If you haven’t heard of the Croatian Sheepdog, you’re missing a trick. These lovable, docile, and extremely hardworking dogs have long been popular in their native Croatia. Outside of their homeland, they’re less well known but no less lovable. Self-reliant, trustworthy, and incredibly loyal, they make excellent pets. Although beware: the breed was developed as a working dog and even now, it needs plenty of exercise and activity to stop it from becoming bored. If you’re a couch potato, this might not be the dog for you. If, on the other hand, you love to spend as much time outdoors as possible, you’ll find them a loyal and loving companion. Keen to find out more about this gorgeous breed? Then take a look at these ten things you didn’t know about the Croatian Sheepdog.
1. They’re easy to care for
Some dogs require hours of grooming every week. Fortunately for time-poor pet owners, the Croatian Sheepdog isn’t that kind of dog. Although the breed does shed a little (and certainly enough to make it unsuitable for allergy sufferers), it’s not excessive. Other than an occasional brush and an even more occasional bath, they require minimal effort from their owners to stay looking sleek and groomed.
2. They’re wary of strangers
While Croatian Sheepdogs are friendly and affectionate, there’s one type of person they don’t care for: strangers. Although the trait makes them good watchdogs (if someone comes into the house or yard, be sure they’ll let you know about it), they need plenty of early training to avoid developing undesirable, fear-based behaviors. Fortunately, Croatian sheepdogs are incredibly easy to train and respond extremely well to obedience training.
3. They’re medium-sized
There are plenty of bigger dogs in the world than the Croatian Sheepdog, but then again, there are plenty of smaller ones too. While the Croatian Sheepdog is remarkable for many things, it’s size is distinctly average. Although sizes vary, most Croatian Sheepdogs stand between 16-21 inches tall at the shoulder and tip the scales between 29-43 pounds.
4. They’re an ancient breed
As dog breeds go, the Croatian Sheepdog is one of the oldest. The earliest record of the breed can be found in a letter from Petar Horvat, the bishop of Djakovo, dated 1374. At the time, Europe was in the middle of a period of mass migration. In the record, Horvat references a dog the Croats had brought with them to their new country. He referred to the dog as Canis Pastoralis Croaticus, which translates to ‘Croatian Shepherd Dog.’ In 1719, another bishop of Djakovo, Peter Bakic, referenced the dog again, this time in the manuscript “On the Life of the People and Raising of Stock in Djakovo and its Surroundings in 1719.” In his description of the dog, he stated that the breed hadn’t changed in appearance since the description offered by Horvat. It’s now believed that the breed developed over the course of several centuries from the descendants of the Pfahlbauhund.
5. They were recognized as a breed in 1969
The Croatian Sheepdog may have been around since at least the 14th century, but it would take all the way until the mid 20th century for them to be afforded official recognition. The route to recognition began in 1935 when veterinarian Prof Dr. Stjepan Romic kicked off a systematic selection breeding program. In 1949, they were presented to the public for the first time at the first state dog show in Zagreb. In 1951, Dr. Otto Rohr published the first breed standard. 18 years later in 1969, the FCI extended the breed official recognition. In 2006, the United Kennel Club did the same.
6. They’re workaholics
The Croatian Sheepdog was bred as a working dog. That instinct runs deep. Even if you raise one from a puppy, their working heritage will still have a major impact on their personality. Leave a Croatian Sheepdog without anything to occupy its time with, and they’re likely to kick up a fuss. Some may even become destructive. Give them a job to do, on the other hand, and you’ll be rewarded with a very happy pooch.
7. They’re expert herders
Croatian Sheepdogs were bred as a shepherd’s dog. Even today, when their skills are less called upon, they’re noted for their remarkable skills. According to Wikipedia, farmers have attested to the dog’s ability to know and single out every member of a cattle herd simply by hearing its name. But it’s not just cattle that it herds: over the course of its history, the breed has been used to herd pigs and even horses.
8. They’re a one-person dog
The Croatian Sheepdog is a loyal, affectionate dog. When it bonds with a person, it bonds hard. However, while they thrive on human interaction, they tend to reserve the majority of their affections for just one person. As Dog Time notes, they tend to pick one person, in particular, out from the family and make them their master, obeying their rules only. Sure, they’ll love the rest of the family too, but it’s their master that they look to first.
9. They need lots of exercise
Croatian Sheepdogs aren’t the kind of dogs that will be happy with a sedentary walk around the block once a day. They thrive on exercise: the more games, walks, and jogs you can give them, the happier they’ll be. As they respond well to training, they’re a natural at agility classes. Due to their activity requirements, they do best in family houses with access to a yard, rather than apartment living. If you’re a fan of the active lifestyle, you’ll find the Croatian Sheepdog a great companion. If, on the other hand, you struggle to move from the sofa, you might be best looking elsewhere.
10. They always have black coats
As Pet Guide notes, Croatian Sheepdogs are easily recognized by their thick, wavy black coat. Most are pure black from head to toe, but a few have white patches on their chest and toes. Their hair is usually a little shorter on their face and legs, while their tails are well furred and carried curled over the back. Traditionally, tails were docked, but the practice has fallen out of favor in recent times.