Briard - From Police to Therapy work

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The Briard is a large French purebred bred originally to be a herding dog but used today in a large variety of roles such as police dog, military dog, watchdog, search and rescue work, service dog, therapy dog and of course as a companion. It also does well in certain dog show events including tracking, dog agility, obedience, carting, flyball, showmanship, herding and Schutzhund.

The Briard at A Glance
Name Briard
Other names Berger de Brie, Berger Briard, Brie Shepherd
Nicknames None
Origin France
Average size Large
Average weight 50 to 100 pounds
Average height 22 to 27 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Long, fine
Hypoallergenic No
Color Grey, black, tawny
Popularity Not very popular – ranked 135th by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – well about average
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle warm and somewhat hot climates but nothing too hot
Tolerance to cold Very good – able to live in cold climates just not extreme
Shedding Low – not much hair will be found around the home
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – potential to gain weight is there but not especially prone
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – needs regular brushing as well as other care
Barking Occasional – will be some barking but not constant
Exercise needs Fairly active – needs a fair amount of physical activity each day
Trainability Moderate easy to train for people with experience
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Good but best with people with experience
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization
Good with strangers Moderate – wary, need socialization to ensure it does not turn to aggression
Good apartment dog Moderate – best in home with space and a yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – can be left alone for short periods
Health issues Fairly healthy breed but some issues include joint dysplasia, eye problems, bloat, cancer
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic medical needs and for pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and for treats
Miscellaneous expenses $655 a year for grooming, basic training, miscellaneous items, toys and license
Average annual expenses $1410 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,100
Rescue organizations Several including the Briard Club of America Rescue and the Briard Rescue and Haven
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 4 Maimings: 2 Child Victims: 1 Deaths: 1
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The Briard's Beginnings

The Briard was around for many years in France, its ancestors being around possibly as early as the 700s. However it was one of two types of sheepdog, the other becoming known as the Beauceron and that separation did not happen until the mid 1800s. Before that they were viewed as the same dog but with different coats, the Briard having the long coat and the Beauceron the short. Up until breeders took an interest in the Briard it was known to be brave but aggressive and would snap at people to defend its flock. Its role was to defend its flock from wolves, other predators and poachers or thieves but it could learn a variety of commands too. It was also used for other farming needs including making sure the sheep did not eat the crops grown close by and helping the farmer with chores.

In 1863 there was a dog show in Paris and after that the Briard started gaining in popularity. In 1897 the first french shepherd dog club was formed into which both the Briard and the Beauceron were accepted. With selective breeding the temperament of this dog was softened. It had some famous owners over the years, Thomas Jefferson, Charlemagne, Lafayette and Napoleon for example.

During the first world war it was used by the French army to search for the wounded, detect mines, carry food and ammunition, as messengers, and as sentries. They had to learn to be independent thinking as they would be left to sometimes to decide themselves how they would achieve a task. However the breed suffered a great many losses during this time and nearly became extinct as a result.

New Lease on Life

Thankfully breeders were able to bring the breed back to stronger numbers though outside of France it remains a rare breed. It is thought Thomas Jefferson brought he first Briards to the US in the 1920s and the AKC recognized it in 1928, a lot earlier than the UK who did not recognize it until the late 1960s. In France it is still used in some areas as a working farm dog, guardian and herder. But it has a lot more varied roles as mentioned already and has done especially well in the French military and police forces. In the US it is more often kept as a companion or show dog. It is ranked 135th most popular registered purebred by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

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The Briard is a large dog weighing 50 to 100 pounds and standing 22 to 27 inches tall. It is a powerful looking dog with males having a height and body length that are about equal and females being a bit longer than they are tall. It has strong legs, large round feet and black nails. On the back feet it can have double dewclaws though in some places where it is allowed they might be removed. It has a feathered tail that has a crook at the end and is low. The Briard has a double coat, the inner coat is tight and fine, the outer is long (6 or more inches), hard, coarse and dry. It lies flat and hangs down slightly wavy. It can be any color except for white though common ones include grey, tawny and black.

The head of this breed is large, rectangular and long and the hair on it hangs down to the eyes but it does not completely cover them. It also has facial hair including a shaggy beard, mustache, and long eyebrows. It has a wide muzzle and a black nose, squared and open nostril. Its eyes are set far apart and are dark brown or black. Ears can be natural or in places where it's still allowed they can be cropped.

The Inner Briard

Temperament

This is certainly an alert breed coming from a background of watching and guarding so it will bark to alert you to intruders as well as act to protect you, its family and home. It is fearless and brave and will do whatever it feels it has to. Because of that protectiveness it is important it is well socialized so that it does not over react to certain situations or to strangers for example. As it was allowed independence in both its role as a farm dog and in the wars it has a mind of its own, is intelligent and that can make training harder as it will want to do things its way not yours. It needs owners who are able to be strong leaders, it can be okay with new owners but is best with experienced ones.

Briards are very spirited and their personalities can vary from being clown like and playful to serious and reserved. It does have the potential for aggression but if properly raised with its owners and family it is loving, sensitive, affectionate and loyal. It bonds very closely with its family in fact. It barks occasionally and is wary of strangers but should be gentle and kind. It is important that it gets enough attention, activity and mental stimulation, it is not a dog happy to be ignored all the time and it does not like its owners being absent for lengths.

Living with a Briard

What will training look like?

For people with experience the Briard is easy to moderately easy to train. It is intelligent and can train, some are even eager to please. Results will be gradual but they will happen as long as you are firm, confident, consistent and stick by the rules you set. Unfortunately a lot of adolescent and adult Briards can end up in shelters or rescues because too many people with no experience get them and then cannot handle them. It is important as the owner you are the clear boss, the pack leader, the one it must obey. It can become stubborn, withdrawn, willful and very difficult if that is not clearly established. Avoid being harsh with it, being firm does not mean scolding it all the time. You can still use positive techniques, offer it praise and encouragement, use treats to motivate. Early socialization is just as important as basic obedience training. From an early age you should be exposing it to different places, people, sounds, animals, dogs and so on. The more it can get used to these things early on, the more likely it will be able to respond appropriately to them when older. Briards not socialized can become suspicious, aggressive or even excessively shy which in itself can also lead to aggression.

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How active is the Briard?

It is a very active breed, and is agile and powerful. It is not suited to apartment living as it needs a large yard or some land and it also needs owners who are committed to being active. If not being kept as a working dog it needs daily exercise in the form of a couple of long walks, joining you for hikes, bicycle rides, jogging and even swimming. It also needs some time somewhere safe off leash where it can run free and safely. It is fast and able to make very abrupt turns and start with a spring so make sure it is leashed when not somewhere safe. Also just as important as the physical exercise is the mental stimulation too. It needs engaging and sometimes challenging things to do and a chance to vent a lot of energy, if it does not get that it gets bored, over excited, will act out and that includes barking and destructive behavior like chewing.

Caring for the Briard

Grooming needs

One of the other things an owner of a Briard needs to be committed to is the upkeep and maintenance of it, as this will require a lot of effort. It has a long coat which means it tangles easily and collects debris and burs. It will need daily brushing and you can expect to be spending at least 2 hours a week on it in all, as long as you are keeping up with everything. If you let things go, it will need more time spent on it to fix it and be warned without frequent brushing its coat quickly becomes a matted mess. If you want you can opt to use a groomer to keep the coat shorter which would need less time from you.

It does shed a moderate amount so there will hair around the home. You will need to vacuum daily but that daily brushing can help keep on top of how much loose hair is around. Only bathe it when it really needs one and only ever use a dog shampoo when it is time. Bathing too often, or using incorrect products can damage the natural oils it needs in its skin. If size is an issue you can look for a groomers that has professional bathing stations they will let owners use, or you can pay the groomer to do it for you. This is a shaggy and typically messy dog. It will walk in leaves, mud and such, will drip water over the floor when they drink, or rub it on you when they come over. Be prepared to clean up after it and to give its face and beard a wipe and clean a few times a day!

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Remove excess hair from its ears and feet or have a groomer do it. Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week. Its nails will need trimming with proper dog nail clippers, if it does not wear them down from its activity. Take care not to clip too low as there are blood vessels and nerves in them so if you catch those you will cause it to bleed a lot and it will hurt a lot too. Again have a groomer take care of it for you if you are not familiar or are worried. Its ears should be cleaned once a week, just with a wipe not by inserting anything into the ear. You should also check for infection at the same time.

Feeding Time

It will need 3 to 5 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals to avoid problems with bloat. How much it will eat does vary somewhat from one dog to another as it depends on their size, metabolism, activity level, build, age and health.

How is the Briard with children and other animals?

Briards are good with children if they have been socialized and it really does help too if they have been raised with them. In the right homes where they know their place in the home they are affectionate with them, playful, energetic, loving and protective too. For example they have been known to step in to protect children who are being scolded or punished by their parents. It is a good-natured dog but it does not like to be teased so it is better with older children who have learned that. Make sure children are taught how to approach dogs safely, how to touch them kindly.

It does like to push people and animals around herding them, so that will need training so it does not do that to children or pets around it. Around other dogs it can be aggressive or defensive if the other dog is dominant and pushing at it, particularly if it is the same sex as it is. It can learn to get along with other pets but it can have strong prey instincts so may try to chase strange cats or other small animals.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Briard has a life span of 10 to 12 years and is somewhat healthy but does have some issues they are prone to such as eye problems, hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat, hypothyroidism, von Willebrand's disease, CSNB and cancer.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people doing bodily harm in Canada and the US over the last 35 years, the Briard is mentioned in 4 incidents. 2 of those attacks were more serious maimings where the victims were left with scarring, loss of limb or disfigurement. One victim out of the four was a child and there was one death. Given these attacks happened over such a long span of 35 years this averages at just 1 attack doing bodily harm every 8 years or so. This is not a dog to overly concerned about as long as you are prepared for how much exercise and mental stimulation it needs, and as long as you are ready to give it training and socialization. However keep in mind it is a rare dog in those two countries, it is possible there are more reports in other countries including the one it comes from, and also any dog can have a bad day and have something happen that makes them over react.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Briard puppy will cost around $1100 for a pet quality dog from a decent breeder. For a show dog from a top breeder you will always have to pay more, several thousand or so. Be warned that it is likely you will have to be put on a waiting list but this is far preferable to getting a dog from somewhere less desirable and trustworthy like a pet store, puppy mill or back yard breeder. Briards left at rescues if you can find any are going to be cheaper, around $200 to $400 and will have medical needs taken care of but it is more likely to be an adult aged dog rather than a puppy.

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When you have your dog or puppy there are some things it will need. A crate for example, collar and leash, food bowls and such, and these items are going to cost upwards of $180. Then there are medical needs to be dealt with straight away such as micro chipping, deworming, neutering or spaying, blood tests, shots and a physical. These costs come to about $290.

Ongoing costs are another factor of being a decent owner. Your dog will have needs such as food, toys, health and so on. For a good quality dry dog food and dog treats you can expect to pay anything from $270 or more. For miscellaneous costs like grooming, toys, license, miscellaneous items and basic training you can expect a figure of around $655 a year. For basic medical needs like shots, flea and tick prevention, check ups and medical insurance the estimated yearly cost is about $485. This gives a total annual starting figure cost of $1410.

Names

Looking for a Briard Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

Male and Female Briard Names

This is a large but agile and quick dog, it has a shaggy long coat so not only do you have size to prepare for you also need to be committed to its high grooming needs and its general messiness. It is very important that you are ready to socialize and train this dog and that you can give it lots of exercise and are active yourself so you never resent its needs and underestimate them because you just do not feel like it. There is some potential for animal aggression and dog aggression and that is much more likely if that socialization and training is not present. With the right home though it is loyal, protective, loving, adorable and sweet.

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