The Core of a Briard
"He is a dog at heart, with spirit and initiative, wise and fearless with no trace of timidity. Intelligent, easily trained, faithful, gentle, and obedient, the Briard possesses an excellent memory and an ardent desire to please his master.He retains a high degree of his ancestral instinct to guard home and master. Although he is reserved with strangers, he is loving and loyal to those he knows. Some will display a certain independence."
from the AKC Standard for the Briard
The Briard is an ancient French breed, also known as the Chien Berger de Brie. Briards are depicted in artwork going back to the eighth century, and described in records from the fourteenth century. They have a rich documented history through the centuries.
Thomas Jefferson imported Briards into this country in 1789. One hundred and thirty three years later, the first litter of Briards was registered with the American Kennel Club.
The Briard is a herding dog, bred to work. They will assist the shepherd in taking the flock out of the farm yard, safely down the road, and into a field that has been partly harvested. The Briard acts as a living fence, a boundary, left with the flock to keep them in the harvested part of the field, away from the crops they must not touch. When it is time, the Briard gathers his flock, and moves it back to the farmyard.
As you can tell, the type of herding they do demands a certain independence and use of judgment, which they can also display in family life. In times past, they may have been used to live with the sheep and protect them. Thus, like most herding breeds, they are naturally protective of their people, and by nature can be suspicious of strangers.
When thinking about living with a Briard, it is very important to remember what they were bred to do, as it helps in understanding if they are the right breed for you.
How much time do you have for a dog?
The Briard takes a large amount of time. Socializing, training, and grooming all eat up huge chunks of time, and all are essential.
Are you physically capable of dealing with a Briard?
Briards are strong, large, exuberant dogs. They can easily knock over a child, and can set an adult on his or her backside. Briards must be trained, and that training, even with a puppy, takes some physical strength. Once trained, an adult, settled Briard is a joy to be with.
Do you understand the Briard is a house dog?
These are not dogs that can be left in the backyard when you are in the house. They insist on being with their people. The Briard will only flourish as a house dog.
Can you cope with a dog who will follow you from room to room, and never wants to be apart from you?
Seriously, even moving through your house changes when you have 70 to 90 pounds of dog always wanting to move with you. And they love to lay in doorways, in front of the stove or sink, and right by the bed, ready to be stepped on.
Can you be consistent and fair in training?
Briards don't do well with mixed messages. They need reward-based, consistent, on-going training to be successful companions.
Can you say "NO" and mean it?
Briards are smart, sometimes manipulative, often dominant, can be stubborn, and are very inventive. An owner who tries to negotiate with a Briard usually loses. You must be able to recognize when NO is appropriate, and be effective in conveying that to the Briard, without using harsh training methods.
Can you live with dog hair?
No matter how well you brush a Briard, you will find clumps of hair in corners, and will learn to have a clothes lint roller handy. They do not blow coat like a Labrador or a German Shepherd, but will lose more coat than a poodle.
Can you live with trails of dripping water, dirt, mud, etc in your house?
When they drink, they drip from that beard. When they go outside, they bring the outside in. We sometimes call them "velcro dogs" because of what can stick to the coat. Clean up is constant, and remember, they won't be happy unless they are in the living areas of your home, with you.
Dirty windows are an identifying feature of many Briard homes - that wet beard can obscure a view very quickly!