Breed Group: Herding

Temperament and Behavior

Bravery, loyalty, and intelligence form a Briard’s (Bree-ard) basic character. His acute hearing and frequently used booming voice make him an excellent watchdog. Bred for centuries as a guard and herding dog, they are aloof with strangers and will defend home turf with vigor. Like most breeds in the herding group, Briards are highly active outdoors with a high need for both physical and mental exercise. Failing to provide it will likely result in a neurotic or destructive dog. Briards can be very active indoors as well. But each dog has many individual traits. Most are clowns, some are dignified, some love to tease, some love cats, some enjoy parties, some are show-offs, and occasionally one develops the attitude of a reserved philosopher. But none will never be too old to play and all are especially devoted to the family’s children. He has even been known to protect “his” children from roughhousing playmates or parental spankings. Most are territorial with unfamiliar animals and aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex. Cats may or may not be safe with them. Owners of Briards must discourage their dog from poking and pushing people with their large heads in an effort to herd them, and clean up of his coat and beard is a constant reality for a Briard owner.
Physical Characteristics
Briards are large dogs growing to between 22 and 27 inches tall and weighing 50-100 pounds with females at the small end of these ranges. American bred Briards are often larger than their French counterparts. Briards are usually black, gray, or tawny in color. They have a coarse, slightly wavy, coat 6 or more inches in length, giving them an attractive, bushy look that complements their shaggy beard, eyebrows, and mustache. But that coat traps dirt and debris outside and requires frequent grooming to keep clean and prevent matting. Even after supplying the needed grooming, shedding is greater than average. They do fairly well in low temperatures but less well as the temperature increases.
Trainer's Notes
A Briard needs more socialization than most dogs. Begin as soon as you get your puppy and continue for at least the first year of his life. To counterbalance any tendency toward wariness, take him with you whenever possible encouraging people to pet him so he is exposed to strangers and the outside world. Many Briards are manipulative and stubborn making training difficult. They need a firm, consistent handler. At the same time, Briards are sensitive and may “shut down” if reprimanded harshly. For best results, trainers must find the right balance which varies with each dog. Briards need an experienced owner with plenty of time and space to provide for the dog’s needs.
Photo © by Caronna available under the GNUFDL
They are generally healthy dogs but about 15% have problems with Hip Dysplasia. Another concern common to dogs with a deep chest is Bloat. Less frequently seen is PRA. The Briard’s lifespan is 10-12 years.
Briards rank 121st in popularity, according to the American Kennel Club with about 300 registrations per year. They are far more popular in Europe, especially France, than in the US.
Breed History
Named for the Brie region of France, the Briard is an old breed with similar dogs depicted in art as early as the 8th century. More definitive evidence of the breed does not occur until the 14th century. The name Briard first came into official use in 1809. Originally the breed was used to protect flocks of livestock, taking on wolves if necessary. After the French Revolution, they were used as shepherds. There is evidence that both Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette brought some of the first dogs to America. During World War I the Briard was used in the field as a messenger, sentry, and in search and rescue.
Additional Information
Napoleon reportedly owned a Briard. Both Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette are credited with bringing dogs to America. Charlemagne was also a Briard owner. The National (US) Breed Club is the Briard Club of America.

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