The Briard is a very old breed of French working dog. Depicted in 8th-century tapestries and mentioned in records of the 12th century; the breed is accurately described in the 14th and 16th centuries. In early times, Briards were used to defend their charges against wolves and poachers, but the dividing up of the land and the increase in population which followed the French Revolution gradually transformed their work into the more peaceful tasks of herding the flocks, keeping the sheep within the unfenced boundaries of the pastures, and guarding their masters' property.
The first known standard for the Briard was written in 1897 by a club of shepherd-dog breeders. Then, in 1909, a French society called Les Amis du Briard was founded. Although this club disbanded during World War I, it was formed again in 1923 and established a more precise standard for the Briard in 1925. This standard, with slight modification, was adopted by the Briard Club of America, founded in 1928.
The history of the Briard in the Americas is not well documented. Some credit the Marquis de Lafayette with the introduction of the breed to this country. However, writings of Thomas Jefferson indicate that he also brought representatives of the breed to this continent at about the same time. It was not until 1922 that a litter of Briards was registered with the American Kennel Club. Barbara Danielson of Groton, Massachusetts, was the breeder.
The Briard is a very loyal and protective breed, and is sometimes called "a heart of gold wrapped in fur". Once they have bonded to their family members, they will be very protective. They can be aloof with strangers - new introductions should be on the dog's terms, including furniture or the addition of a new baby into the household. They require showing that the new intrusion is friendly and free of conflict. They must be taught that it is a good thing and not harmful. They have proven to be a very good breed to have around children of all ages. Indeed, these dogs rapidly develop an affection to their owners. They are really emotional, capable of crying for a long time after their owners' departure and celebrate their return in a very enthusiastic way. He is devoted to his owner, happiest following you around the house while you do chores or watching you watch television on a rainy day.
The Briard is an ideal companion for someone who wants a lovable, but not overly dependent, dog. A member of the Herding Group, he weighs in at around 75 pounds and lives comfortably in the country or city — as long as he's with his family and gets sufficient exercise.
The Briard is an intelligent breed and a quick study when it comes to training, though he can be stubborn and want to do things his own way. Owners must be prepared to establish pack leadership from an early age or the dog is likely to take a shot at the role himself.
With a strong instinct to herd, it's not unusual for him to try to gather or keep the children or adults in his family within certain boundaries. He may nudge, push, or bark at his "flock."
The Briard's wariness of strangers makes him an excellent guard dog, and he's forever ready to defend his family and territory if he perceives danger. With the proper training and socialization, however, you can encourage him to be more accepting of outsiders. A Briard puppy should be introduced to many new and different people, places, and situations during the first year of his life. These early experiences help ensure you have an adult Briard with a positive outlook on life.
There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, the Briard does extremely well with children. If you're bringing a Briard pup — or any dog — into a house with kids, it's important to teach both how to interact with each other. If you do not have children, but plan on doing so in the next few years, it's essential that you socialize your puppy to children.
Males stand 23 to 27 inches tall and females stand 22 to 25.5 inches tall. Most Briards weigh between 70 and 90 pounds, though some males can reach 100 pounds.
The typical Briard is brave, loyal, and intelligent. He is good-natured and loving with his family, and thrives on participating in family activities. In spite of his large size, he is essentially a housedog. He doesn't belong in the backyard by himself, but curled up next to you while you sip mint tea.
A protective guardian, the Briard can be aloof with strangers. He also can be stubborn and willful, but with plenty of encouragement and positive reinforcement, he can be persuaded to come around on both counts.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, andsocialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them.
It is also important that the Briard be introduced to several different individuals of all ages and in all types of situations. Socialization starting at a very young age is mandatory. Briards should be walked as often as possible, to many different places, and they will develop into a well rounded animal. Pet stores, city parks and malls are a good place to start.
An adult Briard
The Briard has been bred for centuries to herd and to protect their flocks. To domesticated briards, their family is the flock and all strangers may appear to be predators. Letting them know that the public in general are friendly and not harmful will help them establish a lifelong socialization pattern which will result in an outgoing and happy dog. This socialization with the public in general will not diminish their capacity for protecting and guarding their family.
The Briard has a very good memory. Once a lesson is learned, good or bad, the knowledge will be retained for a long time to come. Sometimes they may appear to be strong minded and stubborn but these are a few of the Briard's characteristics. They were bred for centuries to think for themselves and to act upon their conclusions, sometimes to the point of thinking what the "flock" will do ahead of time.
These are some of the traits that the Briard has retained throughout history. Even if a Briard is a city dweller, they have a degree of herding ability within them. If ever, during their lifetime, they are introduced to sheep or cattle, they will automatically start doing what they were bred to do, herding. They will even herd humans by nibbling on their ankles or guiding with their heads and guide them to his master if ordered.
The Briard can adapt to city or country life. He is a fairly calm breed when inside, but he does need 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily. Without enough activity, the Briard can become bored, paving the way for annoying or destructive behaviors like barking, digging, chasing, and chewing. Dog sports, especially herding trials, are a good outlet for his energy and hone his natural herding ability.
The Briard puppy must learn who the pack leader is or he'll try to assume the position; therefore, training should start as soon as the Briard puppy comes home. This doesn't mean he should know advanced commands by 9 weeks of age, but he should be learning proper manners and rules of the house right away.
Crate training can be an important aid — it helps with housetraining and keeps your pup safe when you're away — but remember that he should be with the family (not in his crate) when you are at home.
Because the Briard is naturally suspicious of people outside his "flock," it is important to encourage your Briard puppy to be friendly with strangers. If a Briard is not properly socialized and trained, it can lead to aggression toward people or animals he considers a threat.
Children and other pets
A loving and playful companion, the Briard makes an excellent family dog. He is protective of the children in his family, and has been known to "defend" them when parents discipline.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party.