Berger Picard

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berger picard/picardy shepherd portrait
Say bonjour to the Berger Picard, a rare and endearing breed that's ready to charm its way into your heart! With their distinctive looks and lively spirit, these captivating canines are nothing short of enchanting.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Berger Picard is perfect for those who appreciate an intelligent, energetic, and independent companion. This French herding breed is a great fit for active individuals or families who enjoy outdoor adventures. If you’re seeking a loyal friend with a scruffy charm and a knack for problem-solving, the Berger Picard could be your ideal match!

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEBerger Picard
OTHER NAMESPicard, Picardy Sheepdog, Berger de Picardie
ORIGINFrance
BREED GROUPHerding Group
BREED SIZEMedium
HEIGHT21-26 inches
WEIGHT50-70 lbs
LIFESPAN12-13 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSVery High
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK153rd
berger picard on a hike
Photo: D Razavi/Getty Images

Appearance

The Berger Picard is a medium-sized, muscular, and well-proportioned dog breed that exudes an air of rustic elegance. With a height ranging from 21 to 26 inches at the shoulders, these dogs typically weigh between 50 to 70 pounds, with males being slightly larger than females.

The body of the Berger Picard is slightly longer than its height, giving it a rectangular shape. This breed has a strong, straight back, deep chest, and well-developed muscles, showcasing its athleticism and working heritage. The tail is long and J-shaped, often reaching the hock, and is carried with a slight curve when the dog is in motion.

The head is elongated and wedge-shaped, with a slightly rounded skull and a moderate stop. The muzzle is strong and tapers towards the nose, while the lips are tight-fitting and black. The nose itself is large, with open nostrils, and is always black in color.

A key characteristic that sets the Berger Picard apart from other breeds is its expressive, semi-prick ears. Standing tall and erect, these large, high-set ears are somewhat rounded at the tips and are wide at the base. They contribute to the breed’s alert and inquisitive expression.

The eyes of the Berger Picard are another captivating feature. Oval in shape and medium in size, they boast a range of dark colors, from dark amber to nearly black. The eyes are set well apart, conveying an intelligent, friendly, and confident gaze.

The Berger Picard’s coat is one of its most notable attributes, setting it apart from other herding breeds. Its weather-resistant double coat is harsh, crisp, and wiry, measuring about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) in length. This breed’s coat is never curly or woolly, and it lies flat against the body with a slight wave.

The most common coat colors are fawn and brindle, with or without gray underlay. Some dogs may have small white markings on the chest, toes, or tip of the tail, but these markings should be minimal.

Overall, the Berger Picard’s appearance reflects its hardworking nature, resilience, and rustic charm, making it an easily recognizable and endearing breed.

berger picard in a forest
Photo: D Razavi/Getty Images

Temperament

Let’s talk about the Berger Picard, a breed that’s as quirky as it is charming. Imagine a dog with the wit of your favorite stand-up comedian and the independent spirit of a rock star, topped off with a dash of classic French elegance. That’s the Berger Picard for you.

These dogs are like a whirlwind of energy, always ready to embark on a new adventure. They’re the life of the party, the ones who bring infectious enthusiasm into any room they step into. But they’re not all about fun and games. They have a sharp intellect that shines through in everything they do. Berger Picards are the type who would probably learn to open doors or gates just for the fun of it!

Even though they’re full of life and spirit, Berger Picards also have a calm and steady side. They’re not easily thrown off by changes in their environment. They take everything in stride, like that chilled-out friend who always seems to keep their cool no matter what.

While they’re known for their independence, Berger Picards are also incredibly loyal. They form deep bonds with their families and are always there to protect their loved ones. They might come across as a bit aloof with strangers at first, but once they get to know you, they’re all warmth and friendliness.

Berger Picards also have a stubborn streak. But don’t worry, it’s not the frustrating kind of stubbornness. It’s more like a dogged determination, a tenacity that makes them stick to their guns until they achieve what they set out to do.

In a nutshell, the Berger Picard is a bundle of contradictions. They’re energetic yet calm, independent yet loyal, intelligent yet goofy, and friendly yet reserved. But it’s these contradictions that make them so endearing. With a Berger Picard, life is never boring. They bring a unique blend of joy, loyalty, and intelligence into the lives of those lucky enough to share their homes with them.

two berger picards sitting in pea field
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The Berger Picard thrives in an environment where they can be an active member of the family, engaging in both physical and mental activities. This breed is best suited for pet parents who have an appreciation for their intelligent and energetic nature and are willing to invest time in training, socialization, and exercise.

Physical Environment

Ideally, the Berger Picard should live in a home with a securely fenced yard, as they enjoy having ample space to explore, play, and burn off energy. However, they can also adapt to living in urban environments, provided they receive sufficient daily exercise and mental stimulation.

Regardless of the living situation, it is crucial for the Picardy Shepherd to have regular opportunities to engage in activities such as brisk walks, hikes, or dog sports like agility and obedience trials. Such activities not only cater to their physical needs but also help satisfy their natural herding instincts and desire for mental challenges.

Climate Adaptability

In terms of climate adaptability, the Berger Picard’s weather-resistant double coat provides them with protection against both cold and moderate heat. They can tolerate colder temperatures quite well, thanks to their dense undercoat, which insulates them against the cold.

However, during extreme heat, it’s essential to provide them with proper shade, fresh water, and limit their outdoor activities to prevent overheating. On the other hand, they should not be left outside for extended periods in freezing temperatures, as they are primarily indoor dogs that enjoy being with their family.

Ideal Owner

The ideal pet parent for a Berger Picard is someone who understands the importance of early socialization and consistent, positive reinforcement-based training. These dogs can be strong-willed and independent, so patience and persistence are key when working with this breed. They are well-suited for families with children, as they are gentle, patient, and enjoy being involved in family activities.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, the Berger Picard can coexist harmoniously with other dogs and animals, particularly if raised together or introduced properly. However, it’s essential to monitor their interactions with smaller pets due to their herding instincts and potential prey drive.

berger picard (picardy shepherd) leaping in the field
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Grooming

The Berger Picard boasts a low-maintenance grooming routine, thanks to its unique, weather-resistant double coat. While their grooming needs are relatively minimal compared to other breeds, it’s essential to establish a regular care regimen to keep your Picardy Shepherd looking and feeling their best.

Coat Care

The Berger Picard’s harsh, wiry coat is not prone to matting, which makes coat maintenance relatively easy. However, they do require occasional brushing to remove dead hair and distribute natural oils throughout the coat, contributing to its overall health.

Thorough brushing with a slicker brush or pin brush once every week or two should suffice. During shedding seasons, which occur twice a year, you may need to increase the frequency of brushing to help manage loose hair.

It’s important to note that the Berger Picard’s coat should never be shaved or clipped, as doing so can damage the coat’s texture and compromise its weather-resistant properties. If necessary, you can trim the hair around their ears, paws, or sanitary areas for cleanliness, but avoid excessive trimming.

The Berger Picard does not have a strong odor and does not require frequent bathing. In fact, excessive bathing can strip their coat of its natural oils and disrupt its protective qualities. Aim to bathe your Picardy Shepherd only when they are noticeably dirty or have rolled in something unpleasant, using a mild dog shampoo designed for wire-coated breeds.

Ear Care

Regular ear care is crucial for the Berger Picard, as their large, erect ears can be prone to dirt accumulation and potential infections. Check their ears weekly for signs of redness, irritation, or unusual odor, which could indicate an infection.

Gently clean the outer ear flap with a cotton ball or soft cloth dampened with a vet-approved ear-cleaning solution. Avoid inserting anything into the ear canal, as this can cause injury.

Dental Care

Dental care is an essential aspect of grooming for all dog breeds, including the Berger Picard. Regular teeth brushing helps prevent plaque buildup, tartar, and gum disease, which can lead to more severe health issues if left unaddressed.

Aim to brush your dog’s teeth at least two to three times per week using a soft-bristled toothbrush and dog-specific toothpaste. Additionally, providing dental chews or toys designed to promote oral health can help supplement your dog’s dental care routine.

Nail Trimming

The Berger Picard’s nails should be trimmed regularly to prevent overgrowth, cracking, or splitting. Depending on your dog’s activity level, nail trimming may be needed every three to four weeks.

Use a guillotine-style or scissor-style nail clipper specifically designed for dogs and take care not to cut the quick, the sensitive blood vessel inside the nail. If you’re unsure about trimming your dog’s nails yourself, seek assistance from a professional groomer or veterinarian.

berger picard (picardy shepherd) walking outdoors
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Exercise

As a highly energetic and intelligent breed, the Berger Picard requires regular exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and healthy. Adequate exercise is crucial not only for their physical well-being but also for preventing boredom-related behavioral issues such as destructiveness or excessive barking.

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, the Berger Picard needs at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily exercise, which can be broken up into shorter sessions throughout the day. This can include brisk walks, jogging, or off-leash playtime in a securely fenced area. Keep in mind that your dog’s exercise needs may vary depending on their age, health, and individual temperament.

Dog Sports

In addition to regular walks and playtime, the Berger Picard will greatly benefit from engaging in activities that tap into their natural herding instincts and desire for mental challenges. Dog sports such as agility, obedience, flyball, or herding trials are excellent options for this breed, as they provide both physical exercise and mental stimulation.

Participating in these activities also strengthens the bond between you and your dog and helps satisfy their instinctual drive to work.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Berger Picard, it’s essential to consider their safety and overall well-being. Make sure they are wearing proper identification tags and are always on a leash when walking in public areas. Be mindful of weather conditions, especially during extreme heat or cold, and adjust your dog’s exercise routine accordingly. Provide fresh water before and after exercise to ensure your dog stays hydrated.

three berger picards (picardy shepherds) sitting on grass
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Training

Training a Berger Picard can be a rewarding experience, as they are intelligent, quick learners who are eager to please. However, their independent nature and strong will can also make training a challenge, requiring patience, persistence, and consistency from their pet parent.

Positive Reinforcement

The Berger Picard is a highly trainable breed, but they respond best to positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, treats, or play. Harsh training methods or punishment-based techniques can be counterproductive, as they may lead to fear or mistrust in the dog.

Instead, focus on building a strong bond with your Picardy Shepherd and reinforcing desired behaviors through rewards and encouragement.

Socialization

Early socialization and obedience training are crucial for the Berger Picard to develop into a well-rounded and well-behaved adult dog. Exposing them to various environments, people, and animals from a young age will help build their confidence and ensure they are comfortable in different situations.

Enrolling your dog in group training classes can be a great way to combine socialization with training, providing a structured environment where your dog can learn and interact with other dogs under the guidance of a professional trainer.

Variety in Training

One potential challenge when training a Berger Picard is their tendency to become bored with repetitive tasks. To keep them engaged, vary your training sessions by incorporating new commands or activities, and always end each session on a positive note. Short, frequent training sessions are more effective than long, drawn-out ones, as they help maintain your dog’s interest and enthusiasm.

Consistency

Consistency is key when training your Berger Picard, as mixed signals or sporadic training can lead to confusion and hinder progress. Establish clear rules and boundaries from the beginning and ensure that all family members are on board with enforcing them.

berger picard (picardy shepherd) relaxing by the sea
Photo: picardzucht/Pixabay

Diet & Nutrition 

The Berger Picard’s diet and nutrition play a vital role in maintaining their overall health, energy levels, and well-being. Providing a balanced and appropriate diet is essential for this active and energetic breed.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting food for your Berger Picard, look for high-quality dry, wet, or raw food that follows the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines ensure that the food meets the minimum nutritional requirements for your dog’s specific life stage, whether they are a puppy, adult, or senior.

The amount of food you should feed your Berger Picard depends on their age, weight, activity level, and individual metabolism. Puppies generally require more frequent meals to support their growth and development, typically needing three to four small meals per day. As your Picardy Shepherd transitions into adulthood, you can reduce their feeding frequency to two meals per day.

It’s important to monitor your dog’s weight and body condition, adjusting their food intake as needed to maintain a healthy weight. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which can cause various health issues and strain on your dog’s joints and organs.

Consult your veterinarian to determine the ideal daily caloric intake for your specific dog and follow the feeding guidelines provided by the food manufacturer.

Treats

Treats can be a useful tool for training and rewarding your Berger Picard, but they should be given in moderation to avoid excess weight gain. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats and consider using pieces of your dog’s regular kibble as rewards during training sessions. Treats should not make up more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake.

Water

Fresh water should always be readily available for your Berger Picard, especially during exercise and hot weather. Ensure that their water bowl is clean and filled with fresh water at all times, and encourage them to drink regularly.

berger picard (picardy shepherd) in a park
Photo: picardzucht/Pixabay

Health

The Berger Picard is a generally healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 13 years. However, like all breeds, they can be predisposed to certain health issues. It’s essential to be aware of these potential risks and work closely with a reputable breeder who conducts necessary health tests on their breeding dogs.

Here are common health issues associated with the Berger Picard:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition in which the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain over time. Responsible breeders will screen their dogs for hip dysplasia before breeding to reduce the risk of passing the condition on to puppies. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage the symptoms and prevent the condition from worsening.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an eye disease that causes gradual deterioration of the retina, eventually leading to blindness. Reputable breeders will test their breeding dogs for PRA to minimize the risk of affected puppies. There is currently no cure for PRA, but early detection can help manage the condition and prepare for any lifestyle adjustments needed as the dog’s vision declines.

Primary Lens Luxation (PLL): PLL is an inherited eye disorder in which the lens of the eye becomes dislocated, causing discomfort, inflammation, and potential vision loss. Routine eye exams and screening for PLL by a veterinary ophthalmologist can help detect the condition early, allowing for prompt treatment to minimize discomfort and vision loss.

Heart Conditions: The Berger Picard can be predisposed to certain heart conditions, such as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Regular vet check-ups, including heart examinations, can help monitor your dog’s heart health and detect any issues early. In some cases, medication or surgery may be necessary to manage or correct the condition.

Ear Infections: Due to their large, erect ears, the Berger Picard may be prone to ear infections caused by bacteria, yeast, or parasites. Regular ear cleaning and monitoring for signs of redness, irritation, or unusual odor can help prevent infections and ensure prompt treatment if an infection does occur.

To minimize the risk of these health issues, it’s essential to work with a reputable breeder who performs necessary health screenings and follows responsible breeding practices. Regular veterinary care, including routine check-ups and vaccinations, will also help maintain your Berger Picard’s overall health.

In addition to genetic health concerns, maintaining a healthy diet, providing regular exercise, and addressing any weight management issues can contribute to your dog’s overall well-being. By staying informed about potential health risks and working closely with your veterinarian, you can help ensure that your Berger Picard lives a long, happy, and healthy life.

berger picard's face up close
Photo: DejaVu Designs/Getty Images

History

The Berger Picard is an ancient breed of herding dog that originated in the Picardy region of Northern France. Their history dates back to approximately 400-600 AD, making them one of the oldest French herding breeds. The breed is believed to have descended from the early herding dogs brought to France by the Celts during their migration across Europe.

The Berger Picard’s primary purpose was to herd and guard livestock, particularly sheep and cattle. They were highly valued for their intelligence, agility, and strong work ethic, which made them excellent herders and protectors of their flocks.

Their weather-resistant double coat allowed them to work in harsh conditions, and their loyal and protective nature made them ideal guardians of both the livestock and their human families.

Despite their long history, the Berger Picard remained relatively unknown outside of their native region for centuries. The breed’s population suffered significant losses during both World War I and World War II, as the battlefields were situated in the Picardy region where these dogs lived and worked. Many Berger Picards were killed or dispersed during the wars, putting the breed at risk of extinction.

After World War II, dedicated breed enthusiasts worked diligently to revive the Berger Picard population. While their numbers gradually increased, the breed remained rare even in its native France. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that the Berger Picard began to gain recognition and popularity outside of France, particularly in the United States and Canada.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Berger Picard in 2007 as a member of the Miscellaneous Class. Later in July 2015, the breed was officially recognized by the AKC as a member of the Herding Group, allowing them to fully participate in all AKC events, including conformation shows.

In popular culture, the Berger Picard gained visibility and increased interest due to their appearance in the 2005 movie “Because of Winn-Dixie.” The film featured a Berger Picard named “Winn-Dixie” as the main canine character, showcasing the breed’s intelligence, loyalty, and unique appearance. This exposure helped introduce the breed to a wider audience and sparked interest among dog enthusiasts.

Today, the Berger Picard remains a relatively rare breed, both in its native France and around the world. However, their unique appearance, intelligence, and versatility have led to a growing number of enthusiasts who appreciate the breed’s rich history and exceptional qualities. As more people discover the Berger Picard, efforts continue to preserve and promote this ancient and remarkable herding breed.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Berger Picard in the United States is the Berger Picard Club of America (BPCA). Founded in 2006, the BPCA is dedicated to promoting and preserving the breed’s unique qualities, providing education about the breed, and encouraging responsible breeding practices.

The club also organizes various events and activities for Berger Picard enthusiasts. Visit their website to learn more about the BPCA.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Berger Picard’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC). 

berger picard puppy sitting on grass
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Acquiring

Thinking about bringing a Berger Picard into your family? Start by preparing a cozy bed, high-quality food, engaging toys, grooming supplies for their rough coat, and finding a reliable vet.

If you’re considering buying, ensure to choose a reputable breeder for a healthy, well-socialized pup. But have you thought about rescue? Numerous Picards in shelters are waiting to share their clever, lively spirit with a loving home. The American Kennel Club and the Berger Picard Club of America can guide you through this heartwarming process.

Whether you adopt or buy, you’re not just getting a pet. You’re inviting an energetic, intelligent friend into your life. With a Berger Picard, every day is an adventure filled with activity, companionship, and the joy of having a dog that’s as protective as it is affectionate!

FAQs

Are Berger Picards good family dogs?

Yes, Berger Picards can make excellent family dogs. They are known for their loyalty, affection, and gentle nature, making them great companions for families with children. However, early socialization and proper training are essential to ensure a well-behaved and well-rounded dog.

What job was the Berger Picard bred for?

The Berger Picard was primarily bred for herding and guarding livestock, particularly sheep and cattle. They were valued for their intelligence, agility, and strong work ethic, which made them ideal for this role in their native region of Northern France.

Are Berger Picards cuddly?

While some individual dogs may be more cuddly than others, Berger Picards are generally known for their affectionate nature and strong bond with their family members. They enjoy spending time with their humans and may appreciate snuggling or cuddling, but they also have an independent streak and may not always seek out physical affection.

How big do Berger Picards get?

Berger Picards are medium-sized dogs, with males typically standing between 23.5 to 25.5 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 60 to 70 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, standing between 21.5 to 23.5 inches and weighing between 50 to 60 pounds.

Do Berger Picards require a lot of grooming?

Berger Picards have a weather-resistant double coat that requires moderate grooming. Regular brushing, about once or twice a week, is necessary to remove dead hair and prevent matting. Bathing is only needed occasionally, as their coat is naturally dirt-resistant. Additionally, routine nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental care are important for maintaining overall health.

How much exercise do Berger Picards need?

As a highly active and energetic breed, Berger Picards require daily exercise to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. They enjoy activities such as walking, jogging, hiking, and playing games like fetch. Participating in dog sports like herding trials, agility, or obedience competitions can also provide an excellent outlet for their energy and intelligence.

Are Berger Picards suitable for first-time dog owners?

Berger Picards can be suitable for first-time dog owners who are willing to invest time and effort into training and socializing their dog.

Their intelligence and eagerness to please can make training a rewarding experience, but their independent nature may require patience and consistency. It’s essential for first-time owners to research the breed and seek guidance from experienced owners or professional trainers to ensure a positive experience with a Berger Picard.

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