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The Berger Picard (pronounced “bare-ZHAY pee-CARR”), or Picardy Shepherd, hails from France and is a herding breed. They reached near extinction following both World Wars, and were featured many years later in the 2005 movie “Because of Winn-Dixie.” Although their number has increased, they remain a rare breed today.
History and Origin of the Berger Picard
The Berger Picard is likely the oldest of the French sheepdogs and possibly shares ancestry with Belgian and Dutch Shepherds. The breed originated in northern France and the Pas de Calais after immigrating with the Franks in the ninth century. Berger Picards were commonly used not only to herd sheep and cattle, but also to smuggle illegal items across the border from France to Belgium.
Appearance and Size of the Berger Picard
One reason the Berger Picard remains rare today, even after having a starring movie role, is because it has the appearance of a mixed breed dog and is commonly mistaken as such. Shaggy and scruffy, the Berger Picard is active and muscular. It is common for the breed to have the appearance of a smile, and the ears are carried erect. The Berger Picard stands at about 21-25 inches in height and weighs approximately 50-70 pounds. The medium-length coat is thick, harsh, and weatherproof and can be fawn or brindle in color.
Personality of the Berger Picard
The Berger Picard has a lively, enthusiastic, humorous, and intelligent temperament. The breed does best when part of an active family, as they crave and need daily physical and mental exercise. They bond well with their human companions and even appear to have various humanlike facial expressions. Typically they are easy going but can be somewhat reserved around strangers. Due to their history of herding and protecting livestock, the Berger Picard is an effective watchdog. The breed does require significant amounts of human companionship, and a well-socialized Berger Picard is also a good companion to other household pets.
Home and Family Relations with the Berger Picard
The Berger Picard is a very loyal and loving pet, and is gentle toward children. The breed is happiest when plenty of quality time can be spent with the family, and they have proven to be excellent playmates for adults and children alike. They need daily exercise and are good running or hiking partners for active owners.
Training of the Berger Picard
The breed, although intelligent, has a stubborn tendency at times. Training and socialization is recommended early in life to ensure a self-assured and confident Berger Picard. Use of positive reinforcement is preferred, as the breed can be sensitive to harsh tones of voice. This breed also excels in dog sports such as agility, tracking, obedience trials, flyball, or lure coursing.
Grooming of the Berger Picard
The Berger Picard is fairly low maintenance. Their coats do not need trimmed, although the ears may be occasionally hand stripped. Occasional brushing and bathing are all that is needed, along with regular nail trims, ear cleaning, and tooth brushing.
Special Care of the Berger Picard
Having an inbred love of activity, the Berger Picard can resort to destructive activities or overly rough and rowdy play if not given proper regular exercise. Although the breed can adapt to living in smaller quarters (as long as a proper outlet for activity is given), the Berger Picard can bark a fair amount. Therefore, potential owners should take the proximity of their neighbors into account when considering this breed.
Common Diseases and Disorders of the Berger Picard
Although the Berger Picard is a relatively healthy breed, the following conditions have been noted:
- Hip dysplasia
- Eye disorders, such as PRA (progressive retinal atrophy)
Life Span of the Berger Picard
The life span of the Berger Picard is approximately 12-14 years.