Berger Picard

Berger Picard
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Sometimes known as Picard Shepherds, they are considered to be an ancient breed that’s been around since as early as 800 AD. The Berger Picard breed has originated in France to herd and guard cattle and sheep, a job they can be found doing today as well.

As with many other breeds World War I and World War II nearly brought the breed to extinction and they remain rare to this date, with as few as 3500 Berger Picards in France and less than 500 in the United States and Canada. Finding a breeder might be difficult and even then you might be put on a long waiting list.

Breed characteristics

Health and GroomingHigh
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group:Herding Dog
Height:21-25 inches tall at the shoulder.
Weight:50-70 lb.
Life Span:12 to 14 years

They are a great companion to families who can keep up with their exercise and mental needs. They are smart, devoted and loyal. Blessed with a stubborn streak, they are independent thinkers and require an owner who can be consistent, firm and kind as under that fur there is a sensitive and soft personality waiting to be loved.

They are great with children and can keep up with their energy levels. The breed also gets along with other dogs, cats and other furry members of the family.

The Berger Picards are lively, people oriented, resilient and loving.

Main Highlights
  • The breed is considered to be one of the oldest breeds among the French Sheepdogs.
  • They were believed to be around as early as the 800 AD.
  • The Berger Picards are considered to be light shedders and might be a better choice for people with asthma and allergies, although there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog.
  • They are still used for cattle and sheep herding to this date.
  • The breed is suitable for apartment dwelling as long as they are sufficiently exercised. It is important to note however, that some of them are more vocal than others. A fact that neighbors might not appreciate.
  • They are high energy dogs and require plenty of physical and mental stimulation.
  • The breed gets along beautifully with children, dogs, cats and other animals. Although they might attempt to herd them.
  • After World War I and World War II, their numbers drastically declined and they are still considered rare and hard to find today.
  • They are suspicious towards strangers and require plenty of early socialization.
  • They respond well to training, are intelligent but they do possess a stubborn streak.
  • The breed develops a strong attachment to their humans and is more prone to separation anxiety.
Breed History

The breed derives their name from the area of France they originated in. It is believed that they were brought to France by the Celts in 800 AD and are thought to be the oldest breed of the French Sheepdogs. Accounts of their ancestry are divided as some believe they are descendant from The Beaucerons and Briards and some claim they are descendant from the Belgian and Dutch Shepherds. They closely resemble the Briards and Beaucerons, and used to be shown together in dog shows in 1863 until being officially recognized in France as a separate breed in 1925.

They were used extensively on farms to herd sheep and cattle but their numbers like many other breeds declined after World War I and World War II. Today they are considered quite rare, almost to the point of extinction. There are only 3500 known Picards in their native land of France, as few as 500 in Germany and only 400 in the Unites States and Canada.

They were just recently officially recognized by the AKC in 2017 and rank 89th most popular breed according to the AKC.


The Berger Picards are a medium size breed, the males measure 23-25 inches tall at the shoulders, the females measure 21-23 inches tall at the shoulders. They weigh 50-70 lb with the females being slightly smaller.

Personality and Character

The Berger Picards are very people-oriented. They enjoy spending time with their humans and being involved in their daily lives. The sure way to make them miserable is to stick them outside without much people interaction as they are not meant for outdoor living and prefer to be inside with their people. They are energetic and loyal and make a great addition to the active family or individual. The breed makes great partners for jogging, swimming, biking and hiking. However, without constant mental and physical activity they can become very vocal and destructive.

They are hard-working and lively but when they are indoors, they are fairly mellow and laid back and enjoy lounging around after a hard day of work.

The breed makes a great partner in crime for kids and enjoys the company of other dogs and cats as long as they have been raised together or properly socialized. They may also attempt to herd the younger members of the family and the furry pack members, something that can be and should be corrected early on. They are aloof with strangers and require plenty of early socialization.

Under the shaggy appearance, there is a soft and sensitive personality. They don’t do well with any form of harsh training or treatment and being sensitive to tones, they don’t do well in a home with high levels of anxiety and stress or raised voices.

Health and Potential Problems

The breed is generally a healthy breed as they weren’t too exposed to interbreeding. As with all other breeds, some dogs are more predisposed to certain genetic or hereditary conditions than others. Most reputable breeders and shelters make sure the dog or puppy has received a clean bill of health from the vet prior to adoption.

Keep in mind: most reputable breeders usually test their dogs for any genetic or hereditary conditions prior to breeding and also test the litters after birth as well. Backyard breeders are the ones to watch out for as most of them don’t have the necessary knowledge and understanding of the breed and may expose future bloodlines to conditions they otherwise wouldn’t develop. It is highly recommended to research the breeder and their past litters prior to adoption.

Never adopt a puppy from a puppy mill as these organizations are more interested in financial gain than the well-being of the dogs in their care and more often than not the dogs in their care are kept in heartbreaking conditions.

Here are the conditions you should be looking out for:

  • Hip Dysplasia: A common hereditary condition among dogs, it occurs when the femur doesn’t fit properly in the hip socket. The condition may cause discomfort, lameness and arthritis in advanced age. It is usually managed with pain medication and can be surgically corrected in severe cases.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy: An eye disorder that causes a gradual deterioration of the retina.
  • Retinal Dysplasia: An eye disorder the causes a displacement of the retina and may lead to blindness.
  • Cataracts: An eye condition that is found in humans and dogs and usually occurs in advanced age, causing opacity on the eye lens and may cause poor vision or blindness. The condition can be surgically corrected in severe cases.
Care Features

As with any other breed, early socialization is key for a well-rounded and emotionally balanced adult dog. The introduction to new people, children, other pets, different scenarios and new environments should begin as soon as possible.

Encouraging friends and family to visit after you bring the new puppy home, taking them to run errands, car rides and dog parks as soon as they have been fully vaccinated is a good way to help them discover the big new world.

Enrolling the Berger Picard in a puppy kindergarten is also an excellent way to socialize them and deepen the bond between them and the handler, while receiving professional guidance and support.

The breed is highly devoted to their owners and forms a deep attachment to their humans, which also makes some of them more prone to separation anxiety than others. Crate training has been proven efficient in helping to alleviate the stress levels associated with the owner’s leaving. Crate training should be done for a few hours at the time while the owner is around to reassure the dog or puppy.

That way they associate the kennel with the reassurance that the owner will always come back for them, lessening the stress and anxiety levels. Crate training also minimizes house training time by almost a half. The puppy perceives the kennel as their den and is less likely to soil it as long as they get frequent bathroom breaks at the same spot and at the same time, followed by plenty of praise and treats.

Crate training also helps protect the owner’s possessions from bored and destructive dogs and serves as a special spot to retire to when tired or needing space. The crate is an efficient highly helpful tool in training and should never be used as a punishment.

The Berger Picards are highly intelligent but they do have minds of their own and somewhat of a stubborn streak. They need a handler with a natural air of authority who can set boundaries and rules from early on and reinforce them with treats and plenty of kind words. They need consistency, firmness and a good sense of humor. They don’t respond well to harsh treatment or training, being the sensitive breed that they are, verbal communication and establishing you as the pack leader are usually enough for them to follow a command.

Meek humans or novice owners who fail to establish themselves as pack leaders run the risk of the Picards developing behavioral problems. Training should be kept short, fun, interesting and a little challenging to provide them with the mental stimulation they require.

They are very sensitive to the tone of voice and will do better in harmonious homes where voices are not raised very often and the stress levels are minimal.

The breed requires plenty of physical exercise and, without it they become destructive and vocal. They would enjoy any activity that gets them out and about with their families such as swimming, hiking, biking and jogging.

Be careful not to overexert puppies while they’re still growing until their bones and joints are completely formed and developed as it may cause more harm than good. Usually in that stage a brisk walk, play in the yard or a swim are plenty for their exercise needs. They are usually suitable for apartment dwelling as long as they are sufficiently exercised as they are fairly laid back indoors.

Many of the breed members excel in agility and obedience trials, herding events, flyball, showmanship, Schutzhund, tracking and Lure coursing. Enrolling them in doggy sports will deepen the bond between handler and the Pickard, allowing you a glimpse into their potential as well as offering them a vent for their energy.

Feeding Schedule

Each dog’s nutritional needs are different and depend on their age, size and activity levels. Puppies for example consume more food than adults to accommodate their rapid growth and development. Just as couch potato dogs require less than the active dogs. That’s why it is beneficial to choose a diet that is formulated specifically for your dog.

A high quality, free of unnecessary additives such as grain and corn, and rich in meat protein will go a long way in providing your companion with healthy and shiny skin and coat, physical and mental vitality and longevity. It is interesting to notice that some Berger Picards are pickier with their diet than other breeds and might require more trial and error in picking out the diet that fits them best.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The breed’s weather resistant, coarse and thick coat is fairly easy to maintain and only requires occasional brushing. Brushing them at least twice a month would help their coat remain free of tangles and mats. Common colors are a variety of gray red, gray and black, blue gray, dark or light fawn, and brindle.

They don’t shed much and are considered to be light shedders. They might be a better choice for people with asthma or allergies. Although it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog. Allergens are most commonly found on the dog’s hair or in their saliva, allergies can also build up over time and the only way to truly tell if one is allergic to a specific breed is to spend lots of time with the specific breed.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Berger Picards are sweet-natured, kind, affectionate and devoted to the younger members of the family. They also meet the energy levels requirements to keep up with the children. They’d never miss out an opportunity to play in the yard and accompany the kids in their daily tasks.

They are very patient but shouldn’t be taken advantage of. One thing to consider is that the breed might have a tendency to herd the younger members of the family due to their rich herding history — it might be adorable while they’re puppies but they should be taught not to.

Also, when it comes to children, the mutual foundation of love and respect should be laid down even before bringing the four-legged friend home. Any ear or tail pulling, as well as any form of teasing should be discouraged immediately. Play time between animals and children should be supervised by an adult at all times.

The breed gets along with other dogs, cats and other furry members of the pack for the most part and, as long as they have been raised together, they learn to accept other animals as their companions as well. Sometimes they might attempt to herd them but they are not aggressive by nature. Although there are some similar traits to every breed, each dog should be treated as an individual. Their character and personality heavily depend on their breeding, upbringing, socialization, environment, training and handler.

If you manage to find a Berger Picard, you can consider yourself lucky considering that you have found yourself an intelligent, active and loyal companion who would love to accompany you on your daily run or snuggle at your feet at the end of a busy, action packed day.

Children will find a devoted and loving play pal who would not refuse a game of fetch in the yard. The breed also enjoys the company of other dogs and cats but they are suspicious of strangers and require plenty of early socialization. They are a kind, intelligent, alert and fun loving pack members but, today, they are a fairly rare breed to come by.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.