Are you ready to get serious?
You've checked out the Briard, and are starting to think this may be the breed you want to live with. What next? How do you go about finding the right Briard for you? What should you look for in a breeder, and what will they look for in you? Should you be looking at a puppy, or an older rescue or re-homed Briard? Have you met a Briard (or Briards!) in person yet?
Pictures are good, in person is necessary
If you are serious about getting a Briard, try to meet one (or more) in person. Most owners are happy to share their dogs, and most breeders can help you find a Briard somewhere in your general area. Their size, exuberance, hair, and love are best experienced in person.
The Older Briard
You may want to consider acquiring an older Briard. There are several sources for this. Many breeders end up with dogs that are returned at some point. Show puppies that cannot be bred, dogs that don't get along, a buyer's divorce, death, relocation, or simply incompatibility with a Briard all can result in the need for a new home.
There are also occasionally older puppies that have not yet found the right home. Some breeders may keep the best two or three puppies for quite some time until they decide which one will stay with them. Some of these Briards can be easily fitted into a new home, while others may require special attention. The advantages can include not having to housebreak a puppy, or deal with puppy destructiveness.
Most older Briards, when placed in a new home, will bond as strongly to the new owners as any puppy would. The disadvantage is that both dog and owner have an adjustment period. Older Briards that I know about can be found on the Gently Used page.
Rescue also may have Briards looking for new homes. The best source of information is Briard Haven, devoted to those Briards that are in need.
How do I find a breeder?
You can hear about a breeder by word of mouth, by searching the internet, through a Briard Club, going to a dog show – there are many different ways! The primary source now is the internet. Luckily, to date there are not many con artists involved in Briards, the demand is just too small to make it worthwhile. If you run into a breeder that is willing to sell you a puppy just based on emails, you may want to keep looking. A reputable breeder is going to want to talk to you, to get to know you, before putting a puppy in your home.
Don't limit your search to the first breeder you talk to. Contact as many as you can, especially if you are looking for your first Briard. Every breeder will give you a different perspective. And, it is very important that you are completely comfortable with your breeder, since they will be a resource for the entire life of your Briard. Do you feel you can call that breeder at 9 pm on a Sunday night when your puppy gets the hiccups? That's the breeder for you!
Don’t limit yourself to a local breeder. There just aren’t enough in the US, and having the perfect puppy shipped to you is better than buying the local puppy that is not right for your particular situation.
So Many Questions!
Be aware that any reputable breeder will have many questions to ask you. Good breeders make a lifetime commitment to their dogs, and a huge part of that is putting them in the right homes. Be very honest in speaking with a breeder - every question is designed to be sure that the Briard is right for you. Why do you want a Briard? What do you expect from a Briard? Are you looking for show or pet quality, male or female, black or tawny? Do you have other dogs, and what sex and breed? Will the pup's main purpose be as a companion, or are you looking for a dog for competitive agility, obedience, or herding? Will you want to breed in the future? Other questions the breeder may ask will involve your household (kids, activity level, visitors, etc.), your house (yard, space available, neighborhood), and your experience with dogs.
So be patient with our questions. If a breeder doesn't ask these questions, but will sell you a dog simply because you have the money, beware! You may be dealing with a less than reputable breeder.
You also have to ask questions. What temperament is expected from this litter? What is the health history of the pedigree? What does the breeder expect from you as the buyer? What guarantees does the breeder provide? Who will pick out your puppy? Are you obligated to show or breed, even if your circumstances change? What training methods does the breeder favor?
Most basic of all, is the Briard the right dog for you? Some breeders are looking for show homes, some for performance homes, some (like here at Lebec) believe a good pet home is every bit as important as a show home.
That Elusive Sire
If you read some articles that tell you how to pick a puppy, they will tell you how important it is to meet both parents of a litter. Wrong!! This isn’t necessary, or even possible at times. A good breeder may send their bitch across the country, or even to another country, to find the perfect male to breed to. Nowadays, semen can be shipped thousands of miles, or saved for decades, to produce puppies. Many breeders will have photos or videotape of the sire of a litter. If a potential buyer asks, it should be possible for them to talk to the owner of the stud dog.
If a breeder has a long established breeding program, some matings will occur between dogs that they keep in their home, but beware the breeder who produces litter after litter from dogs and bitches on their property. It may be that no one else will breed with them, or that they are simply producing puppies to make money. They may have little or no concern for improving the breed, or maintaining healthy lines. A willingness to look for the best male possible, even across the country, can be the mark of a breeder who cares.
If you are told you can't meet the dam, run in the opposite direction! You may not be able to meet her with the puppies, if she is protective, but you should be able to meet her separately.
Many people want to know that their puppy comes from championship lines. However, not every dog that is bred will have an AKC Championship, although all should be of a quality to get that championship. The Briard may not have finished its championship yet, or hate showing, or have been injured in a way that prevents showing (such as an injured ear). If there are generations in a pedigree without a champion, that can be a warning sign of a breeder not paying attention to the quality of their dogs.
Picking the Perfect Puppy
You walk in to meet a litter, and a puppy runs up to you. You're sure that is the puppy you want! That can also be a recipe for disaster. It may be the dominant puppy, and you have small kids. It may be the wild child, and you have a quieter life. You are seeing a moment in a puppy’s life. It may not be the typical moment for that puppy.
Buy from a breeder you trust, then listen to them when choosing a puppy. They will know which pups will do best in which type of home, even if the owners are across the U.S., if you have carefully explained your needs. They have watched their puppies from birth, and have years of experience behind them. Many breeders also use a stranger to temperament test litters at 7 weeks, to be sure of their impressions.
Some puppies in every litter will not be available, as the breeder, the owner of the stud dog, and related show / breeding homes may have first pick. If you want to have the widest pick from a litter, arrange to purchase a pup as early as possible, even before a breeding is done. A breeder may give you a choice of 2 or 3 puppies, if they feel those are right for your home. Or, they may pick your puppy for you. Some breeders will not place show quality pups in pet homes. Others will, but may want to show it. Every breeder will have different stipulations and agreements, from neutering to co-ownerships.