Choosing A Brittany
BRITTANYS AREN’T FOR EVERYONE – BE WELL INFORMED BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO GET ONE
WHAT A BRITTANY NEEDS
BRITTANYS ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE. They can make excellent family dogs and excel in many areas, but they require personal attention every day, training and most do not make good “kennel” or outdoor dogs. This breed is still bred to hunt and many of their behaviors and traits are due to that breeding. Brittany people love those very qualities, but it is essential that you be well informed before deciding on this breed.
LIKE ALL DOGS, Brittanys need food and regular veterinary care, including routine checkups and vaccinations. They are generally very good eaters, and must not be allowed to get fat (average weight is 35-45 lbs.). They need a few good toys, especially if left alone for long periods of time. We prefer a couple of “real” bones (bought in a pet store), an occasional rawhide or cow hoof to clean teeth, and a ball or stuffed toy. We highly recommend crate training for all dogs. Being crate trained makes housebreaking vastly easier, and will give the dog a safe way to travel. And if he ever needs to spend the night at the vet, it will be less traumatic if he has learned that a crate is a safe haven. Brittanys usually use a #300, or Intermediate, size crate (about 23″ high).
ONE OF THE ADVANTAGES of a Brittany is that it is not a high-maintenance dog in terms of coat care and upkeep. Coat maintenance is easy, with no clipping necessary if your dog is strictly a pet. It will need a good brushing with a slicker brush once or twice a week to get out dead hair (especially at the start of fall and spring), and to make sure the dog is free of parasites such as fleas or ticks. Don’t forget nail clippers! Long nails are not only unattractive and ruin a dog’s feet, but the longer they get the more danger there is of one being torn off. For the pet, bathe only when the dog is very dirty and a good thorough brushing won’t do the job. You can use any basic dog shampoo for this.
IT IS A MISCONCEPTION that all Brittanys are high-strung and need many miles of exercise everyday. If you meet enough Brittanys from different lines, you’ll find that what the breeders tell you is true – Brittanys are not a breed for generalizations. They range from mellow to extremely active, big to small, soft tempered to stubborn. But even Brittanys who run continuously outdoors will most often settle down when inside with their family.
BRITTANYS DO REQUIRE ATTENTION EVERY DAY, though. They are most definitely people-oriented dogs and want to get as much attention as any other member of the family. They may let you know they aren’t getting enough attention by their undesirable behaviors.
OBEDIENCE TRAINING IS ALWAYS RECOMMENDED. Brittanys are very adaptable and an older dog can easily learn the rules of a new house and family, but a good obedience class is an excellent place to establish ground rules and form a bond between you and your dog. Please refer to our Behavior Training page for more information and training advice, including how to find a good trainer in your area.
BRITTANYS USUALLY LIVE 12-14 YEARS, so anyone contemplating adoption needs to be prepared to make that kind of commitment to the dog. This is an active breed that will require plenty of daily attention for many years.
MALE or FEMALE?
PEOPLE OFTEN HAVE A PERSONAL PREFERENCE to the sex of their pet. But once again, Brittanys are not a breed for generalizations. Characteristics such as loyalty, affection, and ease of training are definitely NOT gender specific in this breed. While many people think female dogs are calmer and sweeter, quite often it is a neutered male Brittany that fits this description best.
CHARACTERISTICS VARY FROM DOG TO DOG, generally not within sexes. If you are getting a dog strictly for a companion, you should plan on having it spayed or neutered. This will already be done if you’re adopting a rescue dog. This will eliminate many behavioral influences, such as possible roaming in the male or false pregnancies in the female and will help prevent possible health problems in older dogs.
PUPPY, YOUNGSTER OR ADULT?
WHILE NO ONE CAN DENY THAT PUPPIES ARE CUTE, at the same time who wouldn’t mind missing the chewing and housebreaking stages? An older dog may make a more tolerating pet for younger children, and for that matter the children won’t have to deal with a mauling puppy!
ADOPTING A RESCUED BRITTANY from American Brittany Rescue will help reduce the number of healthy, purebred Brittanys who are unwanted or uncared for, or even needlessly euthanized. There are hundreds of Brittanys of all backgrounds, descriptions, and ages available across the country each year.
“FIELD” or “SHOW” BREEDING?
BRITTANYS ARE ABOVE ALL “DUAL” QUALITY DOGS. Brittanys have more Dual Champions (dogs which are Champions in field trials and bench show competition) than all Sporting breeds combined. Most Brittanys have a mild to strong hunting instinct. Some dogs need more training than others to develop their instinct, but no matter where you get your Britt from, chances are you should be able to make it into at least an average hunter.
IF YOUR PRIMARY INTEREST IS A HUNTING DOG, it would be best to find a breeder who tries to maintain a “dual quality” line by proving their dogs’ abilities in field and show, and taking advantage of other “dual quality” lines to better their own. It is important to meet the dog’s parents or other close relatives, or talk to several people who have relatives if it’s not possible to meet some. This should give you some idea of the temperament the dog may develop, as temperament does run in the line and is heritable. Look at the dog’s pedigree and ask the breeder if there are dogs in the puppy’s immediate background (not more than 3 or 4 generations back) from both field and show stock. Most Brittanys are from Dual backgrounds. Remember that the parents and grandparents are the most influential on the puppy’s outcome. You should look for a pedigree with DCh. (Dual Champion), FCh. (Field Champion), and Ch. (Show Champion) combined, or, with dogs with “points” towards these titles. Look for hunting test titles JH, SH, and MH (Junior, Senior, and Master Hunter), which are more hunter’s companion titles. Also ask the dog’s breeder if the dog’s parents or grandparents (or other close relations) are successful hunting companions. Be sure the parents, and preferably grandparents as well, are clear of genetic defects such as hip dysplasia and epilepsy. Require OFA or PennHIP certification for good hips on at least the parents. Ask if the breeder will offer help if you have any problems with the dog, or take it back if you ever need to find it a new home (responsible breeders will offer both these before you ask!). It is important to choose a breeder who is open and helpful with you, and who obtains genetic clearances/certifications consistently on ALL of their breeding stock. Please read our article on Responsible Breeders.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A FAMILY PET & POSSIBLE HUNTING COMPANION, a rescue dog is a wonderful possibility. Although we often don’t know anything about the rescued Brittany’s background, there are few health and temperament problems in our breed. The rescued dog’s foster family will have evaluated the dog and have a good idea of what type of home he needs and will do well in. Rescue dogs are placed as companions and we do not guarantee hunting ability, but several or our rescued Britts have indeed gone on to be faithful hunting companions in addition to treasured family members.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THE MANY ACTIVITIES in which the Brittany is able to compete, be sure to discuss this with the breeder or rescue volunteer of the dog you plan to get, or talk to other people involved in that aspect. There are many people in our breed who are willing to help newcomers get started. Any rescued Brittany can become eligible to participate in any activity except dog shows and field trials. The most common activities Brittanys often compete in are:
- Field Trials (for the finished field dog or promising youngster)
- Dog Shows (to find the dog that is structurally closest to the AKC’s Standard of perfection)
- Hunting Tests (for hunting companions of all levels of ability)
- Obedience Trials (for the obedience trained dog)
- Tracking Tests (for tracking certified dogs who can follow a scent on the ground)
- Agility Trials (for dogs trained to go over, under, and through obstacles on a course)
- Junior Showmanship (for kids 10-18 with any breed dog – show handling judged, not dog)
IF YOU GO TO AN EVENT in your area, many breeders/exhibitors will be able to help you get started with your Brittany in any of these areas. Again, these are “DUAL DOGS” and many show exhibitors also hunt and compete in other activities with their Britts, so ask around.
BRITTANYS ARE NOT FOR EVERYONE. They can make excellent family dogs and excel in many areas, but they require personal attention every day, training and most do not make good “kennel” or outdoor dogs because of their personal devotion to their owner(s). On the other hand, their medium size, wash-and-wear coat, and happy, intelligent temperament makes them an ideal family dog. Brittanys also make excellent hunting companions or pets for single people. Most get along very well with other dogs, and many love the challenges of different types of competition.
DO NOT GET ANY DOG ON IMPULSE. If you are very serious about getting a Brittany, you should be willing “shop around” and/or wait for the right one for your family and/or your needs and wants. These are long-lived dogs (average 12-14) and you should only get one with the intention of caring it for its entire lifetime. Puppies are cute, but they grow out of that cute stage, and it’s up to you as to whether they become a devoted and obedient companion or an unmanageable, unruly dog. The more time you put into your dog’s socialization and training, the more it will give back to you. Remember that American Brittany Rescue is always here to offer advice and assistance for all Brittany owners and prospective owners.