The Briard is a large, powerful herding dog native to France. In addition to herding the dog also holds excellent watchdog instincts. The breed has an excellent sense of hearing.
The long, plush, wavy double coat comes in shades of black, gray and tawny, and darker colors may be seen around the mouth or ears. White is commonly mixed with another color; solid white coats are excluded from conformation events.
The head is large and rectangular with high set ears covered with hair. The eyes are either black or dark brown, and the nose is square and black. The appearance of the hair on the head and ears can appear as if the dog has pigtails or side ponytails. The paws are large as expected in a large breed dog.
The average height ranges from 22 to 27 inches with a weight range of 70 to 100 pounds. The average life expectancy of a Briard is around 12 years although some may live longer.
Briards are old French dogs with depictions dating back to the 8th century with their likeness woven into tapestries. The dogs were initially used as defenders against poachers and wild predators, but in later years their duties shifted to herding and guarding.
The first description of the breed standard was written by a club of breeders in 1897. A French society for the breed was later formed in 1909. The club disbanded because of World War I but reconvened in 1923. Briards used as military dogs were said to have amazing instincts when leading medics to wounded soldiers on the battlefield.
The first litter of American Briards was documented in 1922 from a breeder in Massachusetts. The Briard Club of America was founded in 1928, the same year the breed was acknowledged and added by the American Kennel Club.
Briards are intelligent and eager to learn, and they can be trained with patience and consistency. They are reserved with strangers and can be independent, so leadership is necessary. Without leadership Briards can become fearful, unfriendly and even aggressive, but this is rare with proper training and a regular exercise routine. Training should start as soon as you add the dog to the family. Because they are so intelligent they can get bored easily.
They are dedicated to their family members and are sensitive to the emotions of people with whom they are close. The breed has exceptional hearing and is a great watchdog. They have an instinctive desire to herd and may nip at heels in an attempt to fulfill their instincts. They are good with children if properly socialized, but they do not respond well to teasing. There can be dog aggression, so slow and controlled interactions with other dogs may be required.
This is a very active dog breed with herding instincts, and like most dogs with a job to do they need regular exercise to expel energy. Briards should be taken for long walks or jogs each day to prevent behavior problems. They are active indoors and can do well in apartments if their exercise needs are met. They are also known to enjoy swimming, but consider the heat outside because of the dog’s double coat.
Note that Briards do not mature until around 18 months, so exercise needs up until this point will be much more minimal. Short walks are recommended but not long jogs or hiking. The bones are still soft during this time and only need gentle exercise as they grow.
This video shows Franze the Briard playing, running and following commands, and it helps to provide an idea of the size of this breed:
The Briard’s coat needs daily brushing to prevent mats, reduce shedding and check for any debris picked up outdoors. Excessive hair between the paw pads and inside the ears should be trimmed regularly.
Double dewclaws are common, and these should be trimmed when trimming the other nails. The double dewclaws are usually on the rear paws with single dewclaws on the front paws. The teeth should be cleaned on a regular basis.
This breed does not molt or shed its coat during the year like other breeds, so a few minutes spent brushing the coat each day should be sufficient to keep the coat healthy. The hair around the face and ears also needs to be brushed to prevent tangles and trapping debris from eating and outdoors. It is not unusual for a neglected Briard’s coat to become completely matted, so grooming should not be overlooked.
Common Health Problems
The Briard does not have a long list of hereditary issues, but the following conditions have been known to affect the breed:
- Eye problems (progressive retinal atrophy or PRA)
- Hip dysplasia
- Congenital stationary night blindness
- Skin conditions
Because of the prevalence of eye problems in this breed, it is important to ask for medical records or tests on a puppy, the parents or an older dog. There are tests which can identify which eye problems may be present, and some of these tests include DNA. Presence of congenital stationary night blindness can be tested for, and dogs with this result should not be bred.
Is the Briard the Right Dog for You?
Briards are big, busy dogs with active lifestyles. They need an owner who can commit to their exercise requirements and pay attention to their grooming to maintain optimum health.
They can do well in apartments, but it would require a commitment to long, daily walks or jogging. Adopting or buying a dog of this breed should be carefully considered and not done on a whim.
The breed is friendly with children but does not like being teased, so proper socialization is required on both parts. Health problems are minimal, so with a commitment to exercise, grooming, consistent training and socialization, a Briard could be a good choice for your next pet.
Adopt, Don’t Shop
If you are interested in this breed, check for an adoptable Briard first. Purebred dogs end up in rescues and shelters every day. If you decide to contact a breeder, be sure to ask for medical tests on the parents of the dog and be observant for signs of a puppy mill or irresponsible breeder.