As spring approaches, your family may begin contemplating a new, four legged addition to the family. There is a lot to consider when picking a puppy, including what kind of breed is appropriate for your family. My family has always shared our home with a Brittany (formerly called Brittany spaniels). While I love my Brittany, Darcy, the breed is not for everyone. Here is what you should consider before bringing home a Brittany.
Brittanys, often calls Britts, are medium sized dogs, with adults weighing between 30 and 40 pounds. They tend to be lean, athletic animals, with short, bobbed tails and floppy ears. Brittanys come in a variety of colors, but the most common are liver (dark brown) on white and orange (redish-brown) on white. Brittanys are intelligent and their faces portray their inquisitive, alert nature. We often talk to Darcy as if he were a small child, and he cocks his head to the side in an adorable manner as if he understands completely. Even while asleep, Darcy is alert and will immediately perk up if he hears an unexpected sound, such as a car door slamming or one of our storm doors opening. He barks to alert his humans, but easily calms down if reassured that the sound is normal.
As a companion, Brittanys are extremely loyal, generally good with children and crave human interaction. In fact, some call Brittanys “Velcro dogs” because of their tendency to stick to you like, well, Velcro. Darcy would never leave my father’s side if he had his way. When my father isn’t home, Darcy seeks out another person to shadow. He climbs on laps on the sofa, sits with his head on our knees at dinner, and even waits outside bathroom doors. Our neighbors told us they could hear our last Brittany howling whenever she was left alone in the house. If you are looking for a more independent dog, a Brittany may not be for you.
Brittanys were first bred as bird hunting dogs, and as such have genetic dispositions to hold a point on game animals. They also have a natural instinct to retrieve fallen game, including an inborn trait to shake prey in order to break the neck. These instincts transfer over to play time, so expect your Brittany to vigorously shake toys (or anything else that makes its way into his mouth). Many Brittanys also love water, though this does not always translate into a love of baths. While most Brittanys cohabitate well with cats and other dogs, I wouldn’t recommend a Brittany for anyone who owns birds, rabbits or small rodents.
Many people recognize Brittanys through Pete, the dog owned by Aiden, one of Carrie Bradshaw’s love interests on Sex in the City. Despite the breed’s portrayal on the show, I don’t recommend a Brittany for city dwellers. Brittanys need room to run and a lot of exercise. At age seven, Darcy is still bursting with energy. If that energy isn’t released appropriately, Brittanys can become destructive. Over the years, our bored Brittanys have eviscerated stuffed animals, toppled trash cans, pilfered food from the counter, and even chewed through an ipod left on the kitchen table. Darcy goes for walks twice a day and often runs in our back yard, patrolling for trespassing squirrels and bunnies. While home alone, we ensure he has plenty of chew toys to keep him out of trouble. I would also recommend a fenced in yard because Brittanys are fast. If they spot, or smell, something they want to chase, they are gone in a flash. We had a friend who installed an invisible fence for their energetic Brittany, but the dog was so intent on the chase she never felt the electric zap until after she was over the boundary. If you don’t have the time or space for this energetic breed, please don’t get one.
As for grooming and general care, Brittanys are low maintenance. Brushing once a week and the occasional bath reduces, but does not stop, shedding. Professional grooming is not necessary unless you would like to keep the naturally curly coat shaved short and smooth. For the most part, Brittanys are healthy dogs. Sometimes problems such as hip dysplasia can lead to arthritis and joint pain later in life, treatable by vet prescribed medication and over the counter supplements.
As with any breed, proper obedience training is required. And of course, every dog has his or her own personality, so your experiences with Brittanys may be different from mine. If you believe a Brittany may be a good dog for your family, you can get one from a variety of places, including private breeders, rescue groups, and the local pound. We rescued Darcy from our local ASPCA, so I personally urge adoption first. For more information about adopting a Brittany, contact the National Brittany Rescue and Adoption Network (NBRAN) or your local animal shelter.