Information about the Berger Picard

The Berger Picard (pronounced ‘Bare-ZHAY Pee-CARR’) or Picardy Shepherd is a French breed of dog of the herding group of breeds. These dogs nearly became extinct after both World War I and World War II[1] and remain a rare breed to this day. This breed of dog is people-oriented, loyal, and can make a good family pet if properly socialized early in life. The producers of the 2005 American movie Because of Winn-Dixie brought five Picards over from Europe (“Scott”, “Laiko” and “Tasha” performed in the movie). The trainer wanted a dog that resembled the scruffy mutt on the original book’s cover but needed several that looked alike so that production could continue smoothly, thus he decided on this rare purebred dog from France. It is this breed’s rustic mutt-like appearance that has prevented it from being rapidly popularized and exploited in the United States by the movie release, as has been the fate of some other breeds. People are often fooled into thinking “Winn-Dixie” is a mixed breed. Like any breed of dog, the Picardy Shepherd is not for everyone, and much thought must be devoted to choosing the right dog. As more Picard puppies are imported into the U.S. from France and other countries, it is important that owners and future breeders remain responsible; they will determine the fate of this breed in the United States. In 2006 the Berger Picard Club Of America was formed to help promote and protect this breed.

The Berger Picard is a medium-sized, well-muscled dog, slightly longer than tall with a tousled yet elegant appearance. Their ears are naturally erect, high-set and quite wide at the base. Their eyebrows are thick, but do not shield their dark frank eyes. They are known for their smile. Their natural tail normally reaches to the hock and is carried with a slight J-curve at the tip. Their weather-proof coat is harsh and crisp to the touch, not excessively long with a minimal undercoat. Coat colors fall into two colors, fawn and brindle with a range of shade variations.

The Berger Picard’s attributes include a lively, intelligent personality and a sensitive and assertive disposition that responds quickly to obedience training. By and large, Picards are laid back and mellow but they are known for having a stubborn streak and being reserved towards strangers. They require a lot of socialization during the first two years of their lives.

Picards are energetic and hard working, alert, loyal and sweet-tempered with children. They are happiest when they have a job to do. They also have a protective nature, making them good guard dogs. However, they are not excessive barkers. Some Picards are notoriously picky eaters, and it may be difficult to decide on a diet that you and the dog agree on.

The breed also has a well-developed sense of humor, making them an endearing companion, and they continue to be used very effectively as both sheep and cattle herder in their native land and elsewhere.

Like many herding breeds, Picards require human companionship and lots of it. Since they can be demonstrative to their owners and enthusiastic friends towards other animals, formal obedience training and plenty of positive socialization is a must. Athletic, loyal and filled with a desire to work a long day, the breed excels in any “job” as long as enthusiasm and praise is a part of the task.

Berger Picards due to lack of over breeding are a relatively healthy, disease free breed. Hip dysplasia is known. A reputable breeder will have hips certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or by Penn-Hip with the results posted on the OFFA database found at Eyes will be certified for hereditary diseases through the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, results should also be published on the OFFA database.

The breed’s life expectancy is 12 to 13 years.

Bred to work the fields, Picards are very athletic and revel in exercise. A good deal of exercise is therefore a must for this breed. Otherwise boredom will give way to destructive doggie behavior and rowdy play. They enjoy swimming, running beside a bike, and nice long walks. The Berger Picard makes an excellent jogging companion. The breed’s intelligence and sensitivity have made it increasingly popular in dog sports such as agility trials, Tracking, obedience, showmanship, Schutzhund, Flyball, Lure coursing, French Ring Sport and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at noncompetitive herding tests. Berger Picards exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials.

Despite being more suited for being outdoors, Picards can do surprisingly well in city life provided they are given enough energy-releasing exercise. However, the Picard always tries to stay close to its owner and family, so when given a choice between being alone in a big yard or inside with its master the Picard would rather be with his “shepherd.” Inside the house the Picard is usually a very quiet dog, waiting for its time to go out to run, play and sniff around. They are very loyal and enjoy a lot of attention and may suffer from separation anxiety (even if being left alone inside for short periods of time).
The Berger Picard is a low maintenance dog. The rough, tousled coat can mat if not brushed on a regular basis (once every other week) but the coat does not require special care to yield its rustic appearance. Bathing is rarely done. Their fur should never be trimmed except maybe hand stripping the ears. They are not profuse shedders and have little “doggie odor”.

Thought to be the oldest of the French Sheepdogs, the Berger Picard was brought to northern France and the Pas de Calais, in the 9th century by the Franks.

Some experts insist that this breed is related to the more well-known Briard and Beauceron, while others believe it shares a common origin with Dutch and Belgian Shepherds. Although the Berger Picard made an appearance at the first French dog show in 1863, the breed’s rustic appearance did not lead to popularity as a show dog.

The breeding stock of the Berger Picard, was decimated by the ravages of World War I and World War II. With its population concentrated on the farms of north-eastern France, trench warfare in the Somme reduced the breed to near extinction.

The Picard’s easy care and mellow, yet mischievous, temperament have started the breed back on the road to recovery. Nevertheless its numbers are still limited, even in its native country. As mentioned previously, today in France there are approximately 3500 dogs and in Germany approximately 500 of this breed. At present there are approximately 300 Berger Picards in the United States and Canada.

The Berger Picard was recognized by the United Kennel Club on January 1, 1994. In 2006, the Berger Picard Club of America was formed to protect and promote the breed in the United States. The Berger Picard has been recorded in the Foundation Stock Service of the American Kennel Club since April 2007. On October 12, 2011, The American Kennel Club chose the Berger Picard Club of America as the official parent club, as the breed moves towards full recognition. At the February 2012 Meeting of the American Kennel Club Board of Directors, the Board voted to move the Berger Picard into the Miscellaneous Group effective January 1, 2013.