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 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 will be fully recognized in the herding group by the American Kennel Club on July 1, 2015.
Appearance 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.
Temperament 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.
Health Berger Picards due to lack of over breeding are a relatively healthy breed. Hip dysplasia is known, as are several eye disorders, including progressive retinal atrophy or PRA. A reputable breeder will have hips certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or by PennHip with the results posted on the OFA database found at http://offa.org/search.html?btnSearch=Advanced+Search Eyes will be certified for hereditary diseases through the OFA as well (previously through the Canine Eye Research Foundation) and results should also be published on the OFA database. The Berger Picard also participates in the Canine Health Information Center. http://www.caninehealthinfo.org/brdreqs.html?breed=BEP To obtain a CHIC number, dogs must have their hips and eyes checked with the results published on the OFFA website and their blood banked for DNA plus one elective, either elbows, thyroid or heart evaluated. The breed's life expectancy is 12 to 13 years.
Exercise and activities 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 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.
Living conditions 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).
Grooming 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 light shedders and have little "doggie odor".
History 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 400 Berger Picards in the United States and Canada. In December 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. At the April 22, 2014, The AKC Board voted to approve a request from the Berger Picard Club of America to 1) approve the breed standard submitted as the official breed standard for the Berger Picard breed,2) move the Berger Picard from the Foundation Stock Service into the Stud Book of the American Kennel Club on June 1, 2015, and3) approve the Berger Picard to compete in the Herding Group, effective July 1, 2015. http://images.akc.org/pdf/board_minutes/0414.pdf The Berger Picard is a recognized breed by the Canadian Kennel Club. It is in the Herding Group, Group 7. The Standard for this breed is available through the Canadian Kennel Club, Group 7 breed standards. The National breed club is http://www.bergerpicardclubcanada.com/ Berger Picard Club Canada.
Sheepdogs resembling Berger Picards have been depicted for centuries in tapestries, engravings and woodcuts. One renowned painting, in the Bergerie Nationale at Rambouillet, the National Sheepfold of France, dating to the start of the 19th century, shows the 1st Master Shepherd, Clément Delorme, in the company of a medium-sized, strong-boned dog with mid-length crisp coat and naturally upright ears, resembling in many ways a Berger Picard of today. The first Berger Picards were shown together in the same class with Beaucerons and Briards in 1863 but it was more than 50 years later in 1925 that the Picard was officially recognized as a breed in France. Berger Picards, with their crisp coats, were reportedly used to smuggle tobacco and matches across the Franco-Belgian border. The tobacco would be put in goatskin pouches, hairy side up, and attached to the dog's shaven back. From a distance, dogs carrying such loads would not draw attention, particularly at dusk or at night. Berger Picards can be seen in three movies, Because of Winn Dixie, Daniel and the Superdogs, and Are We Done Yet?, but Picards are often mistaken for another canine actor, the wire haired Portuguese Podengo Medio. In 2012, BPCA member and Picard owner, Christina Potter wrote a book entitled Chester Gigolo: Diary of a Dog Star (Aperture Press) based on her weekly blog about the antics of her Picard Chester's life and ambitions. Chester is on his way to be a dog star of sorts; he has appeared in advertisements for Company Store,and a J. Crew and a Verizon commercial. Christina proudly donates 10% of royalties to Picard DNA collection and health projects.