Briard

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
 
Photo of adult Briard

The Briard is a large breed of dog that belongs to the pastoral group of breeds. As the names suggests, it originates from the Brie region of France and was used as a multipurpose farm dog with a particular talent for herding. Today, the breed excels in various working roles, such as a search and rescue dog, guard dog and as a companion. The Briard is an energetic breed and needs an active lifestyle with plenty of mental stimulation to keep it happy and healthy.

The Briard is a happy, lively breed that is exceptionally loyal and very intelligent. Its loyal nature means it is often very protective of its family and can therefore make an excellent guard dog. The Briard does not shed but has a long coat, which requires almost daily brushing to keep it in good condition. The Briard can suffer from some hereditary health problems, so careful selection of a healthy line is important when choosing a puppy.

About & History

The Briard is also known as the Berger de Brie and was previously called the Chiens de Berger Français de Plaine. The breed originates from the province of Brie in France and is thought to be one of the oldest European herding breeds, where its routes have been traced back as far as the 12th century and is said to have been popular with Napoleon. The Briard was originally a multipurpose farm dog, predominantly used for herding and guarding, but during the World Wars, it was used as a search, messenger and ambulance dog. The breed standard for the Briard was first established in the 1860s.

Its use in the World Wars almost led to the breed’s extinction and its numbers were greatly depleted. Despite this, it has survived and it continues to be used as a working dog today in a variety of roles, as a police and army dog, in search and rescue work and as a guard dog and companion.

Appearance

Briard Large Photo

The UK Kennel Club only accepts three colours of the Briard for registration. This includes:

  • Black
  • Fawn
  • Slate Grey

The Briard should stand between 58 and 69 cm at the withers, and female dogs should be slightly smaller than males. The length of the body should be a little greater than the height to the withers and the breed should be of a medium build. The neck should be muscular and of a reasonable length, allowing the head to be carried proudly. Shoulders should be set at a considerable angle and the front legs should be strong. The breed should have a wide chest and level topline, with a slight slope after the croup. The back legs should be straight and with plenty of muscle. A notable feature in the breed is the presence of double dewclaws on the hindlegs.

The Briard should have a rounded head, where the skull is equal in length to the muzzle. The muzzle should be strong and wide and appear square with a large nose. The lips should always be black and the jaws should form a scissor bite with strong white teeth. The eyes are reasonably large and again should have black pigmentation around the rim of the eye. The ears should be fairly short and set high on the head, covered with plenty of long hair, lifted high when the dog is on alert.

The Briard should appear to move effortlessly, covering plenty of ground with a supple, quick movement. The strong back legs should provide plenty of drive to the gait.

Character & Temperament

The Briard is a happy, lively breed that is extremely loyal and intelligent. The breed can be suspicious of people it does not know, so should be well-socialised and exposed to new situations from puppyhood. The Briard’s loyal nature means it can become very attached to its owners and can therefore be prone to suffering from separation anxiety. The Briard is best supervised around children, especially when they are young but once used to them will develop a strong bond with them. The Briard’s brave and protective nature, in addition to its size, means that it makes an excellent guard dog.

Trainability

Photo of Briard puppy

The Briard can have a strong and naturally suspicious character, so consistent training from a young age is essential, particularly because of the breeds size. However, the breed is intelligent and usually quick to pick up on house training and recall. Most Briards have some natural herding instinct and plenty of mental stimulation or a purpose in life helps to keep them amused and stop the development of destructive behaviours. The Briard will get along with other dogs and pets if it is socialised well from a young age.

Health

The Briard has an average life expectancy of 10 to 12 years of age. It is classed as a Category 1 breed by the UK Kennel Club with no specific points of concern, but there are some health conditions where testing is mandatory for Kennel Club Assured Breeders. These include:

  • Hip Dysplasia (HD) – This condition is a caused when the hips develop abnormally, either due to one or several developmental problems or abnormalities, which commonly lead to joint problems and pain later in life. Dogs over a year old have their hips radiographed and these radiographs are scored by experts, using a range of established criteria. The maximum score for both hips combined is 106 and, the lower the score, the fewer abnormalities are present. Hip dysplasia in the Briard is transmitted genetically but environmental factors can also play a role.
  • Congenital Stationary Night Blindness (CSNB) – This degenerative condition is genetic and causes blindness at night, with varying effects on day vision. The condition usually becomes evident in puppies from the age of 6 weeks old.
  • Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy – Progressive retinal atrophy refers to various inherited diseases which affect the retina. These can be either developmental or degenerative. Developmental types tend to progress rapidly and occur in younger dogs, and degenerative types progress more slowly and occur in older dogs.
  • Ectopic Ureter – This condition is congenital and means that the ureter develops in an abnormal position relative to the bladder. In female dogs, this is often seen as incontinence but may not be as obvious in male dogs. The constant dripping of urine can cause urine scalding, as well as other problems. Treatment for the condition requires surgery with the aim of relieving the discomfort caused to the dog, however, dogs may still be incontinent after surgery has been performed which is tricky in this area.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Briard is an active breed of dog that was bred to work and therefore needs plenty of exercise. Around two-hours of walking a day are necessary to keep the breed happy and healthy when it is fully mature. Ideally, as much of this time as possible should be spent off the lead and this means that the Briard is much better suited to either a working home where it has plenty of mental and physical stimulation or a country environment where it has plenty of space.

Grooming

The Briard has a long, shaggy looking coat that is rough to touch and slightly wavy. Underneath this course undercoat, it should have a fine, insulating undercoat. The Briard does not shed but should be brushed regularly, nearly on a daily basis to prevent hair becoming matted and dirty. It is important that the dewclaws, which are present on the breed’s back legs, are clipped when necessary to ensure they do not become overly long and cause damage. Although the breed’s coat is not typically clipped, this may make day-to-day care easier and less demanding.

Famous Briards

Some examples of famous the Briard include:

  • Ruff, the Briard from Dennis the Menace.
  • Sam Sheepdog, the Briard from Looney Tunes.
  • The pack of Briards from the film, Buddy.
  • Cho Cho, the Briard from the film, Karate Dog.
  • Reno, the Briard from the film, Top Dog.
  • Buck, the Briard from the sitcom, Married… with Children.
  • Tramp, the Briard from the sitcom, My Three Sons.

Cross-Breeds

One of the more popular Briard cross-breeds is the Bridoodle, which is a cross between a Briard and a Poodle.

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