The Berger Picard, otherwise known as Picardy shepherd, is a rare dog breed that originated in northern France, where the farmers and sheepherders of Picardy used them as drovers. Berger Picards are independent, intelligent, friendly, good-natured, and very protective of their owners. They bond deeply with their humans and will charm everyone with their looks.
Characteristics of Berger Picards
Berger Picards are known to be the oldest of the French sheepdogs. These dogs are medium-sized and well-muscled yet elegant, with males standing at 23.5 to 25.5 inches and females at 22.5 to 23.5 inches at the shoulder.
On average, both males and females weigh anywhere between 50 and 70 pounds. Berger Picards have strong rectangular heads with distinctive ears that stand tall and erect at about 4 to 5 inches in length. Their sandy-colored eyebrows are thick but do not shield their brown oval-shaped eyes.
You can spot a berger Picard at a good distance away thanks to their long, slightly wavy, and wiry coats that form a shaggy beard, eyebrows, and mustache. The soft, short, and dense undercoat provides insulation, keeping the dog cool in summertime and warm during winter. The coats are thick and strong and come in fawn or brindle colors.
Yes, berger Picards do smile. They are also captivating and well known for their human-like expressions and goofy grin. Berger Picards are assertive, mellow, and loving dogs that are full of energy and prefer to stay active whether they are herding or playing. These dogs are loyal and will protect their loved ones if they sense danger. Berger Picards are ideal for active families who will provide them with both mental and physical stimulation. Whether it's a 30- to 50-minute daily walk or some extended playtime in the backyard, these dogs require plenty of exercise and play to keep them happy and in tip-top shape.
Caring for Berger Picards
Caring for berger Picards is generally easy. Regular veterinary visits, preferably once or twice a year and more often for puppies, whether or not your dog looks healthy ensure early discovery of hidden illnesses.
Grooming. Berger Picards have low grooming needs. Their fur should never be trimmed except perhaps for hand-stripping the ears. These dogs do require some grooming to keep their coats clean and good-looking. However, their coats shed only moderately during most of the year. Brushing about once or twice a month is preferred except during seasonal shedding when they should be brushed daily to remove loose fur and dirt. Bathing is not necessary unless the dog is dirty.
Check your dog’s ears regularly and clean them with an approved ear cleaning solution to prevent dirt and wax build-up. Additionally, trim your dog’s nails as needed and brush their teeth every day. Ask your vet what options you have for flea and tick prevention. There are many nonprescription solutions you can buy but it’s best to know what your vet recommends for your dog breed.
Health. Berger Picards are generally healthy throughout their lives. However, just like most dog breeds, they are prone to some health problems that might shorten their 12- to 13-year lifespan. Regular veterinary checkups are an integral part of your pet's overall health and happiness. Your vet will vaccinate and provide preventative medication for possible heartworm infestation, which can be fatal if not addressed.
Exercise. Berger Picards are active and energetic dogs with plenty of resilience. They require up to 2 hours of daily exercise and playtime to stay healthy and happy. Take your berger Picard on long walks, runs, and hikes, and play games of fetch with them to keep their minds occupied. Sports like agility, tracking, obedience, and herding are great ways to exercise your dog’s mind while strengthening their bones and joints.
Training. Berger Picards are intelligent and pick up commands quickly. They are sensitive to the tone of voice and are more likely to respond well to praise and affection than to food treats. Socialization and training as early and often as possible will not only build your dog’s confidence but also ensure that your dog grows to be a well-mannered companion.
Feeding. A berger Picard does very well with high-quality food, whether it is homemade or commercial. If it is homemade, make sure the recipe is approved by a veterinary nutritionist. Clean water should be available at all times. Berger Picards can easily become overweight if they are allowed to eat whatever they want. Obese dogs have an increased risk of joint problems, heart diseases, and high blood pressure. Monitor your dog’s daily food intake to prevent obesity. Be sure to clean your dog’s food and water containers to prevent bacterial build-up.
Health Problems to Watch for With Berger Picards
The berger Picard has not been overbred and as a result, is generally healthy. They are prone to breed-specific health problems including hip and elbow dysplasia, and eye disorders including progressive retinal atrophy. Regular veterinary checkups even when your dog seems healthy are key in ensuring your dog lives a long and healthy life.
Hip dysplasia. This is a relatively common condition. In dogs with hip dysplasia, the ball and the socket of the hip do not develop properly, and consequently the joint loses its function. Canine hip dysplasia can be corrected through surgery by replacing the affected joint with metal or plastic implants. The prognosis of hip dysplasia is good and affected dogs can live long, happy lives, especially with treatment. Symptoms of hip dysplasia include:
- Unusual gait
- Decreased mass in the thigh
- Reduced movement
- Difficulty walking, jumping, and running
- Hind end lameness
Eye Disorders. Berger Picards are prone to progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), a hereditary disease that affects the photoreceptor cells in the retina. The cells deteriorate with time and might cause blindness in the affected dog. While there is currently no known cure for this disease dogs adapt well to the loss of vision. Symptoms include:
- Loss of night vision
- Inability to follow signals or commands
- Cloudy eyes
- Bumping into objects
As they age, berger Picards may develop hereditary cataracts causing symptoms like a cloudy or blurry vision in the affected dog. If left untreated, cataracts can cause inflammation that progresses to glaucoma which can be very painful for your dog. Surgery is the only efficient way to remove cataracts once they have formed.
Special Considerations for Berger Picards
Berger Picards are loving, affectionate, and enjoy spending time with their humans. With early training and socialization, berger Picards make great companions and protectors to families with children and other pets. Their intelligence makes it easy to train but some can be stubborn and may require training classes done by a professional.
If you have kids around the house, show them how to handle your dog and supervise their interactions to prevent undesirable behavior such as mounting.
These dogs can be very noisy because they bark at just about anything and this can be undesirable for owners living in apartments. They should be trained to stop barking excessively as early as possible. Berger Picards do not like to be left alone for a long time and may become destructive if they are bored.
History of Berger Picards
The origin of berger Picards dates way back to the 9th century in a region called Picardy in the northern part of France where they were known for herding and guarding livestock. They are believed to be the oldest of the French sheepdogs brought to France by Central European Celts.
In 1863, the berger Picard breed entered the first French dog show, held in the Jardin d'Acclimatation, Bois de Boulogne, just outside of Paris. While berger Picards continued to grace the dog shows in France, it wasn’t until 1925 that the dog was recognized as a distinct breed by the French Shepherd Club.
Berger Picards were on the brink of extinction due to the ravages of World War I and World War II. Luckily, they survived and were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2015. Berger Picards gained popularity especially after appearing in Hollywood movies like “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “Daniel and The Superdogs”.