Type: Herding dog
Weight: Male – 30-40kg
Female – 25-35kg
Height: Male – 24-27in / 61-69cm
Female – 23-26in / 58-65cm
Appearance: Briards are large dogs with a double coat. The outer coat is long wavy and coarse while the undercoat is soft and fine. The presence of two coats offers protection against extremes of weather and temperature. The length of the hair makes grooming these dogs quite a challenge. There are many colour variations within the breed standard, including black, grey and fawn. Cropping the ears was once common for the breed but these days this is illegal in many countries including the UK.
Temperament: Briards are loving, loyal and smart dogs – great companions. They are protective of their family but can be distant with strangers. They are sweet-natured and sensitive and need lots of attention and input from their humans, without this they can become stubborn and even fearful. It is almost essential to socialise your Briard early to avoid any problematic behaviour.
Skills: Briards aren’t the most energetic and playful of dogs. They have medium energy levels but still need different activities. They are fast learners and often successfully participate in obedience, tracking, herding and agility competitions. They are even suitable as defence dogs because of their highly protective nature. If you don’t fancy dog sports then lots of long walks, hiking and swimming are all great ways to keep your pet, and yourself, fit and healthy. .
Behaviour Toward Other Animals and Children: Briards are good family pets, they are often protective of the children in the house. As always, you should never take the good-nature of a breed for granted, young children should be supervised with pets and older ones taught good ‘dog manners’. Briards generally behave well with other animals if they are socialised to them or if they’ve grown up together.
Common Health Problems: Health issues that are most likely to occur are hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, progressive retinal atrophy, Von Willebrand disease, congenital stationary blindness, gastric torsion and cancer.
Lifespan: Average 10 to 12 years.
The Briard can adapt to live in the city or the countryside. This dog is relatively calm, however the animal requires at least 30 to 60 minutes of daily exercise. Without sufficient physical activity, the Briard may become bored and express annoying or destructive behavior, for instance barking, digging, chasing and chewing.
Dog sports are a suitable outlet for the animals to release their energy and can improve their behaviour in packs. Briard puppies must learn who the pack leader is, otherwise they will try to assume the leader’s position. The owner should teach the dog proper manners and indoor rules from the moment the Briard puppy enters the household.
The Briard is suspicious of strangers by nature. If a Briard is not properly socialized and trained, this may result in an aggressive behaviour towards other people or animals, for the dog will consider them a threat. During its first year, the puppy has to interact with people and other animals as often as possible in order to establish a friendly attitude. Briards must feel comfortable when visiting other households, parks and stores and when riding in a vehicle. Socialization has to be performed both indoors and outdoors. In order to develop the dog’s social skills, one may:
- Invite other people to the household and then have them walk the puppy around the block in the owner’s absence.
- Visit the local mall, a softball game or a friend’s home together with the Briard.
- Allow others to take the puppy and play with it.
- Encourage the dog to be friendly in the presence of guests.
- The owner should supervise the dog at all times to make sure that the animal relieves at the designated place.
- The owner should constantly “point out” to the dog that the latter may only relieve in the desired area. In time, this repetition will evolve into a habit.
- The Briard should be kept under strict supervision until the housebreaking process is complete. The animal should not be allowed to roam freely around the house.
- The owner should use positive reinforcements when housebreaking puppies or adult dogs and should never resort to verbal or physical abuse.
- After each nap, meal, drink or playing session, the Briard should be taken to the dog’s designated area.
- One may also implement dog crates. However, they should be gradually introduced to the animal.
Obedience and Rules
The Briard must learn how to behave properly or the pet may grow to become disobedient. A firm “No” or “Down” should convey the idea that such behaviour has to be avoided. The same rule applies when the animal attempts to jump over guests. The owner should make a point that this is an inappropriate behaviour and should maintain this view until the habit is cured. Depending on the owner’s lifestyle, the dog may be prohibited to do certain activities and allowed to perform others. For example, if one does not want the Briard to climb on one’s furniture, then such behaviour should never be allowed. It is important for the animal to learn the meaning behind the word “No” in order to stay obedient.
- The dog should be trained through negative behaviour or treatment.
- Positive behaviour should be rewarded, while negative – ignored. This method will allow the dog to associate the bad action with not getting a treat.
- Repetition is key in ensuring that the pet learns and remembers well.
- The owner has to be generous with rewards, but they should be bestowed only when deserved, for example when the animal does the tasks correctly and in the correct stance.
Briards are quick learners and possess an excellent memory. They perform almost any dog activity well, from catching Frisbees to backpacking. Many Briards have earned herding and obedience titles, as well as tracking degrees. They have proven to be adequate candidates for search and rescue work. Because of their appeal and trainability, Briards are also often featured in television, movie and stage productions, as well as in various forms of advertising.
The Briard is a long standing breed of French working dog. It originates from France and dates back to the 8th century. In the past, Briards were used to fend off wolf packs, however the increase in human population and the following French Revolution shifted the focus towards more peaceful activities. Some of the newly defined tasks included guarding the broods, keeping the sheep within the fences and protecting the properties of their masters.
There exist two theories regarding the origin of the breed’s name. The more popular one states that they originated from the ancient region of Brie, an environ of Paris. The more romantic alternative recalls the name as a distortion of Chien d’Aubry. A 14th century legend claims that Aubry de Montdidier, a courtier of King Charles V, built a cathedral in memory of a valiant Briard who saved his son’s life.
It is believed that Thomas Jefferson imported the first Briards to the United States. In 1928, the American Kennel Club issued an official recognition. To much surprise, the Briard was not introduced to the United Kingdom until the late 1960s. Instead, the first dog came from Ireland in 1966. The first ever litter in Great Britain was born on March 1969 from Irish imports, while the second – in November the same year. In November 1973, the breed was registered in the British Briard Club, while in 1974 the animals earned championship status.
Briards retain their intelligence and willingness to please their masters to this very day. They can be stubborn and independent, which may result in an indifferent behaviour towards strangers. As with other sheepdog breeds, they may express dominant or an aggressive attitude. Their chasing and guarding instincts are also likely to be preserved, which may incite the Briard to hunt for birds, chickens, cats or cars.
Briards possess outer coats and undercoats. The outer coats are slightly wavy in appearance, have a coarse texture and are about six inches long. The undercoat layer, on the other hand, is soft and smooth. These coats require thorough brushing and combing in order to keep them in a healthy state. A daily brushing routine is recommended, in addition to a bath every six to eight weeks.
- The Briard’s teeth should be brushed at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and bacteria.
- Nails should be trimmed once or twice a month, unless the dog is able to wear them down naturally.
- The Briard usually has rear dewclaws that also require trimming.
- Dog toenails contain blood vessels and may bleed if injured.
- The dog’s ears should be checked on a weekly basis for redness or bad odour, both of which may indicate an infection.
- When the Briard’s ears are checked, they should be wiped with a cleanser-dampened cotton ball.
- The Briard should become accustomed to brushing and examination practices. This process should be started while the animal is still a puppy.
- As the dog is groomed, one should check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness or tenderness.
The first step to successful grooming lies in regularity. When dogs are groomed carefully once or twice a week they remain clean and attractive, almost eliminating the need of bathing. The Briard’s coat texture is generally referred to as “goat’s coat” and is relatively easy to maintain. The hair should feel smooth to the touch and should naturally fall into undulating locks.
Grooming around the animal’s face may prove to be problematic as most dogs dislike such practices. One safe approach involves holding the puppy by the beard and brushing from the nose down the sides of the mouth. The owner should make certain that the top of the head, the area behind the ears and that around the eyes are all kept clear of tangles.
Pet shampoo should be used at the earliest possible moment. Unlike older dogs, puppies are generally easier to handle. To do so, one has to wet the dog’s entire body besides the head. The body should then be shampooed and rinsed well. The head should be then cleaned in a similar fashion. The owner should make sure to plug the dog’s ears with cotton wool and to protect the Briard’s eyes from getting into contact with shampoo.