Briard is a French sheepdog of ancient origin. They are excellent guard dogs and great companions for active people. These dogs are very intelligent, and are known for their loyalty and devotion to their owners and family members.
The Briard dog breed originated in France a long time ago, as is evident from the mention of the dog in 14th century literature. It is the oldest breed among the four sheepdog breeds of France which include Picardy, Pyrenean, and Beauceron, but it came to be known as Briard only in the 19th century. The name derived from the term “Chien Berger de Brie,” which in French means ‘Shepherd Dog of Brie,’ generally used for referring to the dog.
This dog did double duty as a herding dog and a guard dog to protect the animals. Its guarding instincts were so absolute that it effectively kept away not only animals that troubled the flock, but human trespassers too.
Towards the end of the 19th century, renewed interest in the breed led to its standardization. But their extensive use in the World War I as messenger dogs and sentries, and for search and rescue of injured and missing soldiers in the field, took a heavy toll on their population.
This breed eventually found its way to the United States. Even today they are used in the military and the police force, but they have found favor as companion dogs as well. The U.S. president Thomas Jefferson had one of these dogs.
Briard dog breed is large and well-built, with a body structure designed for untiring work. Standing tall at 27 inches and weighing up to 100 pounds, they are just the right size for herding, as well as for guarding livestock.
The dog has an elongated body which is longer than it is taller. Their long coat of wavy hair gives them a distinctively appealing look, while hiding their muscular body structure. The coat has a double layer, and the outer one is rough to touch and even makes ruffling sound. The color may vary from black to grey and tawny, and may have a mixture of these.
These dogs can think and act independently. They will go to great lengths to please, as well as protect, their family. This has earned them the epithet, “a heart of gold wrapped in fur”. They are known to be highly distressed and emotional when their owners leave and equally exuberant on their arrival.
Being reserved with strangers, they are excellent guard dogs. They can get along well with other house pets if they are introduced properly and early enough. Tolerance towards other dogs and strangers is low; hence early socialization is essential when kept as a family pet.
Their herding instinct is not usually dampened by city living. They’ll gladly do it if they get a chance to herd animals. If they don’t, they may attempt herding children by guiding them with their heads with occasional nips at the ankles.
Grooming and exercise
It is quite obvious that this breed with its long flowing coat requires regular and frequent grooming. The coat has to be brushed thoroughly every other day.
Being a herding breed, this dog requires vigorous activities to expend its tremendous store of energy. They are not easily fatigued by a mere walk in the park, so you need to take the dog out for several walks in the course of the day. The dog can be a constant companion as you go about your business. In addition to that, some outdoor activities or games should be planned for the day.
Briard breed of dogs can stay outdoors for extended periods in the cold season, but they cannot withstand heat. During the day they should have easy access to a large yard for free roaming, and cool indoors for rest. Even though they can be left to sleep outside in doghouses, it is best if they spend the night with the family.
Common health issues of Briard dog breed
This breed is prone to many of the common canine health problems including hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy which can lead to blindness. Some dogs may be affected by another congenital eye problem known as Stationary Night Blindness too. There’s a DNA test available to check breeding stocks for this genetic disorder. Gastric torsion, also known as bloating, can be a problem with this breed. This life threatening condition requires immediate medical intervention.
The average life expectancy of this breed is 10-12 years. Regular medical checkups can keep the dog in good health and get timely attention for potential problems.