National Brittany Rescue & Adoption Network (NBRAN)

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So You Want a Brittany! 

By Adele Shutes 
Copyright © National Brittany Rescue & Adoption Network 2000

A COMPANION ANIMAL IS A LIFETIME COMMITMENT - MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION! Brittanys are the preeminent gundog of our time, and all-around hunters, pointers and retrievers, holding more dual championships (in field trials and showring) than all other sporting breeds combined, but they are also excellent companions. Originally the old Breton (or Brittany) Spaniel was physically and temperamentally suited to his native habitat, but the modern Brittany is a more refined dog, but make no mistake, he is still a versatile and able hunter. The Brittanys of today are even more valued now as family dogs because they are extremely people-oriented. What that means to you is that to be a viable member of the family group Brittanys must have a lot of interaction and time spent with their human families to flourish - and not spend their days and nights in a kennel or backyard. Before bringing a Brittany home, you must decide if you have the time to devote and the energy to properly train your new friend. It must be emphasized that the Brittany is extremely intelligent - and busy. If bereft of the attention he feels he so richly deserves, then he is liable to find an occupation or job of his own choosing - and one that may not be pleasing to you. As with most highly intelligent breeds, Brittanys must be given something to do to keep them busy - and that something should be of your choosing. Left alone for long periods of time Brittanys can become bored, which can result in problem behavior such as digging or chewing or excessive barking. All of these behaviors are generally nothing more than symptoms of boredom and frustration. Those of you who do take the time will find that Brittanys are not only affectionate and loving, but have the potential to be wonderful field, obedience, agility or flyball partners. The Brittany is truly a very versatile breed! But, all that aside, with the proper devotion and training, you'll reap the benefits of many enjoyable years with this highly intelligent, trustworthy and eager-to-please dog!

DOE THE BRITTANY HAVE AN "OFF" BUTTON? Many people think that the Brittany is a "hyper" breed. Yes, they are a very active as a rule, just like most of the sporting breeds, and that is because even today, they are bred for running and stamina in the field. Brittanys require exercise every day, for two reasons. 1. They love to run, and 2. The exercise is healthy for them. Luckily though because of their compact size they don't require a huge yard or acreage. The majority of Brittanys will do just fine in a medium-sized yard; or, if you have the opportunity, you can do what we do - find a fenced baseball field and take your Brittany for a 'big run' 2-3 times a week. A fenced baseball field gives them the opportunity to run to their heart's content - and gives them the added protection of containment and safety from passing vehicles. After a good romp, Brittanys will normally come back in the house ready to sit and watch television with you, lie quietly chewing their bone at your feet as you work on the computer or even take a well-deserved nap. So, yes, there is an "Off Button" for Brittanys and it's proper exercise!

THE BEAUTY OF GROOMING A BRITTANY is that they don't require a lot in terms of time, skill and specialized equipment compared to many other breeds. Normally Brittany coats are fairly fine, but dense, lying rather flat and is slightly wavy. A good brushing several times a week you'll find kills two birds with one stone. Regular brushing cuts down on dog hair everywhere (yes, Brittanys shed) because the dead hair goes in the brush, not all over your house -- and your dog is the center of attention when he's being brushed and boy, do they like that! Our Brittanys love to be brushed and combed and will stand for us as long as our arms hold out. Brittanys aren't difficult to bathe either, and they're not prone to that real doggy smell, though a regular schedule of bathing is a good idea - once a month is usually good, unless he's really gotten dirty or into something stinky. It' s a good idea to use shampoos formulated specifically for dogs. Human shampoos can be drying to the dog's skin and coat. There are lots of good dog shampoos from which to choose. We don't recommend flea & tick shampoos for dogs though, because they too can be drying and don't have the most pleasant smell. Besides, many heartworm preventatives contain parasite control and the regular application of a topical flea & tick preparations is far more effective than flea shampoo and have virtually no odor. And don't forget to clean your Brittanys ears regularly when you bathe him to prevent those nasty ear infections. Keeping the long hair that grows under their earflaps clipped goes a long way towards helping those ears stay free of infection too. A good gauge for knowing when to trim or grind nails is if you can hear your Brittany "tap dancing" on the kitchen floor, their nails are too long. You shouldn't be able to hear their nails on the floor at all. Long nails can actually be painful to the dog (and you) and it affects their posture as well. So, be sure to remember their nails when grooming. But unless you're planning to go in the showring with them, they don't require a lot of clipping and shaving. Brittanys are pretty much a wash & wear breed!

HOW LONG WILL MY BRITTANY LIVE? The normal lifespan of a Brittany is 13-15 years, but that's just the norm. You know what they say about the only two "sure things in life" - and it applies here too. Some Brittanys will contract diseases or have a health condition that cuts their life short, but last year I placed rescue dogs in two different homes with 18 year old Brittanys, and one in a home with a 17 year old, and two more in homes that had 16 year olds, so it's easy to see why we say a companion animal is a lifetime commitment.

ARE BRITTANYS EXPENSIVE TO MAINTAIN? All companion animals, regardless of species, gender or breed require scheduled medical care that includes regular vaccinations, boosters, an annual heartworm test and physical examination to stay healthy. Yep, it's like almost like than having a child, isn't it! Dogs should be kept on a monthly heartworm preventative, which is a prescription item that must be obtained through a licensed veterinarian, and depending upon what part of the country you live in, monthly topical parasite control is another necessity to maintain your Brittany's good health. Also, we've recently become aware that good dental hygiene in dogs is of vital importance to their overall health, so a yearly teeth scraping and cleaning is something to put on the calendar. How expensive or inexpensive regular medical maintenance is, depends upon your personal veterinarian's fee schedule, and your finances. Some people find it easier on both their schedule and pocketbook to take their dogs and cats to low cost vaccination clinics held by many pet stores on weekends to get their yearly rabies, DHLPP boosters and heartworm tests. Many low cost spay/neuter clinics in the larger metropolitan areas also offer a lower fee schedule for vaccinations and heartworm testing too. Then, of course, there is food! It's a good idea to spend a little more and get a good premium dog food - your Brittany doesn't eat that much! When choosing a food, keep in mind that there are as many opinions about dog foods as there are clouds in the sky, so it's possible that everyone you ask will recommend a different brand. Our best advice is to buy a good quality premium dog food, and if you do decide to make a change in food, please do it gradually. A sudden switch in food will almost certainly cause your dog a 3-4 day bout of diarrhea. The best method is to mix in a little bit of the new food with the old, gradually increasing the amount over a period of several days until your Brittany is eating nothing but the new food. As for supplies, we recommend a sturdy buckle collar with I.D. tags. You may decide to microchip your Brittany and have them tattooed, but either way, a multi-I.D. system is best, and in the event that he escapes the yard, I.D. tags are readily visible and can literally save his life! Not all shelters scan for microchips, and unfortunately not all shelter workers are diligent in their search for tattoos. Those tags and that collar may be your Brittany's ticket home! Give your dog plenty of toys and things to chew. Brittanys, as a rule, enjoy chewing and it's healthy for them. Of course, puppies that are teething bear watching and extreme vigilance to protect your valuables, but most adult Britts know what is theirs to chew and what is not. We do not recommend rawhide strips, as they become tacky and can get caught in your Brittany's throat causing suffocation. For the same reason, we do not recommend tennis balls as a good toy. They're just too small. Anything that your Brittany can get entirely in their mouth is a no-no! We prefer real bones to anything, and there are big leg bones on the market now available in grocery and pet stores and some even have the added attraction of being filled with peanut butter. They last for months too! Bully Sticks are good too, and most dogs really love them. An excellent toy and diversion is the Kong. It's a sturdy rubber toy that can be found in almost any pet store. It bounces erratically when tossed, and can be filled with treats and smeared with peanut butter. They're guaranteed to keep your Brittany busy for a long time and provide good exercise for their jaws and minds. All of ours have different 'methods' of getting that treat out of the Kong, which is really fun to watch! Always keep fresh water down for your Brittany, and never expose them to extremes in temperature. If you must keep them outside during the summer months, it is vital that they have access to water (not just a bowl that can be easily tumped over) and adequate shade. If you leave your Brittany outside during extremely hot weather, be prepared to find large holes in the yard upon your return, because like most dogs, they will dig to try and find some cool earth. Equally important to know is that leaving your dog outside in sub-freezing temperatures can be a death sentence. Even though most Brittanys enjoy the fall and winter months, they should never have to suffer cold, wet conditions. There's really a very simple solution to the problem of extreme weather when you can't be home with your best friend - and the safest is a good sturdy crate. In fact, it's a good idea to crate your dog for a period of time he first joins your family and you have to be away. Crating your dog will give him security during the transition period into a new home and environment. (See our article on crate training.)

I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT FIELD TRIALING AND SHOWING MY BRITTANY! That's great! A good place to start is by joining the Regional American Brittany Club closest to you. It's the best place to find fellow Brittany enthusiasts and responsible breeders, who many times are very involved in dog sports such as field trials, hunting tests, obedience trials, agility trials and showing their dogs in conformation. These folks are an invaluable source of information and many times you'll find that they are willing and eager to mentor those new to the Brittany fancy. At the very least, they can refer you to the best obedience schools and trainers in your area, and many times give you a good vet reference too. If you don't know how to contact your closest Brittany Club, you can visit The American Brittany Club website at http://clubs.akc.org/brit  or write Trimnatchbritts@midamer.net  for that information.

  © NBRAN 2011