Brittany: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Standing side profile of a Brittany Spaniel on the grass

Barna Tanko / Getty Images

The Brittany is a medium-sized sporting breed developed in France with a dense white and orange coat. Bred as a stylish bird-hunting dog the Brittany is an agile gundog enjoyed on both sides of the Atlantic. Bird dog lovers and families alike appreciate the “softness” of the Brittany’s face and its high-set ears, as well as its high energy level and eagerness to please.

Breed Overview

  • GROUP: Sporting
  • HEIGHT: 17.5 to 20.5 inches
  • WEIGHT: 30 to 40 pounds
  • COAT: Dense, flat, or wavy
  • COAT COLOR: Combinations of white and orange or reddish-brown; clear or roan patterns
  • LIFE SPAN: 12 to 14 years
  • TEMPERAMENT: Attentive, happy, quick, intelligent, agile, adaptable
  • HYPOALLERGENIC: No
  • ORIGIN: France

Characteristics of the Brittany Dog

A versatile sporting dog, the Brittany also makes an intelligent, affectionate, and playful pet for a family, while also eager and tireless out in the field. A Brittany craves companionship, so it's susceptible to separation anxiety when left alone for more than a few hours.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Brittany Dog

Although Brittanys resemble spaniels, the dog actually has more of the working characteristics of a pointer or setter. Therefore, the American Kennel Club dropped the word “spaniel” from this pointing breed’s name in 1982. Brittany dogs earned their name because they were developed in the Brittany province of France between the 17th and 19th centuries. They were officially recognized as a breed in 1907.

A pointing breed that was designed to become a versatile gundog, the Brittany was adept at both pointing and retrieving, which made these dogs well-suited to working in an array of country environments. Though few records were kept on this breed, it’s believed that the dogs that contributed to the Brittany’s development were the English setter, Welsh springer spaniel, and possibly some other French spaniel breeds.

The Brittany’s skills as a bird dog soon made the breed in demand by hunters in other countries. The Brittany dog came to the United States in 1931 and, since then, they have also become popular family dogs because of their accommodating size and affectionate, friendly personality.

Brittany Dog Care

A happy and alert dog, the Brittany is a rugged, high-energy breed that will require daily exercise. If the Brittany dog does not receive ample exercise, it is likely to develop behavioral issues, such as barking, hyperactivity, and destructive chewing. Some Brittany dogs become anxious, which they will also express by chewing and barking. Like most breeds, the Brittany needs proper training and socialization. When well-socialized, most of these dogs will become gentle and peaceful with both people and other animals.

Exercise

The Brittany is a breed that requires a great deal of exercise, but one that will enjoy every active moment with its family. Exercise can include frequent outdoor adventures or extra long walks every day that add up to an hour or more. This athletic and nicely sized dog is ideal for people with active lifestyles, whether going for hikes or playing vigorous games of fetch.

Grooming

Besides basic grooming needs, the Brittany dog’s wash-and-wear coat will need just a weekly brushing to control shedding and other basic grooming. Some Brittany owners choose to take their pet to a groomer to have the hair trimmed from around the neck, ears, and sometimes the pasterns to give the dog a sleeker silhouette. If your Brittany has a lot of white on its coat, opt for a dog coat whitening shampoo.

It is also good to pay attention to dental hygiene and brush your dog's teeth two to three times per week.

Training

A sensitive dog with a softer temperament, the Brittany responds best to gentle, calm training. These dogs are not likely to do well in tense, stressful home environments or situations. Fortunately, the breed is smart and eager to please, so the dogs aren’t particularly difficult to train.

Some Brittany dogs may be timid, submissive, and have a tendency to whine, so early socialization will help them develop a confident, easygoing temperament. Adolescents can be particularly prone to submissive urination, so they may have an accident when becoming over-excited or intimidated, such as when an adult is standing over them or reaching over to pet them. This issue can also be corrected with time and training.

Side profile of a Brittany Spaniel dog's head

A. Barlaam / 500px / Getty Images

brittany spaniel dog lying on the grass
meaghanbrowning / Getty Images
Hunting and brittany pup
MattStauss / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Brittany is generally a healthy breed. Due to their high levels of activity while playing or working outdoors, Brittany dogs may need to be treated for physical injuries, such as lacerations, broken bones, or ligament tears.

The breed is a bit more prone to some genetic health issues, including:

  • Hip Dysplasia: A malformation of the hip joint
  • Epilepsy: A seizure disorder
  • Hypothyroidism: Occurs when inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone are produced
  • Cataracts: The eye's lens growing thick and opaque, blocking vision
  • Cleft Palate: A birth defect resulting in an abnormally formed mouth and nose
brittany dogs as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Kelly Miller

Diet and Nutrition

The Brittany will perform well with any high-quality dog food but will thrive on a higher-protein diet. As an especially active breed, they may require more water than the average dog. A puppy will do well with three to four meals a day, but stick to two meals a day for an adult Brittany.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Brittany

Brittany dogs are somewhat low-cost, even if you work with a breeder. Expect to pay about $500 to $1,000 for a Brittany pup depending on its lineage. However, a Brittany may be available at local pet shelters or dog foster groups within your area. To find Brittanys available near you, visit these resources:

Brittany Overview

Pros
  • Aims to please its human

  • High-energy pal for active people

  • Low-maintenance grooming and hair care

Cons
  • Suffers separation anxiety

  • Prone to genetic health issues, specifically hip dysplasia.

  • Needs a lot of attention from owners

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

When determining if the Brittany is the right dog for you, be sure to research all aspects of the breed and consult other Brittany owners, breeders, and rescue groups to learn more. Be sure to check out these other dog breeds:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • Is there a difference between the American Brittany and French Brittany?

    You may hear breeders refer to Brittany dogs as either American or French. Both are the same breed, but with a very subtle difference. American Brittany dogs are slightly taller and faster than the French Brittany.

  • Are Brittany dogs good for apartment living?

    If you can adequately exercise a Brittany, then it could be a good choice for apartment life. Its medium stature and the fact that it is not an excessive barker, also make it a potential apartment-sized breed.

  • Is a Brittany a good choice for a first-time dog owner?

    If you are willing to exercise your Brittany, it is a great choice for a first-time dog owner. The breed is loving, intelligent, requires low-maintenance grooming, and is easy to train. The breed is not rare, either, which means you may be able to find a puppy or rescue relatively easily.