Briards are an intelligent working breed, bred to be a companion to shepherds out in the field. They do have a dominant nature and require early socialization and training. The Briard will be aloof towards strangers but will become very bonded with their family. Without proper training and socialization, they can develop separation anxiety and other undesirable traits. Briards will bite and become aggressive towards people they perceive as a threat to their family. These dogs are naturally athletic and will generally excel at many different activities with the exception of catch because of the way their eyes are placed. They have difficulty seeing small objects up close that are flying at them. They do well pulling carts and therefore also excel in weight pulling. With a strong handler, they can also excel in agility and herding trials.
Some people feel that weight pulling is extremely difficult on dogs; however, when done correctly it builds lean muscle, creates a bond with their owners, and also helps with behavior problems. There are several professional organizations such as the American Pulling Dogs Association (APDA) and the International Weight Pull Dogs Association (IWPA) that regulate weight pulling events. The United Kennel Club (UKC) also closely regulates all weight pulling events associated with their dog shows. The weight that your dog is expected to pull is based on your dog’s skill level and weight; even Toy Poodles can participate in weight pulling events. You will need to purchase a weight pull harness and either join a club that offers weight pull or also purchase a cart for training purposes.
Many years ago, Briards were used as cart dogs to transport goods between villages. Nowadays, they are not needed to transport goods; however, a well-trained cart dog is always a fun sight to see in parades or walking through the park. It can be pricey to teach your Briard to pull a cart simply because you need a special cart harness and a cart. Do not allow your dog to become overtired when pulling a cart and always offer encouragement and treats when they are in the harness. After your dog has become fully trained to pull a cart, you can enter them in several different activities or even have them pull your kids through the neighborhood while they are trick-or-treating!
For the most part, Briards do make great agility dogs. However, sometimes they can become stubborn or their dominant nature can cause them to not want to listen while on the agility course. When doing agility with your Briard, make sure you are the absolute leader of the team willing to take charge and guide them through the course.
Even though the Briard is in the herding group, they were actually more companion and protector of the sheep and shepherd. That does not mean they cannot do well in herding, they will just need a little more encouragement to properly herd the flock and not become too protective while doing their job. Herding trials take a lot of work and require dog and handler to work as a team; it is a great bonding experience.
Briards may look like large, shaggy, huggable dogs, but they can be rather aloof towards strangers and will exhibit aggression towards those they perceive a threat. Early socialization and training is a must for this dog. Be sure to choose activities that reinforce your role as the leader and allow you to work as a team with your dog. No matter what activity you choose, keep it fun and do not put any extra pressure on your dog. These activities are supposed to help your dog expend some of their energy so they are well-adjusted members of your family.