5 Things to Know About Berger Picards

These are intelligent dogs who hold eye contact to communicate — something other dogs may interpret as aggression.

By: Angelo Giampiccolo
The Berger Picard is one of the oldest French sheepdog breeds. By: Angelo Giampiccolo

 1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Herding
  • Height: 21.5–25.5 inches
  • Weight: 50–70 pounds
  • Life expectancy: 13–14 years

The Berger Picard (Picard or Picardy shepherd) is a rare and ancient breed from the Picardy region of northern France. These medium-sized dogs have large ears that naturally stand high and curved, low-hanging tails. Their brown eyes are oval-shaped.

This breed has a waterproof double coat — it feels wiry and harsh on the outside, but underneath lies a soft, short undercoat. Coat colors include brindle and fawn, perhaps with brindle and white markings.

2. Where They Came From

The Berger Picard is one of the oldest French sheepdog breeds, a category that also includes the briard. The dogs were brought to northern France around 400 B.C. Although they are referred to as Picardy shepherds, there is not enough evidence to conclude that they existed only in the Picardy region at that time.

A Picard appeared at the first dog show in France in 1863 and competed in categories with other breeds. But these dogs started gaining recognition as a separate breed in 1898, and the French Shepherd Club officially recognized them in 1925.

After World Wars I and II, food rations made it difficult to justify feeding large dogs. Picards, like many other breeds, neared extinction. But a successful mating in 1950 re-established the breed.

Picards have been featured in a few movies recently, notably in Because of Winn-Dixie in 2005. Shortly after the movie premiere, the Berger Picard Club of America was formed.

In 2007, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed and assigned it to the Herding Group in July 2015.

By: leanam
Their coats actually repel dirt. By: Leanam

3. Are They Friendly?

Picards are intelligent dogs who learn quickly, but they can be stubborn. They tend to be sensitive to harsh communication, so positive reinforcement training is recommended. Picards also need to be trained and socialized; otherwise they may be cautious and unfriendly to strangers.

These dogs are fine with children and other pets, and they enjoy having a job to do. They also thrive on spending time with family members and make great watch dogs.

According to the Berger Picard Club of America, Picards have an unusual ability to hold eye contact for a long time. They do this as a means of communication or to show interest, but it may be construed by people and dogs as a sign of aggression.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

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[efsiconheading type=”h4″ style=”fi-guide-dog”]Exercise Needs[/efsiconheading]

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HIGH: As herders, Picards need lots of daily exercise in the form of walking, jogging or swimming. They enjoy agility, herding and tracking. Any activity that stimulates them mentally is a bonus. Picards have a high prey drive, however, so you should exercise them on a leash or in a secure area.
[efsiconheading type=”h4″ style=”fi-paw”]Grooming Needs[/efsiconheading]

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LOW: Picards have almost no odor and shed only around twice a year. Thanks to the outer coat’s low oil content, their coat repels dirt.

You’ll need to brush your Picard once or twice a month, with bathing only as necessary. Don’t use conditioner, though — it would diminish the waterproof properties of the coat.
[efsiconheading type=”h4″ style=”fi-heart”]Health Problems[/efsiconheading]

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LOW: You should be aware of a few health problems in this breed:

  • Sensitivity to anesthesia*
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye problems (progressive retinal atrophy and canine multifocal retinopathy)
  • Uterine inertia in females (contractions ceasing during labor)

*Per the Berger Picard Club of America, veterinarians should treat Picards as sight hounds for anesthesia purposes.
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Learn more about this lovable, loyal, all-purpose breed in this video:

5. Where to Adopt One

Finding a Picard on your own will be difficult. Petfinder doesn’t even list the breed in its search feature. The breed has problems reproducing, hence the rarity of finding one.

If you contact a breeder, the Berger Picard Club of America strongly recommends verifying that health screens on the puppy or parents have been done and reported to the testing body. Reporting the results costs just a few dollars, so, unless the breeder is hiding something there is no excuse for absent screens or reports.

Tests should include eyes, heart, hips and thyroid levels.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of an award-nominated book, One Unforgettable Journey, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. She was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. She is also employed as chief operating officer for a large mental health practice in Louisiana. Kristine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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