Vital Stats:Dog Breed Group: Herding Dogs
Height: 1 foot, 10 inches to 2 feet, 3 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 70 to 100 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
Often called "a heart wrapped in fur," the Briard makes a great family dog. He is devoted to his owner, happiest following you around the house while you do chores or watching you watch television on a rainy day.
The Briard is an ideal companion for someone who wants a lovable, but not overly dependent, dog. A member of the Herding Group, he weighs in at around 75 pounds and lives comfortably in the country or city — as long as he's with his family and gets sufficient exercise.
The Briard is an intelligent breed and a quick study when it comes to training, though he can be stubborn and want to do things his own way. Owners must be prepared to establish pack leadership from an early age or the dog is likely to take a shot at the role himself.
With a strong instinct to herd, it's not unusual for him to try to gather or keep the children or adults in his family within certain boundaries. He may nudge, push, or bark at his "flock."
The Briard's wariness of strangers makes him an excellent guard dog, and he's forever ready to defend his family and territory if he perceives danger. With the proper training and socialization, however, you can encourage him to be more accepting of outsiders. A Briard puppy should be introduced to many new and different people, places, and situations during the first year of his life. These early experiences help ensure you have an adult Briard with a positive outlook on life.
There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, the Briard does extremely well with children. If you're bringing a Briard pup — or any dog — into a house with kids, it's important to teach both how to interact with each other. If you do not have children, but plan on doing so in the next few years, it's essential that you socialize your puppy to children.
- The Briard needs daily grooming. Although his coat is considered low- to non-shedding, it tangles and matts easily. If you do not have the time or patience for grooming, consider another breed.
- The Briard is naturally independent, which is a wonderful quality if your puppy has been trained properly. However, without training, that independent, confident puppy can turn into an unmanageable adult.
- The Briard must be socialized early to avoid aggression toward people or animals he doesn't know. Briards were bred to be guard dogs and still take this role seriously.
- The Briard enjoys being with his owner. He does best when he is allowed to hang out with the people he loves.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Briard originated in France and can be dated back to the 8th century. He was known as the Chien Berger De Brie, which is believed to be derived from his place of origin, the region of Brie (although the Briard was found in many parts of France).
A more romantic explanation exists as well — that is, the name is 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.
Regardless of the origin of the name, the Briard can be linked back to the Emperor Charlemagne through his depiction in early tapestries. The Briard has also been linked to Napoleon and was the official breed of the French Army.
It is believed that Thomas Jefferson imported the first Briards to the United States, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1928. Surprisingly, the Briard was not introduced to the United Kingdom until the late 1960s.
Males stand 23 to 27 inches tall and females stand 22 to 25.5 inches tall. Most Briards weigh between 70 and 90 pounds, though some males can reach 100 pounds.
The typical Briard is brave, loyal, and intelligent. He is good-natured and loving with his family, and thrives on participating in family activities. In spite of his large size, he is essentially a housedog. He doesn't belong in the backyard by himself, but curled up next to you while you sip mint tea.
A protective guardian, the Briard can be aloof with strangers. He also can be stubborn and willful, but with plenty of encouragement and positive reinforcement, he can be persuaded to come around on both counts.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner.
Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like any dog, the Briard can become timid if he is not properly socialized — exposed to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when he is young. Primary socialization should be with people outside the household. Socialization helps ensure that your Briard puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Briards are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Briards will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Briards, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this is also a degenerative disease. It's believed to be caused by abnormal growth and development, which results in a malformed and weakned joint. The disease varies in severity: the dog could simpy develop arthritis, or he could become lame. Treatment includes surgery, weight management, medical management, and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Congenital Stationary Night Blindness (CSNB): CNSB affects dogs in varying degrees. It can be as slight as difficulty moving in poor light to total blindness in a dim light; it can also mean complete blindness in any light. Research is underway for genetic testing.
- Hypothyroidism: This is a disorder of the thyroid gland. It's thought to be responsible for conditions such as epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma ,and other skin conditions. It is treated with medication and diet.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina. Early in the disease, affected dogs become night-blind; they lose sight during the day as the disease progresses. Many affected dogs adapt well to their limited or lost vision, as long as their surroundings remain the same.
- Von Willebrand's Disease: Found in both dogs and humans, this is a blood disorder that affects the clotting process. An affected dog will have symptoms such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums, prolonged bleeding from surgery, prolonged bleeding during heat cycles or after whelping, and occasionally blood in the stool. This disorder is usually diagnosed between three and five years of age, and it can't be cured. However, it can be managed with treatments that include cauterizing or suturing injuries, transfusions before surgery, and avoidance of specific medications.
- Cancer: Symptoms of canine cancer include abnormal swelling of a sore or bump, sores that do not heal, bleeding from any body opening, and difficulty with breathing or elimination. Treatments for cancer include chemotherapy, surgery, and medications.
- Gastric Torsion: Also called bloat, this is a life-threatening condition that can affect large, deep-chested dogs such as Briards. This is especially true if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat is more common among older dogs. GDV occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in the stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen and is salivating excessively and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak, with a rapid heart rate. It's important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you see these signs.
The Briard can adapt to city or country life. He is a fairly calm breed when inside, but he does need 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily. Without enough activity, the Briard can become bored, paving the way for annoying or destructive behaviors like barking, digging, chasing, and chewing. Dog sports, especially herding trials, are a good outlet for his energy and hone his natural herding ability.
The Briard puppy must learn who the pack leader is or he'll try to assume the position; therefore, training should start as soon as the Briard puppy comes home. This doesn't mean he should know advanced commands by 9 weeks of age, but he should be learning proper manners and rules of the house right away.
Crate training can be an important aid — it helps with housetraining and keeps your pup safe when you're away — but remember that he should be with the family (not in his crate) when you are at home.
Because the Briard is naturally suspicious of people outside his "flock," it is important to encourage your Briard puppy to be friendly with strangers. If a Briard is not properly socialized and trained, it can lead to aggression toward people or animals he considers a threat.
Recommended daily amount: 3 to 4 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your Briard in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
Coat Color And Grooming
Although considered a low- to non-shedding breed, the Briard has an outer coat and undercoat. The outer coat is slightly wavy with a coarse texture, about six inches long, while the undercoat is soft and fine. You'll see it in a variety of colors, or combination of colors, including black and shades of gray and tawny.
Do you have several hours a week you can devote to grooming your Briard? If not, consider another breed. His fabulous coat requires quite a bit of brushing, combing, and fussing to keep it looking good. A thorough brushing every day is recommended, plus a bath every six to eight weeks. Like all dogs with fluffy coats, the Briard can get dirty easily, so you're in for muddy paws, leaves or burrs tracked into the house, feces on the hindquarters, or a wet and dirty beard.
If the idea of keeping up with the Briard coat is overwhelming, consider hiring a professional groomer to help. You won't get out of regular brushings between groomings, but bathing and drying the coat is much easier in a salon equipped with waist-high tubs and high velocity dryers. It's especially easy when you're paying someone else to do it!
Brush your Briard's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. The Briard usually has rear dewclaws so don't forget to trim these, too.
Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you're not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your Briard to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children And Other Pets
A loving and playful companion, the Briard makes an excellent family dog. He is protective of the children in his family, and has been known to "defend" them when parents discipline.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party.
Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
If the Briard is raised with other dogs and pets, and learns they are members of his pack, he gets along fairly well. However, his prey drive is strong, so training is necessary for him to learn not to chase the family cat or quarrel with your Beagle. Supervision is a good idea, as animals outside his immediate family are likely to trigger his instinct to give chase. Keep him on a leash when you are in public.
Briards are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Briards in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Briard rescue.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Briard.