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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Briard
Average Cost to keep/care for a Briard
Breed Specific Buying Advice
Briards are handsome, large dogs with their striking, long, flowing coats. They were originally bred as working dogs, herding and guarding flocks of sheep in France where they were highly valued for their alert, kind and loyal natures. They are known to be extremely courageous, but rarely would a Briard show any sort of aggressive behaviour unless they feel threatened in any way.
They thrive in a home environment being especially patient and tolerant around children of all ages. However, Briards must be trained with a gentle yet firm hand because these large dogs are not aware of their size or their strength. Their coats may be glorious, but they are high maintenance on the grooming front and dogs need a minimum of 2-hour’s daily exercise to be truly happy. With this said, the Briard is not the best choice for first time dog owners, being better suited to people who are familiar with the needs of such a large and extrovert dog.
The origins of the Briard remain a bit of a mystery, but there are many legends about the breed. With this said, it is thought that they are one of the oldest French breeds that could well date back to Charlemagne with similar looking dogs being portrayed in tapestries. There are some people who believe very similar dogs were around in the Middle Ages when dogs that arrived in Europe from the Orient were crossed with local herding dogs. The goal, it is said, was to create a larger, more fearless dog that was capable of guarding and herding flocks of sheep and a dog that boasted enough courage to take on wolves and other large predators without hesitation. The breed is thought to be a descendant of Aubry's dog and were given their name from the region of France known as Brie where they were developed.
It was the French who developed the Briard and in ancient times, these dogs were highly prized for their intelligence, courage yet kind natures which led to many legends being told about them. They not only worked as herding and guard dogs, but the Briard also worked with the military. Napoleon took Briards with his armies on his many campaigns. Thomas Jefferson was so impressed with the breed he took several back to the States where they were to work with American farmers. Lafayette had some dogs sent to his estate and pretty soon they were to become highly prized not only in their native France, but in America too.
The Briard was so highly thought of, the breed was made the French army's official dog and during the wars they would carry supplies to soldiers on the front lines, they tracked wounded soldiers and even worked as sentries. On the battlefield, Briards appeared to know which wounded soldiers needed help and who were beyond help which can be put down to their superb hearing and superior intelligence. Sadly, breed numbers were drastically depleted at the end of the war.
The breed first arrived on British shores in the late 1960’s when dogs were imported from Ireland to England and the first Briard to be exhibited in the UK was in 1967 with 2 dogs then qualifying for Crufts. The British Briard Club was established in 1973 and a year later the Kennel Club granted the breed full championship status. Today, these magnificent, large dogs are still highly prized in France, but they have become sought after in other parts of the world, including here in the UK thanks to their handsome looks and their kind, loyal natures.
Height at the withers: Males 61 - 69 cm, Females 58 - 65 cm
Average weight: Males 30 - 40 kg, Females 25 - 35 kg
These large dogs have an unusual physical trait in that they have double dewclaws on their back legs as well as single ones on their front ones. The Briard stands out in the crowd thanks to their long flowing coats, their charming moustaches, beards and bushy eyebrows. With this said, they are well-proportioned boasting a rugged, yet athletic and supple appearance. Their head is ever so slightly rounded with a nice square, strong looking muzzle and clearly defined stop. A Briard’s nose is always black regardless of the colour of their coat.
They boast large dark brown eyes with black rims that always have a very intelligent and gentle expression in them. Ears are covered in long hair and set high on a dog’s head which they carry slightly lifted when alert. The Briard has a very strong mouth with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones all set on a nice, square jaw and their lips are always black in colour.
They have moderately long and well-muscled necks that dogs carry arched adding to their proud appearance. Shoulders are well laid back and set at a nice angle with dogs boasting strong, well-muscled front legs. Chests are broad with dogs having a strong, level back and medium spring ribcage that drops well down. These dogs boast a slight slope at their croup where their tail is set.
Hindquarters are well angulated with dogs boasting strong, well developed back legs and double dewclaws which are set low. Feet are strong and slightly round very reminiscent of a cat or hare’s foot. Nails are black with dogs having hard pads and well closed toes all of which are profusely covered in hair. The Briard has a long tail that’s covered in hair which dogs carry low but always in line with their backs.
When it comes to their coat, the Briard has a long and slightly wavy coat with a very fine and dense undercoat that covers their entire body. They have a moustache, beard and eyebrows that slightly veil their eyes. Accepted colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
Briards with fawn coloured coats can have darker markings on their muzzles, ears, backs and on their tails, which is acceptable with the proviso that colours blend in nicely in with the rest of their coat colour.
It is worth noting that acceptable colours for Kennel Club registration can differ from the colours set out in the Breed Standard.
When a Briard moves, they do so with an effortless gait taking long strides and covering a lot of ground when they do. They are also extremely adept at turning on a sixpence showing a tremendous amount of drive while remaining well balanced, strong, smooth and firm.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
The Briard is a highly intelligent dog and one that boasts having a tremendous amount of courage, yet they never show any signs of aggressive behaviour but rather a gay, energetic and lively nature which are just some of the reasons why they are so highly thought of not only in their native France, but in other regions of the world too.
Because they are fun-loving, energetic by nature, they adapt tremendously well to family life. They literally don't have a nasty bone in their body and adore taking part in any sort of interactive game. However, they do need to be kept busy and their education needs to start early for them to grow up to be well-rounded adult dogs. Briard puppies need to be well socialised from a young age which means introducing them to new situations, people and animals too.
Briards are not the best choice for first time owners because they need to be correctly handled and trained right from the word go. They are happy when they know their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household. Their training always has to be consistent and fair with dogs needing to be handled with a firm yet gentle hand. They also need to be given a ton of daily exercise which has to include lots of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, obedient dogs.
Briards are not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be socialised, handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of such large, intelligent and often boisterous and stubborn dogs that can often show a more dominant side to their natures.
Briards were bred to guard and herd large flocks and as such they do have a high prey drive and like nothing better than to chase anything that moves or tries to run away. As such, care must always be taken as to where and when a Briard can run off the lead, more especially if there is livestock and wildlife close by. They also like to nip at the heels of whatever they are trying to move along which includes children.
Briards have the reputation of being real “extroverts”, they have a mischievous, playful and fun-loving side to their natures. With this said, owners must be careful not to mix up playfulness with dominance which can happen if a Briard gets away with too much. The other thing to bear in mind is that Briards do not know their own strength and can be extremely boisterous when the mood takes them and are known to jump up at people which could easily knock a person over.
Briards, being so large and exuberant need to have enough space to express themselves and are much better suited to households with large, secure back gardens where a dog can safely let of steam whenever possible.
Although Briards form strong ties with their families they do not generally suffer from separation anxiety providing they are never left to their own devices for too long. With this said, they are better suited to people who lead active, outdoor lives and who like to have an intelligent, energetic large canine companion at their side.
Briards can be very protective of their families and property which means they can take to barking incessantly if they feel things are not as they should be. With this said, Briards don’t generally bark just for the sake of it and usually only voice an opinion when they feel it is necessary to do so.
Most Briards love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Briard off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing. It is also very important to dry off a dog’s coat when they get wet to prevent moisture from being trapped which could lead to an allergy flare-up.
Briards are natural watchdogs which is a trait that is deeply embedded in their psyche. As such, they do not need to be taught to guard or protect. With this said, rarely would a Briard show any sort of aggression towards anyone providing they don’t feel threatened. However, as previously mentioned, some Briards object to strangers approaching their owners and will make sure the people understand their displeasure at the situation.
It's essential for a Briard's training and education to start as early as possible or these lovely dogs might start to show a more dominant side to their characters. Puppies, as previously mentioned, need to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be receptive and obedient adult dogs. In the right hands, with the correct amount of positive reinforcement training, a Briard is a joy to be with, but their education and training has to be consistent and owners need to show a lot of patience towards them.
These dogs need to be handled firmly yet gently to achieve the right sort of results. They do not respond well to harsh correction or training which could end up doing more harm than good. Briards tend to form a very strong bond with one member of the family, but they are always loving towards everyone in a household. They are known to be wary and suspicious of people they don't know, but would rarely show any sort of aggression towards them.
Like all puppies, Briard puppies are extremely cute with their shaggy appearance and adorable looks. However, a sweet puppy quickly grows up to be a large, mature dog and as such once a puppy is settled into a new home, they must be taught the rules and boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. It also helps establish a “pecking order” and who is the alpha dog in a household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
Briards are known to be a great choice as family pets because they are so protective by nature. However, they can become over protective of children which is something parents need to watch out for and gently correct when necessary. As with any other large dog, any interaction between a Briard and the kids has to be well supervised by an adult to make sure play time does not get too boisterous.
Briards are generally good around other dogs although they can show a more dominant side to their nature if they have not been correctly trained and handled when young. If these dogs are carefully and properly introduced to other pets and animals in a household they will usually accept and tolerate being around them.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Briard is between 11 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Briards are known to be one of the healthier pedigree dogs around and although the breed was known to suffer from hip dysplasia, thanks to careful and selective breeding fewer cases are now reported. With this said, if you are hoping to share a home with a Briard, there are a few health concerns worth knowing about which includes the following:
It is worth noting that the Kennel Club’s breed average COI stands at 5.1%.
Briard puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Like other breeds, some Briards gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Briards are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Briard breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
As of January 1st, 2016, the Kennel Club no longer accepts the registration of puppies from litters born to parents known to carry the CSNB gene that have been bred to clear dogs whether they are DNA tested or hereditary clear. It is worth noting that each case can be dealt with by the Kennel Club on a case-by-case basis and permission can be granted prior to a proposed mating. It is also worth noting that if the Kennel Club does grant permission, all puppies produced from such matings must be DNA tested and then registered as either CSNB Clear or Carriers.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured breeders to use the following tests on their dogs and the KC strongly recommends that all other breeders follow suit:
The Kennel Club also strongly recommends that all breeders use the following test on their dogs:
As with any other breed, Briards need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Briard puppies can be extremely boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Briard puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out which could end up making them withdrawn, timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Briard puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Briards need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Briard in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Briards need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Briards don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
Briards are high maintenance on the grooming front because their coats need to be brushed daily to avoid any knots or tangles from forming. Briard puppies must be taught that a grooming session is a pleasant experience and one that they look forward to. It’s also very important to check between a dog’s toes regularly to see if anything is trapped which could lead to an infection flaring up. Dew claws also need to be trimmed regularly to prevent them snagging on things. Their coats also need to be regularly trimmed which is best left up to a professional dog groomer. Because Briards boast coarse double coats, they do tend to shed quite a bit and more especially during the Spring and then again in the Autumn which is when more frequent brushing would be necessary.
It's also essential to regularly check a Briard's ears because if there is too much hair in them this needs to be removed. If left, a dog is more at risk of developing an ear infection and these can be notoriously hard to treat once they flare up. The hair that grows between a dog's pads also needs to be regularly trimmed to avoid it balling up which could make walking uncomfortable for dogs especially during the winter months.
Briards are very intelligent and energetic dogs and as such they need to be given a heap of exercise and mental stimulation every day. This means a good walk in the morning and then a longer, more interesting one in the afternoon. Ideally, Briards need 2 hours exercise a day so they can expend all that pent-up energy.
These dogs also benefit from being able to run around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing the garden must be high and very secure to keep these high energy dogs in. Briards also love to swim which means care should be taken when walking them anywhere near water where they can safely be off their leads because they might just decide to jump in.
If you get a Briard puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature Briard twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
One of the more serious health concerns with Briards is the fact they are prone to suffer from bloat (gastric torsion) and as such care has to be taken when they are fed. It's best for these dogs to be fed twice a day rather than giving them one meal a day. It's also important not to feed a Briard just before or just when they come back from a walk because by doing so, dogs are put at greater risk of developing bloat.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Briard puppy should be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a Briard is 16 months old, they can be fed adult food.
Once fully mature, an adult Briard must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Briard can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Briard, you would need to pay anything from £600 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. However, only very few puppies were registered with the Kennel Club over the last two years which means finding one could be a problem and if you do, you may have to go on a long waiting list. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Briard in northern England would be £23.91 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £84.56 a month (quote as of March 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £60 a month. On top of this, veterinary costs need to be factored in when sharing a home with a Briard which includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Briard would be between £100 to £160 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, Kennel Club registered pedigree Briard puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Over recent times, Briards have found a fanbase both in the UK and elsewhere in the world which means that well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Briards there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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