Learn About The Briard
'A Heart Wrapped in Fur'
Gaby Morlay - Actress
About the Briard - is the Briard the right breed for you . . . read on
Learn a bit about the Briard!
Briards are a medium to large breed (58-69cm / 23-27in) similar in size and weight to a Old English Sheepdog or German Shepherd Dog. They are strong, muscular, extremely agile and supple with a long shaggy coat. Usual colours are black (often with scattered white hairs through the coat), slate grey or various shades of fawn ranging from a pale cream to a deep rich gold. Fawn Briards may or may not have black muzzles and ear tips and often have varying amounts of black or grey shading across the neck and shoulders. The coat of an adult is 30cm or longer. Texture is slightly wavy and quite coarse (described as a goat like coat) with a medium undercoat. The tail is long with heavy feathering and hangs down low with an inverted 'J' shaped 'hook' at the end. The head is quite large and in all colours but the blues always with a black nose. The blue dogs are dilute blacks and as such have paler pigment and eye colouring. Eyes should be dark and have a gentle expression 'with a depth that is moving to the beholder'. Ears are medium sized, hang down (i.e. not 'cropped' as they often are in USA and some European countries) and very mobile and expressive. There should be ample beard and moustache hair and a long 'fringe' covering the eyes and ears - and yes - they can see through the gaps in the fringe!! A requirement for the breed ring is the presence of double dew-claws on the inside of each back foot, these should be as low to the ground as possible and in many dogs actually function as extra toes. Briards can be expected to live to 12-13 years of age with a significant number living to 14 and some until they are 15. With very few exceptions they remain active and healthy with few signs of ageing until a sudden final illness overtakes them.
Briards are very intelligent - quick to learn but quick to take advantage of any lack of determination on the part of the owner. (You must be absolutely certain that he's not allowed on the bed or he'll keep pushing till you give in!!!) Described as 'gay and lively' -they enjoy life and show it - 'full-on'. They can and do spent time asleep tucked away in a corner when there is nothing happening - but they are just conserving their energy for when it really matters! Extremely affectionate - they live for their owner's company and are happier lying at (or on!) your feet while you sit reading a book, than outside playing without you. They will follow you all through the house - even into the bathroom!! They are excellent guard-dogs without being vicious. With their acute hearing nothing gets by un-noticed (very reassuring if you are alone in the house at night!). They bark only as a warning, but when they do, both bark and growl are fearsome!
Adult Briards are amiable, tolerant and enjoy children of all ages and puppies are fine with children over 4 years old. Boisterous puppies however, can become too overwhelming for some pre-schoolers to cope with. This applies particularly when parents are on the steep learning curve of first-time large-dog ownership. In their home country of France they are often referred to as the 'babysitter dog' or the 'doormat' dog. Because a Briard's greatest enjoyment in life is to be with you, sharing in the family activities, he needs to be largely an indoor dog. The greatest cruelty you can inflict on a Briard is to keep him shut outside 'missing out' when his family is at home. For such a boisterous dog they make excellent house dogs and are very quickly house trained.
Briards need the company of 'their' humans so they are not a suitable breed to be kept permanently outside. If an outside run is required while owners are out at work it needs to be at least 2m x 2m x 3m long with a roof and a snug kennel attached. Briards are naturally 'home' dogs - their home and family is the centre of their world so they are not inclined to wander - but they do still need secure fencing. This doesn't need to be a 2m high fortress - but it must be puppy-proof from the outset.
Briards are not fussy eaters and can be fed a variety of foods including pet-roll, fresh mince, raw chicken necks or whole raw chicken carcasses, mixed with a good quality dog kibble - and they will gratefully accept any table scraps as well! It is not recommended that you feed them totally on dry food. Puppies will cost more to feed as they grow very fast and require larger quantities and a better quality food for the first year.
The beautiful shaggy coat must obviously be cared for, but it's not as time consuming as you might think. You need to allow an hour or two once a week but if you miss a week it will take longer the following week. Briards don't have a thick undercoat and the top coat is almost straight and fairly coarse, so they are easier and quicker to groom than many other long coated breeds. Briards don't have an annual moult so regular grooming minimises the amount of hair shed around the house. No trimming is required for a Briard. A good quality boar bristle brush, a pin brush, and a steel tooth comb are the basic implements needed to keep your Briard looking its best. They are double coated and do shed.
Briards learn most things quickly and easily provided you set limits and stick to them consistently. But as with any breed they will pick up bad habits just as easily if allowed. Although Briards can and have been trained for competitive obedience and agility, on occasion their innovative streak can produce interesting variations to standard exercises! They will NEVER become ring robots. It is strongly recommended that you take your Briard to obedience school. They still retain very strong herding instincts and can successfully be trained to work sheep. (If there are no sheep available, they will herd duck, chickens, children - or anything else that comes to hand!) Herding as a dogsport is one way of keeping your Briard exercised. In France, many farms still use the Briard as the primary herding dog. Briards are happiest to be sharing your company whatever you are doing. They will love long walks where they can explore ahead but continually return to 'check in' with their owners. As a bonus they can reliably be taught to come when they are called. They also enjoy being around water and most are tennis balls fanatics!!
Undesirable traits to be warned about
Because Briards have been bred for centuries as watch-dogs on remote French farms, by nature they tend to be reserved with strangers. (Though once they have accepted and made friends with someone they will never forget.) To counteract this natural aloofness, Briard puppies must have plenty of 'socialising' while they are young. This will in no way lessen their effectiveness as guard-dogs. Puppy pre-school classes are an excellent way of starting the socialising process. Many vet clinics now hold weekly classes as do some obedience schools. A young Briard's exuberant display of affection (while welcomed by most owners) may seem overwhelming to some people who may be happier owning a quieter, less demonstrative breed.
The Australian Briard Standard
The Briard Template
All breeds have a 'Breed Standard' . Think of it as a template for a dog. The standard descibes what a Briard should look like, the ideal height, weight, height to length ratio, the shape and length of the skull, jaws, even the alignment of teeth. It also gives a brief description of the desired temperament, original purpose, coat length and feel and allowed coat colours.
Good breeders breed to preserve a breed, these are called 'preservation breeders'. These breeders breed as closely as possible to the breed standard. They are constantly testing their breeding dogs (which are usually bed dogs !!) in the show ring and also in performance fields. This is extremely important as it gives an unbiased view and opinion on the structure, temperament etc of the dog. Performance sports test character, fit for purpose, trainability, willingness and ability to work with a handler, fitness and soundness - again extremely important elements of any breeding stock, be it dogs, cattle , horses or sheep.
In Australia our Briards are judged and bred to the English Kennel Club Standard of 1994
Link to Standard https://dogsaustralia.org.au/members/Breed/Detail/154