Let's talk Briard

Shaggy and self-assured, the noble Briard dog is the epitome of devotion and quiet sophistication. Hailing originally from France, though no accent can be detected in their bark… the breed is true to their Gaulish roots as an affable dog yet one that can be standoffish until they get to know all in their circle. A true protector, the Briard breed has worked their way into the hearts of families after centuries as a sheep herding and guard dog. They are powerful and at the same time quite open, a winning combination as far as Briard lovers are concerned.

Official name: Briard

Other names: Brie sheepdog, Brie shepherd

Origins: France

Black and white portrait of a sitting Briard
 Drooling tendencies

 Very low

 Warm weather? Medium
 Grooming needs  Medium  Cold weather? High
 Shedding level  Very low  Suited to apartment living?  Very low
 Barking tendencies  High  Can stay alone?* High
 Energy Level* High  Family Pet ?* Medium
 Compatibility with other pets  Very low    

* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.

For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs.

Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.

Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.

All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

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Illustration of standing Briard
Male
62 - 69 cm Height
25 - 45 kg Weight
Female
56 - 64 cm Height
25 - 45 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 15 months
 Adult age 15 months to 5 years
 Mature age  5 to 8 years
 Senior age  8 to 18 years

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Get to know the Briard

All you need to know about the breed

With French breeding behind them, the hardy Briard exhibits some of the best aspects of temperament:  incredible intelligence, a fearless spirit, and great physical strength - not to mention style galore. That long coat is très chic!

Aaah, that coat. Splendid long flowing hair unmistakable to the breed. But hiding under the canine equivalent of a 60s mop lies keen instincts and a strong work ethic. Ever the protector, they are wary of any newcomers to their territory, even a new baby. Until the Briard deems it safe, they cannot have done their job to the best of their ability. In other words, their family is the flock that needs protecting and any outsiders are foreign entities.

Historically, the Briard dog has proven themselves to be indefatigable French sheepdogs, found in many parts of France dating from the 8th Century. His name though is derived from the region of Brie in the northeast of the country. Over centuries they were selectively bred for the guarding and driving of herds of sheep, developing into a very rugged and agile dog. Their large size made them capable of taking on predators, typically foxes and even wolves. To this day, the herding instinct is still strong, and if part of a family, your Briard may try to herd you!

The Briard’s behaviour is first-rate but they still need a firm, energetic owner. They are too intelligent to take commands mindlessly, and need to understand what’s being asked of them before taking on any task worth their salt. Training through force is a no-no, and has the potential to make them disobedient and worse, fearful. Positive reinforcement will be received well, and your Briard dog will give a lifetime of affection and loyalty in return.

The Briard dog breed is also endowed with an excellent memory and the ability for recall. They are thus used to showing a lot of initiative and finding solutions to any problem. They will consider, decide, then spring into action (something to think about if you’re able to take your dog to work!). As domesticated dogs however, socialising them early on brings out the best behaviour for the Briard, and means the family will have a best friend - and a guardian - for life.

Brown Briard sitting on grass

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2 facts about Briards

1. They remember

The superb traits of the Briard are plenty but among the more significant is their fantastic memory, even giving them the ability to recall tasks and take initiative in any given situation. They are known for it.

2. En garde

Briard dogs aren’t big fans of strangers, which makes them good in the security department. But proper socialising can help curb an overprotective tendency. Introduce your Briard to different situations, people and places from a young age, to get them comfortable with novelty.

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History of the breed

Descended from centuries of European guard dogs, Briards were found in many parts of France dating from the 8th Century. One of their first official recorded appearances however was in France in 1809 when they became known under the name Chien Berger de Brie, or Brie Shepherd Dog.

Briards proved themselves very useful to French farmers, doing double duty as tireless drivers and guardians of their herds. In fact, Briards are related to another French herding and guarding dog, the Beauceron.

The reputation of these strapping, loyal dogs was enhanced in the 18th Century through not one, but two celebrity owners. Napoleon was said to have owned a Briard dog, and Thomas Jefferson took a Briard back with him after serving as ambassador to France. The latter faithful dog is cited as the beginning of the breed in America.

Jefferson wrote in praise of this impressive breed: “Their extraordinary sagacity renders them extremely valuable, capable of being taught almost any duty that may be required of them … the most watchful and faithful of all servants.”

They proved their loyalty and stamina again and again as the official dogs of the French army during war time. In WW1 Briards went to work delivering supplies, doing sentry duty and finding the wounded.

close-up black and white portrait of a Briard

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Briards

1. Ears

Ears set high with distinct fold, broad at base

2. Head

Medium-size head, broad and slightly domed

3. Body

Petite, compact body, arched neck

4. Tail

Tail of long, fringed fur, rolled up on the back

5. Coat

Double coat, long, flowing soft outer coat, wooly undercoat

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Briard
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Beware of (possible) blindness

Nocturnal blindness, also known as retinal dystrophy, is a disease that is mainly found in the Briard dog. The condition is hereditary, and both parents must carry the gene to pass it on to offspring. Using a reputable breeder can of course reassure any potential owner that a Briard doesn’t carry the gene. This condition is often diagnosed late, so get your puppy’s eyes tested as early as when they are four to six weeks of age with a simple blood or saliva sample.

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Brush them at least once a week

Although they are known to be a low-shedding breed, because of their long shaggy double coats, Briard dogs will still need a good deal of regular grooming. The thicker coarser (think goat hair) outer coat typically grows about six inches long so it will need to be brushed at least a few times a week to remove dead hair and to prevent matting and tangles. Grooming your Briard daily will need to be a definite in the spring and autumn, the two times a year when shedding happens profusely as a natural course of the dog’s adjusting to a new season.

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Training day comes early

Briards are very smart dogs, but you’ll need to get in there early to establish pack leadership. They were bred to be independent and one to make decisions on their own, so they’ll need committed training with positive reinforcement. Briard puppy training, then, cannot be emphasized enough. Encourage them to act in a friendly manner when strangers come into the mix; they’ll understand with repetition and your communicating that new people and animals are compatriots rather than adversaries.

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Caring for your Briard

Grooming, training and exercise tips

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Despite not shedding much, grooming the Briard should be a regular practice, which means weekly brushing of his lengthy hair, to prevent it getting matted or tangled, and daily in spring and fall when shedding for the Briard dog is at their highest. Their distinctive long coat and undercoat endows them with good resistance to the cold and wet but its abundance demands attention. Brushing their teeth on a regular basis at home can be punctuated by a professional cleaning, too. Keep the Briard’s ears clean and get their nails trimmed too. Think of it as quality time well spent!

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Briards were bred to be self-sufficient, so don’t expect blind obedience. They’ll need to understand you to return good behaviour in kind, and very much require a gentle but firm hand. As a sensitive dog, they have a keen understanding of most situations but don’t respond well to harsh criticism as it brings out their negative aspects. Training your Briard is a joy when everything’s  in sync though. The breed is a robust, good size dog so training them to understand their limits needs to be kept in mind as well. Remember to maintain their interest, and use lots of positive reinforcement and treats along the way.

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So how much exercise does a Briard dog need? A lot. If you’re sporty, your pet will be delighted to accompany you on fast walks, hikes, bike rides, or even long runs. Don’t let the frou-frou appearance of the long fur deter you from believing this breed is an athlete at base. If your home isn’t comprised of many acres, a sizable garden or yard in which they can run around, or even a nearby park, could help them use up some of their excess energy. As they’re naturally sporty, Briard dogs do well in physical competitions like tests of herding, tracking, or agility.

All about Briards

Many dogs can lay claim to being great for a family but the Briard definitely settles in well with his human pack. On the homefront, his sheepherding traits transfer to his family, and the desire to keep them safe and secure kicks in. The Briard dog craves human companionship so is a bit of a velcro dog. They are at the same time quite independent when they feel your support. It’s a great team, for sure.

The Briard hails from France and has long roots in the nation as a herding and sheepherding dog. A tall and sturdy breed that’s quite muscular, the dog has traditionally been used for both rounding up flocks but also and guarding them - which is often not the case for dogs to be used for both purposes. They now take their place as beloved family dogs, protective of their human pack.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/