French Spaniel

French spaniel
Written by The Best of Breeds

The French Spaniel originated in both France and Canada.  Though considered medium in size, this active dog is one of the largest spaniel breeds and noticeably quite long-legged for a spaniel.  They are alert, athletic, agile, and have a lot of stamina so are the right breed choice for owners that want a dog with a high requirement for exercise.  French Spaniels are relatively easy to train, highly intelligent, and very eager to please.  They love to play outside and are excellent retrievers.  They will enthusiastically pick up new tricks and teachings and generally form a strong bond with one particular member of the family.

A French Spaniel should be considered a companion dog and will need both emotional and physical stimulation throughout the day so that they don’t become bored and destructive.  Loveable and timid by nature, they do not do well under harsh treatment but will excel under positive reinforcement training techniques. 

A French Spaniel has a brown and white coat though the brown shade can be anywhere from cinnamon-colored to dark liver.  Occasionally, French Spaniels can be solidly liver-colored or solid white though this isn’t the norm.  Their somewhat water-resistant coat is dense and glossy with feathering along their ears, legs, belly, and tail.  A French Spaniel’s eyes are large and dark and usually a deep amber color.

Height: 21.5 to 24 inches
Weight: 50 to 60 lbs
Life span: 10 to 12 years
Breed family: Foundation Stock Service

Exercise requirements: High
Good with children: Yes
Area of origin: France and Canada
Also Known As: French Setter, Canadian Setter, Epagneul Francais


The French Spaniel likely originated from Spanish and Portuguese hunting dogs, though some scholars also postulate that they were developed in France as hunting dogs around the 14th century.  Supposedly beloved by royalty during the Middle Ages, this breed fell out of popularity at the turn of the 20th century.  After this, a French priest by the name of Father Fournier saved the breed though it is arguably still relatively rare and uncommon. 

The first known breed standard for the French Spaniel was written in 1891 when at the time, they were bred to be hunters’ companion dogs.  French Spaniels were later imported into Canada in the 1970s and into the US in the 1990s.  However, the breed is still a rarity, even in native France hence why they are sometimes called a Canadian Setter.


Interaction with Children

French Spaniels have the best type of personality for children.  They are gentle and peaceful by nature and able to be calm and docile.  However, they are indeed more than just a lap dog as we don’t reckon you could get them to sit still for long enough.  They love to be active so children can enjoy hours of playing fetch in the garden and parents can be happy that both their kids and their dog are being tired out.

Interaction with other pets

French Spaniels generally get along well with other animals, both canine and feline, though should be socialized from a young age and then consistently after that.  A set of puppy obedience or agility classes will do well for training this breed and for socialization.


From the time you take home your puppy at eight weeks of age until they are three months, expect to give your French Spaniel four bowls of puppy food per day.  Very gradually amend the food that the breeder has started your pup on by mixing it with the food that you intend for them to maintain.  A sudden change in dog food will likely result in a weak stomach or a turned-up nose.  From three to six months, you should be able to wean your French Spaniel puppy down to three meals a day.

You can expect that an adult French Spaniel will eat between 2 ½ to 3 ½ cups of dry kibble per day, ideally split between a morning and evening meal.  A French Spaniel should be given a high-quality dog food that is specially formulated for a medium, high-energy breed.  Pick a dog food appropriate for their age from puppyhood to adulthood to being a senior dog.  It is vital to monitor their weight, and give the proper amount of food for their current activity level, age, and health.  Buying a low-grade dog food may seem budget conscious in the beginning, but this will likely result in your dog requiring more food volume to get the same number of calories as a better brand.  Moreover, low-quality dog food can be attributed to numerous, expensive, health conditions that a dog can develop later in life.

Food Allergies

Allergies are an amplified immune reaction to a particular substance and include food allergies as well as skin and environmental allergies. The symptoms for different types of allergies often similar, making diagnosis and treatment very difficult.

Food allergies are rarer than most people think and are often confused with food sensitivities that do not cause an immune response. Food sensitives cause a gradual reaction to a specific ingredient and the most common being fish, rabbit, pork, soy, lamb, chicken, egg, wheat, dairy, and beef.

If you notice your French Spaniel having continuous bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, itching, or infections, then this could be due to food intolerances. Isolating the particular food to avoid can be tricky though it is possible to feed your dog a limited ingredient diet while you determine the culprit. Your veterinarian will also be a good source of information as it is essential to keep in mind that the symptoms of food intolerances can also be attributed to other conditions.



A French Spaniel has a fine coat which is relatively easy to maintain.  Although French Spaniels are a light shedder, they should be brushed at least twice weekly and more if they are going through long grass or swimming, which this dog will do at any chance that they get.  The fringes of a French Spaniel will need to be clipped every 8-12 weeks on their legs, tail, and ears, and keeping this hair short will assist with combing and matting.  Check a French Spaniels ears for debris and parasites at least weekly and clean their ears with a dog ear cleaning solution or ensure that this is part of the routine for your veterinarian.  Brush their teeth weekly to keep them in good condition.


The nails of a French Spaniel tend to need to be trimmed or ground down, more regularly than you would with other breeds.  This breed’s nails are both strong and fast-growing so don’t be surprised if you need to trim them at least twice a month to keep them in top-notch condition.  Long nails can result in painful splits and cracks so, in general, you shouldn’t hear your dog’s nails tip-tapping on the tile floor or pavement, and if you do, it’s time for a trim.


French Spaniels are energetic dogs and need an ample amount of daily exercise to stay mentally and physically fit.  A brisk half-hour walk twice daily will likely be enough to overcome any boredom that your dog has but a French Spaniel will ideally be exercised much more.  If you are a runner, then a French Spaniel could be the perfect running partner.  French Spaniels are also very good at swimming, and will likely jump in the water at any chance they get.  Games such as frisbee or fetch are great for exercise and tossing a ball in a large back yard will be fun for the whole family.


French Spaniel puppies can be slow to housetrain so ensure that you keep your routine consistent and make frequent trips outside so that your dog can relieve themselves.  Crate training from an early age will significantly help with housetraining and will assist with a dog that might be generally anxious or have separation anxiety.

In general, a French Spaniel is easy to train as their eagerness to please their own will work in your favor.  They are a sensitive lot, so ensure that you are training with plenty of positive reinforcement and never punish your dog.  Treats are welcomed in limited quantities.  If you are into taking classes with your new pooch, then a French Spaniel is ideal for agility or obedience training and should excel at learning tricks, pointing, and retrieving games.


French Spaniels absolutely love being outside and don’t mind wet conditions or living in wet climates.  In fact, their coats are somewhat water-resistant, and you will be hard-pressed to get them out of a creek, river, lake, or pool given half a chance in good weather.  This breed will do well with acreage but certainly should be in a fenced yard and don’t forget that they are very athletic so they can scale fences higher than one might think possible.


Although a French Spaniel is not a yappy dog or prone to excessive barking, they do need more exercise than an apartment goer will likely be able to offer.  This breed loves being outside and playing, and being cooped up inside will inevitably lead to boredom and destructive behaviors.

Dog Houses / Kennels

French Spaniels do well in wet conditions and flourish running and playing outdoors.  However, it should never be forgotten that this breed is a companion dog, and they will do best when integrated and welcomed into the family home.

Leaving them alone

French Spaniels are companion dogs and any owner thinking about acquiring this breed should make sure that there is a person home most of every day.  This breed is sensitive, and a bored French Spaniel will inevitably be destructive in your home so don’t be surprised if you come back to chewed furniture, knocked over lamps, or piddles on the floor.  Crate training your French Spaniel will greatly alleviate any separation anxiety, and we recommend that you start them on this habit from the day that you take home your puppy.  A crate should never be thought of as a punishment but rather like your dog’s own personal domain that they can freely go in and out as they please.  The only time that the door should be locked is when you need to go out for a few hours.  Ensure that there is enough room for your dog to stand up and turn around in their crate comfortably and that they have a blanket and chew toy to keep entertained.


French Spaniels are a very healthy breed, but you can help them along by offering good-quality dog food and ensuring that your dog is booked in for routine vet checks and immunizations.  Due to the rarity of French Spaniels, your local vet might not be well versed in knowing what conditions tend to ail this breed. Have your vet pay particular attention to any onset of Acral mutilation and analgesia, entropion, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and Otitis Externa as these are the conditions that this breed is known for.  

Older age

French Spaniels are genuinely healthy and active, but as they age, not unlike us humans, they do tend to need a nudge to get out for daily exercise.  If you find that your dog doesn’t have as much spring in their step, then see about limiting their activity slightly and decreasing their food if they are putting on weight as this won’t do their old joints any favors.  If you are worried that your dog may ever be in pain, then contact your veterinarian for further advice.


French Spaniels are not known to suffer from any specific allergies.

Wrapping up

French Spaniels are an energetic, intelligent, and easy to train breed which would fit in nicely with many active families.  Still a relatively rare breed, it may be challenging to find a breeder local to your area.  If you feel that a French Spaniel will make the perfect addition to your family, then it will be worth the wait, and we recommend getting in touch with a national club to check for reputable breeders.

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