The Bouvier des Flandres is a powerfully built, compact, short-coupled, rough-coated dog of notably rugged appearance. He gives the impression of great strength without any sign of heaviness or clumsiness in his overall makeup. He is agile, spirited and bold, yet his serene, well behaved disposition denotes his steady, resolute and fearless character. His gaze is alert and brilliant, depicting his intelligence, vigor and daring. By nature he is an equable dog. His origin is that of a cattle herder and general farmer's helper, including cart pulling. He is an ideal farm dog. His harsh double coat protects him in all weather, enabling him to perform the most arduous tasks. He has been used as an ambulance and messenger dog. Modern times find him as a watch and guard dog as well as a family friend, guardian and protector. His physical and mental characteristics and deportment, coupled with his olfactory abilities, his intelligence and initiative enable him to also perform as a tracking dog and a guide dog for the blind. (From AKC Website)
History--The Briard is an old breed, used for guarding and herding stock in France, an "all around" farm dog that had multiple tasks to accomplish. The Briard was a partner to the shepherd, relying on intelligence and independent nature to get those tasks done. He was a family dog as well, going home at night to watch over the family and their household.
The Briard was most commonly used in the more crowded farming valleys of France, where row crops were grown. Sheep were allowed to graze the grass strips between crops and Briards were responsible for keeping the sheep moving along these strips, and preventing the sheep from eating the crops. The Briard moved the sheep daily from the farm to the graze areas and back again at night. At the farm, the Briard was the shepherd's partner, helping with livestock chores. The Briard was also used to move large flocks of sheep in areas of France that had wide grazing pastures and mountain pastures in summer. At night, they were alert and vigilant watchdogs, protecting the shepherds and flock from wolves and thieves.
This was, and is, a versatile worker, powerful and independent. The Chien Berger de Brie--the dog of Charlemagne, Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette--carries forward a long history of herding tradition and accomplishments.
Working Style-- The Briard is a loose-eyed, upright breed with a natural tendency to gather/fetch, bringing the stock to the handler. As an upright worker, they prefer to stand rather than lie down while stopping. Some will bump and shoulder stock. Most will turn stock from the head rather than the heels. Briards exhibit a natural "power" and stock move readily away from them, even if the dog is out of the normal flight zone. Briards are used in boundary/tending situations, and are quick learners of this technique. The versatile Briard is able to fetch, drive and do the boundary/tending tasks required of him. With proper training, the Briard can work all types of livestock. He is a thinking dog, independent and somewhat methodical, retaining a high degree of herding instinct from his ancestors. (condensed from Briard Club of America Herding Description)
Am/Can Ch Déjà Vu Back Seat Driver, CGC, TDI, RA, PT, JHD-s, TT, CD, Am/Can RN "Nash" tends the flock on the graze (Photo Courtesy of G. LaRoche)