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Subject: rec.pets.dogs: Briards Breed-FAQ
This article was archived around: 14 Jan 2011 05:28:29 GMT
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 24 Jan 1900
There are many FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Briards
Copyright 1997 by Dianne Schoenberg.
Table of Contents
* The Dialog - How It Usually Goes
* About The Briard
* Working Ability and Temperament
* Getting A Briard
The Dialog - How It Usually Goes
Every Briard owner has heard it a thousand times:
What an adorable dog! What kind is it?
It's a Briard.
Is that a Bouvier?
No, it's a Briard.
Is that a Giant Schnauzer?
No, it's a Briard!
Is that an Old English Sheepdog?
No, it's a Briard!
Is that an Irish Wolfhound?
No, it's a BRIARD!!
A Briard. It's a kind of French sheepdog.
Oh yeah, a French Sheepdog--I know all about those!
About The Briard
What are Briards like?
Briards are medium to large in size (bitches 22-25.5 inches, dogs
23-27 inches tall) and have a distinctive long coat that comes in
tawny, grey, black, or a combination of those colors. They are a
herding/guarding breed, as are German Shepherds, Rottweilers and
I've never heard of that breed before.
Briards are among the more uncommon of the American Kennel Club
breeds, with only about 300 being registered per year in the U.S.
They are relatively more common in Western Europe, with populations
also present in the U.K. and Australia.
His ears are so cute!
In many countries (including the U.S.) the Briard's ears are
typically cropped so that they stand erect. When a puppy is 4 to 7
weeks of age, the breeder has the ear cropped into a round shape
(unlike the pointed crop of most other cropped breeds) and the ears
are glued together on top of the puppy's head. They heal quickly
and appear to suffer no permanent trauma from the operation. In the
U.K., Australia, and the Scandanavian countries, cropping is
illegal and ears are left natural. Sometimes fanciers in other
countries choose to leave the ear natural as well. The natural ear
is like an Old English Sheepdog's ear in that it is not supposed to
lie flat to the head but should be mobile and show some expression
when the dog is alert.
I didn't know that it is a cropped breed.
It seems to be one of the better-kept secrets of dogdom and a lot
of otherwise knowledgeable dog people seem unaware of this fact.
But yes, the ear you typically see on American dogs is the cropped
I know someone who had a Briard cross. We knew it was a Briard because
it had long hair and prick ears.
I've run into this misconception more times than I can count (even
in a respected dog magazine!) A long-haired prick-earred mix is
probably NOT a Briard mix, because a Briard's ears DO NOT naturally
stand. Most of the "Briard mixes" I have seen have actually been
Old English Sheepdog or Bearded Collie mixed with something
prick-eared like a German Shepherd or Siberian Husky.
They must shed a lot.
Actually, they don't tend to lose a lot of coat and don't generally
"blow coat" like many of the other double-coated breeds. Puppies
will lose their coats once or twice as they are growing their adult
coat and bitches will sometimes lose coat after a season or a
litter, although this is not inevitable. And when the undercoat is
shed, it stays in the coat (instead of coming out all over your
clothes and furniture) and must be groomed out or else the dog will
become matted. For this reason the breed is sometimes said to be
"non-shedding"; however, there is no such thing as a totally
Do they take a lot of grooming?
Short answer: YES.
Longer answer: it depends a lot on the dog's coat texture. The
ideal Briard coat is hard and weatherproof and doesn't take much
grooming. However, many dogs have softer coats that take quite a
bit more care. To be on the safe side, it is best to assume that
any Briard will take one to two hours of grooming a week, which can
be taken care of in one or two sessions of grooming a week (daily
brushing is not necessary). Also ears must be cleaned and toenails
clipped. Briards are not low-maintenance dogs.
Do you ever shave your dogs?
Most owners don't. The coat of the Briard evolved to protect him
from the elements in his work as a herding dog. It is a coat that
is practical either in cold or in heat. Briards are not typically
clipped or shaved. If you like the temperament of the Briard but
prefer a short-haired dog, there is another breed, very similar but
with short hair, called the Beauceron.
What's a Beauceron?
Basically, it's a short-haired Briard :-).
But the picture I have of a Beauceron doesn't look anything like a
Briard--it looks something like a Rottweiler or Doberman.
Under the coat, Briards and Beaucerons are actually very similar
and the breeds share a common ancestry--in fact, dogs show catalogs
did not distinguish between the two as separate breeds until 1893,
and the two continued to be interbred into the 1900s.
What are those funny things on his feet?
The breed standard for the Briard requires that the dogs have at
least two dewclaws (extra toes) on the inside of each back foot, a
peculiarity shared with the Great Pyrenees and a few other European
dogs. This characteristic was selected for by breeders in the
belief that the dogs with double dewclaws were the best herders. A
few dogs might be missing one or more dewclaws, and some owners
elect to have them surgically removed, but generally speaking this
is one of the defining characteristics of the breed.
Why do all these puppies all have names that begin with "M"?
The French have a convention of giving all livestock born in a
particular year a registered name beginning with the same letter.
For instance, 1996 was an "M" year. Doing this makes it easy to
read pedigrees, tell which dogs were littermates and guess how old
an animal is. Not every U.S. breeder follow this convention, but
the majority do.
What color is your dog?
Briards come in three colors: tawny, grey and black. Tawny is the
most common color in the U.S. A tawny may have gray or black hairs
in its coat but it will still be considered tawny if it is tawny on
any part of its body. One common variant is the dog that is gray or
black on its back with tawny legs and feet. This is frowned upon in
the European countries but is acceptable according to the AKC
standard. Tawny can range from a pale wheaten shade to a deep clear
The next most common color is black--approximately 20% of the
American Briards are black. In Europe, closer to 50% of the dogs
are black. Blacks may have scattered white hairs throughout the
coat; this is still acceptable in all countries.
Grey is a fairly rare color. There are only a few grey dogs in the
U.S. There are actually two types of grey: grey-born Briards, which
are called blue, and black-born Briards, which are called grey. The
two types of grey are inherited differently. Blue Briards may not
be shown in the U.S., but it is an allowed color in Europe.
It says on this pedigree that my dog's grandfather was a
"Rassemblement Select." What does that mean?
Every four years or so at its national specialty the Briard Club of
America holds a special event called a rassemblement which is based
on European dog shows. A European judge is brought over and
performs written evaluations on all dogs, which are later published
in book form. The best ones present are designated "select."
How old is the breed?
The Briard is one of the oldest of the herding breeds. There are
depictions of similar shaggy dogs that date from around the year
800 and there are written descriptions from the 1500s. Both
Charlemagne and Napoleon are believed to have owned Briards. The
first Briards in the U.S. were imported by Thomas Jefferson, who
left detailed records of his breeding program at Monticello and
carefully placed breeding pairs with trusted friends; however, the
breed did not really catch on in the U.S. until after World War I,
when soldiers returning from Europe popularized the breed. It was
recognized by the AKC shortly thereafter.
Where can I read more about the breed's history?
An excellent history of the breed can be found in the book "The
Briard" by Diane McLeroth. There is ordering information at
Working Ability and Temperament
What is their temperament like?
Briards are intelligent, sensitive and humorous. They are willing
to cooperate with humans but need to see a reason to do so. They
are independent and may try to seize control if they sense weakness
on the part of the handler. They can be pushy if they want
something from you. They are not "love everybody" dogs: once a
Briard meets you and observes you for a while, he will decide for
himself whether he likes you or not. They are very affectionate to
those they love, but most are not particularly interested in
petting or attention from strangers. They tend to have a sense of
humor and may be clowns.
You said that this is a herding dog?
Yes; they were originally used to hold sheep in unfenced pastures
in rural France. This style of herding is referred to as "boundary"
herding. Like most of the other continental herding breeds (Bouvs,
GSDs, the Belgians, etc.) the Briard also has a strong guarding
instinct. That's why these breeds are commonly used for police work
Since they are a guarding dog, does that mean they lived outside with
the flock of sheep?
You are thinking of a flock guardian. Breeds used for this type of
work include the Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Kuvasz, Anatolian,
Maremma & similar dogs. This type of work requires a different
temperament than herding does: herding dogs want to boss stock
around, whereas flock guardians live with the herd as a member of
it. I have heard of Briards occasionally being tried as flock
guardians but they seem to have been less than outstandingly
successful at it.
Have Briards been used as police dogs too?
Yes, but while they are suitable to the work, police departments
generally prefer breeds with less coat. They are also eligible to
compete in Schutzhund and Ring Sport competition.
Do they take a lot of exercise?
While Briards are generally calm dogs indoors and are not "hyper"
like some of the other herding breeds, they do need regular
exercise. A daily walk should be considered the minimum. It is a
good breed to consider if you are looking for a breed to run or
I want a dog that will live outside. Would a Briard be suitable?
Generally not. Briards are very devoted to their people and want to
be where you are. If you will spend several hours a day outside
working with the dog you both might be happy with the arrangement,
but keep in mind that a Briard who does not get enough attention
from his people can easily become a problem dog.
Are Briards good with kids?
Many Briards are very gentle and loving with children, but as with
any dog care should be taken to avoid problems. They are large dogs
and may be boisterous and have the potential to knock down a small
child. Also, as with many other herding dogs, they may need to be
taught that nipping is not an appropriate way of getting people's
attention. That being said, many families have both Briards and
small children and are very happy with the combination.
Are they easy to train?
It depends on what you mean by "easy." They do learn readily.
However, they do need to be TRAINED. They are too large, energetic
and strong-minded to be allowed to be left to their own devices. A
basic obedience class or two is highly recommended.
Also, be aware that heavy-handed training techniques do not usually
work well with Briards; positive motivation is generally much more
effective with them than than force-based methods are.
I have heard that Briards are dog-aggressive. Is it true?
They tend to be dominant with other dogs and may or may not get
along with strange ones. Many are fine and trustworthy with other
dogs. Your best bet is to ask the breeder you are considering
buying from about the dogs in their bloodline.
I want a "protective" dog. Is a Briard for me?
That depends on YOU. Generally speaking, it is a mistake to get any
dog that is more assertive than you are. In that case, the dog
might begin using his own judgement on what you should be
"protected" against, and you may not be very happy with his
decisions. If, on the other hand, you are willing to take the
responsibility of teaching the dog proper behavior, you may be very
happy with a Briard. Keep in mind that a dog of any size can bark
to warn away intrudors and any large dog will serve as a deterent
to unwanted attention. So a "non-protective" dog such as a terrier
or Greyhound might serve your needs just as well.
How long do they live?
Their average lifespan is usually around 10-12 years, which is
pretty typical for a large breed.
What inherited problems do they have?
Any dog (purebred or mixed-breed) may be carrying genes that cause
inherited problems. The advantage with purebreds is that careful
breeding can reduce the incidence of these problems over time.
Briards are generally a pretty healthy breed but the following
disorders (all of which are known or suspected of having a
hereditary basis) can be of concern.
Briards are among the breeds hard-hit by hip dysplasia, with
around 20% of the xrays submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation
for Animals (OFA) failing to pass. It is recommended that all
animals to be bred be xrayed to make sure they are free of
dysplasia before breeding.
This has been know to occurs in all deep-chested breeds. The
stomach or other internal organs may torsion (twist) and become
blocked off. Symptoms include panting, non-productive retching,
and/or a hard, distended abdomen. Bloat is a medical emergency
and requires immediate medical attention; surgery is most often
needed for the animal to have any chance at survival. There may
be hereditary factors that predispose certain animals towards
bloat, but if so the exact mode of inheritance is unknown.
Shyness, shy-sharpness and aggressiveness unfortunately do
occur in Briards and may have a genetic basis. However, this is
NOT correct temperament for the breed: the standard states the
temperament should be "wise and fearless, with no trace of
timidity." While Briards are typically not very interested in
strangers, that does not mean they should shy away or be
aggressive toward them. If you are considering buying a Briard,
it is a good idea to see both parents if you can and ask
yourself, "Do these dogs have the kind of temperament I want to
live with?" If there is any question in your mind about the
temperament of the parents, DO NOT BUY THE PUPPY.
Also it might be helpful to question the breeder in detail
about the kind of temperament they feel is appropriate for a
Briard. If they seem to feel that shyness or aggressiveness is
acceptable temperament, it might be better to pass on dealing
with that breeder.
Progressive retinal atrophy
There are two forms this disorder which can appear in Briards:
central progressive retinal atophy (cPRA) as well as
generalized PRA. Both are rare in the US but are more common in
other areas in the world--in particular, it has been reported
that 5 out of 6 Briards in the U.K. are either carriers or
affected by cPRA. In both cases, the gene that causes this
disorder is a simple recessive, meaning that a parent can
produce a puppy afflicted with the disorder even although they
themselves are asymptomatic. Dogs affected with either cPRA or
PRA will go blind in adulthood. There is no cure.
Dogs with low thyroid levels may be sluggish, have coat
problems, and/or have problems with fertility. Treatment
consists of daily medication.
von Willenbrand's disease
This is a bleeding disorder that has been reported to occur in
a few U.S. dogs. A blood test is available to check for levels
of vWD antigen, but it is a somewhat controversial issue among
Briard breeders and many do not test for it.
Stationary night blindness
Unlike progressive retinal atrophy, this is a disorder that is
present in early puppyhood & is not progressive (thus the
"stationary"). Affected dogs are unable to see in low-light
conditions. It is also believed to be caused by a recessive
gene. It can not be diagnosed on a standard eye exam (i.e. a
CERF examination) although it is detectable by
Allergies and skin problems
Some Briards may be allergic to fleas or certain foods. Again,
exact mode of inheritance is not known.
Unfortunately too many lovely Briards are being lost to cancer
these days; lymphosarcoma seems to be the most common kind. It
is not known at this time whether or not cancer has a
hereditary basis in Briards, but this is likely to be an area
of interest and research in the future.
Getting A Briard
I want a Briard. How do I want to go about finding one?
The national club can help you find a breeder or a rescue person in
your area. Club contacts are listed on the Briard Homepage at
How much do they cost?
Again, it depends. Briard breeders tend to vary quite a bit in what
they ask for their pups. I have heard of anywhere from $300 to
$1500 being asked for a pet puppy. Please keep in mind that the
most-expensive puppy is not necessarily the highest-quality puppy.
I am looking for a Briard. What questions should I ask breeders?
* Are you a member of the national club? If not, why not? Most
breeders in the U.S. are members of the Briard Club of America,
which has a code of ethics members must abide by. If a breeder is
not a member, especially if it is somebody who is breeding large
numbers of litters, this may be a warning sign that something is
* Are the parents of this litter champions? It is usually not very
difficult to put a championship on a Briard, and most breeders in
the U.S. are involved in showing their dogs. Don't be too
impressed by claims of "champion lines" or by champion
grandparents or great-grandparents--if both parents of a litter
are not champions or currently being shown, find out why.
* What health tests have been done on the parents? At a minimum,
both parents of a litter should have been xrayed free of hip
dysplasia. It is recommended that the hips be certified free of
dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and that
you see the OFA certificate on both parents. Unfortunately there
have been instances of breeders representing their dogs as having
OFA certification when they did not, so it is recommended that
prospective buyers exercise caution.
* Tell me about the temperament of the parents. See the section
about temperament above. It is recommended that you meet both
parents if it's possible. If you are not comfortable with the
temperament of either parent, DO NOT BUY THE PUPPY.
What's a rescue dog?
A "rescue dog" is one that has been "rescued" from one sort of
situation or another. This does NOT mean the dog has necessarily
been neglected or abused; often, it's simply a dog the owners were
unable to keep for some reason or another. Rescue dogs can make
excellent pets, and may work well for homes where the owners are
gone all day. The cost is generally minimal, usually just enough to
cover the rescuer's expenses for caring for the dog. The Briard
Club of America has a volunteer who coordinates rescue efforts; see
the web page for contact info.
Briards are so cute, I want one!
Please be very sure that you know what you are getting yourself
into before getting a Briard. This is a breed that is not suitable
for everyone. With their requirements for grooming, exercise and
discipline there is definitely a larger commitment from the owner
that is required with a Briard than with a lot of other breeds.
Also keep in mind that even though the Briard is "cute," it is
first and foremost a working breed. It may not be the best choice
for a first-time dog owner or for a "wimpy" person or someone who
is inclined toward spoiling a dog.
That being said--I wouldn't be without one.
Dianne Schoenberg, email@example.com