French Water Dog

Other names: Barbet, Mud dog

French Water Dog
French Water Dog

The Barbet is a rare breed of dog that is centuries old. It is essentially a medium-sized French water dog that was bred initially to retrieve hunted game, but was later tasked with various other ‘helping’ duties on ships and at home. The recent rise of the breed’s household popularity is due in part to him becoming an accepted pedigree in 2018.


Key facts about the French Water Dog

  • Life expectancy : Between 11 and 13 years
  • Temperament : Intelligent, Hunter
  • Size : Medium
  • Type of coat : Long

FCI Group

FCI Group

Group 8 - Retrievers - Flushing Dogs - Water Dogs


Section 3 : Water Dogs

Physical characteristics of the French Water Dog

Adult size

Female dog Between 21 and 24 in
Male dog Between 23 and 26 in


Female dog Between 44 and 66 lb
Male dog Between 44 and 66 lb

Coat colour

This is a dog seen of various colours including fawn, black and white. Various mixes of fawn and red are also seen.

Type of coat

Long, curly and woolly; similar to that of a poodle.

Eye colour

Dark brown


A stocky and angular dog slightly longer than it is tall. The neck is strong and solid leading to a well-defined, straight top line. The tail is carried just a little higher than level when the dog is active. All four limbs are muscular and solid.



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The Barbet is affectionate and loves nothing more than being in the company of its pack.


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Barbets tend to be a little goofy and may show off if they think they have an audience. They have a thirst for play that is unquenchable. Due to their sometimes rowdy antics care should be taken of small toddlers whom the dog can easily knock over.


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Even-tempered and placid, the Barbet is rarely aggressive.


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A highly intelligent breed, the Barbet gets bored easily of games and other activities (such as learning); the owner must vary their approach to the Barbet to keep the dog entertained.


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It is a very good hunting who does not hesitate to jump in the water (even very cold) to go for the game. It is a very good working assistant, versatile and reliable.

Fearful / wary of strangers

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The Barbet is not wary of strangers. In fact, it is often over-friendly and excitable when meeting new people.


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The Barbet is not an independent dog. It looks to its owner for direction and often demands praise.

Behaviour of the French Water Dog

Tolerates solitude

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This dog adores companionship. If left alone for long periods, the Barbet will become depressed.

Easy to train / obedience

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Training must be consistent and varied in its delivery. The dog’s attention span can waver and a trainer must accommodate this natural tendency.


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The Barbet will bark no more than any other dog; the barking quickly subsides.

Tendency to run away

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This dog does not have a tendency to run away but training and reinforcement of ‘outdoor rules’ is advisable.


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The Barbet is not as destructive as some other breeds.

Greedy / Gluttony

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The Barbet is not known to be greedy but it does have a very large appetite; if fed too much human food or substandard dog food they can quickly gain weight.

Guard dog

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Although this dog’s alert barking will make you aware of someone approaching the house, the bark is no more than an alarm call.

First dog

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The Barbet is an excellent choice of first dog. Socialisation and consistent training are essential components of ownership.


French Water Dog in a flat

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The Barbet will not be happy living in a flat if its owner is always out and does not give the dog enough exercise.

Need for exercise / Sporty

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Walks with a Barbet should not be just walks. The Barbet will want to swim, run, jump and chase and will do so for hours if allowed to. The dog is athletic and energetic and must be given ample opportunity to flex the muscles of its body and mind.

Travelling / easy to transport

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The Barbet is easily over-excited by the prospect of an adventure. Crate training this dog is recommended to ensure that the dog’s movements are controlled when travelling.


French Water Dog and cats

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A well-socialised Barbet is not likely to come to blows with a cat.

French Water Dog and dogs

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The Barbet enjoys the company of other dogs and does not tend to exhibit jealousies or a strong mating drive (especially if neutered).

French Water Dog and children

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The Barbet is an excellent playmate for older children. The dog is liable to knock very small children down if they have the misfortune of getting in the way. Do not berate the dog if this happens.

French Water Dog and the elderly

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Due to its love of the home and company the Barbet is ideal for elderly owners.


We do not have enough data to set an average price for a French Water dog . You’re also looking at between £120 to £175 per month to care for this dog.


Regular brushing (once a day) removes tangles and mats from this dog’s fur. Bath this dog when necessary. The dog’s coat should be trimmed four times a year.


The Barbet does not shed.

Nutrition of the French Water Dog

Feed a Barbet two meals a day of premium dog food formulated for an active dog.

Health of the French Water Dog

Life expectancy

11 to 13 years 

Strong / robust

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This is a dog that enjoys spending time outdoors and in all sorts of weather.

Withstand heat

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The Barbet does really tolerate well hot weather; care should be taken to keep the dog cool in the summer months. Never leave a dog in a car (even in shade).

Withstand cold

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The dense coat of the Barbet keeps the dog warm even in the rain and snow. Be sure to dry the coat thoroughly after a wet walk.

Tendency to put on weight

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If the Barbet is fed sub-standard food and is not exercised enough it will become obese.

Common illnesses

Good to know

The ‘Grand Barbet’ of 1750 is thought to be the ancestor of various Water Dog breeds of today, including the Poodle and Portuguese Water Dog. The ancestor of the Grand Barbet may have been the Komondor (this is only speculated).

Origins and history

The modern history of the Barbet is easier to follow. The first Barbet was introduced to the UK in 2001; six years later two unrelated Barbets were introduced and bred. The majority of Barbets in the UK are descendants of these later dogs.  In April 2018, the Barbet became the 220th breed recognized by The Kennel Club of the UK.


Good names for a French Water dog: Ali, Maya, Rock, Vita

Find out more dog name ideas here


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