French Spaniel: Smart, Active Hunting Dogs

French spaniel lying on grass
John Walton
Written by John Walton

If you’re looking for an active and reliable hunting dog, then you may very well meet your match in the French Spaniel as this breed was bred to become just that. But don’t be too quick to write the French Spaniel off even if you’re not a hunter and you’re simply looking for a companion dog. This versatile dog has plenty to offer all manners of people from different backgrounds, and we’ll tell you why.

The French Spaniel is a loving and intelligent dog and the perfect companion for active owners who love the outdoors. This dog will be a great playmate for your child and is the perfect family dog, and that’s just the basics. The French Spaniel has much more to offer other than these popular characteristics, and you’ll learn all about them below.

We have come up with all you need to know about your French Spaniel. We have put together the breed history, characteristics, potential health problems, and personality traits among many other features. We make it easier for you to decide whether this is the best dog for you. If you already own a French Spaniel, we are sure that this guide will help you make your dog more comfortable and happy.

Breed Characteristics

French spaniel puppy's face

  • Adaptability: High; can adapt to different conditions, but not suited to apartment living.

  • Trainability: Good; an eager-to-please dog that makes training easy. However, it needs gentle handling during training, as it is a sensitive dog.

  • Health and Grooming: Moderate; the coat should be brushed twice a week.

  • All Around Friendliness: Very Good; this is a very social dog especially for children, other dogs, and even strangers.

  • Exercise Needs: High Maintenance; a working dog that needs daily physical and mental exercise.

Dog Breed GroupWorking Dogs
HeightMales: 21-25 inches
Females: 20-24 inches
WeightMales: 45-60 pounds
Females: 44-60 pounds
Lifespan10-12 years

The breed is also referred to as Epagneul Francais. Although it is mainly found in France, it became recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1985 and the United Kennel Club in January 1996.The French Spaniel is a medium to large French breed. It is an old breed and ancestor to most French dogs. It used to be a very popular breed in France and was used for bird hunting in the middle ages. However, in the 19th century, the British dogs started being introduced in France, and most breeders forgot about the French Spaniel until a century later, when it came back to the public attention.

The dog has big brown eyes with a long and curly tail. This dog has waterproof fur and soft, thick, wavy hair. Most of these dogs have white coats with large or small brown patches.

The dog needs moderate grooming. As the owner, you only need to brush the coat to remove dead hair, prevent tangling, and to keep the coat beautiful. You also need to occasionally remove excess hair on the dog’s ears and between the footpads.

An intelligent, playful, and lively dog that is devoted to his/her master, this dog is also very affectionate and loving. Friendly with children and even toward strangers, the French Spaniel also gets along well with other dogs and pets and only barks when he/she senses danger.

A very enthusiastic hunter that can be used to hunt small animals such as birds, this dog is also a good retriever and pointer. The French Spaniel is an easy-to-train dog, especially because the dog is a master pleaser and is obedient.

However, the training should be consistent, and the trainer should be affectionate and gentle as the dog is sensitive to harsh words or criticism. The trainer should also be firm due to the French Spaniel’s ever-playful character.

The French Spaniel is a working dog breed and needs a lot of exercise due to its high energy nature. The French Spaniel is best for active owners who love to engage in sports such as running, swimming, or walking.

The French Spaniel suffers from separation anxiety if left alone for too long, and thus needs someone who is available to play and keep him/her company more often than not. If you have a child, the two can be great playmates.

The dog also loves to have other dogs as companions. However, The French Spaniel is not an ideal dog for apartment-living as this breed requires enough space to exercise and move freely.

See Also: DIY Dog Fence

Main Highlights

French spaniel with his tongue out of mouth

  • This breed was recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1985 and the United Kennel Club in January 1996.

  • This is a sweet, happy, and friendly dog who builds a strong bond with his/her owners and family.

  • This dog needs human companionship, can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for long hours, and thus needs an owner who is available to keep them busy.

  • Does not do well in apartments, as it is a very active breed that requires regular physical and mental exercise and an active lifestyle.

  • An enthusiastic hunter that can be used to hunt birds, the dog also loves to be in the field pointing and retrieving.

  • The French Spaniel is intelligent and eager to please, which makes training the dog easy. However, these dogs need gentle handling during training as they get offended when scolded.

  • An average shedder who should be brushed twice a week to get rid of loose hair, this dog should be given a bath only when necessary.

  • This is a non-aggressive dog and one that is very social even toward strangers. Thus, the French Spaniel might not be the best guard dog.

  • The average litter size is 3 to 7 puppies.

  • This is a very affectionate dog toward children, especially when raised with them.

Breed History

French spaniel hunting birds

The French Spaniel is a very old breed, dating back the 14th century when it was used for falconry and net hunting. The breed owes its origin to France, and its standards were first documented in the country in 1981.

At the time, French breeders saw it fit to divide the French Spaniels into different regional breeds. That nearly wiped out the breed as the dogs were localized to small populations. There was also too much crossbreeding going on.

Fortunately, in 1906, Abbe Fournier, a French priest, decided to dedicate his life to reviving the breed. He sought out all the purebred French Spaniels and came up with a breeding program that saved the breed from extinction. He further formed a club in 1921 that had stricter breeding rules. This allowed for the continuation of the breed.

However, the First and Second World War saw the number of the dogs in France decline. After the Second World War, there was a ray of hope for the breed as some breeders came up with efforts to revive the breed using the few dogs that were still alive. This effort was successful as by 1960 the population had grown and the French Spaniel started being presented in field trials and dog shows.

The breed was first introduced outside of France in Quebec, Canada, in the 1970s. Dog lovers in Canada fell in love with the breed and used it to hunt woodcock. The Canadians formed a breed club to ensure these dog retained their breed characteristics.

The dog received the Canadian Kennel club recognition in 1985. Today, this is one of the most popular pointer dogs in France and Canada among other countries.


The French Spaniel is a medium-sized dog with a sturdy appearance. Male dogs are between 20 to 25 inches tall with the females being a bit smaller. These dogs usually weigh between 45 and 60 pounds.

The French Spaniel has a gentle and intelligent look. Their eyes are large and oval with a dark amber color. They tend to hold their well-sculptured heads up proudly. The head is of medium length and width.

These dogs have wide, brown noses, and the upper lip of their mouth does not cover the lower lip. The ears are set a bit far back and are in line with the eyes. The ears are long and have feathering at the top. The tail is not docked.

The French Spaniel has a dense and water-resistant coat. The most common coat color for these dogs is white with brown, dark liver, or cinnamon-colored markings.

Personality and Character

French spaniel running fast

An outgoing and very friendly breed, the French Spaniel forms a strong bond with its owner and family. If well exercised, these dogs tend to be calm and tempered. They love human companionship. You should not go out for too long, leaving your French Spaniel alone in the house. If left alone for long hours, the dog suffers from separation anxiety.

See Also: Separation Anxiety in Dogs: Transform Your Panicked Pooch into a Confident Canine

These dogs demand a lot of attention and need an active owner who does not mind taking them for long walks or to the field for some good old hunting. They can hunt for hours even on rough terrain and in the water.

They are very enthusiastic to be out there and love to be in the fields following a scent. They will need space such as a yard or a dog pen if you are keeping them in urban areas. They are not the ideal dogs for apartments.

These dogs are eager to please and will be very loyal to their owners. They will greet you enthusiastically when you come home. However, these dogs are too social and friendly to make the perfect watchdogs.

Also, these dogs need gentle handling and training. Too much scolding can make the dog nervous, unhappy, and destructive. The training also needs to be consistent. These dogs respond positively to lots of praise, treats, and encouragement during training. They should also be given socialization early to know how to react to different sounds, animals, people, and situations.

Health and Potential Problems

French spaniel chocolate puppies

This is a healthy dog that adapts well to different conditions although he/she can suffer from a few health conditions.

#1: Hip Dysplasia

This condition is caused by the abnormal growth of tissue, bone, or cells. The condition leads to malformation and degeneration of the hip joint and can later cause arthritis. This is a common cause of lameness in large dogs.

The major cause of the condition is genetic, and it can be transferred from the parents to the puppies. However, not all dogs that have a gene coding for this condition develop it.

Other causes might include obesity in puppies, too much exercise during the early years, or the feeding of an overly-rich diet that leads to the puppy growing too quickly. Treatment methods include surgery. If this does not work, other forms of treatment such as weight management, pain relief, and physiotherapy can be used.

See Also: Best Joint Supplement for Dogs

#2: Ear Infections

Common symptoms of ear infection in French Spaniels include rubbing the ear, scratching, and head shaking. Yeast or bacteria cause most of these infections, although mites in puppies can also cause an infection.

You need to take your dog to the vet so that you will find out for sure the cause of the infection, how to treat it, and possibly prevent another one from occurring in the future.

The most common treatment method for an ear infection is to clean the affected ear with a cleanser severally times daily. Use a clean damp cloth or a dog-ear cleanser. Do not insert cotton buds as this can cause permanent damage to the ear or hurt it. Only do this if the dog tolerates it as for some dogs, it might be too painful.

After cleaning the ear, you can apply the medication given by your vet. In some instances, oral medications are provided.

See Also: Ear Infection in Dogs: Learn about it Before Things Get Worse

#3: Acral Mutilation and Analgesia

This hereditary disease causes progressive degeneration and abnormal development of your dog’s sensory organs in the peripheral nerves and the spinal cord. The diseases can affect several limbs with the hind legs being the most affected.

A dog suffering from this disease will bite, chew, self-mutilate, and lick the limbs affected by the disease, which can lead to fungal or bacterial infections and ulcers. In extreme cases, your dog will mutilate his/her claws or the pads and continue to walk on the mutilated toes with no pain or signs of lameness.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for the disease. Although, you can prevent your dog from mutilating themselves by use of bandages, Elizabeth collars, and muzzles. You can also apply steroidal medication or analgesic medication that tastes bad to deter licking and biting.

#4: Periodontal Disease

This is the inflammation of the dog’s teeth-supporting structures. The disease can be detected early by the reddening of the gums that directly border the teeth.

The disease is caused by bacterial growth due to the accumulation of food particles and bacteria under the gum. The disease can cause bone loss, destroy the gum tissue, and lead to the formation of pus in cavities.

Treatment will depend on the advancement of the disease. In the early stages, it can be treated with proper oral care.

In stage 2 or 3, the space between the teeth and the gum will need to be cleaned and an antibiotic gel applied to rejuvenate the growth of the periodontal tissue. In the advanced stages, tissue regeneration, bone replacement, and periodontal splitting might be necessary.

See Also: Brushing Dog Teeth

Care Features

French spaniel lying with her puppy

The French Spaniel is a working dog and has a lot of stamina. This is a very active dog that needs a good amount of exercise daily. This dog needs an active owner who loves sports or who does not mind playing fetch with the dog.

Exercises should help to prevent boredom and to maintain the dog’s health. A little fun and a few games will deter your dog’s need to dig, chase, chew, herd, and retrieve. If possible, take them hunting, as these dogs love pointing and retrieving. They should be with an owner who can give them a lot of attention.

They require consistent and well-balanced training with the trainer remaining affectionate and gentle. These dogs are sensitive, and a lot of scolding can make them unhappy or nervous.

They will do well in training if you give them lots of praise, treats, and encouragement. They also need socialization at an early age to help them learn how to react to different stimuli in the best way.

Feeding Schedule

The dog should be feed quality dry dog food. 2 1/4 or 3 1/4 cups per day should be enough for an adult French Spaniel. However, this amount can vary in line with your dog’s size, age, level of activity, and health.

Divide the meal into two to avoid bloating. Remember to give the dog plenty of water or mix the food with broth.

Other foods that your dog will love include cooked livers and eggfruits. Cut down on people’s food as it can lead to mineral and vitamin deficiencies or even cause obesity.

See Also: How to Cook Chicken Livers for Dogs

Coat, Color, and Grooming

Orange French spaniel standing

You will have to deal with some hair around the home, as the French Spaniel is an average shedder. The coat should be brushed at least twice a week to keep the dog healthy and the coat looking elegant. Brushing also clears hair and debris.

Inspect the coat for fleas and ticks during warm weather. Only give the dog a bath when necessary as too much bathing can cause skin problems or ear infections due to water getting in the dog’s ears.

The dog also needs to have his/her nails clipped if they are too long. Ensure you do not cut the nails too short. Use the proper clipping tool. Also, brush your dog’s teeth at least twice a week, frequently clean the ear with a dog cleanser, and check for ear infections.

Children and Other Pets Compatibility

French Spaniels are gentle and affectionate with children, especially when raised with them. The two can be great playmates. However, it is important to teach the child how to play and handle the dog.

The French Spaniel also loves other dogs and prefers to have one or two other dogs in the house as companions, especially if you are away from home often. The dogs should be about the same size and have similar activity levels.

You might find that your French Spaniel does not get along well with other non-canine pets, as these dogs were bred to be hunters. Keep your dog on a leash around livestock or other domesticated pets so that he/she does not chase them. However, if raised with a cat at home, these learn can learn to get along with cats.

See Also: How to Introduce a Cat to a Dog

Wrap Up

two french spaniels together

The French Spaniel makes the perfect companion for active owners who can take the dog for regular walks or hunts. This dog is affectionate, has an outgoing personality, and will demand your attention while returning it with love and enthusiasm.

These dogs are not naturally aggressive and are very eager to please, which make them very loyal dogs to their masters. The best news is that they will bond well with your children and any other canines.

What is your experience with the French Spaniel? If you do not own one, do you think this is the right dog for you and your family? Why or why not? Share with us your opinion in the comment section below. If you decide to adopt a French Spaniel, you will need a name for him/her. This article on elegant dog names might come in handy.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.