The Briard is a French breed of working dog. Tapestries from the 8th century depict Briards, and they are described in 12th century records. They were originally employed as guard dogs, protecting their owners from wolves and other dangers. As the land became safer, though, they shifted to protecting herds of sheep instead of people. Their herding instincts can still be seen today as many people use them as farm dogs.
Briards have been a beloved breed throughout the centuries. They have stood by the side of many historical figures, including Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Thomas Jefferson. The French army used their acute hearing to search for wounded soldiers. Although they were very hard workers, they didn’t become widely popular until after they were bred with the Beauceron and the Barbet.
At first glance a Briard can be mistaken for a large mop! They sport an extremely thick, luxurious coat that requires a fair amount of grooming. In fact, owners of a Briard can expect to spend a few hours a month (or even a week) keeping their coats clean and untangled. Their coats come in a variety of colours. The face will generally be a little lighter or darker than the rest of the coat and features eyebrows and a beard. The height of a Briard should be between 58 and 69 centimetres and their weight around 35 kilograms. The average lifespan of a healthy, well-cared for Briard is approximately 10 to 12 years.
Centuries of herding and guard duties have lead to the Briard being a large dog. They have developed an extra claw low on each back foot. This extra digit is called a dewclaw and most likely helped the Briard pivot on one foot, keeping it agile enough to chase runaway sheep.
The Briard’s history of herding can lead to some difficulties in a home setting. They consider their family their flock and any stranger could be a potential predator. Proper socialization can help train away this instinct. It is crucially important that a Briard puppy be introduced to people and animals of all ages early on. Introducing him to new situations and people will help him learn that new things are not a threat. Briard puppies also tend to go through a few fear stages, so continuing to put him in the company of other puppies will help him be less timid.
Being a working breed, Briards need plenty of exercise both on and off the lead, daily walks are a must and they also make great jogging companions. A Briard who is not allowed sufficient exercise and stimulation may find their own ‘work’ to do such as herding and protecting their family. Young Briards have soft bones until they reach adulthood at around 18 months and should not have rigorous exercise until after this point.
Briards have been described as having “a heart of gold wrapped in fur”. When properly socialized, they are extremely loyal and protective. Their long history of herding has made the Briard into a very intelligent breed that used to thinking for themselves. This can make training a little difficult, but once they learn a lesson they will retain it.
Briards are a very healthy breed. There are no problems specific to the breed that they suffer from. Any health problems are ones that are shared by all dogs, such as cancer, hip dysplasia, and bloat.
Briards make a very loyal and protective pet, but they requires a little more time and attention than some other breeds. Grooming alone can take up quite a lot of time. Briards require lots of love and affection from their owners and don’t do well in isolation. With the right environment, however, they make a wonderful, loyal pet.