Briard: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Brown and black Briard dog in field of wheat.

LottaVess / Getty Images

The quick and fearless Briard might be most well known for its unmistakable good looks, but it’s their smarts and great personalities that have made them such a well-loved breed. Briards have a long and storied past, appearing in popular culture as early as the 14th century (and apparently, the breed was a favorite of Napoleon, who wasn’t known to care much for dogs in the first place). What Briards lack in streamlined coifs they more than make up for in good nature, warm spirit, and herding prowess. Read on to learn all about these unique pups, including how to care for your own beloved Briard. 

Breed Overview

Group: Herding
Height: 23 to 27 inches (male); 22 to 25.5 inches (female)
Weight: 55 to 100 pounds
Coat and Color: Black, white, gray, blue, tawny, or a mix of colors
Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Characteristics of the Briard

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium-High
Playfulness Medium-High
Energy Level Medium-High
Trainability Medium-High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Briard

Briards are one of the most ancient dog breeds still around today. Originally bred to herd and guard sheep in the dairy belt of Northern France, Briards bring with them distinct and undeniable French roots—including their name, which in France is Chien Berger de Brie, or “Shepherd Dog Brie.” (Brie being one of the many popular cheeses you’ll find in France’s dairy belt.)

The French appreciated and revered the Briard’s intelligence and athleticism, considering them a “two for one” dog of sorts, since they were as capable at herding sheep into place as they were at protecting them from predators (and protecting local vegetation from the sheep). For a long time, the Briard was a mainstay on French farms, and for good reason. In addition to the qualities mentioned above, the breed is also extremely good natured, making them as open to human affection as they are ruthless in the fields.

In addition to their herding work, Briards also proved incredibly useful during the French and Indian War, where they were used to carry supplies, guard access points, and search for wounded soldiers. For their heroic efforts, Briards were named the official dog breed of the French army.

The Briard's introduction to the United States can be traced back to none other than Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father and the third U.S. president. In the late 1780s—prior to his presidency and following a stint as the U.S. Ambassador to France—Jefferson purchased a pregnant Briard named Bergère and brought her along with him to Monticello, his Virginia estate. There, Bergère had her puppies and the first line of Briards had officially made their mark on American soil. Over time, Jefferson had more of the breed sent over to him courtesy of his friend (and Revolutionary War hero) Marquis de Lafayette—a Briard lover himself.

Today, Briards are well ensconced in American life, though they haven’t left their herding heritage behind, as evidenced by their high trainability and protective natures. 

Briard Care

It should come as no surprise that Briards love to have a job to do. Properly caring for a Briard in a standard family home then comes with a responsibility to channel their energy both physically and mentally, a task that can be done through high intensity activities like biking and hiking, as well as brain games like nosework and hide-and-go-seek. Briards are happy to curl up on the couch by their humans, but daily walks and other activities are necessary.

The long fur of a Briard is prone to tangles and matting, and as such, it’s crucial that Briard caregivers maintain a strict grooming schedule. This includes multiple brushings a week, in addition to general care like teeth brushing, ear cleaning, and nail trimming. On the bright side, Briards are light shedders, and while they’re not hypoallergenic, they do leave considerably less fur around than you might expect from such a large breed.

As for training, this smart breed is always open to learning new tricks and skills. Their intelligence can occasionally work against them in training though, since they’re more than capable of thinking for themselves and aren’t always going to put a human’s requests first. Once a Briard picks up the hang of a new skill however, he or she is sure to go on and excel at it. This is true for everything from competitive dog sports to service roles. 

Brown Briard puppy walking up grassy hill.
hanbr / Getty Images
Black Briard puppy running through the snow.
 Paolo_Toffanin / Getty Images
Black and brown Briard puppy in forest.
Darren Brown / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Briards are known to be quite healthy dogs, but there are some health conditions to be aware of. A responsible breeder will provide you with health clearances for your Briard puppy, including those from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Conditions that will be checked for include:

Be on the lookout for signs of diseases that are more common in large breed dogs in particular, such as gastric torsion (bloat) and joint diseases. Your breeder should have already tested your puppy’s lineage for genetic diseases like cancer and congenital stationary night blindness.

Diet and Nutrition

Feed your Briard a high-quality, high-protein diet that is properly optimized for their age, weight, and any health conditions that they may have. Because Briards need a lot of exercise, feel free to supplement with treats in addition to meals, though always keep a close eye on your dog’s weight and adjust daily caloric intake as needed. If you have any questions about the best diet for a Briard, talk to your veterinarian.

Pros

  • Incredibly sweet, with an eagerness spend time with and please their humans

  • Independent dogs who do not tend to be overly need

  • Great with children

Cons

  • Require a lot of grooming

  • May not interact well with other dogs unless they have been well-socialized

  • Have a lot of energy and need someone who can keep up

Where to Adopt or Buy a Briard

We always encourage people to consider rescue first. Check out breed specific rescue groups Briard Rescue and Haven and the Briard Rescue Trust to see if any Briard dogs are available for adoption, and browse adoption sites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet to see if you can find your perfect match. If you choose to buy a Briard instead of adopt, make sure to only work with a reputable breeder who allows you to visit on-site to meet the puppy and one or both of its parents.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you love the Briard, you may be interested in these breeds as well:

There are so many great dog breeds out there! With a little bit of research you should have no trouble picking out the perfect dog to add to your family.