Briard Dog History, Health And Care

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Introduction Of Briard Dog

The Briard, also known as the Berger Briard, the Chien Berger de Brie (Shepherd Dog of Brie) and the Berger de Brie, is an old herding breed that has been working in the French countryside for centuries. It was depicted in tapestries as early as the eighth century and was accurately described in writing by the fourteenth century. This breed is known for its steadfast loyalty and its heart of gold. Some of the earliest Briards to come to the United States were imported by Thomas Jefferson to protect his sheep flock. The Briard was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1928 and is a member of its Herding Group.

The Briard is intelligent and independent, with a fearless personality and a strong need to have constant companionship to reach its full potential. Briards are brave, wise, watchful, faithful and obedient. However, they tend to be reserved with strangers and can be overprotective. Early, consistent and continual socialization, training and positive reinforcement are necessary to bring a Briard successfully into the canine community. These clownish “hearts wrapped in fur” are happiest at the side (or on the feet) of the people they love.

The average Briard stands from 22 to 27 inches at the withers and weighs between 65 and 100 pounds. Smaller dogs and bitches are disqualified. The Briard’s distinctive appearance includes prominent eyebrows, a moustache and a beard, giving it an almost comical expression. The double coat should be slightly wavy, of moderate length and rough enough that mud and dirt are naturally repelled. The Briard requires regular grooming to prevent matting. It should have two dewclaws on each rear foot, a trait shared by most of the French sheepdog breeds.

Briard Dog Breed Quick Facts

Adaptability3/5
Affection Level4/5
Apartment Friendly2/5
Barking Tendencies3/5
Cat Friendly3/5
Child Friendly4/5
Dog Friendly2/5
Exercise Need4/5
Grooming Needs4/5
Health Issues2/5
Intelligence4/5
Playfulness4/5

Briard – Appearance & Grooming

Appearance

The Briard is a breed whose outward appearance does not quite give the correct impression of the dog. They have long, wavy double coats and have a “shaggy dog” appearance. While they may look like a fluffy teddy bear, the Briard is a strong, muscular herding dog who was built for working in cold, wet, less than ideal conditions for long periods of time. Briards come in a variety of colors, but white is not accepted. They have black noses and clipped ears that sit high atop the head. They have shaggy beards, eyebrows and mustaches, which are the distinguishing characteristics of the breed. Their muzzles are long and square. Briads have two dewclaws, which should be left in tact for the show ring. These dewclaws help with their agility in the field and also help create their everyday flowing, almost floating, gait.

Size and Weight

Male Briards should stand between 23 and 27 inches at the shoulder, while females stand between 22 and 25.5 inches. Males tend to be more squarely built than females, who may be a bit longer than they are tall. Males weigh between 80 and 90 pounds, whereas the smaller female Briards average between 60 and 70 pounds.

Coat and Color

The Briard sports thick, plush undercoat that acts almost as thermal underwear, keeping the dog warm and dry in cold, wet weather. The outercoat is very shiny and coarse, falling in waves across the dog’s back. Briards may look like large teddy bears, but they were built for hard work and their coats should appear long and rugged, reflected the rugged nature of the dog. Their coat comes in a variety of colors, and breed standard permits all solid colors except white. Black, gray and tawny are seen the most in modern Briards. Tawny puppies are born dark red or black and the coat lightens tawny by three or four months of age. By two years old, they continue to lighten to tan or white. As the adult coat comes in, the color again changes to deep gold or red and may continue to change for another four or five years.

Grooming Needs

The Briard’s coat is long and very high-maintenance. While no stripping is required, two to three hours per week of brushing is required in order to keep their thick coats from matting. As the Briard sheds, if the undercoat is not properly removed from the body, it will form mats. When brushed properly, dirt and debris is easily removed from the coat. They shed lightly year round, but will blow their entire coat twice per year. The coat of a Briard can grow to about five inches in length, which is the acceptable standard, and in fact, clipping can lead to disqualification in the show ring. Retired Briards, or dogs who will not be shown, can have their coats trimmed in order to pear down the weekly maintenance schedule.

Briards need to be bathed about once every six weeks. Over-bathing this breed can lead to natural oils in the hair and skin being stripped away, causing skin irritation and even infection. The Briard’s face and rear end may need to be washed more often, as their beards can hang into their food and water dishes, and their long hair can trap debris when the dog eliminates.

In addition to brushing and bathing, Briards should have their ears cleaned on a weekly basis with a veterinarian-approved cleanser to keep harmful bacteria at bay. Weekly tooth brushing will keep teeth and gums healthy, and prevent bad breath.

Briard – History and Health

History

The Briard is thought to have arrived in France during the Middle Ages, perhaps even earlier. It originally was developed to control and protect its owners’ charges (usually sheep) against poachers and wolves. Over time, following the French Revolution with the subsequent land parceling and population increase, the breed became used for more peaceful tasks such as keeping sheep within unfenced pastures and guarding its masters’ flocks and property. The French shepherds who originally developed this breed were frugal and practical, only keeping dogs with superior abilities irrespective of appearance. Because of their sharp hearing, Briards were used extensively as sentries and on watches during times of war, and were the official French army dog during World War I. The ancestors of the Briard are not entirely known, but apparently they were cross-bred in the 1800’s with the Beauceron and the Barbet to standardize their appearance.

Briards were first entered in formal dog shows towards the end of the nineteenth century, with an appearance at the very first French dog show held in Paris in 1863. The original Briard standard was written in 1897 by a club of French sheepdog breeders, and in 1909 the Les Amis du Briard (Friends of the Briard) kennel club was formed in France. This breed club was disbanded during World War I. The Briard’s eagerness to please causes them to overwork without regard to their physical or emotional limitations. As such, war service (including seeking out wounded soldiers and carrying food, supplies and munitions to the front) threatened the breed’s existence. A number of devoted breeders saved the breed from extinction. The French breed club was reformed in 1923 and adopted a more precise Briard standard in 1925. The Briard Club of America adopted this standard with minor modifications in 1928 and was recognized as the AKC parent club. The breed standard has remained essentially unchanged except for slight elaboration in 1975. Briards did not reach Britain until the 1960s, but thereafter they have attained and retained an enthusiastic following.

Thankfully, the strong genetic characteristics of the Briard have helped the breed withstand the uncertainties of time and the idiosyncrasies of mankind. The traditional attributes of the Briard include keen intelligence, loyalty, obedience and instinctive herding talent. Today’s Briards retain their herding instincts, often nudging their owners to direct them or alert them to anything unusual within their realm. They are versatile and continue to serve as tracking, disaster, search-and-rescue, police, guide and avalanche dogs. They also compete successfully in the performance and conformation ring. As few as two or three Briards can still successfully manage a flock of up to 700 sheep and cover upwards of 50 miles daily. Perhaps their best talent is as a loved and trusted companion.

Health

The life expectancy of the Briard is about 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include conditions associated with large breeds such as hip dysplasia and bloat. They also may be predisposed to cataracts, central progressive retinal atrophy, hereditary retinal dystrophy of Briards, congenital stationary night blindness, hypothyroidism and lymphoma. Their long coarse coat should be brushed regularly, but fortunately it is naturally repellant to dirt and debris.

Briard – Temperament & Personality

Personality

Affectionate but independent, Briards are an ideal choice for an active family. They have a lot of energy, love activity and are great with children. Briards can romp around all day with kids and are happy to hang out and relax along side mom and dad in the evening. This herding breed is alert and vigilant, making them excellent watchdogs. Their individual personalities can vary from clownish to serious, but they all love they are all people-pleasers with hearts of gold.

Activity Requirements

This sheep herding breed needs lots of physical and mental activity in order to remain happy and healthy. Farms are an ideal environment for them as they take working very seriously and can be counted on to keep flocks in line and to keep predators at bay. Families with large yards to play in are also great homes for Briards, but children should be supervised during playtime, as this breed might take to herding the kids in the yard. Briards herd by headbutting and pushing, so small children could accidentally get hurt by a well-intentioned dog.

Condominiums and apartments are not the ideal living quarters for Briards. They need a lot of space to move around and plenty of room to run, and daily walks won’t satisfy their daily activity requirements.

Trainability

Briards are highly trainable dogs and thrive on mastering new tasks. Training should always be done with a confident but gentle hand, as this breed is highly sensitive and boasts a long memory. A Briard isn’t easy to forgive someone who treats him harshly. Establishing leadership should be done as early as possible, because Briards are dominant and will move quickly to take over the role of “pack leader” in the home, unless otherwise put in his place.

This breed is fearless boasts excellent stamina. They can work all day alongside a farmer without losing steam and because of their versatility, trainability and endurance, Troops in WWI used Briards for a variety of tasks including, sentries, messengers and medic dogs.

Behavioral Traits

Brairds can be destructive if not exercised or stimulated enough, and they can make quick work of flowerbeds, furniture or even walls. A strong commitment to a Briard’s need for activity can keep houses from being destroyed.

The flock-protecting side of them makes them wary of strangers. This is good from a watchdog perspective, but bad for the neighbor who just wants to stop by and say hello. Early and frequent socialization is important to keep a Briard from becoming aggressive.

While they get along fine with family pets, Briards are often aggressive with other dogs. Again, this is part of their sheep dog heritage. Socialization is important, but new pets probably shouldn’t be introduced into a Briard’s house.

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