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About Us for Tintagel Briards

Elise McMahon

I have lived with dogs since I could crawl, growing up with a doxi mix, a tri-colour Collie and a number of other dogs I brought home much to my parent's consternation.  My first involvement with Briards was in 1982 when I came across a litter of Briard/Puli puppies while living in Munich, Germany.  The little male puppy I picked from the litter became known as Tristan and was my constant companion and best buddy for 16.5 years.  In 1984, Nadja, a white German Shepard puppy, joined the family.  Together we traveled and lived around Europe until we came back the US and eventually settled in Massachusetts where I began my graduate work in Animal Behaviour.  Nadja lived to the ripe old age of 12 years and passed prior to my beginning PhD fieldwork in Chile. 

The loss of Tristan in 1999 was heart wrenching and I waited two years while I finished my research before getting another canine companion.  When the time came though, there was no question what it would be.  Reading and learning everything I could on Briards during those two dogless years, I realized more and more that Tristan’s personality and behavioural characteristics were well matched by each description I came across about the Briard. 

The pull of the heartstrings is a powerful thing and although I originally planned on getting a tawny male Briard so he would not be so similar to Tristan, it was for that very reason that I wound up getting a black boy in the end.  In getting my first purebred Briard I embarked on an adventure that has been exciting and full of new experiences.  Tai became my first show dog and was owner handled to his championship. When Tai was 1-year old I got the tawny I had wanted and Ursa joined our family.  The two were the of best friends and brought me daily pleasure just knowing them.  

Our canine family grew to five with the addition of Raven, a black daughter of Tai, who is undoubtedly the sweetest girl ever to walk the planet, Cielo, Ursa's tawny daughter, who is a clown and a half and very game for anything, and the baby of the family, Faith, a beautiful black female from the much anticipated breeding between Raven and Sage. 

All of our dogs are raised in the house and share every inch of it throughout their lives. This can be a trial at times as they tend to bring the outdoors in with them; leaves in the Fall, snow in the Winter, and general debris in the Spring. 

I have owner/handled all of my dogs to their Championships and beyond and have three Bred by Exhibitor Champions. As time in the Briard world has gone on I have become more involved in the functionings within the clubs and am currently a Director on Briard Club of America Board and was the Special Features Editor for the Briard Club of America magazine, The Dew Claw. 

We are located in Central Massachusetts on 55 acres of wooded land with beautiful trails and streams. It is paradise not only for the Briards but for us as well. 


My first encounters with Briards were the lovely, natural eared dogs of Germany. After seeing Briards in the US, I came to the conclusion that I prefer the natural look. Added to this preference is that fact that I am not interested in surgically altering an animal for aesthetic or competitive reasons. For these reasons my dogs do not have their ears cropped and puppies that are bred here will not be cropped. Although I recognize that it is more difficult to put a championship on a natural eared dog, I feel that a dog of quality will be able to overcome any conscious or unconscious biases amongst judges in the show ring. 

Also influenced by my time in Germany and by much investigation into the commercial dog food industry, I have been feeding my dogs a home prepared, whole food diet since 1991. As an avid researcher in all things canid, I have put a lot of time and thought into what my dogs eat and I am confident that their diet promotes their good health which is evident in their shiny healthy coats, good white teeth, well-muscled bodies, and long lives.

For me, the most striking physical attributes of a Briard are the large, strong heads, the fluid, effortless movement, the beautiful coat with the slight wave, and that wonderful confidence. Equally important as the physical traits of the breed is the temperament. As an animal behaviourist I work with domestic dogs as well as wild canids. What I see again and again as the thing that often plays the biggest role in a dog leading a good, long, happy life is the dog’s temperament. A good temperament can easily be ruined by poor management and training, but a poor temperament is very difficult to handle even with the best management and training. Starting off with good temperament is crucial. 

The Briard is not the dog for every person or family. The time commitment it takes to bring a puppy along into adulthood is not something to be taken lightly. They are a herding breed, a breed which evolved as a guardian. It would be a useless Briard who invited wolves and poachers into its flock. With most Briards living today as family pets, it is most important that they are socialized as puppies and well into adulthood so they do not see every unfamiliar person and canine as unwelcome marauders. That being said, I find them the most wonderful of breeds, with a wonderful sense of humor and joie de vivre. They are a pleasure to work with and they keep you on your toes.

A little about Briards

The Briard is an ancient French herding/guarding breed. There are many wonderful stories surrounding the history of the breed, including one Briard who challenged the murderer of his owner to a duel and won! Thomas Jefferson is credited with having brought the first Briards to the United States. The breed is well known for its role in WWI where it played an important part in locating wounded soldiers in the battlefield as well as transporting messages between units. 

The original breed looked considerably different from what is seen today. Today’s Briard has a much more profuse coat which would be unrealistic to a sheep farmer. Even today’s Briards with the correct goat like texture often have a much longer coat than one sees in early portraits of the breed.

Although it is stated in most sources that a Briard requires about 1-2 hours of grooming weekly, this certainly does not apply to most dogs between the ages of 9 to 24 months. During this age stage there are two coat changes which can result in many hours of grooming needed to keep the coat mat free. The first is when the puppy coat is dropped and the second is the change from adolescent to adult coat. With good coat texture and quality, once the Briard reaches adulthood, 1/2 hour a week is sufficient.

This is a breed that requires extensive socialization and training. It is important to socialize the Briard puppy to people outside the home as well as visitors to the home. The natural guarding instinct will kick in during adulthood and it behooves the Briard owner to have put in the many hours of early socialization to ensure a pleasant companion. Genetically stable temperaments are to be sought after and timid/shy dogs should not be mistaken for "reserved" as described in our standard.

Below are a few books on the Briard.

The Briard A Collection by Diane McLeroth Briards by Alice Bixler Clark Briard by Dr.Desiree Scott Le Berger de Brie by Joel Herreros Der Briard by Gabriele Niepel Der Briard by Karin Wimmer-Kieckbusch

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