The Barbet has a long and impressive history.
References to the Barbet date back to the 1700`s where it was common throughout central Europe.
The curly coated water-dog was referred to under a variety of names dependant on its usage and location, in England the ‘great water dog’ or the `rough haired water dog`, in Germany the ‘pudelhund’, in France, the barbet or caniche (which is derived from `chien canard` or duck dog) and in Italy the barbonne. The barbet takes its name from `barbe` the French for beard.
The Barbet excelled as a general hunting dog in the marshlands, estuaries and lakes of France where its thick woolly and curly coat, strength and stamina and good nose made it ideal for wild fowling in all weather.
The Barbet became enshrined in the French language with the phrase “Crotté comme un barbet” - to be as muddy as a barbet.
Throughout the 19th century the poodle and Barbet in France were much of the same dog, the female Barbet being called a caniche (as the poodle is now known in France). The onset of dogs becoming categorised into specific breeds rather than general types, saw the Barbet mixed with the regional griffon type dogs to work the land as well as water, as marshes and lakes were drained across Europe.
Over the last 40 years the Barbet has been slowly gaining in popularity and is now more commonly known as the French Water Dog for which its profuse curly coat gives it protection against water of any temperature.
The barbet is not currently recognised by the Kennel Club (UK) but is a fully recognised F.C.I. breed.
The Barbet is a strong, medium sized dog and should be heavily boned. It has a non-shedding curly coat that covers the entire dog and wide nostrils for scenting. This gives this breed its characteristic rustic appearance and affirms its worth as a water retriever.
Barbets are loyal dogs, with a willingness to please and make excellent companions. Owners of this breed should decide early on what they want from their dog, as the Barbet is a versatile dog, some may be vocal, some may guard, and some may chase.
A Barbet requires regular exercise and mental stimulation. As a breed they are not destructive and are easy to train. Training should not be neglected as barbets are very intelligent and will learn bad behaviour as quickly as they learn good behaviour. However they do not require harsh handling, they are dogs that think ahead of a situation and therefore firm, consistent guidance by their owners achieves the best results.
Although the Barbet may in some cases be suitable for those who have allergies, the coats of the breed unless kept very short will collect dust and debris everywhere they go, it is not a dog for the house proud unless they are maintained frequently. If the coat is to be kept long then cost or time spent on grooming must be a consideration.
The population of the Barbet in the UK in 2011 is currently 27 dogs so the health of the breed can be closely monitored. The current health situation in the UK for the breed is good.
Although hip dysplasia is not known to be a problem in the breed, all breeding stock are hip scored; annual B.V.A eye tests are also routine for breeding stock.
In Europe, the breed has had some cases of epilepsy in some lines and some heart problems have also been recorded. As of March 2011, no cases of either have been reported in the UK.
Health issues such as entropion, food intolerance and ear infections have been found and are being monitored by the breed club.