French Spaniel

Extremely Easy to Train, This Obedient Dog Needs Only Very Gentle Discipline

A descendant of hunting dogs of the 14th century, the French Spaniel was developed in France for excellence in the pursuit of game birds. It was often a favorite of royalty during the Middle Ages, but was almost completely extinct by the turn of the 20th century. French priest Father Fournier rescued the breed and saved it from extinction. It wasn't well known outside of France until it was introduced to Québec in the 1970s, where it quickly became a popular hunting dog. It is still relatively rare outside of France and Canada and is not recognized by the American Kennel Club. However, it is recognized by a number of other organizations and can compete in shows sponsored by the Dog Registry of America, America's Pet Registry, and the Canine Association.


While the French Spaniel dates back to the 14th century, when dogs of its ancestry were used for falconry and hunting, the spaniel itself probably originated during the Crusades of the 11th century. By 1660, the French Spaniel was distinguished as its own breed, separate from the King Charles Spaniel. It is related to the German Small Munsterlander family and is one of the oldest of "pointing breeds." The standard was first developed in 1891 by James de Connick.

During the 17th century, it was a hunting dog used mostly for game birds. Later, similar English breeds came along and competed with the French Spaniel, resulting in its near extinction by the end of the 19th century. Although it was saved by French priest Father Fournier, who took pains to redevelop the breed, this dog still remains somewhat rare even in France, its home country. In the 1970s, the French Spaniel was introduced to Québec, Canada, and has since been a popular hunting dog there.

Although the American Kennel Club does not recognize the French Spaniel currently, it is recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, and the United Kennel Club.

Father Fournier's efforts to redevelop and save the breed

When the breed was nearing extinction in the 19th century, Father Fournier took it upon himself to save the breed, well aware of this dog’s outstanding qualities. He gathered the dogs that were left and chose only the finest ones from which to breed. Those dogs were taken to his kennels in Saint Hillaire, where he worked endlessly to reestablish the lineage. Today, the French Spaniel is a result of Father Fournier's painstaking efforts, as the modern French Spaniel is elegant, athletic, and a great hunter with an unsurpassed character and personality as well. It's both a loyal family pet and very intelligent and obedient companion that is utterly devoted to its humans. Father Fournier's extraordinary success was celebrated by making him the first president of the French Spaniel Club, formed in 1921.

The Brittany Spaniel

The Brittany Spaniel is the result of crossbreeding between the French Spaniel and the English Setter.


One way to describe this dignified breed would be with the word “aristocratic.” It's the tallest of the Spaniels, standing between 21 and 24 inches at the shoulder and weighing 45 to 60 pounds. Its long, strong legs and well formed, deep chested carriage give it a truly patrician, refined appearance seldom seen in other breeds. The eyes are darkly amber, and the tail is thick but tapers off toward the tip. The coat is dense and can have feathers on the backs of legs, ears, and tail, and lies flat on the body but can be wavy on the chest. The dog is white with black or brown markings, with those in shades ranging from cinnamon to very dark brown.


This is truly a noble, intelligent, outgoing, very friendly and patient dog. An excellent pet, it will never be aggressive with you. This dog is eager to please you, wants to make you happy, and is easily trained. While it has lots of energy and stamina, it is docile enough to bond with you very strongly, typical of many working dogs.

This adorable, adoring pet is a very patient dog, meaning that it will behave very well with small children. So patient and gentle, in fact, that you must teach your small children to treat the dog with kindness, never roughly, as your pet will simply tolerate anything, regardless of discomfort.

The same holds true of discipline. With an exceptionally sensitive nature, it can be very easily hurt emotionally. While physical abuse of the French Spaniel is never to be tolerated, emotional harshness is equally discouraged. This outgoing, extremely happy and amicable pet wants only to please and very gentle discipline is more than enough to keep your pet in line. You’ll find this breed very easy to train since this dog is very intelligent, and learns quickly, as long as your methods are kind, clear and consistent.

One thing the French Spaniel will need a lot of is exercise. Your pet is by nature a working dog, and needs to maintain a very active, physically-challenging lifestyle. In addition to a daily walk, make sure your pet has plenty of room to run and play outdoors. The French Spaniel is best for someone who is very energetic and spends a lot of time outdoors – with interest in taking this pet along for the adventure.

Finally, separation anxiety can be a problem for your pet, who will not respond well to isolation or loneliness. Make sure your pet can be a part of your daily life without having to be left alone. If you must be gone a lot, it's better to adopt a different breed that won't suffer from your absence.

Proper Environment

As a very high-energy dog that needs lots of outdoor activity and exercise, life in an apartment is not suitable. A large rambunctious family is a big plus for the French Spaniel, who enjoys children and adults alike. Very relaxed and easy-going, you'll find that your dog will never lose its composure even with small children. The French Spaniel also gets along well with other dogs, so you can "mix and match" breeds with your pet with little difficulty. It should be noted, however, that your pet may not be trustworthy with small animals like mice or birds, since it is a hunting dog meant to flush out birds and other small game by instinct.


The French Spaniel is a very sturdy and healthy dog, and does well even in wet weather conditions. Prone to a rare skin condition known as acral mutilation and analgesia, whose symptoms become apparent by about three and half months to a year of age, it causes dogs to helplessly bite, lick and mutilate extremities, resulting in sores and sometimes secondary bacterial infections. Dogs can in effect "self-amputate" affected areas as a matter of course, and most dogs are unfortunately euthanized once diagnosed with this problem. Beyond this relatively rare malady, though, the French Spaniel is a resilient dog that will live to be about 12 to 13 years of age.


French Spaniels are very easy to care for, and only need to be brushed several times a week to maintain their coats. Bathe only as necessary.


For the Love of Dog. Dogster: French Spaniel Dogs.

French Spaniel.

Retrieved June 15, 2012.

French Spaniel (Épagneul Français) (Epagneul Francais).

Retrieved June 15, 2012.

Great Dog Site: French Spaniel Information.

Retrieved June 15, 2012.

Sarah's Dogs: French Spaniel.

Retrieved June15, 2012.

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