Barbet- The extremely rare and curly “MUD DOG”

The Barbet medium-sized dog breed whose names come from the French word “barbe” which means beard.

This moniker, Barbet, is pronounced as “bar-bay.”

He is also known as the French Water Dog and is a fun-loving and intelligent dog bred to retrieve waterfowl.

One of his most unique features, his webbed feet, made him well adapted for this role. He is also known to have a very distinct coat and a muzzle beard.

Other than being a great retriever this dog is active and performs exemplary well in dog competitions such as agility competitions but is very rare to find.

Outside France, he is not well-known but in recent years his popularity outside France has slowly been on the rise.

But there is much more that you need to know about this breed before deciding if he will be the next addition to your family.

In this Mydogsinfo dog breed guide, we are going to look at some of the things that may make you get on not get the French Water Dog.

Stick with us as we go through all the essentials about this rare dog. 
A brown French Water Dog

About the Barbet

Considered to be a relative of the Briard dog and the hypoallergenic Poodle, this dog is known to get himself dirty as he retrieves hunted waterfowls.

This is a rare dog breed that almost went extinct because of the world wars that wreaked havoc on them.

His lovers and fanciers are responsible for his survival as a breed as they slowly replenished their numbers until they found their way outside of France to other parts of Europe and even America.

To give you an idea of how rare Barbets are, they are about 2000 Barbets on the continent.

This means that getting your hands on one of these French Water Dogs is extremely difficult and outright expensive.

These dogs are very active outdoors and family-oriented.

They can even thrive living in an apartment as long as you provide them with constant physical and mental stimulation.

These are happy dogs and they always want nothing but happiness to the people they consider to be part of their family. So much so that they become stressed living in homes with constant yelling and tense situations.

He is, however, not very friendly to strangers and will need early and ongoing socialization.

But what is the story behind this French Retriever?

Barbet pups

Origin of the French Water Dog

This dog may have been in existence as early as the 8th century but the 1st references of him are made in 1387. What this means is that this breed in no newcomer to the human-canine world.

It is also believed that King Henry the fourth kept Barbets as his companions with his mistress once getting into trouble for taking this pooch with her to church.

Napoleon is also rumored to have owed a French Water Dog.

He was popular in ancient France and French literature and was once a very common dog breed.

This dog was also depicted in many paintings doing what he was best at, hunting waterfowls in marshes.

For years they were used as waterfowl and bird gun dogs in France.

He earned the monikermud dog” because of his ability to pursue birds in the water and even in mud.

After the horrific World Wars, this dog almost went extinct but efforts by devotees to this breed slowly but surely made sure that the dog had a future.

Today, despite being a fairly rare breed, Barbets excel as top agility dogs in French dog competitions.

This pooch is believed to have contributed to the development of other dogs such as the Poodle, Bichon Frise, and the Briard. However, he believed to have bee used in the creation of other breed but there is no proof to ascertain these claims.

French Water dog

Pedigree and breed recognition

The 1st standards for this breed were formed in 1894.

Both the United Kennel Club and the American Kennel recognize this breed.

In 2007, the Barbet Club of America was formed.

Pros and cons of the French Water Dog


✓ These dogs are loving and loyal family companions.

✔ They do well in homes that have other pets present.

✓ This dog has a thick coat but he does not shed as much as you expect him to.


✘ Barbets are high energy dogs that need to be exercised regularly.

✗ They are not suitable for life in apartments.

✘ These dogs have high grooming needs.

Characteristics and general appearance of the Barbet

Barbet Dog summary table
Height Female: 20–24 inches, Male: 22–26 inches
Weight Female: 31–51 pounds, Male: 37–62 pounds
Lifespan 13 to 15 years
Breed Type sporting
Purpose Family and companion dogs
Suitable For Active and playful families in general
Grooming requirements High
Color Variations Black, Brown, Gray, Pied, Fawn, Red Fawn, Pale Fawn, and white
Health concerns Entropion, Hip dysplasia, Cataracts, and Epilepsy
Temperament  Obedient, Intelligent, Companionable, Joyful, Bright, Sweet-natured and Versatile
Other Names French Water Dog

Size of the French Barbet

Male Barbet weighs between 37 to 62 pounds and has a height of between 22 to 26 inches.

Their female counterparts, on the other hand, have a height of between 20 to 24 inches and can weigh anywhere between 31 and 51 pounds.


The physical appearance of the French Water Dog

The Barbet was built to be a swimmer.

This dog has a powerful broad chest, webbed feet, and muscular limbs that make them well-suited for this. The webbed-feet act like swimming flippers that propel them forward in water making them champ swimmers.

The dog should have a round and broad skull with a nose that can either be brown or black.

To add to this adorable look, French Water Dog has round eyes that can be amber or brown.

The tail of this pooch should be lightly hooked at the end with flat endearing ears.

Shedding and coat appearance of the Barbet

One of the most notable features of the Barbet is the unique waterproof coat that covers how the whole body.

This coat is made up of natural and thick curls that can either be tight and small or loose and large.

At the end of the muzzle, there should be a distinctive beard with the fur at the head reaching the bridge of the dog’s nose.

Barbet dogs

The coat of the French Water Dog can come in a variety of colors that include; 

Black Fawn Red-Fawn
Pale-Fawn Brown Gray

This dog can also have white markings in his feet and his chest.

Pied Barbets are mostly made up of a white color that has gray, brown, black, or fawn shadings.

Despite having a thick coat, this canine shedding in this dog is minimal as hair gets trapped in the coat.

Grooming for his dog is therefore crucial for his well-being.

He is considered to be hypoallergenic and does not many dog-related allergies.

Barbet Temperament and personality traits

Barbets are affectionate and friendly dogs that enjoy spending time outdoors.

They form a very strong attachment with members of the family and are not loners. With that said, you should never leave this furry friend for extended periods as he could easily suffer from separation anxiety.

These dogs tend to follow their owners everywhere they go and will be happy as long as he is close to you.

You would look elsewhere if you find being shadowed by your dog endearing.

These dogs also have a strong desire to chase after things that move quickly such as squirrels and in other instances cats. Socialization is therefore essential and should start when the dog is still young.

Also, if he not well-socialized he may be wary of strangers.

Traits Rating
Prey Drive

Is the French Water Dog a good family dog?

The French Water Dog makes an exceptional family dog and a great companion and playmate for small children.

Problems may occur if you have other smaller pets such as birds because of his high prey drive. He, however, coexists well with other animals such as dogs and cats that he has been raised together with.

Here are some of the way that you can manage your Barbets high prey drive.

A guide to the French Barbet

Frequently asked questions

Do Barbet dogs shed? 

Yes, Barbets shed, but it is not like the way a Golden Retriever would. The risk of having hair left on your clothes once you hug this dog is non-existent but this does not mean that his hair does not come. Other than shedding the ways other dogs do, Barbets’ hair comes out as chunks when you brush his coat or when they scratch themselves.

You will easily find these hair tufts under your furniture or somewhere in the corner of your house.

What if the lifespan of a Barbet? 

13 to 15 years.

French Water Dog puppies

The average litter size of a Barbet mother is about 6 puppies, however, there are instances when they have been known to have up to 11 puppies.

These pups take around 18 months to reach their full size.

Age Male Weight (pounds) Female Weight (pounds)
3 months 14 12
6 months 28 21
12 months 39 32
18 months 49 41

Note: The above growth chart is just an estimate.

You should be prepared to spend between $2500 and $4000 for a single Barbet pup and expect a waiting list that could take up to one year.

Barbet puppies

Grooming needs of  French Water Dog

You should not get a Barbet if you are not ready for his high grooming requirements.

Brushing his coat is very important to remove mats and tangles that may form and to get rid of the chunks of the loose chunks of hair. This should be done at least 3 times a week.

These dogs act as magnets for debris, twigs, and leaves, and brushing plays a great role in keeping the coat clean.

When brushing you should make sure that you reach the undercoat to help distribute essentials oils that leave the coat shiny and healthy.

Some Barbet owners also prefer to trim their pooch’s coat and keep it to a manageable size. This makes cleaning them and maintaining the coat much easier.

His coat grows continuously even after it has been trimmed and after a while, you may be required to do it again.

Apart from taking care of the coat, you should also make sure that you check and clean their ears.

If you notice any signs of ear infections, you should not hesitate to give your vet a visit.

The teeth should also be cleaned to prevent tartar build-up and reduce risks of infections and toenails kept short.

The guide to a French Water dog

Exercise requirements

The French Water Dog is a high energy dog that will need to be regularly exercised.

They need at least 60 minutes of daily exercise.

These dogs thrive on entertainment and constant mental and physical stimulation. He needs enough space where he can burn out most of his energy and an apartment is not for him.

 But there are ways in which you can exercise your dog indoors. Visit this indoor dog exercises guide to learn more.

Taking this dog for daily walks is one of the best ways that can ensure you meet his exercise quota.

But whenever you take this dog for walks you should always make sure that he is leashed because of his high prey drive. 

These canines also love to swim and if you can access a safe location or swimming this can be a great way to burn some of his energy.

Their affinity to water is so strong that you may need to train his recall which prevents him from jumping into water or mud immediately he sees it.

Agility games and other games that keep his mind stimulated such as puzzles play a great part in his well being.

Barbet dietary and nutritional requirements

The Barbet’s diet will largely depend on the following;

  • Metabolism
  • Age
  • Size of the dog
  • Level of activity

The diet should be high on meat-based proteins and should be a well-balanced diet.

Your vet can help advise you on the best diet for your Barbet.

Barbet Daily Food Consumption
Calories 1,200
Cups of Kibble 🍗🍗🍗


Training a Barbet

French Water dogs are smart and very trainable.

They learn new tricks and commands with ease but this as long as you can keep them interested in what you want them to learn.

You should invest time to train and socialize him without using any aversive training methods.

Never punish or shout at this dog because he is very sensitive and emotional and doing this can have detrimental effects on the dog’s mental state.

Some of the health concerns

Generally, Barbets are quite healthy but they are also susceptible to some health conditions.

  • Entropion is a condition that causes the rolling of the upper or lower eyelid.
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia is a health condition that occurs due to the abnormal development of the elbow and hip joints and can cause extreme weakness and pain to the pooch. This condition is hereditary and you should, therefore, ask your breeder for the joint health guarantee.
  • Cataracts
  • Epilepsy is a brain condition that is characterized by frequent seizures.

Dog breed summary

The Barbet, also known is as the French Waterdog is a French gun dog that was originally bred to aid in the retrieval of waterfowl and other birds.

These dogs are friendly and make exceptional family pets.

However, they may be wary of strangers if they are not well socialized from an early age.

These dogs have high grooming requirements and need owners that can dedicate time to take care of their thick and curly coat to keep them in the top-notch condition.

So, did you think this is the right dog for you?

You can share your feedback, question, and thoughts in the comment section below.

There we go, WOOF!

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