Berger Picard

The Berger Picard is a sheepdog from Picardy, France who has been introduced in the U.S. but has become rare in both countries since the end of World War II. Owners call them simply Picards.  

Berger Picard image

The Picard is muscular and of medium size, with a fawn or brindle coat of loose, longish hair, normally erect ears, and a tail carried in a J shape.

A fun fact about this breed: The producers of the movie Because of Winn-Dixie (2005) used three Picards, imported from Europe, to portray the titular dog. The Picard has the scruffy but exuberant look the producers wanted, but they needed three dogs of very similar appearance so that one could fill in for another as necessary, thus preventing dog-related delays in production. To this day, many people who watch Winn-Dixie believe its star is a mixed breed, not a purebred dog.



History

The Picard is thought to be the oldest of all the French sheepdogs. Historians believe she arrived in northern France and the Pas de Calais during the second Celtic invasion of Gaul around 400 BC. Ancient tapestries, engravings and woodcuts depict a sheepdog closely resembling the Picard. There is some controversy on this subject: Some experts insist that the Picard is related to the more well-known Briard and Beauceron, while others believe she shares a common origin with Dutch and Belgian shepherds.

Although brilliant as a sheepdog, the Picard got a slow start in gaining respect among French dog fanciers, who insisted a sheepdog’s coat must be either very long or very short (the Picard’s coat is of medium length). She first appeared in a French dog show in 1863, but respect and popularity continued to elude her until 1925, when the French Shepherd Club formally recognized the breed.

Fast-forward 20 years: Breeders would have to re-establish the Picard as a breed, since nearly all breeding stock was lost to the two world wars. Some dogs died serving France in the trenches; others starved to death. At this time dogs belonging to “peasants” were not registered, so their actual numbers are unclear, but eager breeders searched all of Picardy until they found a suitable breeding pair. They became the origin stock for the breed as we know it today.

Americans began to take interest in the dog in the mid-1970s, importing individuals and breeding pairs. The Berger Picard Club of America has worked tirelessly with the AKC to cross all hurdles involved in AKC recognition. American breeders are particularly concerned with maintaining the breed standard and protecting the Picard from the American impulse to cross-breed and create new types of dogs. The Berger Picard finally made her debut as a recognized breed at Westminster in 2016!


Size

Male Picards stand between 24 and 26 inches; females, 22 to 24 inches. For dogs of both genders, weight should fall between 23 and 32 pounds. Picards wear a coarse, weatherproof coat of fawn, brindle or gradations of either.


Personality

Like all dogs and Shepherds in particular, Picards do best when socialized early in life. They can make lovable companions — owners report they have a keen sense of humor and even smile frequently.

Picards apparently hold nothing back. Owners say they express their opinions about anything from neighborhood activity to the food they eat. The Berger Picard Club of America (picards.us) says that, depending on the owner, this characteristic can be “wonderfully refreshing or quite tedious.”


Health

Because they’ve not been overbred, the Picard has few known health issues. There have been cases of hip dysplasia and eye disorders. Her life expectancy is 12 to 14 years.

If you’re considering a Picard, ask your breeder about testing your new dog through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or by PennHip with the results posted at the OFA database. Eyes, too, can be tested. A reputable breeder should have no problem providing these certifications. The ultimate goal is to preserve the health and well-being of the breed.


Care

The Picard displays the stubborn streak typical of Shepherds. Fortunately, her native intelligence and assertiveness usually lead to success in obedience training. She is hard-working and calm as long as she receives sufficient exercise. Caution should be used, however, when exercising developing puppies. With her robust energy level and mental agility, the adult Picard will usually enjoy swimming, walking, running and games of fetch.


Rescue

The Picard displays the stubborn streak typical of Shepherds. Fortunately, her native intelligence and assertiveness usually lead to success in obedience training. She is hard-working and calm as long as she receives sufficient exercise. Caution should be used, however, when exercising developing puppies. With her robust energy level and mental agility, the adult Picard will usually enjoy swimming, walking, running and games of fetch.


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