Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Continental Shepherds: French

Beauceron with dog cart

 This may be the blood of my French ancestors speaking: It seems that the French were a little more imaginative in naming their shepherding dogs -- rather than just focusing on the length of the dog's coats the French also used the areas of the country the dogs developed in, to help name the different types of shepherds.

From France we have the Beauceron, The Berger Picard (or Picardy Shepherd,) and the Briard.

 The Beauceron is named for the Northern Beauce area of France. This is the short haired variety of French shepherding dogs. These are large, athletic dogs, which can reach 70 to 100 pounds and up to 27.5" tall ( 45 kg,70 cm.)

The Beauceron is starting to be seen more often in North America, where it is also often seen with its ears either cropped, or ears trained to stand up.

This is another breed of dog that is valued for being intelligent, trainable, with a natural inclination to protect the human and animals members of its flock. In North America it is the protective nature of the dog that is being called on as people search for a dog with a stable temperament and good health to watch over their family.

A working Beauceron
One more interesting fact about the Beauceron.
They have a rather unique feature that helps them stand out from other breeds - a double dew claw.

Double dew claw of the Beauceron

Berger Picard or Picardy Shepherds

Berger Picard or Picardy Shepherd

The Berger Picard is a longer haired shepherd, although compared to a Briard the Berger is closer, at least in my opinion, to a medium haired breed.

  Also note that compared to a Briard, the Berger's prick ears can be seen most clearly, even under their lovely hair. Also, the Berger has naturally pricked ears, compared to the Beauceron and Briard, whose ears naturally fold.

Those of you who watch movies with animals and children in them, may have seen the film Because of Winn-Dixie, which starred a group of Picardy Shepherds playing the lead dog role, Winn-Dixie.

As usually happens in a Hollywood movie, multiple dogs are trained to perform different tricks to give the audience the illusion of one very versatile dog.

A group of Berger Picard
 The Picardy was chosen because to an American audience they would look like a mixed breed dog, but due to breed uniformity a number of similar looking members of the breed could be found and trained for the work.

Berger Picard

Berger Picard working

The longest haired of the French shepherds, the Briard, is perhaps the best known of the Continental French shepherds outside France. Like Brie cheese, the dog takes its name from the region of France it originates in.

Briard, cropped ears
Briards have been popular in North America for some time. I remember when I was a child I had some American cousins who had a Briard, a very lovely, loyal, intelligent dog that we were all very fond of.

There are two silhouettes that can be associated with the Briard, the more traditional in North America seems to be that where the ears can be seen standing independently...the result unfortunately of ear cropping.
Briard, fold (natural) ears
This difference in ear carriage affects how all that hair lies on the dog's head.
Briard with natural ears
The Briard has a reputation for being the most sensitive of the French shepherding breeds; some people also claim they are the least suited to sporting and agility work -- they don't take criticism as well as their cousins and are a little less predictable when it comes to be willing to 'perform' on command.  At the same time, this sensitive nature is said to make them bond extra strongly with their charges, human or animal, and they respond well to firm but gentle training.

Briard with cropped ears

And take the nay sayers waring with a grain of salt - some people do successfully use Briards in competitions.

  Knowing the individual dog's personality and what works with the individual is key in any obedience training.


All three types of French shepherds make good family dogs, although as always with intelligent dogs that are used to working -- they are better suited to people with some experience handling and training dogs.

 That said, Briards are also somewhat forgiving of their people if handled with kindness and consistency - of the three the Briard is least in need of a strong handler, and better suited to someone who is capable of being consistent and affectionate. The Briards I've known have also been pretty happy to adapt to life in the suburbs and country, perhaps because this is the breed that has been bred away from their working roots for the longest.

A working Briard


  1. I've never heard of the Picard before! I confess, I'm one of those Americans to whom it looked like a mixed breed until I learned otherwise.

    I've also never seen a picture of the double dew claw before, though I'd heard Beucerons have them.

  2. Hi Jen, thanks for taking time to comment!

    I happen to have a sister who adores the Picardy and is trying to figure out how to convince her husband that she NEEDS one to help her raise the children :-) There are a handful of breeders in the States now raising these wonderful dogs - I'm really pleased to see at least one of them is using the dogs on their working farm.

    That's a lovely dog as your avatar. I'd like to hear about who it is if you care to share....

  3. Hi there, new follower here. :-) Nice to meet you. Beautiful photos and beautiful dogs!

    1. Hey Rama's Mama - thanks for taking time to comment - you have a lovely blog yourself :-) We look forward to seeing you back again. And one of these days you'll have to guest blog about your very special girl.

  4. Beutiful pictures! I've never seen a double dew claw before!

    1. Basset Momma, Thanks so much for taking time to comment!

      If I hadn't heard about this beforehand, and just saw the double dew claw, I would think something had gone terrible bad wrong with this dog...does make me wonder how the double dew claw first developed though.

      Love your Basset Momma blog - hope we'll see you back here soon :-)

  5. Woohoo, look at you Christy, participating in a blog hop! Gilly my GSD's breeder specialized in white GSDs and Berger Picards. I did not realize that they were a shepherd type.

    Amazing how diverse breeds are - far more than I realized, Kathy

    1. Lookout Kathy, its a brave new world...which I'm not really ready for :-)))

      Baby steps....

  6. Hey, it's Jet here. Mom and I learn a great deal from your informative posts. Mom's partial to long hair, so, she felt more connection with the Briard and the Picardy. Please keep sharing! Have a great day, glad we hopped by.

    1. Hey Jet - thanks for stopping in - appreciated your blog today and look at you - such an appreciator of literature! Bet your mom is hoping you limit the books you share with her but hey, if the book was good enough for her to enjoy, why shouldn't you give it a try too?

      At our house this morning, while the human was ordering dog chews, some puppies were chewing the new riding gloves. You'd be surprised how much the human did not appreciate that. Silly people. They obviously have some mistaken ideas about the true purpose of books and gloves...do you ever notice that people can be hard to educate?

  7. Hi Y'all,

    Thanks for visiting. I love learning about other pawed ones. Watching shepherd dogs of any breed work is fascinating.

    Y'all come back now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  8. Good to see you Hawk - very much enjoying the great pictures on your blog - hope other readers are checking your site out - browndog link on the sidebar.

    I agree, watching the shepherding dogs work is fascinating.