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The Croatian Shepherd is a tireless herding dog that is active, agile, courageous, and has a boundless enthusiasm for work.
The earliest references to the Croatian Shepherd date back to 1374. The Croats who settled the land brought their dogs, believed to be descendants of the Pfahlbauhund, to herd cattle and sheep in the plains of Slavonia. The Croatian Shepherd, also known as the Croatian Sheepdog, spread across Croatia and then throughout the rest of Europe.
In 1935, a Croatian professor began the first systematic breeding program for the Croatian Shepherd. It took more than three decades for a breed standard to be published.
The Croatian Shepherd is a medium-sized, compact, Spitz-type dog with a rustic appearance.
Croatian Shepherds have dense, compact, and soft undercoats their topcoats are profuse, dense, and soft with stand-off wavy to curly hair that can grow up to five-and-a-half inches long. Their hair is longer on the neck, back, croup, ribs, backs of the forearms and hindlegs with the longest part of their coats at the culottes near the root of their tails. It is shorter on their foreheads, on the muzzle, forehead, ears, around the eyes, on the cheeks, and on the front part of the forelegs. Males have longer, more profuse coats than females.
Croatian Shepherds are black. A few (almost invisible) white hairs spread across their bodies and white markings on the chest are permitted. Their undercoats are black except during shedding season when the color might turn greyish or have a slightly brown tinge; neither is a fault.
Croatian Shepherds have rectangular-shaped bodies with horizontal, muscular backs; short, well-muscled loins; deep, broad chests; and tails that are strong at the root, tapered toward the tip, and carried above the topline when the dogs are alert. These dogs also have oval eyes; triangular ears with rounded tips that are carried either pricked or semi-pricked; and tapered muzzles; their facial features give Croatian Shepherds a fox-like expression.
While Croatian Shepherds exhibit traits such as alertness, intelligence, courage, and endurance that make them excellent working dogs, the breed is also patient and levelheaded, which are qualities that have endeared it to families as a loyal companion. The breed is known for being devoted to its owners and should be invited to participate in activities; left on their own, Croatian Shepherds could become unhappy and destructive.
Croatian Shepherds are bundles of energy and love participating in outdoor activities but are also calm and relaxed in the house. A yard with a tall fence is a must as Croatian Shepherds are excellent jumpers and can easily scale a fence in search of adventure (and mischief).
Their working dog tendencies remain strong, making Croatian Shepherds excellent watchdogs.
Feed Croatian Shepherds a high quality dog food that is appropriate for their life stage (puppy, adult, senior) and consider a diet formulated for active breeds. To keep Croatian Shepherds fit and trim, portion out their food with a measuring cup and limiting treats to no more than 10 percent of their daily calories.
Croatian Shepherds have low maintenance coats. An occasional bath and brushing to remove dead hair are all it takes to keep this breed looking its best.
Croatian Shepherds also require regular ear cleanings, nail trims, and a dental care routine that includes at-home teeth brushing and professional cleanings. Start these grooming essentials when Croatian Shepherds are puppies to ensure they are part of a regular routine.
Croatian Shepherds might be calm and relaxed in the house but that doesn’t mean they are couch potatoes. The highly energetic breed enjoys running, hiking, swimming, and trips to the dog park. Croatian Shepherds are also notorious diggers and appreciate a spot to engage in the behavior without getting in trouble. Croatian Shepherds also excel in dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally, dock diving, and herding. Plenty of exercise and mental stimulation are the key to ensuring Croatian Shepherds are tired and will not go looking for trouble.
Croatian Shepherds are smart, energetic, and eager to please, which makes them easy to train. Use positive reinforcement and rewards to help Croatian Shepherds master basic commands and learn new skills. Keeping activities fast paced and avoiding repetition will help keep these intelligent dogs interested in training.
Reviewed 26 July 2020 by Annette Louviere, DVM