Briard – a heart of gold wrapped in fur

charleemisha

A favourite Breed of mine as my beautiful Misha is a black Briard.  I can personally testify to their loyal, loving and intelligent temperament.  Misha is a regular visitor to aged homes and loves making kids with disabilities smile and giggle with her tricks and cuddly nature.  And while I couldn’t imagine life without her I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know she is hard work when it comes to grooming.

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The Briard is an ancient breed of large herding dog, originally from France.  Charlemagne, Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, and Lafayette are all said to have owned Briards.  The breed became popular after the Paris dog show of 1863, after the breed had been fixed, with crosses with the Beauceron (guard dog) and the Barbet (French water dog).

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During the First World War, the Briard was used, almost to the point of extinction, by the French army as a sentry, messenger, and to search for wounded soldiers. The Briard’s modern-day roles include police, military and search-and-rescue work, as well as companion dog.

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Famous Briards

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History:

They were originally bred to herd as well as guard flocks of sheep. And they were often left to their own devices in order to accomplish their assigned tasks. This makes the Briard different from those breeds that only guard and those that only herd. The breeds that just herd are often smaller in size, agile, and swift of foot. Those breeds that just guard are usually larger and heavier. Briards were used in all types of herding situations, having the ability to learn many commands and fulfill the jobs expected of them.  At night, they were alert and vigilant watchdogs, protecting the shepherds and flock from wolves and thieves

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Appearance

The Briard can be tawny, black or gray however there are variations in each colour.  The light tawny coloured Briards are often mistaken for haystacks.

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The Briard is a large dog.  Bitches range from 55cm to 65cm  (22″ to 25 ½”) at the shoulder, weighing around 23kg to 32kgs (50 to 70 lbs). Dogs are larger, ranging from 58cm to 69cm (23″ to 27″) at the shoulder, and usually weighing from 31kgs to 40+kgs (65 to 90+ lbs). Most today are at the upper end of the size range, and it is unusual to see a 23kg (50 lb) female, or a 29kg (65 lb) male. Briards appear larger than their actual size, because of the coat. Size has to relate to function, not just appearance. An oversize Briard would be unable to move with the speed and agility necessary to control a flock of sheep. An undersize Briard might lack the power necessary to face down and move a large, stubborn ram.

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Their long coat is what the casual observer usually remembers about the Briard and requires an extensive amount of grooming.  The Briard is a double coated dog with the outer coat coarse, hard and dry (making a dry rasping sound between the fingers). It lies down flat, falling naturally in long, slightly waving locks, having the sheen of good health. On the shoulders the length of the hair is generally six inches or more.   A show coat on an adult dog can reach from twelve to eighteen inches, and flows when the Briard moves.  The undercoat is soft,  fine and tight on all the body.  The undercoat must be groomed to the skin, and lack of care leads to matting.

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The head is well covered with hair which lies down, forming a natural part in the center. The eyebrows do not lie flat but, instead, arch up and out in a curve that lightly veils the eyes. The hair is never so abundant that it masks the form of the head or completely covers the eyes. The Briard’s tail is a very identifiable feature , with its distinctive crochet, a “J”, at the end. It is feathered, and the tip of the tail should reach the hock.

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Briards have double dewclaws mounted low on each rear leg, resembling additional toes. Each double dew claw should have bone substance and nail, giving the appearance of a wider rear foot. Bred for centuries to herd, the additional digits on each rear foot give the Briard the ability of pivoting on one foot for quick turns and complete turn-arounds, which are necessary when herding and guarding their flocks.

charlottemisha

Temperament

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 very emotional, capable of crying for a long time after their owners’ departure and celebrate their return in a very enthusiastic way.

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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. Parks and malls are a good place to start.

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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.

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Service and therapy roles

Briards have been used in a variety of service and therapy roles to help those with disabilities and comfort those in hospitals, schools and retirement communities.  Briards are also being trained as autism service dogs and PTSD service dogs for both adults and children.  With their keen intelligence, tactile coat interaction, and loyalty, they make a huge difference in the quality of life for those with disabilities or in recovery.

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