You Really Want a Briard?

  by Martine Huslig
http://www.briardsbriards.com/Aladax.htm
                       
Many people see a Briard and exclaim---“what a beautiful dog!!!”  They may see one in a movie or meet one in their community and think---“what a terrific personality---what a character!!!”  They may see one at a herding exhibition, or agility or obedience trial and be amazed at the terrific performance of a well trained Briard (or thoroughly entertained by the antics of a less than perfectly trained one.)     However---even though the first Briard litter was registered in 1922 and it is believed that Thomas Jefferson brought Briards to the United States, the breed remains relatively uncommon in the United States today.  (Click on BREED HISTORY to learn more about the history of the Briard.)  There are good reasons that to date less than 50 litters of Briards are registered with the AKC each year.

The Temperament

Briards are extremely intelligent old French WORKING breed.  They were the shepherd's companion and are a dominant breed that is naturally protective.  The correct Briard is calm and aloof with non-threatening stranger and are exuberant, larger than life hearts wrapped in fur to those they know and love.   A Briard's intelligence requires a dedicated and equally intelligent owner.   Since they are naturally protective they must be well socialized as young dogs with a master who they respect to teach them to happily accept the people and things that they meet in day to day life.    They are NOT big Shih Tzus and they are NOT Labrador Retrievers with long hair.  They were initially used to defend their charges against wolves and poachers and then later as boundary style herding dogs in France.  They retain their instinct to guard their home and family.  Due to this history, this early socialization and training are EXTREMELY important.  Without socialization, they can become overprotective.  Without a LEADER they can decide to take charge attempting to protect those that they think might be vulnerable. 

The AKC Standard states that the Briard is " a dog of heart, with spirit and initiative, wise and fearless with no trace of timidity. Intelligent, easily trained, faithful, gentle, and obedient, the Briard possesses an excellent memory and an ardent desire to please his master. He retains a high degree of his ancestral instinct to guard home and master. Although he is reserved with strangers, he is loving and loyal to those he knows. Some will display a certain independence."  Click here to read the entire Briard Standard. The Briard is often described as a “heart wrapped in fur” (a quote by a French actress who owned the breed many years ago) however they are not the right breed for everyone.  Their incredible character can only be developed when they are raised properly (see Puppy Raising) with the time, dedication and affection of the breeder and the owner. 

As with any breed, generalization about temperament are, just that, generalizations. The What's good about 'em...What's bad about "em website puts it well; there are energetic Briards and placid Briards; hard-headed Briards and sweet-natured Briards; serious Briards, and good natured goofballs; introverted Briards and Briards who love everyone.  Unfortunately, there are also even downright nasty Briards (these, however, should not occur with proper dedication to breeding, socialization and training.)   Differences in temperament can exist in a litter, in a family of dogs or between breeders.  Different breeders focus on different things and value different qualities when breeding.  Some breeders’ primary goal is to breed a “show dog” dog that exudes confidence who is energetic and who will work for food.  Other breeders may value a more docile temperament while some are working to retain the keen drive and desire to work and herd sheep.  Still others value and expect the instinct to guard aggressively.  Sadly there are some who do not pay attention to temperament or kid themselves into excusing bad temperament in their dogs.  A good breeder will ask the prospective buyer many questions to determine if they are equipped to raise a young Briard.  A buyer should also ask many questions and explain clearly and honestly their experience with dogs, the time and energy they have to devote to their puppy and what qualities they are looking for in a dog.   Many breeders will refuse to sell to a home that they do not think is a good match with the breed or for their particular litter.  Temperament problems can arise when a person has a dog that is “too much” for their time and abilities.  Temperament is 35% genetic and 65% environment (i.e. how they are raised.)  See Puppy Raising.)    I heard it explained a different way once.  That there are 3 types of temperament and those are 1) too good to ruin, 2) too bad to fix and 3) somewhere in the middle.  The majority of Briard lie in category 3.    Sadly---some breeders breed dogs with bad temperaments. When buying a Briard buyers should try to meet relatives.  If the mother of a litter is not available to greet potential owners---they  must ask some serious questions about why.

Most breeders attempt to be upfront about their temperaments and will attempt to match the right puppy to the right home based on the experience and desires of the new owners.   A first time owner with the right dedication can be an excellent home for a Briard. Just as someone who is well trained, educated and experienced can be a disaster if they do not have the time or proper devotion to their puppy.   

Briards tend have high prey drive which is required for a good herding dog. This can be a nightmare in a dog who is “out of control”  Again, this trait can be modified with socialization and training.  Briards can do fine with dogs, cats and active children.  (Note--some Briards are not good with cats-but those who are raised with them from an early age and taught appropriate behavior generally are.)  Briards are a DOMINANT breed.  They can be convinced that they have a proper place in the family with the proper attitude and kind but firm training techniques.  Ultimately many Briards are wonderful companions for the family including those with small children.  General Training (Also see article on Kids and Briards)  Briards do not do well with harsh training methods and do better being TRAINED and ASKED/expected to do things then being FORCED to do things. Briards will do anything for a person they respect and if they understand the reasons why.  Being independent thinker they will do thing on their own---a well raised Briard is capable of making good choices instead of bad ones.   (And have been known to rescue people from pools, sound the alerts when a small child unknowingly walks out of the front door and not allow certain individuals who "just can't be trusted" in the house.

Socialization Requirements

All breeds must be raised and socialized properly to live optimally with their family.  This is especially true of large herding breeds like Briards.  Unsocialized dogs can be aggressive, fearful or shy.  These issues are a problem in a small dog but MUCH more problematic in a large powerful dog.    An unsocialized Briard can guard inappropriately, be aggressive due to fear or a lack of being taught at an early age what is acceptable behavior or be shy and just overall fearful of new situations and new people.  Early socialization should involve exposure as a puppy to anything the dog is expected to encounter as an adult.  Dogs do not “generalize” lessons well so just because they like people in their own backyard, does not mean they will like them in public and the other way around.  It is not uncommon for Briards to have positive encounters with people they do not know in public but responded poorly when people to come to their house.  If you expect Briards to welcome visitors—then should be exposed to visitors when they are young and taught to interact with those visitor appropriately.  Many people with large naturally dominant herding breeds set a goal  to meet 100 people in their first six months of life.  These are often people who want that dog to be very happy to see all of the nice “judges” but this example gives a general idea of the amount of work that can go into socializing a dog to be 100%.   The key to effective socialization is that the dog be taught that new situations are not something to be frightened of.  If the dog is exposed to new situations, acts fearful and is rewarded for this fear by being removed from the stressful situation or by being coddled-there is no point to doing the socialization.  During effective socialization the dog’s fear reactions should be ignored and the dog should be taught to investigate and learn “that’s not scary.”  During these young ages and critical ages of development---it is important to try to shelter the puppies from bad experiences.  Dogs go through known developmental stages.  Dogs that have been well socialized can suddenly seem to regress.  During “adolescence” (6 months to 2 years in some) there is a second fear period.  The owner must not be impatient and should go back to the same types of socialization and reinforcement of positive behavior that they did early on/  The owner should attempt to shelter the dog from traumatic experiences during this fear stage if possible.  Training should be less demanding and the owner should take a few “steps back.”  The signal that this period has arrived is the change in the dog’s behavior and this stage generally coincides with sexual maturity in that dog.  The good news is that this phase too will pass. 

The Dominance

Briards are a dominant breed.  Some breeds are “submissive.”  When challenged submissive dogs tend to roll on their back and say—“oh my-you are the boss.”  A Briard is more likely to respond with some version of “HA-you can’t tell ME what to do.”  In an article by trainer Robin Bovary dominance as it applies to Briards is nicely described “A dominant dog knows what he wants, and sets out to get it, any way he can.  He's got charm, lots of it. When that doesn't work, he's got persistence with a capital "P." And when all else fails him, he's got attitude.” For more of her excellent training suggestions go to Taming the Dominant Dog  Well trained and well socialized Briards can behave inappropriately or display aggressive behavior if they feel the need to protect their owner.  This is especially true of dominant males with a female owner that he may perceive as needing protection.  This can be especially pronounced when other dogs are around and can be mistaken as dog aggression.  Briards are not the best breed for people who cannot be dominant or who lack leadership skills. Again, someone who wants to coddle their dog or give into their every wish is not likely to have the best results with their Briard’s temperament.

Space and the activity level

Briards are companions by nature which makes them excellent house dogs.  Briards are not outside dogs (unless you are outside with them), yard dogs or, to be ignored dogs.  They are way too sensitive and intelligent for any of that.  Briards require mental stimulation.   Briards thrive on human companionship and always want to be near their “people” or person.   As a result they have live successfully in a small house or an apartment with meaningful activity.  Some Briards are more “one person” dogs while others are happy as long as they are with any of their people.  Most will take on a very bonded role toward the children in the family.  See Briards and Children. That is not to say they can never be alone.  Many people work full time jobs and successfully live with Briards.  But, if you want a dog that will leave you alone and go outside and play then a Briard is most likely not the right breed for you.  As with most dogs, left unattended outside they can find trouble or danger such as chasing passers by, guarding the property, barking etc.   Briards are not typically runners or dogs that tear off like some breeds but any dog can wander off in search of adventure.  If you want a large constant companion in the bathroom, in the car and in general close to you at all times—then you are more on the mark in considering a Briard.  This is why a large house or property is not necessary with a Briard, because no matter how much space they have-they will want to be close to you when you are around.  They want and need to be an important PART OF YOUR LIFE.  The best thing about Briards is that they can run, hike, or herd etc all day long and have the strength and ability to do this OR they can hang out by your side all day on a rainy day and be couch potatoes.  Of course if you are an especially active person and are getting a Briard because you want an active dog—then your Briard will learn to expect constant activity (which is fine unless you become ill or injured.)  Briards enjoy mental games like hide and seek (you hide and call your Briard) and like having jobs to do (guarding the bird feeder from squirrels or keeping the cat off the counter or from a certain room in the house.)  Being large and smart they are generally easy to housebreak.  Most generally adopt good household manners but MANY are guilty of “counter surfing” especially if they are successful a few times.  “Counter surfing” involves a large dog with paws or a face on the counter searching for a free tasty morsel of food.  The key to successfully raising a Briard is a devoted owner and an active and interesting life.  A typical Briard will want more interesting activity than a walk on a leash once or twice a day but for most Briards the key to happiness is attention and that emotional bond with their “family.”

That said....Briards can be prone to becoming TOO bonded and can develop separation anxiety and over attachments to their owner.  Briards WANT to be your constant companion but it is a good idea for them to have "alone time."  With a puppy this is best spent in a crate with safe and appropriate toys.  Some people want to ensure that their dogs is bonded to them.  This is rarely an issue with a Briard.  Early socialization should involve the Briard having positive experiences with other people with the owner not around.  You never know when a personal or family emergency (or even the chance for a really fun "dog free" vacation) may require that someone else take care of your Briard.  No one does their dog any favors by allowing their dogs to think that the sun rises and sets on "their people" and only their people.

The typical Briard has an exuberance and a zest for life.  This can often translate into them stepping on feet, greeting loved ones happily with flying paws, bumping into knees, knocking down small children (or on special occasions grown adults), flying through the air etc.  They are not bouncy per se nor are they hyperactive.  They are powerful and energetic and they tend to use their paws excessively and frequently.  Their attempts to herd can translate into bumping you in the back of the legs with their head to direct your movements (this is how they would move sheep, by actually bumping them with their head and shoulders or, when drastic measure were required, slamming into them with their bodies.)  As a result Briards tend to be very “physical” dogs. Controlling the jumping and the batting you with the paws is EXTREMELY important in a young puppy.  Puppies should be rewarded with 100% of your attention and happiness for a greeting that involves all 4 paws on the ground.  Any amount of time separated from you can be the reason for a party on the part of your Briard.  Controlling this behavior in a relatively small puppy is much better than attempting to limit this behavior in a full grown Briard.  An adult will be especially hard to break of this habit if they have been allowed to get away with it as a young dog.  Pawing you happily when they are so very pleased to see you is kinda cute in a young puppy.  It is much less attractive in a 70 pound dog.

Do They Bark?

Generally Briards are not “barkers” although some would argue this point.  The more appropriate term to describe Briards is they are boisterous.  They can be loud and generally use their booming bark to announce something of interest like someone walking by in front of the house or some sort of danger (real or perceived.)  With a Briard around chances are you will not be surprised by an unknown visitor.  It is; however, the rare Briard that barks incessantly just to hear themselves bark.  Briards are generally very aware of strangers and many will decide quickly if someone is to be trusted or not.  If a Briard normally accepts strangers willingly—and takes unusual issue with a specific individual-the owner is wise to be suspicious of that person.  If the owner insists on that individual’s presence then the Briard will generally keep a watchful eye and will occasionally “announce” if that person makes any suspicious movements.  The Briard will generally position their body between a deemed potential threat and anyone they deem vulnerable (owner, children or a smaller or less dominant canine companion.)  Biting is not acceptable and the well raised Briard knows this but “warning” of various sorts are certainly acceptable to a threat they deem real in their mind.

Activities to do with a Briard

Briards generally excel at most activities and can be taught to do most things that dogs and humans enjoy.  They are physical, smart and athletic.  Based on their history of herding large groups of sheep they are not great Frisbee dogs nor are they great at catching a small ball out of the air.  Their eyes were designed to survey large groups at a distance not to see small objects close up.  Otherwise, Briards like to go and do and will enjoy and excel at most dog activities like herding, agility, tracking and obedience (although the owner must avoid too much repetition of easy exercises to avoid boring their Briard.)  Most Briards are typically EXCELLENT agility dogs.  There dominance sometimes interferes with them following the course directed to do and the one they would choose but with a clear handler who runs well they are typically IMPRESSIVE at this particular sport.  Briards love outdoor activities with their people like boating, hiking, running, jogging, camping etc….  Briards LOVE pulling especially a cart and years ago were used frequently for this work in Europe.  (They also enjoy pulling on the leash and walking calmly on a leash is an important skill to teach them.)  Briards were war dogs in World War I and World War II and were used as medics and messengers.  Legend says that Briards were used to differentiate the living from those that had been lost on the battlefields.  The quote was something like:”if the Briard passes you on the field of battle then there is no hope for you.”   This smart and intelligent breed is capable of almost any activity that an owner would like to encounter and a Briard who was well socialized as a pup is generally game for any new activity their companions may think of participating in with them.

Do they shed?

This is actually a subject of some debate.  The truth be told—certain families of Briards seem to “blow” their undercoat seasonally and their potential matting will be much more pronounced during this time.  Is this TECHNICALLY shedding?  Some Briards loose a certain amount of undercoat regularly.   Some Briards have more undercoat than others.  Briards are NOT a “shedding” breed like Labs, Shepherds Goldens, Huskies etc.  Briards have hair.  The do not leave masses of hair behind when they lay in a spot nor do handfuls of hair come off in ones hand when they are petted.  They do have a LOT of hair and to expect that they will not lose a certain amount of it to stick to clothes etc is unrealistic. 

Are they hypoallergenic?

To my knowledge there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog yet some will swear that some breeds elicit less of an allergic response and it seems that they believe that breeds with hair instead of fur are less allergenic.  There may or may not be truth to this belief.  Briards are large energetic dogs who like to run and play outside when given the opportunity.  Many potential allergens can be brought into the house on a Briards hair.  Many Briards keep a few days worth of food, water or some sort of muck in their beards.  So the beard is a potential source of mildew and therefore of allergic reactions.  Interestingly some Briards have relatively clean beards whereas others have beards that are generally messy unless bathed or brushed out frequently. 

The Hair

Let’s face it-the Briards has a LOT of hair and it requires maintenance to retain the beautiful appearance.  If you are interested in a Briard then the hair really should be part of the appeal.  If you are hoping to get a Briard with the plans of keeping them shaved down---then there are a number of other breeds to be considered.  As show dogs ,Briards do not require as much skill as many of the breeds with “hair.”  The typical big shedding dogs like Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds etc. have fur.  The “non-shedding” breeds have hair and they matt and the portion of their hair that does fall out tangles in their coat.   Those who are most successful at keeping their Briards coat beautiful and matt free will have a consistent regular grooming routine.  Most adult Briards with good coat can be maintained with 2-3 hours of brushing per week.  Those who have not regularly maintained the coat will discover the need for long and potentially expensive dematting sessions (if expecting a professional groomer to do it---if one can be found who will de-matt at all.)  Or they will be confronted with the need to shave the dog down.  As a side note here---if using a professional groomer—it is extremely important to be CLEAR about what should be done to a Briard when they drop the dog off.  Many a devastated Briard owner has arrived at their groomers to pick up their ”beautiful” Briard to discover them looking something like a cross between a Lab and a greyhound.  Also—if planning to use a professional to maintain coat—the puppy should be “socialized” to the groomer when they are young even if they do not need it yet. 

Adolescent Briards will go through a period of “coat change” where they will transfer between the relatively low maintenance puppy coat to their potentially long, flowing adult coat.  So, they transition relatively quickly from a period of relatively low coat maintenance to the worst matting they will do in their lives.  If you are not “paying attention” when this transition sets in (generally between 6 and 12 months of age) you can have a solidly matted dog in what appears to be almost overnight.  Puppy owners should be working with their puppy regularly to train and “socialize” them to accept grooming by having them lay on their side to be brushed.  Many Briard lovers find this to be a wonderful “bonding” time and many Briards LOVE their grooming sessions.  Even if the puppy’s coat does not yet need the maintenance that it will need when they get older, this is a good habit to get into.  By doing this regularly the matting ie “coat change” will be spotted when it begins. 

Different people with different families of Briards will have different opinions on how often and “how” a Briard SHOULD be bathed and groomed.  The opinions on bathing range from they MUST be bathed every 3 days (to put a show dog into show coat) to once a year or almost never.  These preferences depend partly on the family of dogs and the “genetic” coat they are likely to have and on the individual preference of the breeder/owner.  Each person tends to have their own “right” way to groom a Briard.  Many Briard breeders and exhibitor are emphatic that a Briard should be shown “naturally.”  This generally means that the dog is matt free and has their feet trimmed and that is about it.  Others insist that the competitive show dog must be bathed frequently, blown “straight”, numerous hair products used, large amount of hair cut from in between the eyes and various techniques employed for “sculpting” coat to enhance features or hide faults.  The debate on this is a topic that can result in lengthy and heated discussions.  The typical pet puppy buyer does not have a great interest in this debate.  The typical pet puppy buyer needs to understand that a certain amount of brushing will be required to keep their Briard’s coat beautiful, healthy and matt free.  HOW much brushing is required will depend on the individual dog and their coat.   The person who is interested in a show potential puppy should discuss this topic with different breeders that they speak to and decide how they feel about the topic and the reason for each point of view.

Other things to consider about Briard hair: Briard hair does tend to pick up much from the outside and bring it inside.  A Briard’s hair tends to repel dirt that catches in their coat.  If a Briard goes out and gets damp and dirty---as that dirt dries it does tend to fall out of the hair (and all over the house.)   Depending on the dirt where they live this can leave a thin layer of dust in a room.  Also---most Briards will get a beard full of water when they take a drink.  Relatively few leave this water in the water bowl (and many transfer it to your lap as they greet you with a happy hello right after taking a nice long drink.)   Many people with beautiful and well maintained homes however manage to live happily with Briards.  (Of course they most likely also have beautiful and well maintained lawns.)

The Nails

This topic does warrant a whole section as it is an issue for MOST new and some older Briard owners. Briards have black nails.   Having black nails—the quick is easy to cut when trimming.  Many Briards do not have a high threshold for pain especially when it comes to trimming their nails.  Being the large dominant dogs that they are—many people have Briards whose nails they cannot trim.  Some people who successfully trim Briard nails use a dremel (an electric dog nail “sander.”)  A hand dremel is a challenge with a Briard because of the hair.  A stocking can be used and the nails poked though the nylon.  Some people trim the nail a bit at a time to avoid cutting the quick.  Some people are talented enough to find the exact spot without hitting the quick.  Other people are dominant enough that they expect the dog to tolerate without too much fuss getting the occasional quick cut.  Nevertheless—this is a topic and skill that a new puppy owner should learn about from their breeder.

Briard ears

As with any breed, routine ear cleaning is recommended.  Most Briards weather “natural” or cropped have relatively healthy ears that do not require increased maintenance compared to other breeds.  Some people pull or remove excess hair from the ear canal while others leave this alone.  Again this is a matter of personal preference.  To crop or not to crop is another potential debate and also a matter of personal preference.  Some people are absolutely opposed to what they feel is an unnecessary surgical procedure that they feel puts the puppy through unnecessary discomfort.  Others feel strongly that the Briards ears are cropped at a relatively young age and that the puppies do not particularly remember this pain nor are they the particularly traumatized by the experience.  The key is certainly that the crop is done by experienced individuals under appropriate conditions with a skilled veterinarian. 

The person interested in a show Briard will likely find it more difficult to finish their Briard with natural ears but Briards with natural ears can and do finish their championships.  Many people understandably prefer the look of the erect ear on a Briard.  Proper crop and crop maintenance is required for the cropped ear to stand and this can be a headache and heartache to a Briard puppy owner.  Generally a well cropped puppy will have beautiful ears with relatively little maintenance.  Puppy buyers should listen to their breeder and follow all of breeders instructions regarding getting the ears to stand—Here is a nice link on Briard Cropped Ear Maintenance

Can they see through that hair?

The short answer to this is sometimes.  Some Briards have less hair over their eyes, nice “eyebrows” and ultimately see fine without other intervention.  Most have some trouble especially with seeing things that are close up or right in front of them.  Many people keep the “fall” tied, braided or clipped up with various sorts of scrunchies, bands or barrettes.  Some trim various amount of hair between the eyes and “strip” the hair of the fall so that the dog can see better.

The Size

Briards are a “large dog.”   According to the AKC standard males should be 23-27 inches and females should be 22-25 ½ inches.  Undersize is a disqualification in the show ring while oversized is not.   Many Briards are over the recommended top height (although many breeders are beginning to attempt to breed for “correct” size.)   The standard refers to the Briard as Vigorous and alert, powerful without coarseness, strong in bone and muscle, exhibiting the strength and agility required of the herding dog.”  So—the Briard should not only be large but they should be strong in bone and in attitude.  For the most part Briards ACT and should act LARGE.  They also are meant to have exceptionally large heads.  With all of this and their hair, Briards can give the overall presentation of an extremely large dog at times but the typical Briard weighs between 65 and 90 pounds.  As discussed above under Space and the activity level Briard personalities can be “larger than life” which can make them seem that much larger than they really are.  In essence this is a big dog with a big and exuberant personality.  When they are serious or feel a loved one is threatened they can appear equally big imposing. Some people will be afraid of a Briards simply due to their sometimes imposing appearance.  The females tend as a whole to be a bit smaller and less imposing but that is not always the case.    

The Expense

Briards are not inexpensive to purchase but a cheap Briard is not necessarily a cheap Briard.  Briards tend to be bred by people who are devoted to the breed, who compete in multiple expensive activities with their dogs and who complete health clearances before doing a breeding.  Many are committed to doing a breeding that improves the breed which may involve breeding to a dog who is across the country or half way across the world.  A responsible breeder will insist on taking the puppy back should the owner for any reason be unable to keep the puppy.  All of this involves great expense and few Briard breeders are “making money.”  The cost for a new Briard puppy can be expected to be $1000 and up.  A $400 Briard puppy should lead a savvy buyer to some questions about why.   It may be an accidental breeding from parents who do not have health clearances or who are dysplastic.  The puppies may be older and therefore more difficult to place.  The breeder may be a breeder with no access to sell puppies.  Even “expensive” puppies may have parents who do not have health clearances or who are dysplastic.  The responsible Briard breeder is available to the buyer as a support for training, education and information for the life of the Briard and this is a valuable resource with such an uncommon breed of dog. 

In general the purchase price is a minor portion of the potential expense of a new puppy.  After routine health checks/vaccinations, training classes, grooming, supplies, crates, books, shipping etc, the purchase prices can begin to pale in comparison.  If health issues such as hip dysplasia occur or if  special training is required because of temperament problems, then the expenses are increased significantly.  It is best for the new owner to do their homework and get their new puppy from the most responsible breeder possible.  Puppies can still develop health problems and have issues but the responsible and supportive breeder will help the puppy buyer weed through these issues and find appropriate resolutions.

Be warned—Briards can get VERY expensive.  It is not uncommon for people to fall so in love with their Briard that they are soon buying a special car for them to travel appropriately in, land to have enough space for their new sheep for them to herd.  One puppy buyer selected her new house because it had the right kind of windows for her Briard to look out of.

Health Issues/Health clearances

Briards are overall a healthy breed but not without their problems.  Health issues in the Briard are discussed on the Briard Health page of this website.  Bloat (gastic dilatation and volvulus), cancer, hip dysplasia, and autoimmune problems (such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura rarely diabetes) are all seen.  Cancer is unfortunately common in all breeds and occurs frequently in Briards (and in all dogs) who are 10 and over.  Bloat is a serious problem in the breed.   The genetic predispositions or prevalence of such disorders are difficult to determine but these are conditions that affect many large breeds of dogs.  Hereditary eye diseases are uncommon in the Briard but do occur.  Congenital Stationary Night Blindness (CSNB) which is a hereditary eye disease unique to Briards (with a corresponding disease in human) can now be eliminated in the breed due to a direct genetic test for the gene responsible for this condition.  Briards being bred should have a hip clearance and a CERF examination at a minimum done above the age of 2 years.  Some people will breed to a dog under the age of 2 years.  These must have an OFA prelim.  Some would say that an OFA prelim plus a PennHip result would be better. IDEALLY any dog that is bred should have hip and elbow clearances, a CERF examination, a thyroid test to an OFA approved laboratory and have a CSNB test on them or negative results on both of their parents or all four of their grandparents.   See CHIC or the Briard Health page of this website for more information on the health clearances recommended on the Briard.

Pet Puppy or Show Dog

Most breeders are highly motivated to see their quality puppies go to “show” homes.  Most puppy buyers want “just a pet.”  Many puppy buyers think that a pet puppy should be inexpensive but if you understand the concepts of supply and demand-then it is understandable why most pet puppies are not inexpensive.  The well bred, well raised pet puppy is generally worth every penny.  The responsible breeder typically sells a pet puppy on a limited registration.  Most Briard breeders will want a contract signed by you and by them.  This is not a bad thing and serves to clarify what is expected of both parties.  The terms of the contract should be agreed upon before you get your puppy.  The contract should be signed by you and the breeder before you get your puppy or in person when you pick your puppy up from the breeder.   If you think that you might want a show puppy but have never been involved with dog shows before then I recommend the book—Show Me! A Dog-Showing Primer by D. Caroline Coile.  This book is a nice little overview of the ins and out of dog shows.  It misses the mark on a few things like who is the best person to get a puppy from and can be a little idealistic in places but mostly it is right on the money.   A Briard is a nice breed to show because they are uncommon and most people can do well in the show ring with a nice puppy.  The biggest draw back to showing a Briard is, depending on where you live, it can be difficult to find other Briards to show against for “points.”  This is another place where a nice and supportive breeder can be helpful.

Rescue/older dogs

Older dogs or rescues are a good possibility for many people.  Many breeders will place older dogs if they do not fit in their household or that did not turn out to be the show quality that they had hoped for.  A dog may also be available if they did not pass their health clearances.  Sometimes breeders may have gotten a puppy back from someone who could not longer keep the dog for various reasons.  Briard rescue also obtains many dogs for various reasons.  Some of these Briards are delightful even if they did not have the greatest start in life.  Others may not be able to be salvaged as stable companions.  There can be many advantages to an older Briard.  They may already be trained and housetrained and may already be settled and less of a puppy.  Many have issues and many people find it very rewarding to put in the efforts to rehabilitate these dogs and turn them into model canine citizens.   More information can be found about adopting a rescue Briard at Briard Rescue

Where to buy a Briard?

To date most Briard puppies are available through private hobby breeders who breed for show and pet puppies.  Those who want to “make money” will quickly learn that the Briard is not a good candidate for such an endeavor. Some Briard breeders are more responsible and others are less responsible but most legitimately care about the dogs in their care and are devoted to the breed.  There are a few Briard “breeders” who do not have the well being of the breed in mind and attempt to breed primarily to make money.  Thankfully those are well in the minority.  If you want a Briard—chances are you will not find a breeder with puppies available who lives close to you.  Many breeders are willing to ship puppies and others will encourage you to come and get your puppy.  Since the Briard is such an unusual breed this can be a good opportunity for the breeder to speak with you further and show you important tips on grooming and training.  If you are not willing to travel to get or to ship your puppy—you may have a difficult time finding a Briard.  Briard breeders can be found through the Briard Club of America or you can ask people for recommendations.

Where can I learn more?

As you have probably already discovered-there is not a tons of written information available on the Briard.  A short reference list is available below:

The Briard by Diane McLeroth  This book can be ordered directly form the author Diane McLeroth P.O. Box 300 East Longmeadow, MA  01028

Briards by Alice Bixler Clark has lots of pictures but the content is relatively generic

The Dewclaw is the official magazine of the Briard Club of America.  It is part of the membership benefits of the club, or can be subscribed to separately.

The Briard Monthly Jounal is available through Barbe Lynch at bigtree@rochester.rr.com

AKC Briard video is available through AKC or Dogwise.

There are several Briard e-mail list including Briard-L, BriardTalk, Briard 101 and BCA Discussion group.

This website is constantly being updated so return here for more information and new articles and links on the bred.  Again the best place to get information is from responsible and dedicated breeders.  Breeders devoted to the breed should be happy to answer questions even though they may not always have puppies available.  Devoted Breeders will be available for questions and support for the lifetime of the dog.  Many people want a puppy now or from a breeder located close to them but in many cases they are best choosing a breeder that they feel comfortable with and waiting until they have a puppy that is the RIGHT dog for their situation.   With questions for for more information feel free to contact us at l
Aladax Briards

(512) 858-7939
mhuslig@briardsbriards.com

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