Great Pyrenees

AKC Group: Working
The Great Pyrenees dates back 5,000 years from the area of the Pyrenees Mountains (today that is southern France and northern Spain). They weren’t seen outside the area until people began venturing to mountainous regions in the late 19th century. A large breed, they were used during wartime pursuits (harnessed with artillery-laden sleds that they pulled across the mountains). They were not only adept at being able to make the journey but guarding the lot as well. Today, they are found on farms or ranches. They can live in the urban/suburban world, but they require a yard with a good quality/secure fence. (Sorry, apartment dwellers.)
Size: 25 to 30 inches tall; 85 to 150 pounds.
Color: White; white with markings or gray, badger, reddish brown or tan. They are born dark (gray with white spots) and grow into their adult color by the age of 2.
Life span: 9 to 12 years.
Health problems: Elbow or hip dysplasia, luxating patella, entropion, cataracts, spinal problems or bleeding difficulties.
Even though they’re huge, the Great Pyrenees are gentle, friendly and affectionate. A people lover, a Great Pyrenees is a great choice if you have adequate space for him. (He requires a lot!) Intelligent and a quick learner, a Great Pyrenees is also courageous and protective. They can be stubborn and too independent. (It will be easier for you both if you have previous experience with canines.) Indoors they are quiet and lazy, but open the door and you’ll see a much different dog! He loves to run, play and release all that pent up energy. They also love to wander and explore.  (That’s why you need that good quality/secure fencing.) They do great with kids that they’ve been raised with. He is a protector of his whole family — adults, children, even other companion animals. With wild animals, he may try to chase. Always be assertive with a Great Pyrenees otherwise he may try to assume leadership. Obedience and early socialization are definitely needed.
The Great Pyrenees coat is long and coarse atop a dense but fine undercoat. They look cuddly thanks to that coat, but underneath is a sturdy dog that carries himself with dignity. Brush him weekly. Keep his eyebrows trimmed so he can see. He sheds seasonally twice a year and will need more attention. He is normally a heavy shedder. Training a Great Pyrenees is a challenge. They prefer to make their own decisions. You will have to gain his trust before he will listen. How? Always be fair. A Great Pyrenees has an innate sense of justice that develops as they age. Obviously there are basic commands that need to be established to make life harmonious that shouldn’t be questioned. To gain cooperation, prove to him that you can be more stubborn. Housebreaking is made easier when using crate training. As always, socialize as early as possible.

Dogue de Bordeaux

AKC Group: Working

Also known as a French Mastiff or Bordeaux Bulldog, this breed is a result of England’s brief occupation of Aquitane, a province in France. English Mastiffs were bred with the local French guard dogs. “Dogue” is derived from the Latin word “canis” and simply means (you got it) dog. Since the 1200s, Dogues have been used for many activities. They have protected livestock, hunted fox and bear and hauled heavy loads (including wounded soldiers during wartimes). Disgustingly, they have also been used in dogfighting circles. Dogue aficionados are experiencing a resurgence in population in France and around the world.

Size: 23 to 30 inches high; 100 to 150 pounds

Color: Solid red-brown, fawn or mahogany. May have white patches on the chest or extremities.

Life span: 10 to 12 years

Health problems: Hip dysplasia and cancer have been noted. A breed-specific ailment happens during birthing as Dogues have very high litter sizes. If you have a female Dogue who becomes pregnant, secure some veterinary assistance.

These massive dogs are muscular with a well-balanced, powerful build. Though they are large, they don’t have long legs. They are set much lower than English Mastiffs. Though Dogues look frightening, they are actually a calm, affectionate canines that make excellent companions. A Dogue is a loyal dog, so much so that long periods of time spent alone make him feel like he’s been abandoned. His size makes him an effective watchdog. His past work as a herder make him great with kids and other pets, provided they’re smaller than him (other pets that is, not children). A larger dog companion may call up his hunting instincts (did you miss the part where he was once used to hunt bear?)

The Dogue is a low energy breed and extremely intelligent. Keep training sessions under an hour. You do need to be assertive when training because Dogues have little to fear (this does not mean to be violent!) Deep down, a Dogue is an obedient, eager to please breed that excel in obedience courses. Brush him with a firm bristle brush to remove excess hairs. Mostly though, all you’ll need to do is wipe him down with a dry towel or damp washcloth.

Clumber Spaniel

AKC Group: Sporting

The Clumber dates back to the last half of the 18th century and was owned by French royalty, the Duc de Noailles. During the French Revolution, he sent a number of his dogs to the Duke of Newcastle in England. Now both countries share credit for the development of the breed. The Clumber Spaniel came from Basset Hounds and the now extinct early European Spaniel, the Alpine Spaniel. The bloodlines of Clumber Spaniels are completely pure of outside sources. Clumbers were not allowed into non-aristocratic hands until around World War I. At this time breeding programs halted and the Clumber almost disappeared. In 1925, King George V re-developed a breeding program and Clumbers again took to the field to flush game out into the eyesight of waiting hunters.

Size: 17 to 20 inches high; 55 to 85 pounds

Color: Pure white with lemon or orange markings

Life span: 11 to 13 years

Health problems: Cataracts, hip dysplasia, ectropion, spinal problems.

Clumber Spaniels are medium-sized dogs with chunky, sturdy builds. Clumbers are sweet dogs with long soft ears that “frame” their face. Their coat is soft and dense and lays close to their body. It’s silky to the touch and feathers on the tail, legs and underbelly.

Their sweet look is indicative of an affectionate personality; they are a loyal, responsive breed. A Clumber loves to please. He is also an extremely intelligent dog. He loves to play, but is serious enough that when it’s time to work, he can get right down to business. The Clumber gets along with his entire family — kids and other pets, even strangers. A Clumber is a little too friendly of a dog, so don’t expect him to make an effective watchdog. Though they enjoy playtime, their typical energy level is low. A Clumber won’t be for you if you’re an avid outdoorsmen. If you’re looking for a dog whose happy with moderate exercise, a Clumber may be right for you. Generally Clumbers are gentle, innocent, sweet dogs that have a mischievous streak.

If you suffer from allergies, don’t even think about this breed; Clumbers are heavy shedders. He needs brushing three or four times a week. With his droopy ears, you’ll need to regularly check his ears and clean as necessary to reduce the chances of infection. You’ll also be required to trim his hair when he starts to look straggly.

Clumbers do not do well as a kennel dog, they need to be around their family. This love of attention means a Clumber will respond best to positive reinforcement and praise. He also needs consistency and patience, beginning as soon as he comes home. Any kind of harsh, punitive, abusive treatment will cause a Clumber to shut right down.

Catahoula Leopard Dog

AKC Group: Foundation Stock Service

The Catahoula Leopard dog is thought to have descended from greyhounds and mastiffs introduced into the Louisiana gene pool in the 16th century. The Catahoula may also have red wolf blood in them. In the 17th century, the French brought with them Beaucerons, which gave the Catahoulas their gorgeous looks. In 1979, the Catahoula was made the official state dog of Louisiana. “Catahoula” comes from an Indian word meaning “clear water.”

Size: 20 to 26 inches tall,  50 to 110 pounds

Color: Patterned coats of red, blue, yellow, tan or white.

Life span: 10 to 14 years

Health problems: Their large size makes them prone to hip dysplasia. The white coat on their face often leads to eye difficulties or deafness in either one or both ears. Certain bloodlines develop cancer in their senior years.

The Catahoula (or Louisiana Catahoula) are hard to identify just based on their coat patterns. The Catahoula is an extremely active dog and to keep harmony in the house, you need to give him enough outdoor activity. If you live on a farm, ranch or a huge estate, a Catahoula could be for you. If you don’t, find one to visit because your limited space will not make him happy. Catahoula often find work with law enforcement.

Highly intelligent, the Catahoula can quickly size up a situation and react accordingly. (No wonder they work in law enforcement capacities!) Their energy level perfectly match a young child’s, to whom they are gentle and loving. (They love kids!) Their intelligence requires constant learning and gives them a highly curious personality. Without an adequate fence, a Catahoula will often go out exploring. Quality time with his family is an important component of his mental health. He needs to spend time with and be involved in his family unit. At times, a Catahoula may be “too” protective (overprotective, really) of his family. Catahoula may not display this possessiveness as puppies, it tends to show up as he matures, often beginning around age 2. He may never get along well with other dogs, especially dogs of the same sex. Curiously, strangers bring out a timidity in a Catahoula, not from intimidation or fear, but from hesitation. Deep down, a Catahoula abhors strangers.

The Catahoula coat is short and smooth. He requires bathing once or twice a year (yep, you read that right). If he’s gotten into something, of course wash him. Once or twice a week (depending on how much he’s shedding), using a curry comb, bristle brush or mitt, brush him outside. This will help keep his coat shiny and the majority of his shedding out of the house. Trim his nails weekly. Gently wipe his outer ear with baby oil on a cotton ball. (Catahoula are prone to ear infections if they suffer from allergies.)

Training should begin with an obedience course where his exceptional intelligence will put him ahead of the class. Basic obedience will help him learn what’s acceptable. An effective Catahoula trainer needs to be strong willed and able to stand up to him (not through harshness or physical punishments), otherwise the Catahoula will not learn and lead him to exhibit behavior that could become harmful for the trainer, the dog and you. If assertiveness isn’t your specialty (and you don’t seek out an outside trainer), you’ll need to learn it before you bring a Catahoula home; otherwise you may want to seek out an easier breed you can train.

Brittany Spaniel

AKC Group: Sporting

The exact origins of the Brittany are unknown. They are thought to have descended from an Orange and White Setter and a not clearly defined French dog. They are believed to have originated from the French province of Brittany. The Brittany remains one of the most popular breeds of pointed dogs for bird hunting and the smallest breed of gun dogs.

Size: 17.5 to 20.5 inches tall, 30 to 40 pounds.

Color: Orange with white; liver with white; roan patterned or tri-colored. (Tri-colored are liver with white dogs that have orange markings on the eyebrows, muzzle and cheeks.)

Life span: 10 to 12 years.

Health problems: Spinal problems, hip dysplasia, glaucoma, seizures, liver problems or heart problems.

Brittanys have short, dense coats that can be wavy. Some of the hair on the legs is feathered. The ears fold down. A Brittany always looks alert and confident.

Brittanys are loyal, cheerful, eager and dedicated. A Brittany loves to play and to exercise; these dogs are a bundle of energy. They have intelligence to spare and are easy to train. They are, in turn, naturally obedient. Brittanys love people and attention. If you aren’t giving your Brittany enough attention, you’ll know it. If he’s a destructive nightmare, he needs more quality time with you. A Brittany is a sensitive dog that wants to please you. On the negative side, Brittanys can be a bit too independent and sometimes too spirited. They want nothing more than to be in on all the action. With children, Brittanys are gentle. They get along with all children and other companion animals. Early socialization is a must. They are timid with strangers. (Some Brittany lines are naturally timid.) They make an effective watchdog and an all-around great family pet.

A Brittany coat is soft and beautiful. He should be brushed twice a week to remove dead hair and prevent matting. During shedding season, he may require more attention.

Training should commence as soon as your Brittany comes home. Socialization is extremely important. If he’ll be crated when you’re not home, that should also begin first thing after he comes home. Naturally prone to barking, this should always be discouraged. Excitable and rambunctious, proper house manners will be next on the list. A Brittany tends to become destructive when left alone for extended periods. They respond to love and gentleness. They do want to please you; harshness is completely counter-productive.

Briquet Griffon Vendeen

AKC Group: Not recognized

The Briquet Griffon Vendeen breed comes from France and has descended from the Vendeen hounds. The World Wars eliminated much of the breed and, in fact, the Briquet is still relatively unknown, even in France. Though rare, they are attracting many admirers worldwide. The Briquet were developed to hunt small game by scent in all types of weather conditions and climates.

Size: 20 to 22 inches, 48 to 53 pounds

Color: White/orange; white/gray; black/tan; tricolored; solid fawn; solid orange; solid gray or solid light brown.

Life span: 12 years

Health problems: Low occurrences of patella luxation and distichiasis (a condition in which extra hairs grow out of the eyelash area).

The Briquet Griffon Vendeen is a medium sized dog with a shaggy white (usually) coat. “Briquet” translates to “medium-sized” and the Vendeen is a popular French companion dog breed. The Briquet is a sensitive, stocky dog. They have long, droopy ears. Their tails are short and stick straight out when the dog is alert, anxious or happy. Briquet are able to hunt small deer. Their large dark eyes are expressive.

They are naturally friendly and intelligent. Briquet make excellent hunters. It doesn’t matter to them if the trail is cold or hot. They love outdoor pursuits! They live life with vigor; they are such lively, enthusiastic dogs. Able to work in packs or independently, they get along famously with other dogs and aren’t possessive. They adore kids. When introduced into England, Brits dubbed them “The Happy Breed.” Happy they are, a Briquet is extremely willing to please and rarely succumb to fits of aggression. What Briquets don’t like is being told what to do (a touch of feline in their bloodline?), you can get bribe him, however.

Their shagginess comes naturally and trimming is discouraged. The double Briquet coat requires brushing and combing regularly. Dirt, mud and burrs need removal. The long ears should be checked and cleaned regularly too.

Training is a challenge; a Briquet is an independent thinker with a single-minded nature. Do not employ harsh or heavy handed methods. Be firm, fair, patient and consistent. Don’t be afraid to enlist help when the going gets tough because it won’t be your fault, it’s his.


AKC Group: Herding

The Briard earned his keep in France as a sheep guarder and herder. The French Army used this ancient breed as a messenger and as a search dog. (Briards have excellent hearing.) The appearance of the Briard has improved by breeding with the Beauceron and Barbet. Briards remain most popular in their native France, but are recognized worldwide.

Size: 22 to 27 inches; 50 to 100 pounds

Color: All colors except white. Most commonly Briards are black, tawny or gray.

Life span: 10 to 12 years

Health problems: Thyroid problems, eye disorders, hip dysplasia, bloat, PRA (progressive retinal atrophy).

The Briard is athletically built and possess great agility; he is a graceful dog indeed. What sets the Briard apart is his rear double dewclaws. His coat is long, shaggy and has a dense undercoat.

Briards are gentle, devoted and loving dogs. With personality for days, a Briard retains a sense of independence. Devoted to you, they are also protective. With a spring in his step, a Briard knows when to be serious and calm. Easily adaptable, a Briard will follow your lead and go along with your plan for the day. Highly intelligent, a Briard does need plenty of exercise time outside to keep him alert and interested (and not turn destructive).

As a natural herder, the instinct remains. With a keen sensitivity they may be territorial with other animals. They do better with companion animals they’ve been raised with. To strangers, they are reserved. A Briard possesses an excellent memory — this will come in handy during training time.

His long coat needs combing out twice a week. During shedding season, this will need to be done more regularly. All puppies need to be groomed more than twice a week, no matter the season or the amount they shed.

Training is very important for Briards. It should always be consistent — and constant. If a Briard isn’t trained properly, he can become withdrawn, suspicious or aggressive. Socialization should start as a puppy to new people and situations — and animals. Every interaction and training session should be done positively and include positive reinforcement. Briards respond best to love and affection. If you become overwhelmed, it’s best to obtain professional assistance. You’ll probably also want help to stop your Briard from nipping at heels. It is possible to reduce the behavior and even eliminate it completely.