The Briard is a breed whose outward appearance does not quite give the correct impression of the dog. They have long, wavy double coats and have a “shaggy dog” appearance. While they may look like a fluffy teddy bear, the Briard is a strong, muscular herding dog who was built for working in cold, wet, less than ideal conditions for long periods of time. Briards come in a variety of colors, but white is not accepted. They have black noses and clipped ears that sit high atop the head. They have shaggy beards, eyebrows and mustaches, which are the distinguishing characteristics of the breed. Their muzzles are long and square. Briads have two dewclaws, which should be left in tact for the show ring. These dewclaws help with their agility in the field and also help create their everyday flowing, almost floating, gait.
Size and Weight
Male Briards should stand between 23 and 27 inches at the shoulder, while females stand between 22 and 25.5 inches. Males tend to be more squarely built than females, who may be a bit longer than they are tall. Males weigh between 80 and 90 pounds, whereas the smaller female Briards average between 60 and 70 pounds.
Coat and Color
The Briard sports thick, plush undercoat that acts almost as thermal underwear, keeping the dog warm and dry in cold, wet weather. The outercoat is very shiny and coarse, falling in waves across the dog's back. Briards may look like large teddy bears, but they were built for hard work and their coats should appear long and rugged, reflected the rugged nature of the dog. Their coat comes in a variety of colors, and breed standard permits all solid colors except white. Black, gray and tawny are seen the most in modern Briards. Tawny puppies are born dark red or black and the coat lightens tawny by three or four months of age. By two years old, they continue to lighten to tan or white. As the adult coat comes in, the color again changes to deep gold or red and may continue to change for another four or five years.
The Briard's coat is long and very high-maintenance. While no stripping is required, two to three hours per week of brushing is required in order to keep their thick coats from matting. As the Briard sheds, if the undercoat is not properly removed from the body, it will form mats. When brushed properly, dirt and debris is easily removed from the coat. They shed lightly year round, but will blow their entire coat twice per year. The coat of a Briard can grow to about five inches in length, which is the acceptable standard, and in fact, clipping can lead to disqualification in the show ring. Retired Briards, or dogs who will not be shown, can have their coats trimmed in order to pear down the weekly maintenance schedule.
Briards need to be bathed about once every six weeks. Over-bathing this breed can lead to natural oils in the hair and skin being stripped away, causing skin irritation and even infection. The Briard's face and rear end may need to be washed more often, as their beards can hang into their food and water dishes, and their long hair can trap debris when the dog eliminates.
In addition to brushing and bathing, Briards should have their ears cleaned on a weekly basis with a veterinarian-approved cleanser to keep harmful bacteria at bay. Weekly tooth brushing will keep teeth and gums healthy, and prevent bad breath.