittany Spaniels?
Brittany Spaniels come in a variety of colors:
- Orange and white
- Black and white
- Liver and white
Their noses are usually dark but may be lighter brown in liver or orange dogs. The American Kennel Club does not recognize black and white dogs. It also disqualifies any dog with a black nose. The AKC accepts roan dogs and regards ticking as a desirable coat feature.
There has recently been some pressure for the AKC to accept black and white dogs as they are registered in France, where the breed originated.
How Big Are Brittany Spaniels?
American Brittany Spaniels are 17 ½ inches to 20 ½ inches at the shoulder. The AKC disqualifies Brittanys that fall outside of these height parameters. They weigh between 30 to 40 pounds. The height at the shoulders should match the length of the body. These proportions create the impression of a very leggy dog.
The French Brittany Spaniel is often slightly smaller than the American Brittany, although they have a somewhat wider height range. The French Brittany Spaniel can stand between 17 to 21 inches and weigh 30 to 40 pounds.
Do Brittany Spaniels Make Good Pets?
Brittany Spaniels are well known for their gentle, friendly temperaments. They rarely show aggression and are good dogs for families with small children. A 2008 study looked at aggression in different breeds, including the Brittany Spaniel.
Aggression was defined as any snapping, attempted bites, or actual bites. In the study, four areas of aggression were measured:
- Aggression towards the dog’s family or owners
- Aggression towards strangers
- Dog-on-dog aggression
- Dog rivalry between dogs in the same household
Brittany Spaniels scored as one of the least aggressive breeds in all four categories.
Although Brittany Spaniels are gentle dogs, they have abundant energy and love to play. They are quite at home roughhousing with children and do not become upset or aggressive during play.
It is always important to teach children empathy and respect for any dog. This prevents children from unintentionally abusing the dog. Even if the dog does not bite, it is unacceptable for a dog to be hurt in any way as this is an abuse of its good nature.
Do Brittany Spaniels Make Good Exercise Companions?
Brittany Spaniels are energetic dogs that were designed to work. As a result, they do not do well in sedentary lifestyles. They need exercise and mental stimulation.
Owners who enjoy running or cycling can take their Brittany Spaniel along. The Brittany Spaniel’s long legs make them speedy dogs, and they have natural stamina and endurance.
Always remember that Brittany Spaniel puppies should not be over-exercised as this can lead to joint problems. Caution should be applied until at least one year of age when exercising dogs.
Dogs, like people, need to be conditioned for exercise. To prepare their bodies, Brittany Spaniels will need to begin with shorter runs or hikes. The distance and time can gradually be increased as the dog becomes fitter.
Do Brittany Spaniels Need Space?
Brittany Spaniels are energetic dogs. They do best when they have a good size yard to play in. The yard should be securely fenced or walled to prevent the Brittany from exploring other territories.
Brittany spaniels are hunting dogs, and their instincts will be triggered by the sound of birds or other wildlife noises. This may prompt them to run, chase and possibly escape the yard. Their hunt drive underlines the need for a secure safe space for Brittany spaniels to play.
Brittany spaniels do not do well with confined lifestyles where they must spend much of the day quietly indoors. They are not lap dogs or couch potatoes. Apartment living or homes with tiny yards are not a good idea.
Brittany Spaniels will need to exercise and have daily mental stimulation even with a good-sized yard.
Brittany Spaniels benefit from being involved in dog sports such as agility, flyball, field trials, and obedience. They will put their whole hearts into any sport you wish to try with them.
Do Brittany Spaniels Bark A Lot?
As we have said, Brittany Spaniels are balls of energy. If this energy is not expended somehow, the dog will become restless and may bark at people on the street, birds in the tree, or other random stimuli.
Brittany Spaniels that are left by themselves at home for long periods may experience some anxiety. This can lead to excessive barking and other maladaptive behaviors.
They are best suited to homes where the owners are home for much of the day. They are people-oriented dogs that do not enjoy isolation.
Should Brittany Spaniels Have A Dog Friend?
Keeping a Brittany Spaniel with a dog friend is a good idea. It helps the Brittany Spaniel expend energy playing with the other dog. Canine company can help alleviate the burden of exercise and stimulation on the owner.
It is important to remember that another dog does not remove the need for stimulation and training. Brittany Spaniels must still be exercised mentally and physically. Leaving both dogs without any input could just lead to double trouble.
Allowing the Brittany Spaniel to have a dog friend will help alleviate any anxiety if the owner works away from home or is out for a few hours.
What Training Methods Are Best For Brittany Spaniels?
It has been shown repeatedly that dogs respond best to positive training methods and reinforcement. Harsh punishment and training styles do not achieve good results.
The need for positive training methods is especially important in Brittany Spaniels. Their gentle natures do not respond well to harsh punitive training where excessive pressure is placed on the dog.
In these situations, Brittany Spaniels become cowed, withdrawn, and unhappy. They are not likely to learn well and will develop anxiety and lack confidence.
What Health Problems Do Brittany Spaniels Have?
The world of modern dogs is something of a minefield of health problems. Therefore, it is always wise to investigate breed health to know about potential issues before purchasing a dog. Brittany Spaniels are no exception.
Do Brittany Spaniels Suffer From Hip Dysplasia?
Hip dysplasia occurs in Brittany Spaniels when the bones of the leg grow too fast or abnormally. The hip joint becomes malformed, weak, unstable, and loose. As the dog moves, the bones in the hip grind against each other, damaging bone, cartilage, and other sensitive structures in the joint.
Hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder, and certain lines are predisposed to it. The condition can be eradicated by assessing parent dogs for hip health. Assessment is done using X-rays which are evaluated and rated to indicate the risk factor. Breeders should only use parent dogs that score completely healthy hips.
A survey showed that 14.9% of Brittany Spaniels suffered from hip dysplasia during the years between 1974 and 2009. From 2003 to 2004, another survey showed that 10.3% of Brittany Spaniels suffered from hip dysplasia.
It is hoped that the reduced rate is reflective of responsible breeders selectively breeding dogs that do not have a genetic tendency to hip dysplasia.
Do Brittany Spaniels Have Any Autoimmune Conditions?
Brittany Spaniels are prone to Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE). This form of lupus affects the connective tissue in the basal skin layer. The skin integrity is compromised, and lesions develop on the surface.
DLE results in a rash, but it is difficult to see under the dog’s coat.
This condition is sometimes known as ‘collie nose’ as it frequently occurs in collie breeds. The nose is typically the first place affected and, for many dogs, may be the only indication of the condition.
The skin on the nose looks dry, becomes raw, and may bleed. It is painful, and dogs are prone to scratching at their noses. The dog’s nose loses its pigment, becoming pink, worsening the situation by making the nose more prone to sunburn.
There are protocols involving creams and vitamin supplements that can manage nose lesions relatively well. It does not address the underlying issue but helps the nose heal.
The lesions may spread and involve the face and eyes. Discoid lupus can affect the eyelids, causing lesions, thickening, and scars on the eyelid. It can also occur inside the ears and mouth causing painful eroding ulcers.
Lupus in any form is not a condition that can be cured. It can be managed with medications that will need to continue for the rest of the dog’s life. Typical veterinary medications include corticosteroids and cyclosporines, which target the immune system. Tacrolimus and tetracyclines are also used in treatment.
Sunlight and exposure to cigarette smoke worsen DLE symptoms, and the dog should be protected from exposure to them.
The prognosis for a Brittany Spaniel with DLE is good. They will probably die with DLE, but not because of it.
Do Brittany Spaniels Get Epilepsy?
Brittany Spaniels have a higher incidence of epilepsy or seizure disorders than other dogs. Seizures can occur for many reasons that include toxins, tumors, metabolic diseases, and other underlying health conditions.
Seizures can also have a genetic origin. This seems to be the underlying reason for most seizures in Brittany Spaniels. If epilepsy is hereditary, many dogs in that line will experience seizures. The breeding of those dogs should be discontinued.
Seizures may also be diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy, indicating the seizures have no known origin. This can occur in any dog and, as far as veterinarians can tell, is not related to a genetic predisposition.
Establishing whether seizures are genetic or idiopathic can be challenging if there is no information on the health of littermates and close canine relatives. Research is currently being conducted on canine epilepsy to better understand and manage the disorder.
Ideopathic or genetic epilepsy can be managed with anti-seizure medications. The correct dose is critical as seizure medications are potent and affect the dog’s neuromotor abilities and alertness levels.
Seizures that stem from underlying health conditions may resolve once the health issue is treated. Unfortunately, seizures that result from brain tumors do not generally have a positive outcome. Treatment will involve seizure management and palliative care.
A veterinarian should always be consulted about Brittany Spaniels that experience seizures. Do not assume that it is of genetic origin because of the dog’s breed. A complete health assessment is needed to determine the best way to treat and manage seizures in the Brittany Spaniel.
What Is Cerebellar Abiotrophy, And Do Brittanys Get It?
Cerebellar Abiotrophy is a heritable neurological disease that is seen in Brittany Spaniels. It usually manifests in young dogs between six to sixteen weeks.
The first symptom that is noticed is uncoordination in the Brittany Spaniel puppy. The uncoordination results from disturbances in the cerebellum in the brain. The brain damage leads to an inability to maintain balance, spatial positioning, and judge distances.
The puppy will struggle to negotiate stairs or changing surfaces and may stumble or fall. It may also walk into objects due to an inability to judge distance.
Cerebellar ataxia is one of the symptoms. Ataxia results from cerebellar cell death. Ataxia refers to movement abnormalities such as:
- Broad-based stance
- Gait abnormalities
- Head tilt
- Incoordination of the four limbs
Cerebellar Abiotrophy is a degenerative condition which means that it will continue to worsen. The rate of degeneration is very individual. Some dogs will deteriorate rapidly while others take years.
There is no cure for Cerebellar Abitorphy in Brittany Spaniels. Medication can be given to limit the symptoms and make the dog as comfortable as possible.
What Food Is Good For Brittany Spaniels?
Brittany Spaniels should be fed food appropriate for their stage of life. Dogs’ dietary needs change from puppyhood through to seniors.
The high activity levels of Brittany Spaniels indicate a need for well-balanced food containing sufficient calories to support their energy needs. Dog foods aimed at sports dogs would be well suited to Brittany Spaniels. These diets supply extra calories that allow the dog to maintain a healthy weight despite burning it off with all their busyness.
Brittany Spaniel puppies must receive a diet higher in protein than adult maintenance diets. As the dog ages and moves into its golden years, the diet must be readjusted to meet its needs.
There is an overabundance of dog food brands on the market, and it can be confusing to know which one is best. Ask your veterinarian for advice on which food is most suited to your dog.
Can Brittany Spaniels Eat Raw Or Home-cooked Diets?
In the last decade, raw and home-cooked diets have become more popular for Brittany Spaniels. Owners are becoming more aware of health issues, genetically modified ingredients, fillers, and additives in commercial dog foods.
Some owners have chosen to eat organic food, and they may prefer to use only organic ingredients for their dogs.
Veterinarians are often wary of raw or home-cooked diets. Their concern is that many of these diets are not complete or balanced. If you want to feed your Brittany spaniel a raw or home-cooked food, you should consult a veterinarian or animal nutritionist. These professionals can help you develop a complete balanced diet for your Brittany.
Brittany Spaniels, with underlying health conditions, may benefit from raw or home-cooked food. Feeding this way is time-consuming and can be expensive. Some owners are prepared to go the extra mile for their Brittany and choose these diets.
Raw diets must be carefully managed, and the cold chain for food must remain unbroken. A host of bacterial infections can arise in both the Brittany Spaniel and its owner if meat is not kept cold. Some of these infections are life-threatening.
Brittany Spaniels are charming family companions that are bundles of energy. They are a pleasure to train using positive reinforcement. These are relatively healthy dogs with few health issues. They need mental and physical outlets for their high energy levels.
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