United Barbet Club

Show Ring Presentation

I want to present my Barbet in the ring. What do I do with his coat?  

If you have watched the Barbet currently being shown in North America, you will see huge differences in presentation. Blown out and brushed, natural and curly, excessively hairy…there are many choices that a Barbet owner can make before entering the ring that will enhance the appearance of the dog.  Within the UKC, the rule is: No excessive grooming and no products on the coat.  A healthy, clean, and mat-free coat with the ears, moustache and beard combed out is all that is required. Achieving a shape that enhances the dog occurs long before arriving on the show grounds. Let us consider the appropriate presentation of the Barbet in the show ring.


The Barbet is an ancient breed of dog originating in France.  As the rural Frenchman’s companion the Barbet was a real all-rounder and would aid his master in a variety of tasks, primarily in the hunting and retrieving of waterfowl, but also in the pointing, flushing and retrieving of upland birds and the hunting of small game.  Historic documents also reference the use of the Barbet as doing some herding, retrieving shot arrows and retrieving items off boats for fishermen.  

When presenting your Barbet in the show ring it is important to remember the use for which the breed was originally developed.   The Barbet is a waterdog that is a capable retriever and he needs to have a coat that will keep him warm when swimming in cold waters.   His coat should be thick and cover the entire body of the dog.

The standard states “originally the Barbet has been clipped to accommodate their work and lifestyle, therefore all clips are acceptable”.  However, in order for the judge to properly evaluate all of the elements of the breed standard you must not present a Barbet that has been completely clipped down.  There must be sufficient length of coat for the judge to properly assess the condition and quality of the coat.  The Barbet is known for its thick woolly coat which gives it protection from cold water.  A dog with two inches of coat should not be penalized when compared to a dog with 4 to 5 inches of coat.  Remember, it would have been highly unlikely for a farmer to hunt with his dog through the marshes and ponds of France with a dog that had copious amounts of coat as this coat would have become tangled in vegetation and would have weighed the dog down when swimming for prolonged periods.  

The Barbet’s coat should always be presented in good condition.   It should be clean and free of mats and tangles.  The curl should not be completely brushed out so as to prevent the judge from observing it in its natural state.  There are many variations within the breed of the type of curl.  Some dogs have a tighter curl while others have a looser, more wavy curl.  Both are correct.    

The hair on the head should come down as far as the nose; although the standard says it hides the eyes, the hair can be thinned out so as to better allow the dog to see.   The beard should be thick and long.   A dog with a shorter overall length of coat should still be presented in the ring with its beard and with its hair over its eyes but the degree to which the dog’s vision is obstructed by hair needs to be taken into consideration.  A dog whose eyesight is hindered by hair will not be able to properly mark the fall of a bird.  Thinning of the hair over the eyes should not be penalized.

When grooming your dog for the ring it is acceptable and advisable to shape the dog’s coat with scissors.  You can do this by washing the dog first and completely brushing and blow drying the coat before you trim it.  Shaping the coat will give some definition to the gun dog’s outline and enhance the breed’s desirable qualities.  The standard states the forelegs are straight and well boned and it is our suggestion that they be shaped as strong columns of support.  Likewise the feet should be trimmed so that the hair is flush with the pads of their feet and trimmed in a rounded manner blending into the hair on the legs.  The nails should not be visible.  When viewed from the side you should be able to see the angulation in the hindquarters.

Once you have finished shaping your dog’s coat, you need to wet the dog down in order to bring the curl back into a natural state.  This can be accomplished by spritzing the dog all over with plain water or by fully soaking the coat with your spay nozzle in the tub.  If you have prepared your dog before the show by washing and brushing and shaping his coat there will not be a great deal for you to do before you go into the ring.  Make sure the dog’s undercarriage and bottom are clean.  Remove any tangles and mats that may have developed in his coat, then be sure to put the curl back in after brushing them out.  Make sure your dog’s eyes and ears are tidy.  Brush your dog’s beard to make sure it’s clean and there are no remaining food particles hiding in it.  Finally, a light misting with water will freshen the curls.  

Most importantly, familiarize yourself with the Barbet standard so that you know it inside and out.  Study photographs of Barbets that you feel are good examples of breed type.  Go to shows and watch the breed in action and talk to other exhibitors and breeders.  A good mentor is an invaluable asset in helping you prepare your dog for the show ring. Don’t be intimidated by the Barbet’s woolly coat.  Just roll up your sleeves and start practicing on your dog.  You will undoubtedly make mistakes as you learn and will cut a little too much off here and there. Just remember it’s only hair and it will grow back.  Besides, the dogs often enjoy the attention and like to strut their stuff in the ring.  In the process of preparing your dog’s coat for the ring you learn more about the condition of your dog’s coat and skin and his structure too.  When trained to accept grooming and handling from a young age the dogs enjoy the time and attention they receive and it can be a positive experience for you both.  

Showing your dog in conformation is a rewarding experience.  In a rare breed such as ours it is imperative that the Barbet be shown in order to increase awareness about the breed.  Judges, exhibitors and the public need to see what good examples of the breed are and a conformation show is an excellent venue to do this.  Raising awareness about the Barbet in a responsible manner will help to increase the breed’s popularity.  By being good stewards of our breed, showing, breeding and carefully placing puppies in judiciously vetted homes, we will be able to move the breed away from near extinction and into the spotlight as a sound, healthy, and well presented show dog.

© The United Barbet Club 2012