In the 1800s in the west of France, the Brittany was bred as a hunting dog especially for birds. Small Spaniels and English Setters were crossed, and with their hunting and obedience skills they became a great all-purpose dog, ideal for poachers and peasants.
They are excellent at hunting, flushing, pointing and retrieving game. The dog will drive the birds from their hiding place – which is called flushing. Pointing is where the dog will stop instinctively and point its muzzle towards the bird being hunted. Retrieving happens after the game is shot, when they run up and bring it back for the hunter.
The birds they worked with included pheasant, partridge, ducks and more. Because of their all round skills in hunting game, they are classified as utility gun dogs, or ‘hunt, point, and retrieve.’ In the 1920s they were imported to North America, and recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1934. Gradually they were bred differently from the original French dog, as Americans wanted a better runner with longer legs. American Brittanys are usually larger than the French type. Most clubs around the world now classify them as two different breeds – the American Brittany and the French Brittany.
The Brittany was first called the Brittany Spaniel, but changed its name in the 80s to simply ‘Brittany’ because of its hunting style being more like a Setter than a Spaniel. The name Brittany comes from the Province in France where the dog was originally bred.
The Brittany is an active, energetic dog that is eager to please and good natured with everyone. They are especially loyal and attached to their owner. They are enthusiastic and joyful, so if you’re laid back and like a nice calm existence they might not be the best breed for you.
Some are more independent and stubborn than others, but they all tend to be sensitive. They can also be shy, so should be socialized at an early age to get them used to people and animals.
The Brittany has floppy ears, an athletic body and a soft, intelligent expression on its face. Liver, orange, and white are the usual breed colors. Some have a long tail which is usually cropped, whereas others have a short tail. This breed was bred as a pointing dog, for finding birds and then retrieving them once they were shot. This means that they are good runners and enjoy hunting and being outside. In America they are used for upland game – they are quick, good at what they do and able to find lots of birds.
It is not that easy to tell when they are on point, apart from that they stop moving. It is generally agreed that like with most things, the more practice they get at hunting, the better they will get.
Brittanys make great family dogs, but need a lot of exercise, training and attention, so do not do well as kennel or outdoor dogs. They also should not be kept in an apartment – they were bred as hunting dogs and are very active indoors.
If they are left on their own for too long, negative behavior might result – such as barking and chewing. They also have a tendency to whine if they are under stress or over-excited. They get on best with a large fenced-in yard or farm to play and run around in. They are resistant to cold and damp weather.
A very kid-friendly dog, the Brittany loves children, and is affectionate with his family. He is wary of strangers, but not aggressive, and can even be shy if not socialized well. Brittanys have a high prey drive, so you will need to be careful with small animals – but they can get along with cats if they are raised with them.
A weekly brushing is good for a Brittany’s coat, and a bath can be given when needed. Their teeth should be brushed a few times a week, and their nails trimmed regularly. They shed lightly all year round, though a little heavier in the warmer seasons. They should be checked for fleas or ticks. If you are taking them to a show then they will need some trimming to make them neat.
Brittanys are smart and eager to please, so they are easily trained, and sensitive to instruction. They can be trained to do all kinds of sports, as well as hunting, and with their energy these are ideal activities for them.
Gentle and sensitive, these dogs need patient instruction with positive reinforcement. It is best to start training early, as well as socialization, so they get used to being around people and animals. Some are more stubborn and independent than others, depending on their individual personality. Because of their intelligence, they may try to manipulate you and play up if you’re training them to do something they don’t want to do. But as long as you don’t give in, they should get it.
Some Brittanys can get over-excited or nervous and dribble urine – this is called excitable or submissive urination. It can happen if they are getting scolded, or if they meet someone they don’t know, or if they are over-excited while playing. Don’t punish them for it, and it might go away over time.
Highly energetic, Brittanys do need regular active exercise. They like running in wide open spaces and are lively inside the house if they don’t get enough exercise. An hour a day of exercise is ideal. They do best with an active owner who is outdoors a lot, and enjoy hunting and sports activities. Competitions that Brittanys are often entered in include Field Trials, Dog Shows, Hunting Tests, Obedience Trials, Tracking Tests, and Agility Trials.
Brittany Nutritional Needs
An energetic breed, these dogs consume quite a lot of calories. Active Brittanys should have a high protein content in their diet, to fuel their muscles. If they have been spayed or neutered they might need a little less food. Look for meat protein as the primary ingredient in their food. Avoid plant based proteins as their main source of protein, and avoid meat by-products.
A puppy should usually be given puppy food for the first few months – but talk to your breeder to see what they recommend for their puppies. They should be given three to four meals a day when they are young, then transitioned to three meals a day. Once they are a year old their meals can be reduced to two every day.
Avoid corn, barley and wheat, as the Brittany doesn’t digest them very well. Like other dogs, Brittanys can develop food allergies, so watch out for symptoms such as itching or scratching. Or a food sensitivity might produce diarrhea, gas or an upset stomach.
Recommended daily feeding amount: 1.5 to 2 cups of high quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Active dogs will generally consume quite a lot of calories (around 1000 to 1200 a day), but be careful as they get older and slow down, as they will need less food so they don’t gain weight.
Brittany Common Health Concerns
Although generally very healthy dogs, Hip Dysplasia, Epilepsy and Hypothyroidism are genetic health conditions that can affect Brittanys. In Hip Dysplasia, their hip joints can be deformed resulting in some limping and lameness. Epilepsy causes seizures, although it can be managed with medication.
Hypothyroidism is caused by low levels of the thyroid hormone. Symptoms include hair falling out, mental dullness and drooping eyelids. Again, this can be managed with daily medication. It is best to buy your puppy from a breeder who screens the parents for these diseases to ensure the best chances for your dog to be healthy.
Brittany How to Get One
Brittanys are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Brittanys in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Brittany rescue.
Breed Organizations: The American Brittany Club
Above are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about Brittanys.