The most important thing you can do for your Briard – socialize, socialize, socialize! Socialization means exposing your dog to many different situations, until they are willing and able to cope with new things easily.
Failure to socialize a puppy can allow their natural reserve to become fear, and fear can become neurosis or aggression. Exposure to as much as possible during the first year, including training classes, pays off for many more years. They must be comfortable visiting friends, going out to parks and stores, riding in a vehicle, attending classes, walking down the sidewalk, playing at the beach, etc. It is impossible to over stress this point. Do not put off socialization, thinking you can do it later. Later is TOO LATE!
The breeder should have started socializing the pups as young as three weeks of age. Ask what activities and people they have been exposed to when you are looking at a litter.
Socialization has to be done both inside and outside of your home. Your Briard will have different reactions in a new place, or on it's home turf. Have people over. Then have them walk your puppy around the block without you! Go to the local mall, the softball game, friend's homes. While there, have others take the puppy and play with it.
Picture every situation you want your pup to experience as an adult, and go there as a pup.
When is my Briard Social enough?
Socialization must be ongoing until at least 2 years of age. Socialization also plays a large part in controlling dominant behavior in the Briard, as they learn to look to the owner for instructions in strange places, and to respect the owner's judgment at all times.
Socialization is also fun, for you, the owner. Your Briard is guaranteed to start conversations and make new friends. Think about getting a t-shirt: It's a Briard, and yes, he can see!
If you have friends with cute babies, try going for a walk - you with the Briard puppy, they with the cute infant. I guarantee, your puppy will get more attention. In fact, they may never want to go for a walk with you and your puppy again!
Veterinarians can be wrong
Many vets will tell you to keep your puppy home until it has it's third shot, at 14 to 16 weeks of age. Nod your head politely, then IGNORE THEM! The tiny risk of disease vs the large risk of a fearful puppy for life just isn't worth it. One of the most valuable learning periods in a puppy's life is from 7 to 14 weeks.
Use common sense. Until the second shot, no puppy classes, no pet stores. Until the third shot, no dog parks, dog shows, anywhere you will find a lot of strange dogs. But even at 8 weeks, get your puppy out. Friends' houses, shopping malls, riding in a cart at Home Depot - all of these are low risk activities.
Your Briard should attend early puppy classes, but don't stop there! Take them again at 10 - 11 months, and then again before they are two years old. There are several sensitive growth periods for a dog, and your Briard must be out and about during all of them.
Classes combine the all important socializing with training. While you can train your dog at home to sit, down, stay, and come, will they do it in a crowd? Will they know that in public, they have to trust your judgement? Will they accept other dogs in close quarters, without aggression or fear? Classes cover all these points. Training in the home, even with a trainer, won't address the same needs.
Look for classes that are reward based, but avoid classes where "no" is a dirty word. Briards work well with a combination of praise, rewards, and corrections if needed. Also avoid classes where your Briard is not allowed near the other puppies, or as a big dog is seen as a nuisance.
Don't be surprised if at the first class, your puppy is a bit clingy. They will adapt with a little time. Rememeber "reserved with strangers" is in the breed description.
Two words that make me want to scream
The puppy pulls away from someone trying to pet it. It acts afraid of a fire hydrant, or a shopping cart. The owner tries to reassure the puppy by saying, "it's OK". What is OK about being afraid of someone trying to pet it? NOTHING! Instead, say "don't be silly", sit the pup in front of you, and give it a treat for being touched. Teach it "touch it" for going up to strange objects and touching them with the nose, for a treat.
Don't reinforce fearful behavior by telling the dog "it's OK".