Did You Know?
In 1863, a dog-lover named Pierre Megnin first explained the difference between the two brave and fearless breeds, Briard and Beauceron. They were the best sheepdogs of the time. Through selective breeding, dog owners were successful in softening the temperaments of both these breeds.
The Briard is an ancient, large, French breed of dog. Being French, he doesn't like strangers, but is always affectionate towards people with whom he is familiar. These large dogs were traditionally used for herding and flock guarding. They are born to fight off predators and hence, are ideal watchdogs. During the first and second world wars, Briards were used for carrying supplies and messages to battlefronts. They also had helped to search wounded soldiers. These smart and energetic dogs can be trained and used for rescue operations, or for other type of police or military work.
The Briard is an independent thinker, and you need to have patience to train him. Although he is brave and fearless, he is loving and playful too. He is so loyal that he is often called 'a golden heart wrapped in fur.'
Head and Muzzle
Briard has a large, long, and rectangular head and long ears. The eyebrows turn up and out in a curve, so that the eyes are not fully covered. The square-shaped nose is black and moist. Briards have large, black/dark brown eyes that are partly covered with hair. The dark pigmentation along the rims can be easily noticed. Vigorous and alert, a Briard's exceptional hearing ability makes him an excellent watchdog.
Although, the dog likes to work as a flock guardian, he also makes a great family companion dog. The coarse, hard, long, and dry outer coat needs regular grooming. The tail is also covered with long hair, and has a J-shaped bend (curved outwardly) at the end. The feet are large and roundish and the nails are black. The double dewclaws are characteristic of Briards. These claws, mounted low on each rear leg, look like additional toes. Because of these claws, the rear feet appear wider. These claws enable the watchdogs to turn quickly or to completely turn-around. Such characteristic features make the Briard an ideal dog for herding and protecting flocks. Take a look (image below) at the wide muzzle, eyes, pigmentation, long mustache, and beard of a Briard.
Coat and Color
Briard has a double coat. The outer coat is quite long (it can be 6-7 inches long on the shoulders). The bushy eyebrows and shaggy long beard and mustache somewhat hamper his looks. Long hair give him a bushy look, however the long, shining, slightly wavy locks are considered as a symbol of his health. The movement of a Briard is often described as 'quicksilver.' With regular grooming, the dog looks smart and attractive. The undercoat is fine, short, and tight all over the body.
The coarse outer coat is non-shedding. But the long, wavy locks can tangle and mat easily. So, the dog needs daily brushing. Well-groomed dogs shed very little. Regular grooming is essential, if you want to have an attractive and healthy Briard. Clean the inside of the ears and cut the nails whenever required. Excessive hair in the ears, or between the pads of the feet, should also be removed.
Briards are intelligent and ambitious, and can think on their own. The owner of a Briard needs to be a strong person since raising a Briard is not an easy job. The owner should be stern, strong, and confident enough to control the dog. He should compel him to do the things as ordered. He should exercise the dog first, and then may show his affection towards him. Otherwise the Briard might become stubborn and hostile. The owner cannot ignore him and let him do what he wants. He should keep him occupied in some kind of activity. The dog would be happy only if he is entertained and kept busy in games and activities. He needs continuous attention. He would not like intruders. He would love the family members only. If someone teases him, he might snap and bite.
So, you need to train and socialize the puppies (especially with small children). Once they grow up, they won't listen to you. The dog shows tendency to hurt people by nipping at their heels. He should to be instructed not to do so. Without early training and perfect handling, the dog might become aggressive or depressed (exactly opposite). You should be firm but not harsh. With consistent training (it would require lot of patience), you will have a wonderful, sweet-natured, and caring family dog.
Common Health Problems
Briards are generally healthy, but some are prone to Stationary Night Blindness (SNB). As it is a congenital disorder, it can be detected through a DNA test. Older pets may suffer from PRD-progressive retinal degeneration or PRA- progressive retinal atrophy. Premature degeneration of nerve cells at the back of the eyes can result in blindness. It is an inherited eye disease. Cataracts and hip/elbow dysplasia are some of the common problems faced by older dogs. Like other breeds, Briards can also suffer from stomach problems like bloating, upset stomach, etc. Hypothyroidism can lead to hair loss, obesity, epilepsy, lack of energy, and certain skin conditions.
As the dog's most common job has been herding, a Briard is happy when he is allowed to lead a busy and active life. They are agile and powerful, and love to be outdoors, but are equally happy when inside the home. If you are staying in an apartment, make sure that the dog is sufficiently exercised. He will be moderately active indoors and will be more comfortable and happier, if the house has a medium-sized yard. He will not be able to adjust and live in a kennel. He loves to be a part of the family. Being a working dog, a Briard needs to be exercised regularly. Otherwise he may become restless and may develop behavioral problems. Take him for a long walk or let him run alongside your bicycle (or when you are jogging). He would enjoy running as well as swimming. A Briard is a loving and faithful dog, and is extremely happy when the master has ample time to play with him.