The Barbet (pronounced "bar-bay"), commonly referred to as the French Water Dog, is in the same family as the Poodle, Briard, Bichon Frise, and several others. This water dog originated in France and is nicknamed "mud dog" for their love of water, while the breed name comes from the French word barbe meaning "beard" due to their bearded appearance. They can be traced as far back as the 16th century where they were used as waterfowl retrievers and it is known that King Henry IV was a fan of the Barbet and their waterproof coat. Their enduring personality throughout history has gained them the spot of being companions to royalty and even Napoleon was rumored to have owned a Barbet. Only about 250 dogs of this rare breed are located in the United States and about 900 worldwide.
A true sporting dog, the Barbet is well-built, sturdy, medium-sized, and has a rectangular-shaped body. The breed is known for their thick, water-resistant coat and webbed paws, which attests to their ability to be great swimmers and retrievers. They also have a coat of a typical water dog that is long, dense, wooly, and extremely curly. Due to their infrequent shedding qualities, the coat can grow long and must be regularly groomed to avoid matting. The nearly round eyes of the Barbet are covered and protected by their curly hair. They have wide ears and a short, square-shaped muzzle with a black or liver nose. The breed's long tail is carried in a sweeping curve that does not curl onto the back.
Commonly described as friendly and joyful, Barbets also learn quickly and can be very obedient. Consistent training, along with proper socialization, is needed for this breed to curb any excessive chewing and barking habits that may develop. Unlike most highly intelligent breeds, they are generally not considered to be stubborn or dominant. Positive reinforcement with praise and treats are the best way to have an obedient, even-tempered Barbet companion. These gentle and fun-loving dogs are very companionable by nature, making them a great choice for seniors or households with children. The Barbet bonds very closely to their families and always wants to be involved in their activities. Since this breed was bred to work and hunt, they have an active mind that requires plenty of mental stimulation. In addition, they need a lot of physical exercise and generally do not do well if left cooped up indoors for long periods of time, which can lead to unwanted destructive behavior. Best suited for active homes, Barbets are a wonderful choice for families looking for a loyal and devoted companion.