The Breed

Brittany (Brittany Spaniel)

Full of energy and eager to please, the Brittany is a medium-sized breed that delights in all kinds of outdoor adventures with their owners.

Brittany (Brittany Spaniel)

HEIGHT17.5-20.5 inches
WEIGHT30-40 pounds
LIFE SPAN12-14 years
BREED SIZEmedium (26-60 lbs.)
GOOD WITHchildren dogs cats families
TEMPERAMENToutgoing friendly playful
INTELLIGENCEhigh
SHEDDING AMOUNTmoderate
EXERCISE NEEDShigh
ENERGY LEVELhyper
BARKING LEVELwhen necessary
DROOL AMOUNTlow
BREED GROUPsporting
COAT LENGTH/TEXTUREmedium
COLORSbrown / chocolate / liver white
PATTERNSbicolorflecked / ticked / speckledtricolorspotted
OTHER TRAITSeasy to traineasy to groomgood hiking companionhigh prey drivehot weather tolerant

A compact, lively, fun-loving hunting dog, the Brittany (also known as the American Brittany and the Brittany spaniel) sports a beautifully patterned coat, long legs, and energy for days. This enthusiasm, along with their big brains, joyful disposition, and a willingness to please, makes training a treat for dog and human alike.

Brittanys thrive when given a job to do, whether that’s working as a bird dog or turning heads in dog sports. Bred as gundogs, they’re often used as hunting companions. But with their manageable size, low-maintenance grooming needs, and friendly personalities, the Brittany is the perfect family pet.

Appearance

Leggy and agile, the Brittany is a muscular, medium-sized, happy dog that ranges from 30–40 pounds. Their gorgeous coat, which can be either flat or wavy, comes in eye-catching white and orange or white and liver. “A typical Brittany has a colored mask over their eyes and ears, and a pinto pattern of color over their body,”

Brittany spaniel dog stands on point in water

Pretty much everything about this athletic pup’s appearance comes back to what they were born to do: Hunt. Their powerful bodies and long legs enable them to cover a lot of ground, fast. Their gorgeous coats are for more than looks—a little feathering on their ears and legs gives them just enough fur to protect them when they’re working, but not enough to get tangled or caught in branches.

Temperament

You know they can hunt, but is a Brittany spaniel a good family dog? The answer is an enthusiastic “yes!”

Sweet and smart, the Brittany is an enthusiastic dog that’s easy to love. And she gives that love right back to her family, too. “What Brittanys do best is being companion dogs for their families,” Hanson says, “And the thing that makes them happiest is to be included in whatever activity their owners are doing.”

Brittanys are naturals at many dog sports such as agility, flyball, tracking, dock diving, and basically any other dog-friendly activity that allows them to use up their energy and spend time with their people. Their friendly demeanor also make them outstanding therapy dogs, and when it comes to obedience, they’re champs. Consistency, positive reinforcement, and a gentle approach are vital when working with this emotional breed, as even a few harsh words can shatter their spirits.   

Because they’re so affectionate, Brittanys can fit in well with just about any family and are good with children. Because of their long legs and excitable personality, they can accidentally knock over smaller family members as they bound around. As with any breed, make sure to socialize your Brittany early and often so they can learn to act appropriately around children, strangers, and other animals. Young children should always be supervised when playing with any dog, regardless of size or breed. 

Two brittany spaniel puppies play in grass with dog toy

Brittanys tend to love people and other dogs alike, although they can become a bit too rambunctious for small children or seniors. They often get along well with cats, especially if introduced when they’re young. But use caution around other small animals, such as pocket pets or birds—their hunting history and strong prey drive go hand-in-hand.

Care

When it comes to the Brittany’s beauty, it’s all natural (as in, they have minimal grooming needs). Low-maintenance does not mean they’re considered hypoallergenic, however; while they don’t have a thick coat of fur, they do shed.

A weekly brushing will help you control that shedding, although you may also want to give them a quick once-over after they’ve gone springing through the bushes to check for ticks, burrs, mats, and any cuts or abrasions they may have gotten. Brushing them prior to a walk in the woods may help prevent a few of those burrs from sticking, too. Bathe them only when dirty, trim their nails as needed (if you hear them click-clacking on the floor, that’s a cue their nails are too long), and brush their teeth regularly.

Brittany spaniel stands in middle of road

Some Brittany puppies are born with long tails, while others only have little nubs. No matter the length, a Brittany will let you know she’s happy with enthusiastic wagging.

Consistency and kindness are the most important elements of training the sensitive Brittany; harsh words can crush her tender soul, so stick to positive reinforcement using treats, toys, playtime, and affection to reward her. Brittanys are so eager and intelligent that you’re unlikely to find this a tough task—these curious canines are quick to pick up on new commands and retain what they’ve learned from one training session to the next. The hardest part about training a Brittany may be staying ahead of her learning curve!

History

Brittanys are beautiful, so it’s no surprise that, as far back as the 17th century, evidence of the breed can be seen in European paintings and tapestries. The breed’s name comes from the northwest French Province where the Brittany originated. The breed we recognize today, though, really began showing up in the mid-1800s, when local French sportsmen began crossing their spaniels with English setters, resulting in a bob-tailed dog that pointed and retrieved quickly and obediently.

With these traits, the dogs gained popularity in a couple different circles. Poachers began using the smaller Brittany spaniel size, speed, and skill to retrieve illicit game. At the same time, dog shows were growing in popularity in Britain and France, and, as it turned out, the Brittany was as natural in the ring as in the field.

Brittany spaniel walks through water

The breed was officially recognized in France as the “Epagneul Breton,” or Brittany spaniel, in 1907. They made their way to the U.S. in 1931, and the Brittany spaniel was then recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936. In 1982, the AKC shortened the breed name to the Brittany, dropping the “spaniel” due to the fact that the dog works more like a pointer than a spaniel, but the full name remains preferred in other parts of the world.

Fun Facts

  • Although the Brittany has never won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show, they can claim more dual champions (dogs who’ve earned championships in both conformation and field) than all other sporting breeds combined.
  • The Brittany population declined during World War II as breeding in France came to a halt. After the war, French breeders opened up their standards to allow black spotted dogs to diversify the depleted European gene pool. The color black is one of the big differences between the breed standard in the U.S. and Canada compared to all other countries.