Briard

For as long as historians have kept track of herding breeds working the pastures along with their master, one breed stands out as a constant and that is the Briard. Indeed, this French product represents the epitome of what a shepherding dog should look like.

Almost comical is the breed’s appearance, the Briard is one of four French sheepdogs and along with the Beauceron, the oldest.

However, this isn’t just some burly, fury sheepdog. In fact, the Briard is so much more than a herding breed.

So what else does this breed bring to the table aside from their intelligent herding skills?

Here is what you need to know about the Briard.

History

The Briard is an exceptional breed, with ties so deep, that historians claim the former King of Franks, Charlemagne, was in possession of the breed during the 8th century. According to those historians, there were French tapestries depicting the former King with large Briard types. 

However, that part of the breed’s history appears to be more conjecture than anything without full concrete proof. There is evidence, however, linking a breed by the name of Berger de Brie to an agricultural show in 1809, which was put on by local farmers namely, Abbott Rozier. 

For the better part of the 1800’s, the Brie made appearances under the umbrella of “French Sheepdog.” Moreover, fanciers and breeders around the 1880’s began distinguishing the sheepdog into two types; smooth coat and longer hair coat.

It was the 1890’s, that gave this breed much more promise and led to things happening such as the formation of The Club des Chiens de Bergers Francais in 1896, as well as an ideal breed description written the following year, that breeders began using for the first time at dog shows.

This description for the breed led to a more conclusive type for the Briard. The formation of the Club des Amis du Briard in 1909 in France was supporting evidence.

A standard was written in 1925. In 1928, as the breed’s popularity grew around the world, the American Kennel Club gave the breed official recognition.

Briards were instrumental throughout the World War as ambulance and messenger dogs. Due to their versatility, the number of registrations continued to grow throughout France, Britain and the United States.

Thanks to their intelligence and hard work ethic, the evolution of the Briard saw a sheepdog transform into a multi dimensional dog.  Once a herding dog, now capable of doing many important tasks. 

In fact, even today, the Briard has many occupations. From sentry dog to ammunition carriers during the early 20th century. The Brie evolution has led to many clubs and recognition all over the world.

Today, the breed is still a herding/working dog. According to the American Kennel Club, the Brie is the 132nd most popular breed among their rankings.

Size

The Brie is a funny breed when it comes to size. Although they grow to be 100 pounds, they can be 55 pounds as well. With that in mind, the Briard is a large breed, according to the American Kennel Club.

Males should stand between 23 to 27 inches, while females can range between 22 to 25.5 inches.

Personality/Temperament

The Briard is a dog that can stand on its own. You can give them a job or a task, and the Brie will complete with little to no oversight. This is one of the reasons, that popular iconic figures like Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon were staunch enthusiasts for the breed.

With that in mind, the Brie needs a job or a task. They enjoy working and herding. Whether that is running around with the children, or protecting the homestead. This breed loves competing. Dog agility trials, Flyball, obedience, tracking, shows, etc. You can rely upon a Briard to get the job done. From their herding days, the Brie was given a task and left to their own devices. Some dogs need oversight but this breed operates on different cylinders.

Affectionate and loyal are other characteristics that define this breed. Yes, you can trust them with your children. However, keep in mind that this is a herding breed. This dog may not be able to define what is herding and harmful. For example, the Briard may nibble on the heels of a child in a form of herding. That’s a no-no, in which you should be able to break them of, with proper socialization and training.

Eager to please, the Brie is sometimes stubborn, but only because they tend to bore easily. That’s not to say that they are defiant by nature. That’s not true. The Briard is eager to please their master. For the most part, their intelligence and willingness to please makes them simple to train.

You may witness an aloof Brie towards strangers. Again, with the proper amount of socialization and integration, this shouldn’t be an issue. The Briard may view outsiders as a possible threat. The flock is their family, and as herding dogs, they may become quite protective of their family.

This isn’t a breed that likes to be left alone. Definitely an indoor dog. This breed thrives on human contact, companionship, and plenty of interaction with their family. One of the surprising traits found in this breed is their ability to be emotional. It is said that the Brie may cry when sensing a long departure from their family or master. 

All in all, the Briard is a versatile dog capable of many great feats and is a great choice for companionship.

Health

The Briard enjoys a relatively health life and has a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. That said, they can be prone to certain issues that other breeds with deep chests encounter. Rapidly growing dogs or large breeds tend to suffer from issues like Hip Dysplasia and Bloat.

Bloat is a disease where the dog’s stomach twists or rotates around its short axis. The cause of this is typically an excess of air or gas that the dog can’t properly exert from its system. This can be incredibly painful, at times fatal, and leads to discomfort as well.

Hip Dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal disease found in dogs. This is a malformation or abnormal growth in the hip joint that leads to lameness, discomfort and sometimes, osteoarthritis. Common in many breeds like the Hound group, Barbets, etc.

The leading killers for this breed are cancer along with Gastric Torsion or Bloat. While it’s unclear if Lymphosarcoma is hereditary, experts do know that this is the most common form of cancer found in this breed. 

Other issues affecting the Briard include Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This eye disease gradually deteriorates the retina rod cells. This can lead to night blindness and sometimes complete blindness. Along with the Cocker Spaniel, the Brie is prone to acquire this disease at a higher frequency than other breeds.

Night blindness or Congenital Stationary Night Blindness, Cataracts, Hypothyroidism, allergy and skin issues are also on the list of things to watch for with this breed.

Of course, when you buy a Briard from a breeder, you avoid many of these issues by purchasing from a reputable breeder. A reputable breeder will be able to provide you with the proper documentation and health clearances you need to make an inform decision. Also, you should make routine visits with your veterinarian. 

Care

The Briard needs early socialization with different walks of life so that your dog can interact with others as an adult without issue. They do require a positive and firm hand. Someone with consistency. Engaging and interesting socialization tactics will help keep your Brie from boredom and will ensure a more sociable dog.

They do need regular exercise from about 45 to 60 minutes per day. Again, you can walk, run, bring them to a dog park, play flyball, or anything that provides mental stimulation towards the breed.

Briards are fine with children and other smaller pets, yet they do require a bit of supervision to break them from their herding traits.

This breed adapts well, but again, their herding traits require someone who can help with that transformation. Whether it’s a farm home, or an apartment, this breed should be able to adapt with the right master. You do need to enforce who the master is in a positive fashion. As an independent breed, that is highly intelligent, at times, the Brie may challenge their hand if things become too routine.

Depending on your Brie and how they operate for you, whether they work or not, you may need to bathe them weekly or once a month. 

Most Briards require some extensive grooming. Most owners suggest two to three hours per week due to their longer coats. 

Feeding

How much your Brie eats depends on a few things. Elements such as their age, metabolism, and their activity will play a role in how much your Briard eats. That said, most breeders suggest adults eat between 3 to 4 cups of high quality food per day. Their dry kibble should have meat as the first ingredient. Items like lean chicken, turkey, lamb, or salmon should suffice their diet.

Of course, when you feed your Briard, you may want to consider feeding them twice per day. This will help reduce the chances of your dog acquiring Gastric Torsion or Bloat. 

It’s never a bad idea to throw in key supplements like Omega fatty acids and Taurine. This will help promote better coat care and heart health. Taurine and Omega also helps with the joints, which is resourceful for working breeds.

A working dog at 55 pounds should acquire about 2200-2300 calories per day. A 100 pound working dog should get around 3600 to 3700 calories per day. With that said, if you just have a therapy or companion dog, that weighs 55 pounds, then a diet of 1400 calories will suffice. Likewise, a 100 pound therapy or companion dog will only require 2200 calories a day.

As always, you should provide your Briard with fresh drinking water.

Coat

The Briard has a double coat, which helps protect them against extreme weather conditions. The undercoat runs tight against their body and has a fine texture. Their trademarks are the extra length of the coat around their heads. Interestingly, the Briard has eyebrows that do arch up.

The outside coat is coarse and feels hard. In fact, most breeders describe their coats as raspy feelings. You should notice longer lengths around their forequarters or shoulders.

They are infrequent shedders, which is nice, as it only requires weekly grooming. 

The colors that fit the standard are black, gray and tawny. 

The American Kennel Club doesn’t allow for markings.

Fun Briard Facts

  • Two men who were instrumental in bringing the Briard into the U.S. were Thomas Jefferson and Marquis De Lafayette. Both were staunch enthusiasts of the breed.
  • This breed has made many television and movie appearances including: Married With Children, Dharma and Greg, Addams Family, My Three Sons, and Get Smart.
  • Briards are also capable of being therapy dogs thanks to their intelligence and therapeutic values.

Closing Words

There’s a reason you keep a Briard for life. It is sometimes said that once you go with this breed, you stay with this breed. Perhaps that has something to do with the saying about the Briard,  “the heart wrapped in fur,” or their extreme dedication to work and loyalty to family.

For sure, this is a breed for the romantic type, with their dashing looks and elegant appearance. If you want something done right with little to no oversight, the Briard is the breed of dog you’ve been looking for.