31-51 lbs
French Water Dog

You may not have heard of the Barbet. They’re not one of the best-known dog breeds around, but in recent years have started to gain popularity outside of France. It’s not hard to see why — the Barbet is a loving breed that’s devoted to their family, making them a wonderful pet.

In this guide to the Barbet, you’ll discover: 

  • The Barbet is also known as the French Water Dog
  • As the name would suggest, they love water and will swim at any opportunity
  • Barbet dogs are recognizable for their thick, curly coat and distinctive beard
  • A high-energy breed, a Barbet loves agility sports

Barbet Breed Overview

The Barbet — pronounced Bar-bay — was originally a gun dog used in France to hunt water game. Their nickname is ‘Mud Dog’ because, as well as water, they love muddy places.

They have been mistaken for a Goldendoodle (a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle) because their coats are so similar — but they are in fact a completely different breed. Interestingly, though, it’s believed this breed was used to create other breeds including the Poodle, as well as the Briard and Bichon Frise

If you have your heart set on a Barbet puppy you should know that you may have at least a year to wait. You’ll be looking at paying between $2,500 and $4,000, from a reputable breeder and the Barbet Club of America can help you with your search. Although Barbets needing to be rehomed is rare, they’ll be able to help with this too, if you’re looking to rescue a dog. 

The lifespan of a Barbet is between 12 and 14 years, although they have been known to live longer. 

If you’re about to get a Barbet you’ll want to know they’re covered for any unexpected health issues. Check out the best pet insurance plans — it’s quick and easy to browse and compare top providers.

purpose Purpose
Gun dog
history Date of Origin
ancestry Ancestry
Water dog

Barbet Health

Average Size
Male Barbet size stats
Height: 22-26 inches Weight: 37-62 lbs
Female Barbet size stats
Height: 20-24 inches Weight: 31-51 lbs

Barbet Breed History

The Barbet dog is an ancient breed that dates back to the 16th century. They were originally bred to flush out water fowl in the wetlands and marshes, then retrieve them — this is why they’re also known as the French Water Dog. Since then, they’ve been used for many different tasks including cart pulling and guarding. 

The first official standard for the Barbet was developed in 1894. Barbet comes from the French word for beard, a feature they’re instantly recognisable for. They were once a very common breed, popular in French literature, and featured in many paintings which depicted them hard at work in the marshes, hunting for waterfowl. 

They almost became extinct after World War II. However, a few enthusiasts of the Barbet dog breed fought to preserve them and there has since been a rejuvenation of the breed. Today, the Barbet is gaining popularity, though still considered to be a rare breed; there are estimated to be around 600 of these dogs worldwide. 

It’s uncertain exactly when the Barbet was imported into the United States. But, they have experienced a surge in popularity. In 2007, the Barbet began being recorded into the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service, and in 2009, the Barbet Club of America was formed (originally called the Barbet Fanciers Club of America). They were recognised as a breed by the AKC in 2020.

Barbet Breed Appearance

A Barbet is a medium-sized dog. And, while you may not know it from looking at them, they’re strong and solid.

What this breed is best known for is their long, thick curly coat  which can be large and loose or small and tight. They have an abundance of hair across their entire body. Their head is quite large and the hair here should reach the bridge of their nose. They also have a distinctive beard at their muzzle and the ears will also be covered in long hair too. 

The coat of the Barbet breed comes in all shades of fawn, brown, black or gray, and they can have white markings on their chest or feet. They can also be pied, which is when they are primarily white with shading of fawn, brown, black or gray.

Similar breeds to the Barbet

If the Barbet breed isn’t right for you but you’d like a similar breed, either in terms of maintenance or size, you might like to consider: 

Whether you choose a Barbet or decide a similar breed would be a better option, you need to make sure you are looking after your dog’s health. 

Sign up to a wellness plan which covers their annual shots and boosters then compare the best pet insurance plans so you are covered for any unexpected health issues. 

Barbet Breed Maintenance

Their thick, curly coat does make them quite a high maintenance breed as it does require considerable grooming. 

Wondering if the Barbet is hypoallergenic? While no breed of dog can be considered 100% hypoallergenic, a Barbet is an ideal pet for anyone with allergies. 

This is because its unique hair doesn’t shed like other dogs. Instead, this hair sheds in tufts which will generally come out when brushed — this is why the Barbet should be brushed at least once a week. This needs to be right down to the skin to prevent tangles from forming. The curls may need to be gently combed more regularly than this to prevent them from matting. 

Barbets love to play in the water, so they’ll need to be groomed every time they do to keep their coat in good condition. When they have been in the water or a bath, let them air-dry to retain their natural curls.  

Their hair grows continuously so you will need to trim it. You could clip it down to around two inches so it’s easier to maintain but it’s best if this is three to five inches. Make sure to remove hair around the ears to stop excessive hair from trapping dirt here. You’ll also need to trim the hair between the pads on their paws when needed. 

You may want to visit a groomer every six weeks or so, and let them do this for you. 

Make sure to keep their ears clean to prevent infections, brush their teeth regularly and trim their nails when needed. 

The Barbet will benefit from an active family as they’re a high-energy breed and need plenty of exercise. They’ll thrive in sporting events, particularly agility, and they love to swim. Their coat is weather-resistant so they’ll happily take a dip in the water in any weather and actually have webbed paws specifically for this. 

Barbet health risks

Barbets generally tend to be a healthy breed but, of course, can be prone to some health conditions — as with all dogs. The ones you need to be particularly aware of are:

  • Entropion
  • Hip Dysplasia

There’s also a chance of cataracts and epilepsy — although these are only a minor concern.  

Although Barbets are quite a healthy breed they are still prone to some health issues. Make sure you are prepared for this by browsing and comparing top pet insurance providers to find the best option for you and your dog. 


Entropion is when the eyelid folds in towards the eyeball. It’s usually the lower lid that’s affected, but it can be the upper and occasionally both. As a result the dog’s eyelashes will rub against their eye. This will cause irritation and discomfort but could lead to loss of vision or blindness. Symptoms include eye redness and inner eye inflammation. This could be inherited or it could be due to a trauma to the eye. Treatment will include surgery.

Ectropion, when the lower eyelid rolls outwards, is another potential eye issue.

Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia is when the ball and socket of the hip joint rubs and grinds together, in either one or both hips, because it hasn’t formed properly. It can happen to dogs at any age — it may be as early as 16 weeks or they could get it later in life. It will be very painful and restrict movement.  

There are a number of causes but it can develop because of rapid weight gain or obesity. So, at first, you may need to look at your dog’s diet and weight management. The treatment might also include oral supplements, physiotherapy or surgery. 

Feeding a Barbet — what’s the best diet? 

Your Barbet can be fed wet or dry food — or a  mixture of both. Make sure it’s formulated for medium-sized breeds with high energy as well as for their specific life stage and any other dietary requirements. 

Barbet puppies should be fed three to four meals a day, while for Barbet dogs this can be reduced to two meals a day.  

Your Barbet will love a treat — especially when training them — but make sure you take this into account when serving up their meals. You don’t want them to become overweight. 

You’ll want to make sure your Barbet is enjoying the best possible diet. Check out the advice from our friends at Dog Food Advisor such as the best dry dog food and the best wet dog food. 

Barbet Temperament

The Barbet personality is friendly and affectionate; they’re always happy and cheerful. They love other dogs and children, which makes them the perfect family companion. That said, you do need to be careful with smaller pets, particularly birds, as they have a high prey drive — especially for fowl. 

They’re a smart breed that are easy to train and learn new things quickly. You’ll get the best response when you use positive reinforcement training as they’re quite sensitive in nature. 

They don’t particularly like being left alone for too long. Barbet dogs can become destructive and bark excessively when they are. 

Barbet puppies should be socialized as soon as practically possible to avoid them becoming shy and wary in new situations. Do this and they’ll be perfectly fine with strangers. 

Barbet Owner Experiences

2 Years
4 People
House & Yard
Man trailing
We are delighted to have found this breed. Hector has a happy, goofy personality and loves being with the family. He has around 2 hours of exercise a week, some off lead and with a pack a couple of times a week. He is very chilled at home once he has had a walk and likes to sit on the sofa with me..He had a long adolescence and I had to do a lot of work with him on recall but he is very responsive now. Total velcro-dog, loves cuddles and wants to be friends with everyone. His coat does need a lot of work - full brush weekly, and part brush every day. has a strong desire to chase birds and to swim in any water he can find regardless of the weather. Is usually wet with coat full of mud, sand and sticks....Rubbish guard dog!
2 years, 3 months ago
1 Year
playing keep away
playing with other dogs
I walked a pretty young Barbet. He has a beautiful curly black coat that needs a lot of regular grooming. He is a huge bundle of energy. He got very excited whenever he saw other dogs or people, and almost knocked them over! He really wanted to be off leash on trail so he could chase around other dogs. He’s very smart, and a little mischievous. If he had something in his mouth he wasn’t supposed to it was next to impossible to get it out. Also he walked best on a harness, as he tended to pull a bit. Overall an extremely happy, loving, and energetic pup.
6 years, 5 months ago
7 Years
Explore the city
Dressing up
I have had so much fun with the barbet that I've walked. He's a big, lovable goon with the softest fur and the sweetest face. He was immediately friendly upon my arrival and doesn't mind getting suited up when we leave, as I understand, barbets are incredibly tolerant breeds. He doesn't seem to get cold too easily, but he's got a big puffy winter jacket and a harness, so the dressing ordeal takes more than a minute. He patiently lets me manipulate him while I put on his gear. As patient as he is with getting suited up, he is equally patient strolling down the stairs. Once we're outside he lets loose a little, but only in that he has a penchant toward taking a few galloping steps on occasion particularly if there is a leaf blowing across the sidewalk, a stick, or, if we're so lucky to have a toy with us. When he is not particularly excited he walks like a show dog. He does very well to walk next to my side and match my own pace. This seems a sign of his intelligence and has compelled me to work with him on tricks a little more than I would with some other dogs—and he loves it. We have a habit of walking a few blocks then stopping for a brief trick break then continuing on for a few more blocks before repeating the process. When we pass other dogs or strangers he is very willing to say hello, but unless initiated by the other dog or the passer-by, he does not insist on meeting anyone. Because of his polite and bouncy nature he does tend to attract the attention and compliments of many strangers. We tend to walk along the boardwalk in Williamsburg where there are many other dogs and people and are frequently stopped along the way so he can get petted, talked to, and talked about by more than a few people. Though he could walk for miles without getting too exhausted, he seems to enjoy these moments so much that I do tend to encourage them. Anyway, it's nice to encourage the additional socialization of any friendly dog. He's more than willing to head in any direction that I lead him and is very good about heading back home, getting his gear off, and settling back in. Usually when we get home he has a brief burst of energy and romps around the apartment for a minute with his favorite toy. The balance between his politeness and his silly side is truly charming.
6 years, 5 months ago
Animal Expert Question Icon
Question - Behavior

I wanted to know if a barbet need to be on a lead at all times, or-if trained properly, he could run around without one.

Book me a walkiee?
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