While originally bred to be a hunting dog, the French Berger Picard also makes an excellent pet for everyday owners — provided that they can keep up with them, of course. Like most herding dogs, these animals are extremely energetic and active, so they’re not ideal for couch potatoes.
22 – 28 inches
50 – 70 pounds
12 – 14 years
Active families, experienced dog owners
Independent, intelligent, sensitive, powerful, athletic
They’re also fairly rare, so tracking one down can be a bit of a chore. If you manage to do so, though, you’ll find an engaging and affectionate (and stubborn) companion.
If you’re considering adopting one of these fine dogs, this guide will reveal everything that you need to know about these strong-willed pups.
Berger Picards Characteristics
Berger Picard Puppies
The problem with these adorable herding dogs is that many people decide to get one impulsively because of their looks, without really thinking through whether they’re willing to put up with the sacrifices inherent in owning one of these energetic pups.
They need a ton of exercise, even as puppies, so if you’re not the active type, this might not be the breed for you. They’re not inclined to sit around all day. The good news is that they’re a ton of fun to play with, so exercising them is rewarding. If you’re already the outdoorsy type, you’ll love romping around with one of these dogs at the park or in the woods.
We’re not looking to discourage anyone from adopting a Berger Picard, but you should know what you’re getting into before you bring one home. They will cuddle on the couch with you — but you’ll have to run around with them for hours first.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Berger Picard
Herding dogs are usually intelligent and independent, and the Berger Picard is no exception. As it turns out, though, these are complex animals, emotionally speaking.
They can be needy, and they require plenty of companionship from their humans. At the same time, they can be headstrong, so it can be quite the emotional yo-yo, as they’ll demand your company, only to ignore your orders.
They can also be quite sensitive, which is strange for such an independent animal. You have to be careful with how you talk to and interact with them.
They’re incredibly intelligent, though, so they can pick up on new commands in no time at all. Training is less an exercise in teaching them how to do something and more of navigating their complex emotional minefields to convince them to do it.
That intelligence can get them into trouble too, as they can be mischievous if they don’t get enough exercise every day.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪
Berger Picards are sweet and easygoing dogs, and they can be quite laidback when they get comfortable with their families. They’re not natural babysitters but they will enjoy playing with children.
You should never leave small children unattended with any dog, and Berger Picards are no exception. However, they’re much more likely to accidentally trample a kid while romping in the backyard than they are to bite them.
They can be quite reserved around strangers, though, so you might want to be careful about bringing one home if you often entertain guests. This reserved nature won’t necessarily lead to aggression, but they might snap if confronted with a guest who just has to pet the puppy.
Socialization is extremely important for Berger Picards. Unlike many other breeds, these dogs won’t necessarily become aggressive if poorly socialized, but they will be skittish and fearful.
These are one-owner dogs, and they bond deeply with their humans. However, this often means that they bond with just one human, and they may ignore other members in the house. As a result, it’s important that everyone in the household is involved in training and playing with the dog.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?
Berger Picards aren’t very aggressive toward other dogs, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a good fit for multi-dog households.
They should never be around other dogs that have a history of violence, as their sensitive nature causes them to be deeply wounded when subject to aggression. A single fight could cause them to be fearful and cautious toward every other dog they meet for the rest of their lives.
Berger Picards also tend to make and hold eye contact. While this is considered polite in humans, dogs see it as a challenge or sign of aggression. This can get them into trouble in situations where other dogs would be fine.
You should be careful when introducing a Berger Picard to any other dog, even if you know that your dog is friendly and well-behaved. You never know what other dogs will do, so protect your pup at all costs.
They can be tolerant of other animals like cats, but it’s best if they’re raised with them. In any case, they’re much more likely to try to herd them than attack them, but that might not be pleasant for the cat either.
Things to Know When Owning a Berger Picard
Berger Picards are extremely rare, so you may not know what to do with one after bringing them home. They’re much like other dogs in many ways, but there are still a few things that you should know before adopting one.
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
You’ll want to feed your Berger Picard the finest diet that you can, as they are extremely energetic and need a quality food to fuel them.
Ideally, that will mean a high-protein kibble, as the protein will burn more slowly than carbs, keeping them energized all day long. That will also keep them from adding on too much weight, as obesity is terrible for these dogs.
Make sure that the kibble is made of high-quality ingredients. Avoid cheap fillers like corn, wheat, and soy, and skip any foods with animal by-products too. These are made from cheap cuts of meat that have been rejected for other purposes, so it’s not something that you want your dog to eat.
Given how active these dogs are, they can eat quite a bit. However, their meals should be strictly portion-controlled, as you don’t want them putting on extra weight.
Puppies should be given more food than adult dogs, and you might want to feed them as many as four meals per day until they’re fully grown. At that point, the meals can be cut in half, and you can drop the dog down to a single meal once they become seniors, especially if they’re less active at that point.
Berger Picards need a ton of exercise. They’re used to running around farms all day, keeping livestock in line, so a long walk is the bare minimum.
They’ll need at least an hour of vigorous exercise every day, so plan to spend a great deal of time outdoors with them. If they don’t get enough stimulation, they’ll get bored, and bored Berger Picards are likely to tear up your shoes or any other valuable items that you have lying around.
As you might expect, they do best in situations where they have plenty of room to run around, but they can also thrive in city settings. You’ll just have to make sure that they get all the stimulation that they need, one way or another.
They also need plenty of mental stimulation, as they’re incredibly smart. Puzzle toys are good investments, but daily training is a better way to tucker their little brains out.
These dogs are incredible athletes, and they’ve been successful in canine competitions like agility trials, flyball, lure coursing, and herding events (naturally).
Training is essential for these dogs, but it can be somewhat frustrating. They’re smart enough to pick up on new commands easily, but they have a stubborn streak that can make it difficult to get through to them.
It can be especially challenging because they’re so sensitive. You may feel like yelling at them or otherwise punishing them, but doing so will only make them withdraw from you. You should use positive reinforcement at all times.
If you can earn their respect, they’ll do whatever you ask at the drop of a hat. Otherwise, they’ll happily ignore you while doing their own thing.
If you don’t think that you’re up to the task, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a professional. However, they should teach you how to train the dog rather than doing it themselves, as the dogs tend to bond with whoever’s doing the training.
Socialization is just as important as training, if not more so. You should try to expose them to new people and situations as often as possible and take pains to make sure that those situations are positive.
You won’t have to do much to keep your Berger Picard’s coat in line. They have a rough coat that doesn’t need much brushing, so you can likely get away with doing so just once every other week or so.
You don’t want to skip it entirely, though, as its tousled nature can often lead to tangles. There’s no need to cut or trim it, though.
There’s seldom any need to bathe them. They’re used to frolicking on farms, after all, so they don’t need to be pampered, and soap will just strip their fur of necessary oils.
Their teeth should be brushed regularly, and you should clean out their ears with a damp cloth once a week or so.
If you let your Berger Picard roam around outside, there will likely be no need to trim their nails, as they’ll wear them down on their own. Otherwise, you should take nail trimmers to them as necessary, which will likely be once a month or so.
Health and Conditions 🏥
The Berger Picard is generally a healthy breed, and they aren’t prone to many genetic health conditions. However, their rarity means there’s not as much information about their health as with some other breeds.
The good news is that owners of the breed are quite dedicated, and breeders usually perform screenings on the dogs before selling them. They also often submit blood samples to a dedicated DNA repository, allowing researchers to learn more about the dogs.
These conditions are known to affect the breed, but there’s no guarantee that your dog will suffer from any of them. They may also suffer from diseases not listed, so take the following with a grain of salt.
Male vs. Female
Male and female Berger Picards are similar in most respects, although males tend to be larger than females. Both will be highly energetic and sensitive, however.
Females may mature a bit faster, and they often tend to be a bit more independent, although not much. Overall, you shouldn’t see much difference between the two, and you should be happy regardless of which sex you bring home.
3 Little-Known Facts About the Berger Picards
1. The Pronunciation Is a Bit Tricky
At first glance, you probably want to pronounce the breed’s name the same way that you’d demand a Big Mac from a certain “Star Trek “captain. While people will likely know what you’re talking about if you pronounce it that way (assuming that they’ve heard of the breed at all), it’s not the proper pronunciation.
Instead, the name is pronounced like this: bare-ZHAY pee-CARR. It may sound like a pretentious name, but there’s nothing pretentious about these workmanlike farm dogs.
2. They Have Bad Luck in World Wars
There have been many breeds that nearly went extinct as a result of WWII, but the Berger Picard had the misfortune of nearly disappearing from the planet during both world wars.
The breed hails from the Picardy region of France, and it just happened to be the site of some of the most ferocious fighting in both WWI and WWII. What is normally picturesque farmland was instead transformed into a bloodbath.
Many of the dogs were undoubtedly killed during the fighting, and they simply weren’t replaced due to people’s focus being on more important things than breeding dogs.
3. The Breed’s Numbers Have Never Fully Recovered
While they’re no longer on the brink of extinction, this is still a relatively endangered breed. It’s estimated that there are currently only 3,500 of them in France, with a few hundred in other countries, most notably, Germany.
Efforts are being made to increase the population, but this is a specialized breed, so it’s unlikely that they’ll ever enjoy massive popularity. The chances are that there will never be more than a thousand Berger Picards in the world at any time, but hopefully, there will always be at least a few.
Regardless of whether you’re a shepherd with flocks that need herding or simply a dog lover in need of a faithful companion, the Berger Picard can make an excellent pet.
They’re affectionate, loyal, and intelligent, but they’re also extremely energetic and can be quite stubborn. As a result, they may be a better fit for experienced owners.
While they may be a bit high-maintenance, they’re also wonderful pups that are sure to liven up your life.
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Featured Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock