Last Updated: April 12, 2021
The Catalan Sheepdog is what you might imagine in a sheepdog in terms of appearance. A long shaggy coated, medium to large sized purebred from Spain, bred to herd sheep. Today it is also kept as a great family dog and companion, it is versatile, hard working, intelligent and loyal. It has a life span of about 10 to 14 years. Other names it is known as include Catalonian Sheepdog, Perros de Pastor Catalan and Gos d’Atura Catala.
|The Catalan Sheepdog at A Glance|
|Other names||Gos d’Atura Català, Catalan shepherd, Catalonian Sheepdog, Perros de Pastor Catalan|
|Average size||Medium to large|
|Average weight||35 to 60 pounds|
|Average height||17 to 22 inches|
|Life span||10 to 14 years|
|Coat type||Long and shaggy|
|Color||Fawn, sable or gray with little reddish brown, black, chestnut or white|
|Popularity||Not a recognized member of the AKC|
|Intelligence||High – this is definitely a dog that can think for itself|
|Tolerance to heat||Good to very good|
|Tolerance to cold||Good but nothing extreme|
|Shedding||Low to moderate – will not be a lot of hair in the home|
|Drooling||Average but not especially prone to a lot of slobber or drool|
|Obesity||Average – watch its food and make sure it is well exercised|
|Grooming/brushing||Average to high – needs several brushing a week to keep hair untangled|
|Barking||Low – does not bark frequently|
|Exercise needs||High – needs active owners|
|Trainability||Easy for experienced owners|
|Friendliness||Good to very good with socialization|
|Good first dog||Good to very good as quite obedient and good natured|
|Good family pet||Very good with socialization|
|Good with children||Very good to excellent with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Good to very good – with socialization|
|Good with other pets||Good – with socialization|
|Good with strangers||Moderate to good but is wary of strangers so socialization is needed|
|Good apartment dog||Low – needs space and at least a medium to large yard|
|Handles alone time well||Moderate – if neglected can suffer from separation anxiety|
|Health issues||Fairly healthy, some typical dog issues it can face include Hip dysplasia, dental problems, patella luxation, eye problems|
|Medical expenses||$485 a year for basic medical care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$665 a year for miscellaneous items, grooming, basic training, toys and license|
|Average annual expenses||$1420 as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$800|
|Rescue organizations||None breed specific but always worth looking to local shelters and rescues to adopt|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Catalan Sheepdog’s Beginnings
The Catalan Sheepdog were first bred in Spain in the Catalonia region, which is in the North-East. It was developed from Pyrenees dogs and is considered an ancient breed as it can be traced back to the Romans sometime between 200 and 100 BC. When the Romans came to the area they brought with them two types of dogs, one to herd cattle and one to protect the livestock. These were crossed with dogs native to the Catalan region creating the Catalan Sheepdog. It was developed to be good at herding and to also guard the flocks and were valued for being hard working, active, courageous, loyal and kind.
This dog became popular not just in the North-East of Spain but in the rest of the country too. During the civil war they were used to guard, as sentries, messengers and were relied upon to be dependable and used because of their bravery and intelligence. They had similar duties during the two world wars and were also used in the police force and as a search and rescue dog, but after World War II numbers dropped by quite a bit. People had to focus on things other than dog breeding.
New Lease on Life
Thankfully in the 1970s breeders too steps to start the process of saving the breed from extinction. The numbers now are growing steadily in Spain still being used as herding dogs and companions and there is some interest in them outside of Spain especially as companion dogs. In the 1992 Olympics the Catalan Sheepdog became Spain’s official mascot and it is also used still in the police force, in security and in search-and-rescue. It is still a rare breed though and focus needs to remain on it to keep it around. It is recognized by the Spanish and the English Kennel Clubs but is not yet recognized by the AKC.
The Dog You See Today
The Catalan Sheepdog is a medium to large dog weighing 35 to 60 pounds and standing 17 to 22 inches tall. There were once actually two types, a long coated and short coated but the short coated is considered by some to be extinct and by others very close to it. It has a solidly built body with a muscular short neck, laid back shoulders and a level topline. They are longer than they are tall making them rectangular shaped and have a belly that is tucked up a little and strong legs. It has a well developed chest and its tail is set low, long and is curled in a hook shape when it is at rest. They have double dew claws and oval shaped feet with firm pads that are black as are the nails. The coats are double with a soft and thick under coat and a medium to long out coat that is flat or wavy and rough. Typical colors are browns, white, grey, sable, fawn and black.
This breed has a rounded head with a skull that is a little longer than it is wide. It has a short and blunt muzzle with a dark nose. Its wide set eyes are round and are a dark amber to chestnut brown color with dark rims. The ears are highly set, triangle shaped and hang down falling close to the head. They are covered in long hairs giving them a fringe. It also has facial hair, a beard, mustache and longer eyebrows though its eyes are not covered by hair like many shaggy sheepdogs.
The Inner Catalan Sheepdog
Catalan Sheepdogs are playful, active, intelligent and happy dogs with a bold nature that makes a great family dog as well as working dog. It in fact bonds very easily to its family and becomes very attached, loving and loyal. Its protective instincts make a great guard dog and it is alert and will be a good watchdog too able to let you know of something off or is someone is breaking in. It would also act to defend you, its home and its family. These protective instincts can go into overdrive though especially of its food and toys, and it can become wary and suspicious of strangers so socialization is needed.
These dogs with good socialization and good raising are sweet, cheerful and love to have fun. It needs a certain amount of interaction and attention from you, is friendly and is also quite high spirited. It can be quite charming, is kind and adaptable but needs to know you are the boss. It tends to be a quiet dog that only barks rarely and it prefers not to be left alone for long periods. In fact if it feels ignored or neglected it can develop separation anxiety. The closeness it has for it family does mean re-homing is harder, it will pine for you so make sure you are able to keep it for the next 10 to 11 years.
Living with a Catalan Sheepdog
What will training look like?
Catalan Sheepdogs are intelligent and eager to please so tend to be easy to train as long as you are consistent, confident, firm and clear in your leadership. Stay positive encouraging it, offering treats to motivate and praising its successes. While it was originally bred for herding and still excels at that, it is versatile and also does well in other areas you might want to add training for like dog sports and even dancing! Make sure that along with at least basic level obedience training it also gets early socialization. Let it adjust and learn how to respond appropriately to different people, situations, sounds, places and animals and such from a young age. It is less likely to misread situations, see threats where there is none or to be overly nervous or shy.
How active is the Catalan Sheepdog?
These are playful, active and agile dogs who enjoy a good amount of physical exercise and also need a good amount of mental stimulation. It is best with active owners and not well suited to apartment living as it really should have access to a large yard. If not being kept as a herding dog it should get two walks a day (one can be moderate but one needs to be longer), get some safe off leash run time and have a good physical play session with you somewhere like a dog park. It is a breed that enjoys and does well at canine sports too. Expect to give it at least an hour a day of vigorous activity but ease into it, when it is young its joints and bones can get injured easily with too much too soon.
Caring for the Catalan Sheepdog
These dogs will need a brush about 3 to 4 times a week so that makes it above average in terms of coat care, but this is because it does tangle easily. It is low to moderate in terms of shedding so there may be a little hair around the home, and it may need occasional trips to a groomer. It does not hold on to dirt thankfully so bathing should not be needed that often, just do it when it needs it and use just a dog shampoo so you do not dry out the natural oils from its skin.
You should check its nails now and then to make sure they are not getting too long. When they need it, give them a clip using dog nail clippers or scissors and take care not to cut too far down. If you are worried at all have a groomer do it. Cutting into the quick of the nail, the lower part of it will hurt the dog and cause bleeding because of the blood vessels and nerves there. Its ears should be cleaned once a week using a dog ear cleanser or damp cloth and never inserting anything into its ears. At the same time check for infection signs like a bad odor, irritation, redness and swelling. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week to prevent dental and gum disease.
The Catalan Sheepdog will eat about 2 to 4 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals to avoid issues with bloat. The amount varies from one Catalan to another because things can affect it like weight, age, level of activity, metabolism and health. Make sure it always has access to water and that it is freshened when possible.
How is the Catalan Sheepdog with other animals and children?
This breed of sheepdog is very good with children with early socialization and especially when raised with them. It is a protective breed and without that socialization and training that can become over protective. It is cheerful and sweet and playful with them when raised well tough you may have to control its tendency to try and herd them! Supervision is a good idea with young children to make sure the rambunctious play does not get too much for them. Teach children too how to play and touch kindly and safely. For the most part these dogs get on well with other pets and other dogs with socialization, though some dogs are not as good with strange small animals and pets.
What Might Go Wrong?
This is a fairly healthy breed with a life span of 10 to 14 years but there are some issues to be aware of such as hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, eye problems, epilepsy and bloat.
In reports covering dog attacks doing bodily harm against people in the US and Canada over the last 35 years, there is no mention of the Catalan Sheepdog. It is not known to be especially aggressive towards people and given it is very uncommon in this part of the world this is not surprising. Make sure you socialize and train it, give it enough attention, stimulation and exercise and feed it well and this can lessen any chances of it being drawn into an incident.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
The Catalan Sheepdog puppy will cost about $800 though it is likely you will be on a waiting list for any kind of decent and experienced breeder since there are not many outside of Spain. Avoid speeding the process up by looking at less savory means of acquiring a dog like puppy mills, pet stores and back yard breeders. Also keep in mind if you want a show dog from a top show breeder that cost will be more. If you are not sure yet about what kind of dog you want, and it does not have to be a purebred consider going to local shelters and rescues where there are a lot of mixed breeds hoping for a new forever home. They make great companions, deserves a family to love them and adoption fees run from just $50 to $400.
There are also initial costs to consider. Items your dog will need like a crate, carrier, leash and collar, bedding, bowls and such will come to about $220 or so. When you have your dog home one of the first things you should do is take it to a vet for a physical exam and some tests and procedures like deworming, spaying or neutering, micro chipping, blood tests, shots and such for another $290.
Then there are ongoing costs of ownership. $485 a year will be about what it will cost for basic health care like shots, physical check ups, flea and tick prevention and pet insurance. $665 a year should just about cover any grooming needs, miscellaneous items, license, toys and basic training. Then feeding your dog a good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost about $270 a year. This gives a starting figure cost of $1420 a year.
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The Catalan Sheepdog is hard working, loyal and affectionate. It is a rare breed though so will take some time and patience if this is the breed you are set on. It will need good socialization and training and is best with owners who are active as it needs a certain amount of activity to be happy and healthy. It also needs owners who are able to be around more than being out or it can become anxious.
An avid animal lover, Roland started this blog to help all varieties of pets and their owners on their journey to living their best lives.
- The Catalan Sheepdog’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Catalan Sheepdog
- Living with a Catalan Sheepdog
- Caring for the Catalan Sheepdog
- How is the Catalan Sheepdog with other animals and children?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag