Pont-Audemer Spaniel

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Pont-Audemer Spaniel
Pleple200 / Wikipedia.org

Several hundred years ago the Pont-Audemer Spaniel was developed in the North of France. A medium-sized hunting Spaniel, this dog has a characteristic top knot of curly fur and lustrous, crimped ears. Hardy and athletic, their muscular body is ideally suited to the running and swimming that they need to do when hunting on wetlands. Traditionally used to hunt a variety of waterfowl, these dogs continue to successfully carry out this task today.

More so than many other working breeds, this gun dog adapts beautifully to family life and relies heavily on human companionship. They are gentle and affectionate, happy to spend as much time as possible indoors with their owners. Unsurprisingly, it is important to provide the energetic, vivacious Pont-Audemer Spaniel with plenty of daily exercise.

About & History

The Pont-Audemer Spaniel is such a rare breed of dog that it is quite likely that most readers of this article will be learning about it for the first time today. Pont-Audemer is a region within Normandy in the north of France and is thought to be the birth place of the Pont-Audemer Spaniel, and the reason for its name.

The Pont-Audemer Spaniel originated in the 1800s and its predecessors are likely to have been a mix of English and Irish Spaniels (in particular the Irish Water Spaniel), as well as the French Picardy Spaniel. Some sources also state that the Barbet played a role. Traditionally used to hunt waterfowl in or near water, the Pont-Audemer Spaniel is known as a ‘Setter’, a type of hunting dog that ‘sets’ or crouches down when they spot their prey. The hunter notices them standing completely still and will then usually flush the prey out themselves. The Pont-Audemer Spaniel, however, is versatile, and can also point and flush if asked to.

The Pont-Audemer Spaniel has been an unpopular breed throughout its life, possibly as French hunters prefer all-rounders, rather than water specialists. Its population size has always been modest and the breed has largely been restricted to a small area in northern France. In fact, the breed was at such a high risk of becoming extinct after the 2nd World War that their breed club allowed inter-breeding with the Irish Water Spaniel to try to prevent this from happening. Despite these efforts, even today, the population size remains incredibly low and it is a distinct possibility that the breed will cease to exist in the near future. The breed is so rare that they have even merged their club with the clubs of the Picardy Spaniel in 1980 and this club forms part of the current revival effort.

Lovingly referred to in France as Le Petit Clown de Marais ('the little clown of the marshes'), it is clear that the locals appreciate both its fun personality and its unparalleled ability to hunt in wet conditions. While this dog is not well known internationally, it was recognised by the UKC in 1996 within their Gun Dog group.


Pont-Audemer Spaniel Large Photo
Alephalpha / Wikipedia.org

A sturdily built dog of medium size, the Pont-Audemer Spaniel’s most notable feature is surely its unusual coat. While their curly, disheveled fur may look a little unkempt, it lends the breed a rustic and unique look. Their facial fur is short but they have a profuse ‘top knot’ that almost looks like a brown judge’s wig when it merges with their wavy ears! The topknot should not merge with their forehead. Their fur is either a brown roan or solid brown colour.

The Pont-Audemer Spaniel has a rounded skull, a slanting stop and a relatively long and pointed muzzle. Their nose is prominent and brown while their eyes may be either amber or hazel and are deeply set. Their long, pendulous ears frame their head and the margins are often difficult to distinguish from the topknot. Their face in general gives the dog a kind and sincere expression. As with many working spaniels, their limbs are strong and muscular.

While their chest is deep, their forelimbs are actually quite short. Their limbs end in round paws, which have wavy fur in between the toes. The breed standard requests that hind dew claws are removed for showing. While the tail of working dogs may be docked, it is now suggested that (unless for working purposes) the tail be left as it should be: moderately sized and carried with a slight curve. The UKC specify that no dog will be penalised for having an undocked tail.

Most breed members stand at between 52cm to 58cm tall at the withers. Robustly built, the typical weight for a Pont-Audemer Spaniel is between 18kg and 24kg.

Character & Temperament

Owing to the sweet nature and gentle disposition of the Pont-Audemer Spaniel, they find it easy to transition between companion animal and hunting Spaniel, though are rarely kept solely as pets. They blend well into families, particularly those with young children, who they will befriend for life. These amusing characters have a fun-loving spirit and will never turn down the opportunity to goof off with the kids.

The Pont-Audemer Spaniel can get along well with other dogs but may give chase to smaller pets, so housing them together can pose an issue. Aggression is not commonly seen in this laid-back breed. Their personality also makes them sub-par watchdogs and guard dogs, as they would be more likely to befriend an intruder than warn them away.

Diligent when at work, the Pont-Audemer Spaniel is renowned for its stamina while tracking and the dedication it has for its job.


Training the Pont-Audemer Spaniel is actually relatively easy, as they live to please their master and are very smart. It is in their nature to be hard-working and they will not tire of a task quickly.

Positive reinforcement techniques should be employed whenever possible, rewarding good behaviours and never punishing mistakes. This mode of training suits these lovable, eager to please dogs, who would find negative reinforcement training too harsh.


As is expected with most working dogs, the Pont-Audemer Spaniel is a generally healthy breed and enjoys a lifespan of 12 to 14 years. The following conditions have been reported within the breed:

Hip Dysplasia

This debilitating orthopaedic condition can affect a large number of dog breeds and can be caused by many factors other than genetics such as diet, exercise, obesity, injuries and even premature neutering. However, it is proven that hip dysplasia is genetic to some degree, hence prudent breeding and hip scoring are advised.


The deep chest of the Pont-Audemer Spaniel is likely what predisposes it to ‘bloat’. Bloat is quite a rare condition nowadays, and one which every owner hopes to avoid. When a dog becomes bloated, it is immediately obvious. They will begin to panic; retching and panting and pacing around the room. An owner will notice that their abdomen is larger than usual and hard to the touch. Immediate veterinary attention must be sought to ensure the dog recovers from this potentially fatal condition.

Follicular Dysplasia

Follicular Dysplasia (FD) will result in baldness, also known as alopecia. As there are many reasons for baldness, it should be a diagnosis of exclusion i.e. other causes, such as parasites or hormonal issues should be ruled out first.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Of course, as with any hunting dog, the Pont-Audemer Spaniel needs plenty of space to roam and sufficient daily exercise to prevent them from becoming bored. Long hikes, runs in the park and the opportunity to track and chase will keep this dog happy. They can adapt to small homes as long as they have large gardens in which they can let off some steam.


While the impressive coat of the Pont-Audemer Spaniel may look like it takes a lot of upkeep, this is in fact quite a low maintenance breed that only needs to be brushed a couple of times a week.

The biggest grooming commitment an owner will need to make is to the floppy, hairy ears of the Pont-Audemer Spaniel. Their ears should be checked every few days and require weekly to fortnightly cleaning to keep them free of waxy build-up.

Famous Pont-Audemer Spaniels

An incredibly rare breed that is hardly spotted outside of northern France, there are no famous breed examples.


The Pont-Audemer Spaniel is commonly crossed with the Picardy Spaniel, a mating which is allowed by their breed club.

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