Is the Barbet for you?

So you think you want to get a Barbet………you may want to think again.
The Barbet – A Loving Companion with a “Glorious Lack of Sophistication”.
The inspiration for this title comes from American comedian Jeff Foxworthy, a self-professed “redneck” from the southern States who uses it to define such a person… but in my experience it is aptly suited to the Barbet.
I have compiled this list of top 10 reasons why a Barbet may not be the best choice for you…read it carefully and try to imagine living with one in your home:
  1. The mess – Part 1.  Barbets don’t shed in the same way as a lab or husky sheds.  You will never run the risk of hugging a Barbet and coming away covered in dog hair but be warned their fur will come out. It will come out when you brush them.  It will also come off the dog in little tufts when the dog scratches itself or moves about.  These little tufts will form tumbleweeds of hair that will gather in the corners of your room and under furniture. On beige or light carpets they (particularly the black tufts) are very apparent. If you elect not to brush your dog on a regular basis those hairs that fall out will quickly become tangled in the dog’s coat, forming thick mats.
  2. The mess – Part 2.  What makes the Barbet coat so wonderful to hug and pet and snuggle against also make it a magnet for burrs and dirt and sand and leaves and twigs.  Their woolly coat will attract all manner of outdoor debris and although much will fall off when the dog shakes you’ll be surprised how much also stays on the dog and comes inside.  
  3. The mess – Part 3.  The word Barbet is derived from the French word “barbe” meaning beard.  When a dog with a beard drinks from the water bowl it will invariably leave a trail of water behind as it walks away from the bowl.  This wet beard will also wet up your lap when the dog comes over to say “hi” after a drink and rest that wet beard with such loving tenderness in your lap.
  4. Their Intelligence.  Barbets are smart dogs.  They do very well in obedience and agility and learn new tricks with ease but a word of caution, living with a thinking dog means that if you don’t keep his or her mind engaged your Barbet will find a way to think up his or her own fun.   What they come up with may not be your idea of fun.  To have a well-mannered pet you need to invest the time training, socializing and working with your dog on a regular basis and provide consistent leadership.
  5. Their exercise needs.  Barbets are sporting dogs.  In general they are easy to live with in the house as they are not a hyper dog nor do they run around constantly looking for something to do.  A Barbet will happily lay around waiting for you to get off your duff and go for a walk, hike, swim, training, hunting etc….  The thing is they will behave in this easy happy manner as long as their exercise requirements are met.  If you don’t meet their needs you are setting yourself up to live with a dog that barks a lot, chews things they aren’t supposed to, destroys your personal property and is a general nuisance.  If you don’t have time to exercise your Barbet, don’t get one, get a different breed, or a cat or better yet get a goldfish.
  6. Their natural hunting instinct.  Being a sporting dog that was for many years selected for its ability to find and retrieve game, many Barbets have still retained an innate desire to chase small, quick moving animals such a squirrels and rabbits and yes if not socialized to them, even cats.  Having a dog with a strong recall is always an asset but especially in a dog that may find taking off after squirrels during your walk way more rewarding than staying with you.
  7. The grooming.  The Barbet is a coated dog.  Most people are attracted to them because of their long woolly coats.  They don’t shed like other breeds do and they are soft and cuddly and wonderful to pet.  When they are kept clean.  When they are mat free.  If you are not prepared to invest the time maintaining their coat you will very quickly end up with a dirty, smelly, matted dog that in all likelihood will need to be completely shaved down or endure hours on the grooming table to restore its coat to a semblance of order.   You should expect to have to fully brush and comb out your dog on a weekly basis in order to keep it in a manageable and healthy state.
  8. Their coat grows continuously.   It doesn’t just reach a certain length and stop growing.  You are going to have to keep cutting it down periodically.  If you keep your dog in a shorter pet trim of approximately 1-2 inches you should expect to have to trim your Barbet every 8-10 weeks or so.  If you aren’t doing this yourself expect to pay $75 and up at the groomers.   If you keep your dog in a longer trim then you can go several months in between hair-cuts.  You will have to keep the hair on the underside of their feet trimmed too so that it is flush with the pads.  Not only can snow, ice and mud get tangled in the hairs causing serious problems to the dog, if the hair is long enough it is the same as you walking around the house in socks.  When your dog comes running around the corner on a linoleum, tile or wood floor you are asking for an accident to happen as he or she will simply have no traction whatsoever.  
  9. They’re big softies.  Really, Barbets can be sensitive individuals. They are a happy dog and they want everyone around them to be happy too.  They will get stressed out in a home with a lot of yelling and fighting and they will shut down on you if your training methods are harsh.  A soft but firm hand is what is best suited to the Barbet.  They will thrive with positive training techniques that reward rather than punish behaviours.  
  10. They are not loners.  The Barbet is a breed of dog that likes to be wherever you are.  They will follow you around the house and be happy as long as they are in the same room as you.  This shadowing is a quality that most owners find endearing.  If you think it would drive you nuts having a Barbet following you around, look elsewhere.  This same quality is what also makes the Barbet ill-suited as a kennel dog.  Or a dog that is left alone for long periods of time for that matter.  

Take your time to research the breed and decide if a Barbet is the right fit for you.   Although we love them dearly they are most definitely not the dog for everyone. 
©Copyright Stephanie Dixon, Northrock Barbets.  2012