Love in a fur ball!
The looks…Olive (Pic Courtesy: Irene Cotter, Furfetched Photography)
The Briard’s general appearance is a medium build, athletic, herding dog. Their proportions are slightly off-square. Their countenance is distinct with proud head carriage and agile quicksilver movement. Their glorious coat and athletic gliding feline-like movement are probably their two most distinct and notable physical traits.
They have a double coat – a coarse and dry outer coat, which lies flat and falls in long wavy locks and a fine and tight undercoat. The Briard comes in various shades of tawny, black and gray and a combination of those colours. The breed also comes in dilution of the tawny and black although neither is considered desirable.
The average height of males is 24-27 inches while that of females is 22-25 inches and they weigh around 35 kg.
In the history…
French emperor Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette all owned Briards. The dogs were used to run messages, detect mines, pick up trails, support commando actions, find the wounded and carry food and ammunition to the front lines.
The Briard is a working dog at heart and was developed in the beginning mostly as a guard dog and anti-poacher dog. With the advent of farming and the increase of population, they became an all purpose farm dog providing help with many of the farm tasks such as driving stock down the road to the fields, keeping stock in open unfenced grazes, and guarding the farm and family. Therefore, their basic temperament is one of protectiveness and discriminant tendencies. They are a dog who prefers to know their limited circle of family and friends and is intensely devoted to them. They must be thoroughly and constantly socialised outside of the home to strangers and new people for their first year of life.
The breed learns fast, has high drive to work and perform tasks, and has a developed sense of humour. They are a dog with strong opinions and an assertive nature. Briards are best in the hands of pet parents who are clear with setting and maintaining limits and boundaries.
Living with them…
Briards are a wonderful dog to live with. They are affectionate and loving to their family and friends, devoted and kind. Most would rather lie on the feet of their pet parents and that would be their favourite activity. The breed is rarely destructive, if raised right with boundaries and limits. They do not tend to be active in the house and even when young have a very sensible outlook on living within the confines of a house. Their sense of humour is one of their most delightful traits.
Briards are not usually a high energy breed. Exercise needs are the normal exercise given to any canine. Walking is good! As a young dog we especially feel it is good for them to get out and gallop and retrieve and get to stretch their legs at least few times a week.
Games to play…
Many Briards love to retrieve balls, sticks and frisbees. The breed loves games of chase and hide & seek. Tug of war with a stuffed toy is often a favourite, although it is discouraged from dogs living with young children.
Puppy care is no different that sound raising practices of any growing medium size breed. We suggest a crate for confinement when no one is home or watching. An excellent quality dog food is a must and of course fresh water. Briards are easy to train, easy to housebreak and easy to bond with. The breed’s socialisation needs are extremely high. The new pet parent must be aware of the high maintenance of this breed. The grooming needs are very demanding, being a fully and heavy coated breed. The socialisation requirements outside of the home are even higher and cannot be treated lightly. There is no shortcut to proper care and raising with constant socialisation away from home. Briards are not a breed for overly busy people unless the dog can be included in every aspect of the busy lifestyle which can be a plus for socialisation.
The coat must be line brushed on every inch at least once a week using a pin brush and slicker. This process can take 1-5 hours, depending on the age of the dog and quality of the coat. Weekly bathing and blow drying with line brushing like all drop coat breeds keep the coat clean and mat free.
Briards do not really shed hair. But hair does die. Short coat breeds shed that dead hair and it falls all around on the floor, furniture and clothing. Long coat breeds have the live coat entangle with the dead hair which is what creates mats. The brushing process removes the dead hair when it is not shed and prevents the dead hair tangling into mats.
Most responsible breeders screen for hip dysplasia by x-raying. The breed has gastric torsion which most likely has some hereditary basis. The breed is also screened for Stationery Night Blindness (SNB) with a DNA test. SNB is inherited through recessive genes. As breeders we also screen for eye disease health through annual visits to veterinary ophthalmologists. There is definitely an inherited basis for poor temperaments with some dogs displaying genetically inherited dog or people aggression.
On a concluding note…
When considering the Briard, first make sure the breed will fit your lifestyle. They need you to be comfortable at being their leader and in charge of reinforcing consistent boundaries and rules. Briard is not a breed for a person looking for an easy pet. They are a lot of work when you include the grooming needs and socialisation requirements. If you are not afraid of the work involved, there is not a more devoted, demonstrative or loving pet on earth.
(Terry Miller of Deja Vu Briards is based in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a dog behaviourist. Deja Vu Briards is home to almost 300 champions and holds every record for Briards. Deja Vu Briards is the home of the top winning male and female of all time and the top sire and dam of all time. Deja Vu dogs are exhibited all around the world and have won more Briard Club of America national specialties and group placements at the famous Westminster Kennel Club than any Briard kennel in history).
Briards we loved!
- Ruff – In the popular comic Dennis the Menace, Ruff is Dennis’ big, lovable, faithful dog, who follows him everywhere.
- Reno – In the film Top Dog, Reno is a police dog, whose handler was killed. He teams up with Wilder to investigate a plot by domestic terrorists to attack a conference on unity.
- Cho Cho – In the movie The Karate Dog, Cho Cho is a dog who can speak to humans and is an expert in martial arts.
- Sam the Sheep dog – In cartoon series Looney Tunes, Sam the sheepdog, is a large Briard Sheepdog with white or tan fur and mop of red hair that usually covers his eyes. He very rarely runs and tends to be sedentary in his movements.