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Alice van Kempenm, Animal Photography
Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The Brittany’s medium size, wash-and-go coat, and happy, intelligent personality make him the perfect dog for an owner who will give him the exercise he needs -- or, even better, take him hunting. Brittanies learn quickly and joyfully and make excellent watchdogs.
Brittanies are hunting dogs, but don’t skip this breed if you’re not a hunter; they also excel at canine sports, including agility, flyball and obedience, and enjoy running, hiking and playing fetch with their people.
Great balls of fire! Life with a Brittany is never dull. This breed is smart, active, agile and relatively easy to train. For an active home with room for an active companion, you can’t do much better than the Brittany, a moderately sized dog with relatively few health or temperament problems. This dog can hunt, if that’s what you’re into, but for most people, the appeal is that the Brittany is athletic, bright and people-oriented.
If you want a dog that will do anything you want to do as long as it’s active, this is a great dog for you. His wash-and-wear coat can be kept in shape with a weekly brushing to keep shedding under control, and he's typically friendly with other dogs, cats and children.
But make no mistake: this is not a couch-potato puppy: The Brittany is a canine overachiever and needs daily, heart-thumping exercise to keep his high spirits from bounding off. Don't get a Brittany if you're not going to make him a part of your family, or if you're not going to give him mentally and physically challenging activities.
That work doesn't need to be hunting, although the Brittany does remain very popular among people who value a good bird dog. The Brittany does well in all kinds of canine sports, including agility, flyball and obedience and will be an active participant in any human-centered activity as well, from running and hiking to playing fetch with the kids.
When we say you need to keep your Brittany busy, we’re not just thinking of the dog but of you. Left to his own devices and without sufficient exercise, the Brittany can become destructive and noisy instead of the happy family dog he was meant to be.
The Brittany takes his name from the area of France where he was created. He is a pointing breed who was created in France to be a versatile gundog. The Brittany could not only point but also retrieve, and he was suited to working in different types of country, whether it had dense cover or was more open. Few breeding records were kept, but the breeds that probably contributed to the Brittany’s development were the Welsh Springer Spaniel, the English Setter and some French spaniel breeds.
First recognized as a distinct breed in France in 1907, the Brittany’s skill as a hunting dog soon made him popular with hunters in other countries. The first Brittanies came to the U.S. in 1931 and have become popular family dogs, too, because of their moderate size and friendly personality. Brittanies rank 30th among the breeds registered by the American Kennel Club, a position that has held steady for a decade.
The Brittany personality ranges from mellow to active, soft to stubborn. Temperament can vary by gender. Neutered males have a reputation for being calmer and sweeter than females, but of course every dog is an individual. But all Brittanies love their family and seek attention from them at every opportunity.
As a family dog, the Brittany is friendly, playful and affectionate. He loves kids and is protective of them. Unlike many Sporting dogs, he is wary of strangers, so he’s an excellent watchdog.
The intelligent Brittany is willing to please, making him easy to train. He picks up hunting skills at an early age, and between hunting seasons he doesn’t forget what he has learned.
Brittanies have a strong prey drive, but they can learn to get along with cats if they are raised with them. Pet birds or other small critters might not be so fortunate.
The perfect Brittany doesn’t come ready-made from the breeder. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Brittany, the “teen” years can start at six months and continue until the dog is about 18 months old. Fortunately, Brittanies are sensitive, smart and want only to please. That gives you a head start in training them, especially if you start early.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
The perfect Brittany doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Whatever you want from a Brittany, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
The Brittany is a very healthy breed, but like all dogs, can suffer from health problems, some of them genetic. One of those problems is hip dysplasia, a sometimes crippling malformation of the hip joint that can require expensive surgical repair. Other conditions that can affect the breed are epilepsy, a seizure disorder; hypothyroidism, a common hormonal disease in dogs in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroxin; and adult cataracts. Some Brittanies may be born with a cleft palate.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
Your Brittany’s breeder should be able to show proof that both of a puppy’s parents have hips certified as good or better by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and healthy eyes as certified by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) hip clearance is also acceptable. Ideally, the breeder will also have OFA clearances on the parents' thyroids and heart health certification by a board certified cardiologist. While most Brittanys have good temperaments, a breeder who has American Temperament Test Society (TT) certification on her dogs is to be preferred over one who does not.
If a breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Not every Brittany visit to the veterinarian is for a genetic problem. Brittanies are active dogs and they can require treatment for cuts and lacerations, toe injuries or even broken bones if they put a foot wrong in the field. Brittanies can also experience cruciate ligament tears.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Brittany at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Brittany’s flat or wavy coat has a little feathering on the legs and belly, and it’s easy to care for with a weekly brushing. His coat sheds moderately, but regular brushing will keep loose hair off your floor, furniture and clothing. A bath is necessary only when he gets dirty.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every couple of weeks, and brush his teeth for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.
Start your search for a good breeder at the website of the American Brittany Club, and locate a breeder who has agreed to abide by its code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to perform health clearances before breeding. Choose a breeder who is not only willing but insists on being a resource in helping you train and care for your new dog. American Brittany Rescue has an excellent standard of breeding that outlines what to look for.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the ABC and the American Kennel Club. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Many reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Brittany puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Brittany might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Brittany in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Brittanys available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Brittany. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Brittany rescues in your area. Most people who love Brittanys love all Brittanys. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The American Brittany Club’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Brittany rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Brittany home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Brittany, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Brittany to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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