To use the common parlance . . . “it is a no-brainer”!!!
However the breed standard for the Barbet states :
“The coat on the skull must fall onto the bridge of the nose.”
It does not say specifically that the eyes must be covered, but it implies that they should and I have been told by certain Barbet “authorities” that it must. I have also been told that the dog can easily see through this curtain of hair . . it cannot (see below). Certainly on browsing a good number of the vast multitude of Barbet photos now available online, a huge percentage of Barbets do have eyes covered by a thick curtain of wooly coat and virtually all “show” photos show the dog this way. The main exceptions, of course, are the “shaved brigade”!
I am not an expert on the history of the Barbet; although it is interesting, we are where we are now and must attempt to progress from the present, taking into account the past of course, but not in my opinion, becoming obsessive about it. The Barbet is a chien de chasse/gundog/sporting dog used in the past, and in a very few cases in the present, to assist mankind in the provision of petit gibier and gibier d’eau (small game and waterfowl) for the table; the Barbet was/is used by archers, guns or falconers to retrieve game they have shot or brought down.
Two points for consequent consideration:
1. The dog must be able to mark the game fall in order to retrieve it (I will deal with blind retrieves and handling on another occasion!)
2. Is the dog physically able to mark the game?
The first is obvious, but what is the answer to the second? Try this simple experiment: find a place where there are a number of trees/forest/woodland: hold the slightly separated fingers of both hands in front of your eyes: look up at the sky through your spaced fingers and through the tops of the trees. Do the same experiment using a background of mixed hedgerows and vegetation as would occur when marking and retrieving rabbit. (My point will be demonstrated even against an open sky) Could you see a medium-sized bird high in the sky, follow it with your eyes and mark it down? Could you pick out a rabbit against such a background?
I defy anyone to answer “yes” with honesty!
I am not against the “showing” of dogs; I have done so successfully myself in the past with another breed and also with my Barbet BUT as the breed standard also states . . .
“may be groomed in a specific manner to accommodate its work and maintenance.”
. . . the Barbet should be permitted to be shown clean, but in “working condition” as well, not be penalized for so doing.
I have also been told that the covered eyes are essential protection for the working dog. This is an absolutely ridiculous argument as all of the other gundog breeds seen in this country seem to manage perfectly well without this so-called protection. It is a totally spurious argument!
In my opinion the Barbet should be able to kept, worked and shown with its eyes visible because . . .
1. It should be able mark game clearly. Whether or not it actually works on game, it is still a gundog.
2. It should be able clearly to see its handler/owner, and vice versa. If the two are to make a successful working (or companion) “team”, eye contact is essential.
3. A saturated curtain of hair over the eyes when working in water is an encumbrance and potential danger; in addition it could lead the lead the dog to panic, lift its head and bring its front paws high out of the water . . in this case with the potentially SERIOUS result of it becoming vertical in the water and sinking feet first. I have known of two dogs (NOT BARBETS) who have drowned due to an excessively high, out-of-the-water swimming style leading to a vertical body position in the water and a "back feet first" surface dive to the bottom!
4. Common sense dictates that a good flow of fresh air to the eyes, rather than a thick curtain of (sometimes wet) wooly hair harbouring dust or debris is bound to be better for the dog and its eyes.