The Dutch Shepherd is a lively, athletic, alert and intelligent breed, and has retained its herding instinct for which it was originally developed. Having an independent nature, it can be slightly obstinate and have a mind of its own. Since its original duties were to keep flocks of sheep in a particular location, it is able to run all day, and that is reflected in its physique and structure. The Dutch Shepherd was discovered as a naturally occurring shepherd’s dog living in rural areas. It was developed as an all-purpose farm dog, working originally as a farm guard, drover, and livestock dog. A well known dog fancier wrote about the Dutch Shepherd in 1910: “…bearing a great resemblance to the wolf.” Of course this is not entirely true, but it is another aspect that shows that the Dutch Shepherd still has many of the characteristics of its wild forebears. Although it is not a widely known breed, the Dutch Shepherd is a loyal companion and competent working dog used for obedience, dog sports, herding, tracking, search and rescue, and as a police dog.
The Dutch Shepherd is a natural land-breed originating in The Netherlands. Long ago, shepherds and farmers needed a versatile dog, a “Jack-of-all-trades”, well-adapted to the harsh and sparse existence of the time. In addition to its role as a shepherd’s dog, at the farm they kept the hens away from the kitchen garden, herded the cows together for milking, and pulled carts laden with milk or produce to market. They also watched the children and alerted the farmer if strangers entered the farmyard.
The first breed standard dates from June 12, 1898. In this original standard, any coat color was permitted, but by 1914, it was decided the Dutch Shepherd should only be brindle so as to distinguish it from other similar breeds of the time, the German Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd. Around 1900, sheep flocks in The Netherlands, and the shepherd dogs which tended them, had been mostly replaced by industrialization, and the reclamation of land for other purposes. The versatile skills of the Dutch Shepherd made it suitable for new careers such as a police dog, search and rescue, and guide dog for the blind. The breed has retained its original herding ability, and is still used for this purpose.
Being a lesser known breed and because of Dutch breeding rules, the Dutch Shepherd is generally a healthy breed. As with any breed, there are sometimes occurrences of other diseases. Current testing is underway to determine if there is a need for other required tests. Breeders should screen for hip dysplasia in all coat types. The long-haired types should also be screened for thyroid issues, and the rough-haired for goniodysplasia.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- OFA Hips and Elbows
- Thyroid (for the long-haired)
The Dutch Shepherd’s coat can be a gold brindle or a silver brindle. There are also three coat types: short-hair, long-hair and rough-hair. The short-hair types will only need occasional brushing. Switch to daily brushing during the seasonal shedding periods in the Spring and Fall. The longhaired dogs will need to be groomed about once per week, or more often than that if their work level and environment requires it. The rough-hair types require a combing once per month and the coat is hand-stripped twice per year. Bathing can be done as-needed. Their nails can be trimmed, if necessary, with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting and cracking. Their ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris which can result in an infection. Teeth should be brushed.
Originally bred as an all-purpose farm dog, the Dutch Shepherd has also excelled as a police and military dog. As such, it has been bred for hard work, and plenty of it. Driven to do its chosen work, this dog will differentiate between work, play, and chill time, adjusting its energy level accordingly. This breed does not want to be a pet left at home; they want to be your partner in life. Provided with proper mental and physical exercise, this dog makes a great pet for an active family familiar with dogs.
A very intelligent breed that loves a challenge, the Dutch Shepherd is prepared to be obedient. Because of their keen intelligence, this breed does better with shorter training sessions (with little repetitions), and they become more driven as the work becomes more mentally stimulating. Without training, this breed will become very independent and will start to make its own decisions, so obedience training is highly recommended. Gifted with the true shepherd temperament, this breed excels in many different fields including but not limited to, herding, scent detection, scent tracking, IPO, obedience, and agility.
Naturally athletic, this breed should be fed high-quality food, the quantity of which should reflect their individual activity level. Many dog food companies have breed-specific formulas for small, medium, large and extra-large breeds. Dutch Shepherds are a medium-large breed and may have a lifespan ranging from 11 to 14 years. What you feed your dog is an individual choice, but working with your veterinarian and/or breeder will be the best way to determine frequency of meals as a puppy and the best adult diet to increase his longevity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.