The Briard is a sheepdog breed. He was bred to drive sheep and contain them when grazing, rather than herd them up like a Border Collie. Therefore he is a dog who should be able to work all day. He was bred to guard the sheep too, against wolves and other dangers, so the Briard today can still sometimes have a strong guarding instinct. That is not to say he is particularly aggressive, but will certainly let you know if a stranger is approaching your (and his) home. Although his breed history can make him wary of strangers, he will never forget you once he has met you. As he was supposed to also tend the sheep without human help, for a period of time, he is a very intelligent dog, using his own brain to make his own decisions. This can make him stubborn and independent at times, as he may think he knows best - and sometimes he does! A Briard puppy therefore, needs to be trained from the day he arrives into your home. Consistency with firmness and kindness is the key. He must know what the rules are, and he will then obey them without question. No direction, and he will make the rules to suit himself and be the one in charge. Not a desirable situation for anyone, including the dog. A trained dog is a happy dog and a happy dog is a delight to own.
A Briard is "a heart wrapped in fur", and he gives back the love and affection you give to him 10 fold. He is extremely loyal and trusting of his owner. You are never alone when you own a Briard - literally. He will follow you everywhere - even to the bathroom! Another common trait which can be evident from an early age is a Briard’s “nosiness”. He wants to learn about everything around him, and you will find that he will want to be involved in everything a family does. Having very acute hearing also means that nothing escapes him and he will tell everyone about it.
In the Standard he is described as "gay and lively", so be warned - some do not grow up until they are 10! Having said that, it is not necessary that you own a huge garden. Just putting a Briard in the garden doesn't mean he will exercise himself. He will just lay by the back door waiting for you to join him or let him in! He does not need 8 mile walks every day either. A Briard will do as much or as little exercise as you wish. The main criteria is that he is with you. If you run or walk miles every day your Briard will enjoy accompanying you. If not, he won't mind, as long as he is by your side.
A Briard has a long coat with an undercoat, and a lot of coat means regular grooming, as it can matt easily and quickly at times - especially in the 'teenage' months. But on the plus side, he does not have a regular moult like a lot of other breeds. Dead hair is normally brushed out in a grooming session.
He is a good family dog. Full of fun and with a great sense of humour. But remember he is a sheepdog at heart, with the inherent traits of the breed, so could have a "chasing" instinct with lively children, wanting to bring them all into check. This stems from a strong “prey drive” associated with their guarding instinct, so do not be surprised if your Briard chases birds, chickens, cats or cars etc. But any dog is what you make of him, and with a Briard, who is intelligent, easy to train and quick to learn, you really reap the benefits of your labours. They are good at obedience and love agility, but woe betide you repeating the same exercise too many times. He will have learned quickly and too much repetition will result in no work at all. Why do the same thing over and over again, when you already know how to do it! - he will say to himself.
To this day, the Briard retains his intelligence and willingness to please. But in hand with this they can be stubborn and use their own initiative. They have kept their guarding instinct, but of course are not now worked on farms to the extent that they used to be. As part of his need to “guard” his sheep and use his “initiative”, the Briard will also have a sense of independence and can be reserved with strangers. As with some other sheepdog breeds, the very nature of their work means that they can be dominant and “pushy”. They have to “dominate” the sheep to make them do what they wish i.e. drive them along a road. So don’t be surprised on a walk if a briard “nose butts” you to hurry up if he is frustrated and corrected to come back to heel.
The Briard is not a breed for everyone, but if he is for you, he is for life - literally. His and yours. For once you have had a Briard no other breed will do.