Briard

Briard

Temperament: Courageous, Intelligent, Loyal, Protective

Size: Large

Life span: 12

Weight: 41 kg

Breed Group: Pastoral Dogs

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Overview

The Briard is one of the ancient breeds of dogs that originated in France. It is a large breed typically weighing in around 25 to 40 kilos (males being heavier) and standing between 58 to 69 cm from withers (males standing higher than females). It has double dewclaws on each of the back legs, a characteristic of the breed. The double dewclaws are mounted low on each back leg and help the Briard pivot on one foot during quick turns or complete turnarounds when herding flocks. The double dewclaws also give the Briard the appearance of wider rear feet. Another characteristic of the Briard is its unique long and slightly wavy outer coat which is uniformly black, fawn or grey. The outer coat length is typically 7 cm or longer and very dry. The head carries a moustache, beard, and eyebrows which add to the rugged appearance of the Briard. A dense undercoat helps protect the breed from extreme weather. It also has a large black nose, large dark brown eyes that give an intelligent and gentle expression and fairly short ears covered in long hair. When the Briard is alert, the ears are lifted slightly and swing slightly forward. It also has a long tail and well covered with long hair with an upward hook at the tail tip.

History & Origin

The Briard or Chien Berger de Brie (sheepdog of Brie) as it is known in its native of France, is an old breed dating back in history as far back as Roman Emperor Charlemagne in the 800 AD, where it has been seen in tapestries and relics of that era. However, its ancestors most certainly originated much earlier and evolved through time by natural selection for the unique qualities required in its purpose. The Briard is said to have originated in the ancient region of Brie and is the most numerous among the breed of French sheepdogs. It has been used for many centuries as a working dog, helping farmers and herders flock sheep and guard homes. With its stature and independent nature, the Briard was an excellent guard dog, able to ward off wolves, other predators and thieves. In the 1780s, then US Ambassador to France Thomas Jefferson purchased a female Briard from Marquis de La Fayette and brought it back home to America. It is also written that Napoleon Bonaparte took in exile with him his two Briards when he was exiled in 1815. During the First World War, the Briard was extensively used by the French Army as a search and rescue dog, sentry dog, and carried ammunitions, supplies, and messages to the front lines. The first Briard imported to the UK arrived from Ireland in 1966 and was first shown publicly in the UK in 1967, while the first direct import from France was in 1969. That same year, the Briard qualified for Crufts which saw the formation of the breed’s club four years later. More recently, Briards helped in search and rescue efforts in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010.

Temperament

The Briard is a true working dog, highly intelligent, independent but with a gentle heart. It is highly protective of its home and family members because it was bred to guard both livestock and homestead in its native origin. As a guard dog, it is naturally aloof with strangers. It forms a very deep bond with its owners to the point of being emotional when left alone and jumping for joy upon the return of its owner. To the Briard, the family members are the flock and any stranger may be perceived as the predator so early socialisation is mandatory to correct or minimize this natural instinct to defend. As an independent thinker, it has a tendency to become strong minded and stubborn. A strong herding ability runs deep in the breed’s veins that even for a Briard raised in an urban environment, this attitude will manifest when the dog tries to nibble an ankle or bump its head into its master’s feet.

Training

It is naturally aloof with strangers because of its instinct to protect so it is important that the Briard is introduced to different situations (people and places) at a very young age if it is to be kept solely as a well-balanced pet. Socialisation at an early age can be done through walking along areas where there are other dogs so that the Briard will become accustomed to seeing other animals and people. Pet stores, dog parks, and malls are good places to take the dog for socialisation purposes. It is a highly intelligent breed, quick to learn and has a sharp and good memory, which makes it fairly easy to train. Once a new experience or a new command is taught, it will remember it for a very long time. Dog agility trials, showmanship events, flyball, Schutzhund, tracking and herding events are some of the activities that the Briard can compete in.

Grooming

The double coat of the Briard does not moult (shed) but it requires a considerable amount of grooming. Training the dog to be groomed should also start at an early age, preferably during 8 – 10 weeks so that the dog will be accustomed to being brushed. Inspect the feet for any debris that might have been stepped upon as well as for mats which must be removed to avoid discomfort. Brush the coat layer by layer, which means lifting the top hair to expose the inner coat, brushing it down until getting to the outer coat. This makes sure that all tangles are taken care of. To groom the face, hold the dog by the beard and brush the hair from the nose down to the sides of the mouth. Lift the ears up to brush the hairs behind the ears. The top of the head and around the eyes should also be clear of tangles. Clip the dew claws with dog nail clippers from time to time. Grooming must be done daily to prevent matting which can cause serious illness to the skin.

Health

The double coat of the Briard does not moult (shed) but it requires a considerable amount of grooming. Training the dog to be groomed should also start at an early age, preferably during 8 – 10 weeks so that the dog will be accustomed to being brushed. Inspect the feet for any debris that might have been stepped upon as well as for mats which must be removed to avoid discomfort. Brush the coat layer by layer, which means lifting the top hair to expose the inner coat, brushing it down until getting to the outer coat. This makes sure that all tangles are taken care of. To groom the face, hold the dog by the beard and brush the hair from the nose down to the sides of the mouth. Lift the ears up to brush the hairs behind the ears. The top of the head and around the eyes should also be clear of tangles. Clip the dew claws with dog nail clippers from time to time. Grooming must be done daily to prevent matting which can cause serious illness to the skin.

Exercise

The Briard matures when it is around 18 months old, so until this age, exercise must be kept to a minimum to prevent injuries. Short walks are enough up to this age. However, an adult Briard should have regular daily exercise routines to keep it healthy. Long walks or jogs for about an hour will make the Briard happy. It is best to live in a home with a large fenced yard or in a countryside setting where it can run free off the lead.

Children and other pets

This highly affectionate and gentle giant has been proven to be a very good companion with children of all ages. Most Briards are territorial when it comes to other animals, owing to their natural guarding instinct. However, this breed is usually good with pets in its own home especially if raised with them from puppyhood.

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