The French Spaniel is a boisterous, spunky, fun-loving, and family-orientated hunting dog originating in both France and later in Canada. These wonderful pointing pups have a typical Spaniel appearance, with feathered coats, floppy ears, alert eyes, and a stocky build.
They’re outgoing and very sociable and love playing with humans and other dogs. But on a hunt, they’re a serious worker that needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation.
Also named the French Setter, Canadian Setter, or Epagneul Francais, these brown and white pups make excellent companions for families and hunters alike. Their sweet and affectionate nature is enough to make you fall in love the moment you set eyes on them.
Characteristics of the French Spaniel
History and Origin of the French Spaniel
There’s a little confusion around the exact origins of the French Spaniel. Some believe that, like other Spaniel breeds, these doggos originated from Spanish and Portuguese hunting dogs in the Middle Ages. Others think that they are the descendants of French hunting dogs and were first bred in the 14th century.
Either way, we know that these dogs were very popular with royalty for hundreds of years. Royals loved their witty nature and their incredible ability to point out prey and retrieve.
Around the turn of the 20th century, these beautiful dogs were almost extinct. Other hunting dogs had become more popular and their numbers decreased alarmingly. It was a French Priest, Father Fournier, who saved the breed. He worked tirelessly to breed healthy dogs and make these pups popular again.
The first standard for French Spaniels was drawn up in 1891. Since then it has been revised many times due to the breed’s evolution. French Spaniels were first brought to the United States in 1997 and have been recorded in the AKC’s foundation stock service since May 2012. They were registered as part of the club’s foundation stock in 2012.
Personality and Character of the French Spaniel
These dogs are even-tempered, sweet, gentle, and active. They’re highly intelligent and shouldn’t be allowed to get bored. A frustrated French Spaniel can easily become loud, boisterous (in a bad way), and destructive.
They need lots of exercise and time outdoors but when they get it, they’ll be friendly, fun, affectionate, and a great all-round companion. They’re also very alert dogs and make excellent watchdogs.
Can the French Spaniel Live in an Apartment?
French Spaniels are hunting dogs with lots of energy. Like other similar dog breeds, they really need space to run around and play in. They prefer to be in a home with a fenced-in yard and somewhere that’s close to woodland or large open spaces.
They’re too active to be kept indoors and it could make them develop unwanted behavior such as barking or chewing.
Can the French Spaniel Live with Children?
French Spaniels are calm yet active dogs which is a great combination for children. They love to play and will appreciate having a constant companion to throw balls for them. They form strong bonds with all of their favorite humans and can be very protective of them, especially if they perceive there to be a danger.
It’s important that kids are taught how to play with and approach dogs correctly. Overly excitable kids can easily injure a French Spaniel without intending to. Likewise, dogs should be trained and socialized from puppyhood so that they get used to little hands petting them.
If you adopt an older French Spaniel dog, check with the previous owner or shelter staff to see how they are around children. For some pooches, sounds and children can be overwhelming, especially if they’ve had a bad experience in the past.
Are They Aggressive Dogs?
No! This French breed isn’t aggressive at all. They’re actually very kind, inquisitive, friendly, and enjoy being around humans. They love to play, cuddle up, make friends, and learn new things from their canine friends.
But even so, all dogs are different and it’s worth bearing that in mind. It’s really important to socialize French Spaniel puppies from a young age. Dogs that haven't been well-socialized can grow up to be timid and anxious, which often plays out as aggressive behavior.
If you adopt an older pup, try to find out as much as possible about their past and personality before bringing them home. Professional dog trainers can help to calm pups and build trust.
Do They Get Along Well With Other Animals?
French Spaniel owners will be happy to know that these dogs get along really well with other dogs. They’re very sociable and will love playing and working with their canine friends. Of course, it’s really important that this family pet is socialized early on. This can help to ensure that they’re friendly and open to making friends.
You’ll also be happy to know that these Spaniels get along well with cats too. Even though they’re hunting pups and have a prey drive, they can usually learn to get along with other pets in the home.
But every dog is different. And you should always introduce dogs to cats or other pets slowly and with a lot of care. Often their first meeting determines their future relationship.
You should also be careful around smaller pets such as gerbils or ferrets and never leave your pup unattended with them.
Appearance of the French Spaniel
These dogs are beautiful and have the typical ‘Spaniel’ look. They have long floppy ears, a pointy nose (to help them point!), a muscular yet athletic build, and wonderfully feathered coats. They’re medium-sized dogs and have a very elegant appearance. You can tell that they were once the beloved pups of royalty.
Size and Weight
The French Spaniel is on the bigger end of the spectrum when it comes to all Spaniels. They’re still, however, considered to be medium-sized. They grow to be 21.5 to 24 inches tall and weigh 50 to 60 pounds.
Male French Spaniels are usually larger than females and can look a bit bulkier.
How Long Does It Take for a French Spaniel to Reach Adult Size?
Each dog is different and they reach different milestones at different times. On average, however, it should take between 10-12 months for your pup to reach its adult size. They may continue to act like a puppy for a couple of months more but they shouldn’t grow much bigger.
Both the AKC and the United Kennel Club state that this dog can only be white and brown or completely brown. Roan (an even mixture of white and pigmented hairs), spotted, and patched markings are all allowed. The United Kennel Club states that a white blaze on the head is appreciated but not having one is not a fault.
All other colors and white pigment around the eyes are considered faults.
As is common with other Spaniels, such as the German Spaniel, these dogs should have long and wavy hair on the ears, legs, and tail. The rest of its fur is silky and lies flat against its body. The hair on their head is typically shorter and much finer. Hair that’s too curly or a lack of furnishings are both considered faults.
These medium-sized dogs are elegant, muscular, and have a straight topline that remains the same whether the dog is standing or moving. The underline is raised towards the belly but isn’t exaggerated in its tuck-up.
According to the FCI breed standard for the French Spaniel, they have large chests and strong bones but don’t appear bony.
Both the FCI and UKC agree that the French Spaniel’s eyes should be oval and that they express kindness and intelligence. Unlike some other Spaniel breeds, the eyelids should be tight and they should have visible eyelashes.
There’s some difference in eye color, though. The FCI states the color should be cinnamon to dark brown and as close to their coat color as possible. The UKC however, says the color should be dark amber and light eyes are considered a fault.
These pups have a medium-wide and medium-length head that’s well-defined. Their muzzle is a little shorter than their skull and their nose should be dark brown in color with wide, open nostrils. They can have a scissor bite or pincer bite (edge to edge) but a scissor one is preferred.
The tails of these dogs are well-fringed. They should be strong at the root, growing slightly downwards before tapering off. The end of the tail is usually held slightly above the root.
Grooming and Hygiene of the French Spaniel
This medium-sized dog has moderate grooming needs. They spend a lot of time outdoors, running through puddles, jumping in mud, and swimming whenever they can. So of course, this can easily lead to their coats getting tangled and matted.
Generally speaking, they need to be brushed once a week or more if you notice tangles forming.
They also need to have their teeth cleaned regularly to prevent the development of gum disease. It also helps to keep their breath fresh(er).
How to Brush a French Spaniel?
A French Spaniel’s coat is quite easy to brush. If you can, try to brush puppies from early on (using an appropriate puppy brush). This will get them used to brushing sessions and it’s also a great way for you to bond with your pooch.
Start at their neck and gently brush towards the base of their tail. It’s important you’re not too vigorous so you don’t knock any bones or pull too hard. Make sure you pay particular attention to the longer hair on the tail, legs, and underbelly as it can easily get matted.
What Brush for a French Spaniel?
Metal combs, pin brushes, and slicker brushes work really well on a French Spaniel’s coat. You may even want to use different brushes on different areas depending on the coat length. You want something that can easily get to the softer hairs below but that doesn’t scratch or irritate your dog’s skin.
How Do You Wash a French Spaniel?
How often you need to bathe your French Spaniel really depends on your pup (and how often they’re swimming or rolling in something mucky). Compared to other breeds, they don’t need to be bathed often but more as and when it’s necessary. Because of their love for the wild outdoors, these pups can also develop the classic doggy smell (especially when they’ve been swimming) so make sure you wipe them down and dry them thoroughly.
Washing a French Spaniel is fairly straightforward. Wet the pooch using warm water and apply a good-quality shampoo that’s made for medium-length hair. Lather the shampoo into your pup’s coat, especially in areas with longer hair. Rinse well and apply a conditioner. Rinse the conditioner and make sure you thoroughly dry your pooch so they don’t develop any skin irritations.
Washing and brushing your dog is also a great time to clean and dry their ears and check for any lice, ticks, or other parasites. Not cleaning their ears can easily lead to them getting infections.
Some owners prefer to take their French Spaniels to be professionally washed and groomed which is also an option.
Is it a Hypoallergenic Dog?
These amazing dogs don’t shed a lot, but they’re not hypoallergenic pups either. Even if it’s just moderately, they do lose their dead hair and dander, and can be a problem for people with allergies.
French Spaniel Training and Education
French Spaniels are intelligent dogs and should be easy to train. If you make the training sessions fun, they’ll be happy to take part. Practice is key with a French Spaniel and, even though they’re smart, it may take them a while to pick up all the commands and tricks.
Positive reinforcement is always the right way to go with a French Spaniel. They can be food orientated and will love receiving praise from you when they do something well. Toys can also be good motivation.
Because they’re an active breed, you might find it best to try training once they’ve already done some exercise. If they haven’t been out for their walk yet, they’re more likely to be distracted and less likely to want to learn how to sit!
What Is the Price of a French Spaniel?
This breed usually costs between $1200 and $2000. Exactly how much puppies will cost depends on local demand, breeders, and breeding stock.
Be wary of breeders claiming to have much cheaper French Spaniel puppies. Although some may be OK, some may be unethically breeding dogs which can lead to inbreeding and unhealthy pups.
French Spaniel Feeding
French Spaniels need to be given a diet that’s appropriate and well-balanced for a medium-sized breed that’s very active. They need enough calories to maintain a healthy weight but not too many that they tip the scales.
These pups love their food, so it’s best to keep to set meal times and not leave food out during the day. Not having a well-planned routine can lead to your dog putting on weight. When possible, try to feed your dog healthier snacks or use toys rather than treats when training.
As is the case with other breeds, French Spaniel puppies have different nutritional requirements compared to adult and senior dogs. Check with your vet if you’re unsure about how much you should be feeding your pooch or if you’re worried about specific dietary needs they may have.
French Spaniel Health
These dogs are generally very healthy and happy pups that don’t have many known hereditary diseases. As with all dogs, it’s important they get enough exercise and are fed a healthy diet. Lots of love from you also helps!
Despite that, there can be a couple of issues you should be aware of.
- Elbow and hip dysplasia
- Acral mutilation and analgesia (when they can’t feel pain in their toes and can bite excessively)
- Otitis externa
Obesity and related health conditions can also be a concern for French Spaniels.
What Is the Life Expectancy of the French Spaniel?
Each dog is different and genetics and nurture play an important role in the lifespan of your pooch. Normally, however, you can expect your French Spaniel to be with you for 10-12 years.
What Is the Best Climate for a French Spaniel?
These dogs prefer to be somewhere that’s neither too hot nor too cold. They have a protective coat that keeps them warm in cold and wet conditions but that also keeps them cool on warm days.
A moderate climate is best for this pooch.
Breeds Similar to French Spaniels
There are lots of breeds similar to French Spaniels in both appearance and personality. Some of them may be easier for you to find in your area.
Brittany Spaniel. These Spaniels are so similar that some even think they’re the same breed. A big difference is that Brittany Spaniels have a red or liver coat that can appear orange.
Welsh Spaniel. These dogs have a very similar coat texture to French Spaniels. They’re also versatile and great companions.
Picardy Spaniel. This is another French breed that’s very similar to the French Spaniel. They’re loved by French hunters but are not recognized by the AKC.
French Spaniels are brilliant dogs that are versatile, well-rounded, and great companions. They’re also amazing hunters that are always happy to accompany their owner on a long walk in the woods or fields. They have minimal grooming needs, are very sociable, and get along well with kids and other dogs. They are very energetic though, so do best in a larger home with plenty of space for them to play in.
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