Showsight Presents The Briard

WITH ALICE BIXLER, MICHAEL GREENBERG, SULIE GREENDALE-PAVEZA, PAT HASTINGS, JOE HOLAVA, BRIAN & CINDY MEYER, STANLEY SALTZMAN, MARGARET SHAPPARD, WALTER SOMMERFELT, DONAVAN THOMPSON & MARY WEIR

WS: I feel there are too many of the “rectangular, long and low” exhibits. Longer bodies and shorter legs are a com- mon problem in this breed as well as a number of others. DT: For whatever reason, “bigger is better” in this country as well as knitting-needle part, scissoring and grooming! MW: The straight shoulders with “U” neck to look more showy. 3. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started? AB: Grooming and conditioning have improved and the breed has become more numerous so there’s more oppor- tunity to see better Briards in the ring. But the Briard is a breed that has really changed very little over the years and hasn’t needed to change. They’re wonderful just the way they are. MG: There is always something that needs improvement, so I don’t think there is an absolute answer here. There are a number of aspects of the breed that have improved greatly over the years since we first started exhibiting. Rears were pretty disastrous, poor bites were seen more frequently, and temperaments were not consistent. Rears and teeth had greatly improved by the time I started judging, but fronts, which had been quite good, became problematic. Large specimens were pretty common as well. Health issues, such as hip dysplasia and eye prob- lems were hard on the gene pool, but due to breeder dili- gence, these important health considerations are much improved. In this century, size, coat, teeth, and tempera- ment are much better. Fronts continue to be an issue, and rears exhibit a different drawback. We used to see close rears and cow hocks, yet while we now we see much bet- ter alignments, there is lack of flexibility of the hock. The AKC standard describes the Briard gait well, such that a judge should be able to envision whether a dog to could hold up to the rigors of a day of work. SGP: Certainly temperaments are far better! However, there is a great deal more variation and extremes in type, with a tendency for bitches to be too small in stat- ure and head. PH: Much, much better. Their temperaments are greatly improved as there used to be many very spooky and shy Briards. There is much more consistency in the make, shape and the overall quality is as good as the best out there. It shows in the fact of how many Briards are con- sistently placed in the groups and how many different Briards have won BIS. JH: In my opinion, I do believe that Briards in general today are overall better than their predecessors of past years. I believe soundness of mind and body has improved the most. However, with that said, many of the very good ones of the past would still be very competi- tive and be successful winners in the ring today. The across the board gains can be attributed to the breed’s small pool of breeders striving for improvement. Unfor- tunately, there just aren’t that many people that want to take on a breed that presents a grooming challenge, con- sequently folks end up missing so many other wonderful virtues of the Briard.

B&CM: We feel that there are several dogs currently being shown that are very nice and representative of the standard, but the overall quality of class dogs can be disappointing. SS: Today at most shows the overall quality of the dogs is considerably better than years ago. Much of this is largely due to some very knowledgeable and successful breeders whose breeding programs over the years have contrib- uted greatly to this overall improvement. MS: Yes, our rears are better. Years ago weak rears (lacking drive and often cow-hocked) were the norm; now we see close to 50% good hind quarters. We are also seeing bet- ter fronts but still have a long way to go in this area. WS: Over all the breed has improved and there are many good quality exhibits than when I first started watching as well judging the breed. DT: They are better because the breeders are more con- cerned about which dogs of their breeding are in the show ring. There are fewer hobby breeders. Today’s Briard breeders have much more knowledge, better early training and more dogs are being held back from the showing unless they are so outstanding as a puppy that they deserve that early exposure! MW: Briards are a divided breed, as many of the breeds are nowadays. The American look and the French look and I am not talking about cropped or natural ears. I think the influx of imported Briards has helped the tawny color here. 4. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? AB: I steward frequently and get to watch a lot of judging. It’s not unusual to see a judge forget to check the hind legs for double dew claws or check one leg, assuming the other will be the same. Not necessarily. New judges sometimes approach the breed from the front and imme- diately reach for the head, not a good idea. MG: Because of the coat of the Briard, it’s vital that the hands-on exam feel for the corresponding bony land- marks to confirm their visual impression of a specimen. Proportions, head and tails can be deceiving. The coat in front of the pro sternum, and behind the point of buttock can add several inches of length to a dog’s appearance. The head is comprised of rectilinear lines, never narrow or pointy and your hands can confirm this. There are a lot of elements to the tail: set, length and shape. It’s important that judges make sure they find the end of the tail to measure it to the hock, and not pull or stretch the tail to make it reach. Not all dogs will keep their tail in a “J” shape while standing, but will show a crook when in motion. Dewclaws aren’t always easy to find under the coat, but exhibitors are very unhappy if a judge does not examine properly for this disqualifying fault. The dewclaws that are hardest to find are the ones which form functioning toes, so when in doubt, you need to look lower on the leg, not higher. The standard requires judges to evaluate cropped and uncropped ears equally. Not all Briards will constantly use their ears in the ring. All allowed coat colors should be considered equally

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