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Let's Talk Briards

Yes. I still want a Briard. What now?

Genetic Diversity - the Dark Side of Inbreeding

Briards of the past..

Dog Safety - An Ongoing Job 

Understanding and Maintaining Pack Order

Show Dog? American and French Championship requirements....


Let's talk Briards

Let's talk Briards


Written by Olga Shulman with edits by Liz Kenitz



Many people are attracted to these cute fluffy dogs who often look more like large goofy toys than serious athletic dogs with teeth. They are great and we love them, but these dogs are not for everyone...


So, before you decide that you want to share your life with one - let's talk about what you are getting into..


A Briard is said to be loyal and intelligent. Almost every article you read will tell you that this is a 'heart wrapped in fur', but what does that mean in every day life? Where is the answer?


What do you imagine when you see the words: loyal and intelligent?


Most people I asked imagine something between the characters of  'Lassie' and 'Lady and the Tramp'. They see cuddling with them on a lazy Sunday afternoon, taking them to doggy playgrounds where dogs happily chase balls with others. They see fearless protectors when occasion calls.... The pictures they paint are always idyllic....


They see themselves loving much of what they think these dogs can give...


Unfortunately people often do not see what they themselves must give in return and how much work it really is to own one of these furry hearts.


So let's look into that...



 Yes these dogs are loyal and intelligent. But what does it mean?

For centuries these types of dogs were bred to work on farms and help shepherds guard and move flocks of sheep. They were selected for their ability to work independently and think for themselves even while under the direction of the shepherd. They were also selected for their ability to please their master by their incessant desire to work and earn their keep. That work consisted of control and protection. This means that these dogs often may possess instincts to behave in a way that may not be entirely acceptable in a modern city: these dogs may want to guard their flock (family) from other animals and that includes dogs they are not familiar with. These dogs may display independent thinking while you are busy in the kitchen and come up with a job for themselves that may include protecting 'their human child' from his loud and rambunctious visitor friends, or 'protecting' your home from a delivery man or the plumber. In the last 50-60 years breeders have softened most of these instincts to help Briard fit the modern world better, but it does not mean that all the original traits have been eliminated.

Just as humans are born with different personalities, so are the dogs. Briards, in particular, are all individuals. Not every Briard will be the same as the next, and many differ in temperaments within different families, but most share some common breed traits which include manipulative behavior, creativity, prey drive and uncanny ability to watch, learn and use their environment. That is why it is imperative that the owner of a Briard is at least equally as alert and intelligent and willing to observe and learn, as their dog. 

Briards can be a handful as youngsters and their success in the family greatly depends on how much work you are willing to do with them while they are still young and impressionable. Remember, these dogs were bred to control their environment, so they need to learn clear guidelines of what and whom they should and should not control. This means that Briards require a lot of socialization and education. Proper socialization consists of a lot more than simply letting them meet your close friends and a few occasional visitors. Proper socialization means that they should be meeting people of all races and walks of life consistently for the first few years of their life, as well as visit many different places and meet many different breeds of dogs. Every new smell, sight, sound - is an experience that they collect for future reference.

Thus... All these experiences should be positive. Briards have long memories. They remember those who harm them as youngsters. If you let a pushy and rude dog of another breed unfairly punish your puppy, your Briard puppy may grow up forever disliking that particular breed of dogs. The same goes for humans. Briards are very observant and most have very strong sense of fair play. They do not require harsh corrections. They require consistent and strong leadership. In fact, many Briards will simply shut down if corrected unfairly and harshly. A strong, observant, fair and, preferably, well versed in the dog language human leader, or a good strong role model of an older dog  - is all you need for a successful relationship with a Briard.   You need to know how to say and mean a firm NO without being offensive to a smart dog.

When you talk to a breeder tell the breeder about yourself and what exactly you are looking for. Not every Briard is a workaholic, and certainly not every Briard is a couch potato. The more details you give the easier it will be to match the personality of a puppy to your family. A good breeder usually will select the right puppy for each situation and will rarely allow the puppy buyer to choose a puppy on their own, unless there are two or three comparable choices. Nobody knows the temperaments and personalities of these dogs better than the person who watched these puppies develop for the first 8 weeks of their lives, so the more information the breeder gets from you - the better fit it will be.

 A good breeder will interview you and your family members and, in some cases, may even tell you that the breed is not for you. Do not take offense. Any good breeder wants to protect his or her puppy and you from failure. It is much better to find out that you may do better with a dog of another breed, than have to deal with the consequences of a not well thought through puppy placement.


Living arrangements
Even though this breed was bred for farm work, Briards were not meant to live separately from their humans. Unlike livestock guardian breed dogs, which are often left to spend a lifetime in the yard or a barn, Briards prefer to have their humans close by. This means that they will not do well as 'yard/barn' dogs.

This is not a dog that should be tied out.  Briards can and will become very frustrated if they are tied out or left in the backyard while you are at work, invisible fences are not ideal.  A good 4 to 6 foot fence makes for a good neighbor.  A good rule of thumb is if you are not at home your Briard should be in the house.  Things can happen that you are not aware of that can cause your Briard to behave badly if left outside.  Keep your Briard safe.  They are very agile dogs and they are protective of their territory.

There is a very common joke among all Briard owners, that once you start living with a Briard - you never ever enter a bathroom alone.  True. When you stand at the sink they often lay right behind you, when you are watching TV or reading a book they are laying on your feet.  Even when in deep sleep, they will feel you leaving the room and will wake up to sleepily follow you.

Briards like to be part of everything you do and they will often follow you from room to room as you move around the house. They are shepherd's dogs and as such, they are innately programmed to be aware of the shepherd's comings and goings. These dogs will most likely try to join you in your bed at night, or at least at the foot of it. Being separated from you feels like a punishment to them, so if you do not like a dog who will poke his nose into every little part of your day - this breed is not for you.

Most Briards are not couch potatoes and require a decent amount of exercise. They will be happy to lay at your feet at home, but only after they have released some of their energy by playing 'catch the ball' with you or taking a good long walk. If left without physical activity for too long, they may take their frustration out by remodeling your furniture or shoes.  A good Briard is a mentally and physically exercised dog, in other words - a good Briard is a tired Briard.

Briard Coat

Now here is an interesting subject....

Briards were bred for farm work. They were meant to roam the fields and occasional woods in all kinds of weather. Their coats are supposed to protect them from heat and cold, from scratches and injuries during the long hours while on duty. Historically, these dogs could go on week long treks leading the flocks to the summer pastures and then spend months living there with the flocks and the lone shepherd. This means that their coats are meant to be relatively easy to care for and should not require frequent or very particular grooming. In fact, many shepherds would shear their Briards when they sheared the sheep twice a year. Brushing a dog would not have been a task that shepherds would bother with. So why do so many articles say that these dogs should be groomed daily?


Good question.

Some of this added coat care can be put squarely at the feet of breeders.  Most Briard breeders breed for "show" dogs, not for working dogs.  The standards state hair at the shoulder should be six-plus inches long.  Double that length is more common today.  When we choose dogs that are to be bred  - hair length, among other things, was and is an asset that is much admired.  Add to that dog nutrition which has changed over the years. With "premium" foods come "benefits" that include supplements for growing hair.  When you look at images of the breed from the early 1900's, the dogs' coat was shorter and more "rustic" looking.  When you compare that to the long coat that is much more common today  - the difference is apparent. Click on the following link or the image below to see more Briards of the past.

Briards are a double-coated breed. They have the long hair that we call 'guard hair' and the undercoat.  Their guard hair, if proper, should resemble coarse goat hair while the softer undercoat should be present but not be overabundant.   When you see a good Briard coat - you should be able to see shiny thick hair strands, not unlike the thick, supple, luxurious hair on some human models advertizing shampoo. The coat should not look fuzzy, frizzy, flyaway or have the look of cotton candy. A good coat will require weekly or bi-weekly brushing and it will not mat much and will not require much bathing. The guard hair falls out like human hair, the undercoat is the real matting culprit. Briards do not shed like goldens, newfs, shelties. You don't have hair all over your clothes, and furniture. You may have some hair/dust balls gathering in the corners of your home, but that is all.  .  .

When a Briard is a puppy, many folks neglect training the puppy to be groomed, because pups don't really mat.  Then, suddenly, the day comes when they start to blow their puppy coat.  Your no-mat youngster goes from wash and wear to a clumpy lumpy mess.  This is the time which most experienced briard owners welcome and dread.  The adult coat is coming in but the baby coat is "shedding", and you have to groom to get that soft undercoat out. Once you are through with the puppy coat, you settle into the adult Briard coat.  Adult Briards will go thru occasional periods when they blow their undercoat more than usual; this can happen during the changes of seasons, or a female may blow her coat after she has been in season,  or any Briard can blow coat after surgery.  

A good adult Briard coat may require some thorough raking to remove excess undercoat, but if done properly will not be necessary to do it more than 4-6 times a year. Proper Briard coat has a hard cuticle and structure which helps repel dirt and thus does not require much bathing. Even when rolling in the mud, once dry, the proper coat will shed dirt and sand. Unfortunately, all the drying debris may often be shed on your floor and furniture. They can be like a dirty dust mop that has not gone outside to shake.  Many Briard owners are big consumers of Swifters. Dusting can become second nature. If you bathe a Briard with a good coat after about 2 months of playing in all types of weather - the water will run relatively clean.

When the coat is improper - you may need to groom the dog daily or every other day. Every walk in muddy, wet weather may require a bath. Such coats do not release dirt easily as it gets trapped in the over abundant cotton candy undercoat and gets plastered to the skin of the dog. If left unattended - it will eventually result in hot spots or some other skin irritation. If you bathe a Briard with an improper coat after about 1 week of playing in all types of weather - the water will run muddy. Unfortunately such coats do exist in some lines and you need to make sure that you understand how to tell the difference when looking at the dogs. Some people like daily grooming of a large canine. If you are not one of them, pay attention to the coat in the family of Briards from which you are getting the puppy. And remember: being a Champion does not prevent the dog from having an incorrect coat. Show dogs are presented to judges bathed and groomed, and not every judge is a Briard coat specialist.


Can you tell the difference between the texture of coat on the Coat types A and B below? Please ignore the color and shape of the dogs. The images have been edited to disguise the actual dogs and are meant to show only coat texture. The two coats shown in the Type B pictures are not easy to care for and would be considered not proper for a Briard. The coats in the Type A pictures are coats with proper texture.  

Coat type A
Coat type B

Some people choose to shave their Briards and not deal with coat care.  Briards need some of their coat for protection from inclement weather, but a puppy cut is more than adequate for that purpose if the coat is too much trouble to deal with. Many owners choose to give puppy cuts to their older (10 and up) Briards, because as these dogs age they become less enamored with jumping on the grooming table.


An adolescent Briard coat does require more frequent grooming when the coat begins to change from baby to adult, but once that growing stage is over - Briard coat care should not be a full time job. This 10 year old female was last groomed about 5 weeks before this picture was taken. You can see her wet feet after she was playing outside in the mud and melting snow for an hour. She has as close to a care-free coat as a long coated dog can have. Her coat quality was noted and highly praised during 'Selection' in France.





From the standard:

Size, Proportions
'Size--males 23 to 27 inches at the withers; bitches 22 to 25½ inches at the withers. Disqualification--all dogs or bitches under the minimum. Proportions--the Briard is not cobby in build. In males the length of the body, measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock, is equal to or slightly more than his height at the withers. The female may be a little longer.'

This means that a Briard is a large breed dog who grows up from a one pound newborn to a 60-100 lb animal within the first 18 months of its life. This also means that you have very little time to teach your puppy how to behave and not jump on you and your visitors before the young dog is large and powerful and can easily knock a human over.

Briards are very well aware of their large bodies and tails and rarely knock something over without intending it, so they do very well in small living spaces surrounded by many nick-knacks, but they need to be taught what is off limits and what they should be careful with.  Look at the age progression in the two images below: what a difference 10 months makes in a life of a Briard puppy.

Are Briards costly to own?


As many other large breed dogs, a Briard is not a low budget proposition. They eat like large dogs do, they require regular grooming like long haired breeds do, they require training like protective breeds do and they require medical care that will often cost more than a small dog. When you go away on vacation, they are harder to leave in a kennel, unless they are really well socialized and know how to play well with other dogs. The initial cost of a Briard puppy - is only the small drop of what living with this dog will cost you.


Relevant resources

coming soon....


 May not be reprinted or used in its entirety or any part without the express permission of the author.

Yes. I still want a Briard. What now?

Since the previous article was not able to talk you out of getting a Briard, let's talk about how to look for the one for you.

Step One, find a Briard breeder.  But how do you find that right breeder?


You should talk to many and see with whom you you click mentally and emotionally. Remember, this is not a one-time limited transaction, like buying a car. It is more like getting a new in-law.


That breeder, if it is a caring breeder, will have a 'relationship' with you for the life of your puppy. Most such breeders sell puppies with a contract that requires you to keep in touch and also requires you to return the dog to them if you are no longer able or willing to care for it, or at least place the dog in a mutually agreed upon home. When you talk to a breeder make sure that you give the breeder as much information as possible about your lifestyle and what you are looking for in your dog. The more information the breeder has the better match the breeder will be able to make.


If you found the ad for a 'perfect looking' puppy online, do not rush. Talk to that breeder. Do your research. Ask about the pedigree of the litter and look, really LOOK, at the names on the pedigree for at least 5 generations. Every good Briard breeder can point you to a pedigree online. Championship attached to the name is great, but what is MORE important to you as a puppy buyer  is - what kind of breeding program does this breeder have?  How much inbreeding is there? How often is the same bitch bred? What did the relatives die from? How long did they live?


There are some breeders out there who are successful in the show world by marketing their dogs well, but they stick to the idea of close inbreeding. They breed generations of very close relatives (uncles to nieces,  brothers to sisters, mothers to sons, etc..) in order to produce dogs that consistently LOOK a certain way: have the 'line look'. There is a huge difference between the 'line look' and the 'type look'. Line look, is what makes you clearly recognize the dog as not just a typical Briard, but a member of a particular family. That is usually achieved by close and consistent inbreeding.... Type look - is when a Briard looks as a dog described in the Briard standard.


Unfortunately, there is a high price to pay for that 'visual consistency' of the 'line look' and that price often can be the health, temperament and longevity of the dogs. To better understand what it means, please read the following below article by Dr. Catherine Marley. She explains simply and clearly what inbreeding does to dogs.


Genetic Diversity - the Dark Side of Inbreeding

Genetic Diversity - the Dark Side of Inbreeding

written by Catherine Marley, MD

Kai-La-Sha Lhasa Apsos (

If you can imagine building a house, there are numerous subcontractors working on it, the framer, the electrician, the plumber, the bricklayer etc. Now each worker gets two sets of plans for his part of the job. Of course there are a number of other sets of plans or blueprints for this kind of job back at the main office, but for the job in this house, the worker only gets two of the many possible plans.

A gene is like a long blueprint given to the subcontractors in the bodyIf there is a mistake in the blueprint, the worker either does the job incorrectly or he doesn't finish the job. All the possible plans (or genes) that one might use for a particular job are termed alleles. In this case, the worker gets two sets of plans (genes) of the many possible ones (alleles), and he puts one set in each hip pocket. If one of these sets of plans gets damaged, the worker still has a good set, and the work can proceed on schedule.

The pocket is the analagous to the "gene locus".  The locus is an actual location on each of a pair of chromosomes in the cell.  Each cell has multiple pairs of chromosomes, - the number is species specific. Each chromosome contains many loci for all the jobs that have to be done in the body. There is one allele, specific for each job, residing at the identical locus on each of a pair of chromosomes, - just like the two sets of blueprints in the worker's hip pockets. The animal got one set of those paired chromosomes from each of it's parents. In the carrier state of a recessive genetic mutation, the animal has gotten one good copy of the gene in question, and one defective copy. In this case, one good copy is sufficient for the work to proceed and the animal to be healthy.

Genetic diversity in a population means that the population contains most of the possible alleles (alternate sets of plans) for a particular gene locus rather evenly distributed throughout the population. (Of course an individual animal can only have two of those alleles, for every gene locus, in his or her private collection.) This is where you start getting into trouble in an isolated population, such as in quarantine countries, or in very small countries. A very popular stud arrives in the country. Soon every bitch in the population is bred to him. Suddenly every puppy in the country has one or the other of his alleles for every gene locus. This would be bad enough in itself, but even worse, by breeding every bitch to the one male, you have selected AGAINST all the other alleles in the adult male population. These alleles will disappear unless they are handed down to offspring. This is genetic death. (death before having a chance to reproduce). Genetic diversity has been lost.

Let us suppose that there were 200 males, and 200 females in our hypothetical breeding population. But all 200 bitches were bred to Mr. Wonderful. Now, instead of having 200 different paternal gene collections represented in those 200 litters, we have only one. Now someone says, "We got such great type from this dog, let's breed his daughters to him as well."  Now you are throwing away another whole set of alleles.

Even assuming Mr. Wonderful is perfect - an unlikely event that he carries no hidden defective alleles, since the average is around 7, many alleles carried in the former population have been ruthlessly discarded by overusing Mr. W.  We have no idea what they are until something bad happens in the population.  For instance,  some genes MUST be carried in a heterozygous state for the animal to have an intact immune system.  In an inbred population, this heterozygosity is lost.  Modifiers that keep otherwise bad genes from being expressed can be lost. Genes responsible for subtle changes in longevity or fertility can be lost.  Numerous studies have shown that declines in fertility are directly linked to the degree of inbreeding.  So even Mr. Perfectly Wonderful is dangerous if he becomes the father of the majority of a population!

Now suppose this dog carries a hidden defect. In the first 200 litters sired by Mr. Wonderful, one half of the pups are carriers of that same gene.  In selecting for the gene set that this dog carries, you have selected FOR the defective gene, and AGAINST a "good" one which may have been in the population before Mr. Wonderful came along.

Lets say that by now, (which is usually the case in popular sire effect), the overall carrier rate for the bad gene is 50%. This means that every other animal in the population carries at least one copy of Mr Wonderful's defective gene. The chances are 1/2 that any dog carries it and 1/2 that any bitch carries it. The chances are 1/2 x 1/2 or one in 4 that two carriers will be mated, even if we bred them randomly.  But by now Mr. Wonderful's "look" has become a showring necessity. In all likelihood, we will be selecting, for our breeding, that dog and bitch who look most like Mr. Wonderful. The very plain pair have been neutered and placed as pets.

Again we have selected for the genes of Mr. Wonderful and against the other genes in the original population.  But the pair resembling their famous sire are the very ones most likely to be carrying the heaviest helping of Mr. Wonderful genes, both good and bad. So the chances are that more than 3 out of four litters will produce carriers, and one out of 4 litters will now have affected puppies. In each of these affected litters, 3 out of 4 pups will carry the defective gene. Only one in four pups in each of these litters will be "clean".

What is the solution?  The most obvious response is "don't breed any dogs carrying that gene".  Now suppose we decide we will not permit breeding of affected dogs or carriers. Abruptly, we eliminate from our breeding the the 50% of the population which carry the defective gene. Which dogs are most likely to be carriers? The ones that look like Mr. Wonderful, of course. What is now left in this genetically decimated population? Precious little, perhaps not enough to go on with. There may be genetic problems that have surfaced because of the lack of "good" genes in the population, neonatal losses, failure to thrive, allergies, etc.

What happens, on the other hand, if we outcross to a line which has never had this problem?  Suppose we assemble a number of unrelated dogs, - lets call them all "Mr.Clean" - and breed each of our bitches to a different Mr. Clean. Again 1/2 of the bitches which are bred to our Mr.Cleans, are carriers. This means that they have one "bad" copy of the gene, and one "good" copy. Since the sires have only good copies of the gene, half of the pups from the carrier mothers will be carriers, but NONE will be affected.  In a late onset disease, identifying affected animals before they are bred will be a problem, but testing for the disease before breeding will reduce the number of litters an affected animal is likely to have.  By using mainly outcrosses, even the accidental use of affected dogs will not increase the prevalence of affected offspring.

What about other problems? If this group of sires carry undesirable traits, they will each have a different collection, - alleles different from the inbred population and from each other. The likelihood of two "bad" copies of any gene getting together is thereby markedly reduced. And this infusion of new genes has introduced new genetic diversity into the impoverished line.

Put these two approaches together. Let's say we do not intentionally breed any animals who carry two copies of the defect, and we only use known carriers when there is a good reason to do so, and then ONLY to unrelated animals. This approach allows the gradual removal of the defective gene from the population, and the preservation of most of the good qualities of good old Mr. Wonderful. It restores a healthy degree of genetic vigor to the population, and lessens the likelihood that other "bad" problems will manifest themselves.

This is what the "genetic diversity" approach to breeding is all about. The "wholesale genetic slaughter" method may be appropriate in a genetically diverse population with only an occasional individual case of the disease in question. (Of course you rarely have this kind of problem in a genetically diverse population.) You get into the heavily "loaded" state only by inbreeding. Using the "wholesale genetic slaughter" method, even if it were practically possible, will not cure the problem in this inbred population, because the real culprit is not the defective gene, but the inbreeding. Besides you have to wonder what you will have left when you are finished. The dogs are still inbred, with all the problems that go along with inbreeding.  In fact, they are twice as inbred as when you started, because you threw away half the genes. You won't have much of the genetic disease you select against, but maybe you won't have dogs either.

A reasonable course of action in any genetic disease demands that attention be paid both to removing the gene where possible without seriously degrading the genetic viability of the population, and taking steps to provide increased genetic diversity if it is needed.

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Dog Safety - An Ongoing Job

Dog Safety - An Ongoing Job 

By Becca Weber 

Just like any job there are good days and there are bad days.  While many things seem to be common sense, others aren’t so cut and dried.

Twenty-five years ago my husband and I skipped our honeymoon so we could attend our first dog’s graduation from his first obedience class.  We entered the class still carrying the euphoria from the wedding. The excitement faded when we were told that the Collie who had been in the class had gotten her head stuck in a potato chip bag and suffocated while the owners were not at home.  It sounds like a bad joke, but it was a devastating reality. 

We’ve heard about disastrous, and near disastrous, leaps dogs have taken from parking ramps.  I know one dog who survived only because he was wearing a leash and the owners risked their lives to save him.  Dogs lose limbs and even their lives from getting trapped in partially/improperly closed crate doors.  I’m a huge advocate of dogs wearing collars containing ID and contact information – when I travel.  My dogs each have a microchip, but their ID tags provide my vet’s phone numbers to anyone, in case of an emergency.  I do not leave collars on the dogs when they are at home.  I never leave choke chains on a dog unless it is being trained. 

Several years ago, a co-worker came into work with his face bruised and sutured.  He’d been babysitting the littermate to his Golden.  The littermates were playing and one became entangled in the others choker.  What had begun as play turned into a fight for freedom.  My friend tried untangling them and sustained numerous bites and more than sixty stitches.  Only after one dog had choked to death was he able to separate them.

Our dogs can be incredibly intelligent.  Despite their domestication they are not programmed to understand all the things humans have invented.  We’ve built a world where we must accept fuller responsibility for their welfare and even their decision making.  Quite often the most important thing we can do for them is to completely remove them from situations where the dog may feel the need to make a decision.  While this opinion may sound overly controlling, its necessity is a sad reality.  

I believe most dogs should be safely confined to a crate or an inside run when they are left alone.  Crate training done properly teaches dogs to enjoy and appreciate their own personal space.  Crates should be in good condition with no jutting wires and no cracked pans.  By controlling their environment while you are not there, you are controlling their behavior.  Even a perfect dog may feel ill enough to try and use the fabric of a rug to settle their stomach.  Another good reason to properly crate train a dog is to prepare them to find comfort in confinement in case it ever requires hospitalization.

Many of us travel with our dogs.  Always be sure that your cargo is secured and that any bungee cords near or on their crates are attached with the open end of the hook away from the dog. 

Keep your eyes and your minds open to any potential danger or risks. It may save your dogs life some day.

Understanding and Maintaining Pack Order

Understanding and Maintaining Pack Order

 By Becca Weber

Dealing with the Dominant Dog

Understanding the need for pack order and owner dominance is not always easy, but is absolutely necessary for peaceful, uneventful, long term ownership of a dog.  While this is necessary for some breeds of dogs more so than others, and indeed, some individual dogs more so than others, every dog can benefit from understanding it's exact place and role in the pack order within the home.

            The "pack" includes every living being in the home;  i.e. humans, dogs, cats, birds, etc.   Some of the leading causes of children being bitten by a dog include dominance aggression, aggression based on sibling rivalry, and even possessive aggression.  All three of these issues can be avoided, even eliminated, by simply establishing and maintaining a well-defined pack order.

            Through more than twenty years of training dogs, I have found that the majority of those who come to me for help with their dogs come because the dog is showing aggression.  In most of these cases the dogs are exhibiting the three types of aggression as stated above; dominance, sibling rivalry, and possessive aggression.  The less common types of aggression include fear aggression, and even less common, is what is known as idiopathic aggression - cause unknown. 

            Of the dogs exhibiting definable forms of aggression, the treatment success rate can be outstanding.  The only reason most failures may occur, is the inability, or unwillingness of the owner to stick with the treatment and prevention plan.  Some owners do not believe the some times 'unorthodox' methods of treatment will work.  Others feel it is "not fair to the dog."   These owners are wearing blinders that allow them to see only what they want to see, until their path leads to euthanasia, or the surrender to the shelter.  These same people seldom give the shelters the true reason the dog was rendered, thereby passing the problem onto someone else.

            Let's look at the dominance aggression.  Subtly is one the strongest forms of dominance, often not displayed through actual aggression until the dog's dominance is thwarted in an uncontrolled, sporadic manner, whether by it’s owner, or other animal in the home. 

Seemingly harmless acts, such as charging through doors ahead of owners, getting on the bed before the owners do, then grumbling when asked to move, if asked at all, jumping into the car as soon as the door is open, etc, are subtle signs of dominance..

Missing these signs, or responding to them in a defiant manner, can often induce the dog to import more drastic, less subtle means of supporting its self-assigned dominance.  To the dog’s thinking, the subtle signs of dominance may no longer be enough. The dog may begin to resort to dominant stares, 'smiles', and even aggressive charges. 

            The minute a person misses a dominant stare, misinterprets or ignores the 'smile', backs down or cries out at the dominant charge, the dog has gotten his point across.  He/she feels they have adequately informed you of their dominance. 

            When this dominant play is directed at a youth, and the adult in the household then disciplines the dog, the dog's dominance aggression can be compounded by the addition of sibling rivalry, and possessive aggression.  The dog may resent the human interference into to what has otherwise been his domain. 

            Unless very specific ground rules are set up and maintained without exception, this dog's attempts at dominance may, and probably will, increase.   Disciplining a dog for inappropriate behavior is understandable, and certainly the dog should not get off Scott-free.  However, physical discipline does not impart the dominance structure, or pack order, that you are trying to build.  It may only increase the frequency and intensity of the dominant overtures.

            This dog must be taken back to step one. 

            Rule #1.  He/she is a guest in your home.  The dog will live by your rules, and oh boy, do you have a lot of rules.  The dog will now have to work for everything which had previously been given free of charge.  (This includes meals, walks, going outside to do their duty, the right to lay near you, the right to go for a ride in the car, the right to visit with household company).  Everything must be earned!

            You are the alpha.  The dog is always the bottom rung on the ladder.  Always!!  The dog, of course, will not agree.  After all, you have, until now, accepted or missed every signal of dominance that he has displayed.  While these methods will differ in a multi-dog household, they would differ only slightly.  Humans always come first, then canines. 

            For the purpose of this article, we will assume the dog is in a home with an additional dog, and 2 children.  The dog attempting dominance will be called Boss (she is going on three).  The other dog in the household is named Sandy (she is six).  There are a mother, a father, a son (7), a daughter (3), and the two dogs.

            Sandy is perfectly happy being left out of the controlling order of things.  She, herself, is not a threat to anyone's hierarchy.  She is, however, a critical part in the treatment of Boss.

            Boss is beginning a new lifestyle.  Boss is about to loose every right, every privilege that he has ever known.  Even those rights and privileges that you were unaware of.  You are about to become a major control freak.  Keep in mind that once the dominance structure has been established, life will begin to get easier and happier for Boss, as well as the family.  Sandy will not notice any difference.  She will just continue to go along her happy way.

            Boss will be assigned a corner of the living area, an area that is out of the line of traffic, and away from where family members will be most likely to be relaxing.

            Obedience training is next.  Boss must know the down and the stay command in order to enforce the “Rug” command.  The dog must learn to sit, stay, down, to 'rug,' and come on command.  (Rug means retreat to designated area as discussed above, lie down and stay there until told otherwise.  Boss will not be allowed to have any toys in his rug area.  Think of it as Boss's time out area.)

            Every toy Boss had no longer belongs to him.  Sandy may keep her favorite toys, but Boss will no longer have the right to choose which toy he will play with.  You, the control freak that you are, will tell Boss which toy (1) he may play with.  It will not be his favorite, and he will not get to play with it until he has done something to earn it.  Then, again, control freak that you are, you will not let him play with the toy for nearly as long as he would like.  You will be taking it away from him and sending him to his 'rug.'  You will come to love this rug.  I guarantee it.  Oddly enough, so will your dog.  It will become his safe zone, the place where he can do no wrong, the place where he will be allowed to be with his family.  He can observe all, yet not have the ability to interfere, or attempt dominant activities.

Suddenly, his nighttime freedom privileges have been revoked.  He is placed in a crate at night.  Put to bed before dear Sandy, even before the kids.  Put to bed without fuss, without ceremony, and without food, water or toys left in his crate.

            Boss, if previously free fed, is now fed in his crate, after dear Sandy, and after the family has eaten breakfast, and dinner.  Boss will have to perform a task in order to earn his meal.  Sit, down, rug, down, etc.  Anything, so long as you are being bossy.  Dear Sandy may continue her eating schedule as she's always done.  Poor Boss will be given a designated amount of time to complete his meal, maybe 5 to 10 minutes.  Then his dish will be removed.

            When going outside, Boss will have to sit and wait until given permission.  Dear Sandy, of course, may go outside first.  Boss is not allowed to go outside to play with the children at this point.  To do so would allow him too many precious opportunities to try and usurp your efforts at teaching him that he is a 'nothing' in your household.  All Boss would have to do is cut in front of Sandy or either of the children just one time, causing them to change direction, and you will have suffered a major set back, while Boss celebrates a major victory.  This simple kind of victory will be enough to encourage Boss to try again.

            A simple rule of thumb, is "Boss is last."  Last outside, last inside, last to eat, last in the car, last out of the car, (he should be crated in the car, if space allows) last to get a drink of water.  In fact, if Sandy is getting a drink of water, and Boss cuts in, you will have to get Boss out of the water, and onto his rug.  He must wait until Sandy is finished.  If you have had to rug him, then he will have to wait until you release him from his rug, before he can get a drink of water.

            During meals, Boss is required to Rug.  If you are in the living room, and Boss is lucky enough to be sitting near you (he had better have earned the right!) and a family member, or Sandy enters the room, then poor Boss automatically loses his special spot.  You will tell him to rug, freeing the space by your side to those higher on the totem pole.  This is especially important with the children.  The children must be perceived as higher in the pecking order.  Children are allowed on the furniture, Boss is not.  Children sleep in their bed.  Poor Boss isn't ever allowed on one.

You will notice that none of the above requirements include physical punishment.  Pain often increases aggression.  Dogs communicate through body language and through deeds.  Something as simple turning your back on a dog will have a specific effect.  Growl at a dog, they understand.  Snap at a dog, it's an even clearer message.  Leaning over a dog with a "smile" on your face.  All of these are dominant actions understood by a dog.  A dominant dog will mouth the muzzle of a submissive dog.  This too can be done to remind a dog of who is truly dominant.  Children should never use these dominant actions, as most often they are too small, and lack the experience, the strength, and the reasoning to effectively execute the challenge and win.

When walking the dogs at the same time, Sandy is allowed to walk ahead, if you wish.  Boss, of course, is expected to stay obediently at your side.

This is one of the instances in life when it is best to nag, nag, nag!  Pester, pester, pester!  Drive them nuts with commands and orders, as long as you follow through and make sure they obey them.  Control freaks are necessary in any home with a dog; especially when the dog is trying to become the dominant member of the household.


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                             This article is coming soon....
Show Dog?

Requirements for the American Championship for a Briard:

  • A dog has to be registered with AKC on a full (not limited) registration and be over 6 month of age.

  • A dog has to earn 15 show points. Each point is earned based on the number of dogs defeated at each show. Points/dogs defeated ratio varies depending on the state where the show is held. In some states 5 or more dogs defeated – give you only 3 points, in others it is a dog per point. This is established by the AKC based on the historical data of the number of dogs of your breed of each sex shown in each state in previous years.

  • Each set of points must be awarded by different judges.

  • The 15 earned points must include at least 2 majors awarded by 2 different judges. A major is 3 or more points awarded in the same show.

  • A maximum amount of points that can be earned in one show is 5. So the fastest way a dog can become a Champion in the US is by winning 3 five- point majors.  Not very often, but this theoretically can even happen in one big show weekend, if a dog is shown for 3 days in a row and wins all three days. Males and females compete separately, but either one can receive the points earned by the opposite sex by defeating the opposite sex competitor as the “Best of Winners”. So, for example: let’s say the show has 1 female and five males for a 3 point major. Let’s say the female defeats the “winner male” in the end, In that case both “winner bitch” and “winner male” end up winning equal amount of points. This is called “splitting the major”.

  • There are no required health clearances. There is no time limit on earning the points. Ears can be cropped or natural. The requirements are the same for all breeds.


Requirements for the French Championship for a Briard:

In France the requirements are very different. :

Requirements are Breed specific. For the BRIARDS, in order to become a champion one needs the following:

  • Health requirements: CSNB and Hip Dysplasia clearances

  • Temperament requirements: A proof of temperament test passed at one of the required shows with grade no less than 16. The test is always offered at the National Specialty.  Point scale is 0 to 20. Here is the scale (in French): 1-5 Intolerable; 4-7 Insuffisant; 8-11 Bon; 12-15 Tres Bon; 16-20 Excellent

  • Proof of full Registration. AKC registration is acceptable.

  • Scan of a Microchip.

  • Natural ears. Cropped dogs born after 2003 cannot be shown.  

  • Next, your dog has to receive a CACS at the Nationale d’Elevage (the National Specialty) or the Championat De France (The French Championship Specialty show). This certificate is obtained separately by males and females. Each has to defeat its own sex. The certificates are not obtained across sexes (like “split majors” in the US). These certificates are normally awarded as a result of your dog defeating same sex competitors.

  •  A dog has to earn a CACS at the Regional Specialty. ( same conditions as the Nationals)

  • A dog has to earn a CACS in an all breed show. In some cases here, the certificate can be obtained even without competition. If there is no same sex dogs entered in your class at an all breed show, your dog can still obtain the certificate if the Judge finds your dog worthy of it. In that case, in the eyes of the Judge the dog competes against the standard and is judged that way.

  • Each certificate must be issued by a different judge at an international show in France.

  • Once your dog has earned the first certificate you have 2 years to finish the run for the Championship. If you fail, the certificate becomes obsolete, and you have to begin the process over.

Here is what these certificates mean:

CACS = Certificate of Aptitude of Conformity for the Standard (Certificat d'Aptitude de Conformité au Standard)

CACIB = Certificate of Aptitude for the International Contests of Beauty (Certificat d'Aptitude au Concours Internationaux de Beauté)

In France there are 6 or 7 specialities per year, one Nationale and a Championship of France. There are 4 CACS issued per show, 1 CACS for the black females and 1 CACS for the  tawny females, 1 CACS for the black males , 1 CACS for the tawny males. There are also  2 CACIB issued; one for the best male and the other for the best female. And after, they have the BOB.

 All certificates must be earned under 3 different judges, and it is enough to earn only the CACS and not the CACIB

 Realistically, in France there can be a maximum 2 champions per sex and color per year as it is limited by the four CACS that are issued at the National Specialty and the four at the French Championship Specialty.


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Copyright 2013. Olga Shulman at Briard Breeder. All rights reserved.