Briard (Berger de Brie)
The Briard is a high-spirited, intelligent and dauntless, dog which has been herding and protecting the livestock on French pastures for the last several centuries. Over time it has also earned the reputation of an excellent tracking, search-and-rescue, police and guide dog. Being both independent and loyal to its masters the breed usually makes a terrific companion for those who are ready to invest enough time in its socialisation and obedience training.
The progenitors of the Briard are believed to have come to France during the Dark Ages, probably much earlier. Canines, which are almost identical in appearance to the modern-day Briard, are portrayed in tapestries of VIII centuries and its specimens are thoroughly described in the historical documents of the XII century. The mystery of the breeds’ origin is lost in remote ages but it’s rather well-known that during the XIX century it was frequently interbred with the Beauceron and the Barbet in order to make it more uniform in conformation.
Originally the dog was trusted with herding the farmer’s domestic animals and guarding them from poachers and wolves. In the wake of the French Revolution vast lands were distributed among commoners and population grew, so the Briard was assigned with less dangerous tasks such as keeping its charges within unfenced areas and guarding its master’s houses.
The French cattle-farmers who initially created this breed were pragmatic and modest and bred only dogs with the best working characteristics regardless of their look. Thanks to its keen ear the specimens of this breed served as sentries and watchers during war times and deserved the status of official French army dog in the course of World War I. The great number of dogs didn’t outlived this harsh period but several loyal breeders rescued the Briard from final demise.
The members of the Briard were exhibited in the very first dog show conducted in Paris in 1863 but it wasn’t until 1897 when the original standard of the breed was drawn. Thomas Jefferson is thought to have brought the breeds’ first specimens to the United States, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) granted its formal recognition to the breed in 1928. Strangely enough but this dog found its way to the United Kingdom only in the late 60s of the XX century. Today the Briard is still praised as a versatile working dog both in its homeland and other countries. Nonetheless this smart and cheerful dog is primarily kept as a pleasant family companion.
The Briard has staunch but somewhat self-sufficient character and usually makes a perfect pet for an active family or individual. It’s impossible to draw any general conclusion about its personality as it varies from easy-going to stern and slightly reserved. However uncompromising love and loyalty towards its masters creates an affinity between all its specimens. This dog is great with children and will become a tireless and patient playmate for them. Early and continuous socialisation is a must for the Briard especially if you plan to keep in the house with small kids. The breed is inclined to herding behaviour, which involves butting and pushing so its communication with small kids should be always watched over by adults.
Any strange person is perceived by the Briard as a potential threat to its territory and/or masters so he is commonly treated with a great deal of suspiciousness. Aggressive tendencies are fairly common in under socialised dogs so make sure to put in enough time in this aspect of the up-bringing of your pet. The breed member always stays on alert so it’s well-suited for the role of a watcher. It also has all necessary traits to become an outstanding guard dog.
The Briard has pretty nasty reputation with other canines. Its dominant nature and strong territorial instinct may cause a cruel confrontation with unfamiliar dogs. Actually this dog does best as a sole canine companion. It will treat the individual pets (including a household cat) as the members of its pack if it has been raised with them since a young age.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· canine hip dysplasia;
· eye problems;
The Briard demands a great amount of grooming. Its dense and long coat has tendency to tangle and matt really easily so it must be brushed every other day. On the whole it takes from two to three hours per week to keep the hair of the Briard in a neat condition. This dog sheds slightly the year round but will lose its total coat twice per year. So be prepared to more frequent and thorough brushing sessions during these times.
If you intend to show you pet you should avoid clipping its fur, as it isn’t encouraged by the breed’s standard. Bathe your dog once every two months or even less often. Excessive bathing is detrimental to the dog’s skin and hair as water removes the layer of protective natural oils. Regular ear cleaning and teeth brushing also should become the part of its maintenance routine.
The Briard is a very gifted dog whose training needs very minimal efforts if done properly. It loves coping with new and difficult tricks and usually is quite willing to pleasure its master. On the other hand this dog is an inborn leader and will oblige only to a strong and confident handler. If the Briard feels mistreated it can nurse a grudge for a very long time. So any sort of rough-housing should be completely excluded from the training process.
It’s highly recommended to motive this dog to work with positive reinforcement in the form of its favourite treats. Thanks to the combination of versatility, stamina and excellent trainability the Briard achieves incredible success in various canine competitions, especially in obedience and agility trials.
The Briard is a very physically capable and hardy dog, which adapts well virtually to any amount of exercise. It implies that it won’t be nearly satisfied with a potty daily walk and needs a chance to vent its abundant energy in a free run.
It’s fair to say that this dog will feel itself unhappy in a small city apartment so it can’t be reckoned as an ideal choice for a city dweller. Be mindful that without both physical and mental activity this breed will finally acquire some nasty habits including unreasonable barking, chewing, hyper activity and even outbursts of aggression.