How to Care for a Brittany Spanielby Alice Moon
Bred to hunt, Brittany spaniels hold, point and retrieve, acting as short- or mid-range dogs in the field. Brittanys are leggy spaniels, with naturally short tails or short-docked tails. Their coats are orange and white or liver and white, and come in clear or roan, parti-color, piebald or tricolor patterns. Some Brittanys have freckles. The dogs have dark hazel or amber eyes and colorful noses. Medium sized and typically weighing 30 to 40 pounds, these friendly dogs also make good indoor companion animals. Brittanys enjoy and seek attention from their owners, learn quickly and are easily trained. They are highly energetic, so proper care for a Brittany must include plenty of attention to his need for training, exercise and appropriate activities. The American Kennel Club has shortened the name of the breed to Brittany.
Provide your Brittany spaniel with an abundance of attention. Their need to be near their owners is one reason Brittanys are well-suited as indoor dogs. Brittanys are attention-seekers, and they give a great deal of affection in return. Expect negative behaviors from your Brittany if he feels neglected. Brittanys are friendly dogs and good family pets, but they may be jealous of new additions to the family or attention paid to other pets; however, they generally do well with other pets. Offer appropriate, indestructible chew toys, as they will help keep your Brittany's teeth healthy and reduce his boredom.
Train your Brittany in obedience, using positive reinforcement. Training is important with these strong, agile dogs, and they generally are easy to train. Brittanys do not respond well to negative reinforcement, and in some individuals, fear can lead to aggression. Training will let you become familiar with your pet’s personality and temperament. Address any aggressive tendencies with a professional dog trainer.
Confront behavioral issues as soon as they arise. Investigate possible reasons for any negative behavior. Your Brittany may bark out of fear, want or boredom, or because he is guarding. Bored dogs may dig, destroy items or attempt to escape. Training leads to bonding and better understanding of your Brittany, which will help you diagnose the reasons for any unwanted behavior and intervene effectively.
Provide your dog a suitable habitat. A medium-size yard is large enough for a Brittany, provided you supplement his time outside with daily walks. Crate-train your pet to make transporting him easier and to provide him a safe, peaceful place of his own at home.
Exercise your Brittany for an hour daily. Take him for walks or runs on-leash. Find a safe, open space where your dog can exercise off-leash for a more satisfying experience. The Brittany spaniel is an energetic breed, so exercise is very important. It reduces negative behaviors and builds a bond between you and your dog. Explore activities you and your dog can do together that have both mental and physical aspects, such as agility, obedience and tracking.
Use a slicker brush to brush your Brittany spaniel weekly. Brush more often after play in the field or in water, and as seasons transition to fall and spring. Brittanys are single-coated; shedding is less of an issue than it is with double-coated dogs. Their short- to medium-length coats may be smooth or wavy. The dense, somewhat feathered coat offers protection against snags and burs while remaining mostly free of matting. A Brittany's coat is good for damp and cold in the field, but not for prolonged exposure to the elements. Trim your Brittany for shows as desired, but those kept as pets don’t need trimming. Spot-strip the coat only as needed. Avoid stripping the entire coat. Bathe your dog with dog shampoo after grooming.
Ask your veterinarian how often you need to clean your Brittany's ears, and ask him to show you the proper method of cleaning. Brittanys' ears are short, but they are floppy and lie flat, tending to trap moisture and debris that can lead to infections. Brittanys who are active, and those with more ear hair, may have more ear problems. Clean your dog’s ears using a veterinarian-approved solution.
Educate yourself about health issues that may affect Brittany spaniels, and take your dog to your veterinarian for regular checkups. Brittanys are generally healthy dogs, but the Canine Inherited Disorders Database lists several heritable diseases that are seen in the breed, including hip dysplasia; eye diseases such as retinal atrophy, lens luxation and glaucoma; cleft lip/palate; epilepsy; cerebellar abiotrophy, a brain cell deterioration leading to poor balance and coordination; and spinal muscular atrophy. Complement deficiency, an immune disorder, is seen rarely. Heart defects and cryptorchidism -- undescended testicles -- also occasionally affect Brittanys.
Items You Will Need
- Chew toys
- Dog crate
- Slicker brush
- Dog shampoo
- Veterinarian-approved ear cleaning solution
- American Kennel Club: AKC Meet the Breeds: Brittany
- American Kennel Club: American Brittany Club: The Brittany Primer
- American Brittany Rescue: Choosing a Brittany
- American Brittany Rescue: Training Your Brittany
- Canada's Guide to Dogs: Brittany Spaniel (Épagneul Breton)
- University of Prince Edward Island, Canada: Canine Inherited Disorders Database: Brittany
- United Kennel Club: Breeds: Brittany
- National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network
- American Kennel Club: American Brittany Club
- American Brittany Rescue: Is That a Brittany?
- BrittanyGrooming.com: A Guide to Grooming Brittanys for Show, Field and Home
- Washington State University: Examining and Medicating the Ears of a Dog