The Catalan Sheepdog (also called the Gos d’Atura Català, Perro de Pastor Catalan, Catalonian Sheepdog, or Catalan Shepherd) is a hardy working dog with a big heart for its family. When it comes to work-life balance, the Catalan Sheepdog has basically mastered it. They’re happy to spend their days herding flocks and their evenings playing or cuddling up with their family.
They’re watchful by nature and need to have a job to do. If you don’t have sheep that need to be herded, then canine sports and lots of exercise are a must for these pooches.
But these dogs have had a difficult history and their numbers are still very small. They’re hardly known outside of their native Catalonia and it might take you a while to find a puppy for sale. But one thing is for sure – these hairy, funny, and hard-working dogs will be worth the wait!
History and Origin of the Catalan Sheepdog
Origin of the Breed
The Catalan Sheepdog is an ancient pup, which means its origin isn’t well documented. It’s thought, however, that they’re descendants of the popular herding dogs the Romans were known to have. The Romans usually had two types of dogs, large mastiff-type pooches that they used for fighting and smaller shepherd dogs that they used for herding.
As the Romans expanded their empire, both of these types of dogs were bred with local pups in new territories which created many new breeds. Two such dogs are the Bergamasco Shepherd Dog which is very similar to the Catalan Sheepdog and the Great Pyrenees which is another excellent guardian pup and herder bred in the area.
The Catalan Shepherd dog’s endearing personality, loyalty, and excellent herding skills made them a popular choice for farmers and shepherds throughout the Middle Ages. The breed continued to be bred and refined to make them suit the task at hand and the difficult weather in the region.
These dogs were so dependable that they were used as messengers during the Spanish Civil War too. However, like many dogs across Europe and all over the world, their numbers depleted massively after World War II. With both a lack of food and breeders, there were only a couple of dogs left.
Their numbers increased somewhat in the years post-war but they started to decline again in the 50s and 60s as people in rural areas moved to cities for employment.
The Catalan Sheepdog Nowadays
In the 1970s, a small group of breeders got together to try and save the future of the amazing Catalan Shepherd dog. Their goal was to breed more pups but also raise awareness of this very rare breed. And actually, in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, the mascot was a Catalan Sheepdog named Cobi!
Today, this breed still remains rare. They have a small average litter size of 3 or 4 pups, which means increasing the numbers is slow. They’re yet to be recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) but were granted full recognition by the Kennel Club in 2009.
How Important Is the Catalan Sheepdog in Catalan Culture?
Important enough that it was chosen as the 1992 mascot for the region! Although rare, Catalan farmers and shepherds are very proud of these dogs and there are a number of initiatives in the state to increase numbers.
Famous Catalan Sheepdogs
Cobi is probably the most famous of all the Catalan Sheepdogs out there but there is another… Remember Einstein from the Back to the Future trilogy? Well, that adorable and intelligent pup was also a Catalan Sheepdog!
Personality and Character of the Catalan Sheepdog
Catalan Sheepdogs are easy-going pups that are very intelligent and friendly. Unlike other herding and guarding dogs from around the region, these pooches are likely to form strong bonds with their owners. They’re happy to patrol the yard and protect the home but they’ll want affection and attention from you as payment.
They’re not a solitary breed and like to take part in family activities. As hardy working dogs, they need lots of exercise every day. They’ll be happy to go running, on long walks, or even swimming to burn up their excess energy. Like other Pyrenees dogs, the great outdoors is their favorite place to be, so you need to give them access to nature as often as possible.
They’re also very intelligent canines and can take part in a lot of different dog sports. Of course, herding is a favorite for this breed, but they’re also good at flyball, agility, and obedience. When they get enough physical and mental exercise, these dogs are caring, sweet, and very affectionate. They love their families and will do anything for them, which includes keeping a lookout and guarding them from what they think may be a threat. Because of their natural guarding instincts, these dogs can be wary of strangers. They’re likely to be reserved until they establish some trust, but then they’ll be their forever friend.
Can The Catalan Sheepdog Live In An Apartment?
The Catalan Sheepdog can live in an apartment although they’d really prefer to have some open space to play and run in. They’re quite adaptable dogs and don’t mind being indoors if they get enough exercise but they really do need it. They can become frustrated and bored if they’re indoors for too long.
After all, these dogs were bred to spend most of their days outdoors working hard and running around. That’s quite a difference to living in a small urban apartment!
Can The Catalan Sheepdog Live With Children?
The Catalan Sheepdog is a real family dog and gets on really well with children. They’re playful, watchful, and full of energy, which is the perfect mix for excitable children.
Like many herding pups, Catalan Sheepdogs can have a tendency to herd children. Whilst this may be fun at first, it can be overwhelming, especially for young children.
Early socialization is therefore really important to ensure these pups learn how to play correctly. It’s also a good idea to teach kids how to interact with dogs and supervise play sessions.
Are They Aggressive Dogs?
Catalan Sheepdogs are not naturally aggressive dogs at all. They’re very friendly and sociable but only once they’ve established you’re not a potential threat. They can be pretty protective up to that point.
Socializing your Catalan Shepherd puppy from a young age is the best way to iron out any potential aggressive tendencies. Slowly introducing them to other dogs, new people, and interesting places can help them to become well-rounded and confident.
It’s very unlikely, but you might find a Catalan Sheepdog in a shelter. In this case, it’s difficult to know their exact past and they could have had an experience that makes them anxious and aggressive. Try to find out as much information as possible and, if you need to, get the help of a professional dog trainer to bring out their best side!
Do They Get Along Well With Other Animals?
Catalan Sheepdogs usually mix really well with other dogs. They’re friendly and very sociable pups – once they’ve established they’re friend, not foe. But of course, socialization is very important so they learn how to properly play and interact with other dogs.
They can also get along with other pets in the home, especially if they’ve been introduced correctly. They’re amenable animals and not much annoys them. But, their herding instincts can get them into trouble. As with small kids, Catalan Shepherds might be tempted to herd other pets which, let’s be honest, a cat isn’t going to love.
If you can, try to introduce your pup to other pets early on. They’ll love having other furry friends to grow up with.
Appearance of the Catalan Sheepdog
This rare dog is medium-sized, with a long straight or wavy coat, a shaggy mustache, and a stocky build. There are actually two varieties of the Catalan Sheepdog (or at least there were). There’s the more common long-haired variety and the very rare shorthaired variety. They’re so rare that experts aren’t sure if they’ve actually gone extinct.
Size and Weight
According to the Kennel Club breed standard, the ideal height for male dogs is between 18.5 and 21.5 inches. Females are slightly smaller and should be 17.5 to 20.5 inches. They weigh between 40-55 pounds.
How Long Does It Take for a Catalan Sheepdog to Reach Adult Size?
Each pooch is different, but most Catalan Shepherd dogs take around 13 months to reach their full size. Some may take a little longer to fill out.
These dogs can be many different colors. Fawn, sable, and gray are allowed in all shades and dogs may have a little white frosting. They can also be a mixture of different recognized shades but large white or black patches are highly undesirable. They may, however, have small white markings on their chest.
One of the best things about these adorable dogs is their amazing coats. They have rough coats that are medium in length and can either be straight or slightly wavy. They’re double-coated dogs and have a fine yet dense undercoat to help them stay warm. Their shaggy coats should cover their heads too and they should have a very cute mustache, beard, and eyebrows that shouldn’t cover their eyes.
Catalan Sheepdogs have strong bodies that are slightly longer than they are tall. They’re muscular but move with a surprisingly elegant trot. They have a slightly sloping croup that’s clearly defined and muscular. The dog’s hock joint (equivalent to an ankle) is set low and is parallel when looked at from behind.
Something that really sets these pups apart is their strong double dewclaws on their back legs. Dewclaws act a little like dog thumbs or big toes. Most breeds only have dew claws on their front legs but some breeds (another is the Great Pyrenees) have double ones on their back legs too!
Catalan Sheepdogs are intelligent dogs and you can clearly see this in their beautiful, wise eyes. They have a kind but alert expression which will melt your heart!
They can be any color from dark amber to chestnut and they should have black rims.
These pooches have strong heads that are well-proportioned to the rest of their body. They have straight muzzles with black lips and black noses. They should have a strong and defined jaw and teeth that meet in a perfect scissor bite.
They have high-set and triangular ears which are a little longer than they are wide. They should be covered in hair and be fringed at the end.
Interestingly, the Kennel Club breed standard mentions that dogs can be born tailless. Those that are born with a tail should have one that's well covered with hair and held low when resting. It may also have a slight curve. When the dog is excited or running the tail should be raised but not curled over the pup’s back.
Grooming and Hygiene of the Catalan Sheepdog
You might be able to tell from their glorious coats that these dogs do require a bit of grooming. In fact, you’ll need to brush them multiple times a week to keep their coats sleek and free from mats. Despite all that hair, they’re not actually heavy shedders but they do still shed and most of it ends up staying in their coat and causing tangles. Regular brushing helps to remove dead hair and stop mats from forming.
These pups have hairy and floppy ears which makes them prone to infections. You should check your Catalan Sheepdog’s ears regularly and clean them to remove wax buildup and dirt. Always dry them too.
Dental health is important for all dogs and the Catalan Sheepdog is no exception. Brush their teeth regularly with a quality toothpaste and ask your vet if you’re unsure how to do it. They’ll also need to have their nails trimmed to keep them the ideal length for running and exploring. Be careful not to trim them too short as this can be very painful. Again, check with a vet or groomer if you’re unsure.
How To Brush a Catalan Sheepdog?
Dogs with longer coats can be more difficult to brush. The best way to approach brushing a Catalan Shepherd is to do it often and gently. The more you brush them, the easier it will be next time!
Start by parting the coat and softly brushing in the direction of growth. Gently detangle any mats you find with the correct brush. Most dogs have more hair on their hind legs, so pay particular attention to the hair there. These pups also have lots of hair on their faces and you may need to trim the hair around their eyes occasionally to avoid aggravation.
Some Catalan Shepherd owners decide to have their pups trimmed a little to help them with the matting.
What Brush for a Catalan Sheepdog?
You need to get a brush that’s appropriate for a pup with a mid-length coat. A slicker brush can work wonders on this dog’s coat and help to gently remove dead hair whilst not pulling too harshly. You may also need to get a dematter for any of those tangles you miss!
How Do You Wash a Catalan Sheepdog?
Catalan Sheepdogs only need to be washed whenever they get too dirty (or stinky)! If you wash them too often, you risk stripping the coat of its natural oils, which can actually make it matt more.
The first thing you need to do when bathing your Catalan Sheepdog is brush them thoroughly. This helps to remove the majority of the dead hair so it doesn’t end up in the bathtub! Once you’ve brushed your pup (outside would be best), wet their coat with lukewarm water. Ensure the water gets into their undercoat too.
Apply a shampoo that’s good for medium-length and oily coats. Lather well and pay attention to the areas where the coat is denser. Rinse well and use a conditioner if you want to. Once you’ve rinsed off the conditioner, thoroughly dry your dog with a towel first and then a hair dryer. Ensure their coat is completely dry so they don’t get irritated skin.
Is It a Hypoallergenic Dog?
Catalan Sheepdogs are not a hypoallergenic breed. They do shed and will likely shed more during the shedding season when the temperatures change. If you suffer from allergies, you’d be better off adopting a hypoallergenic breed such as a Poodle.
Catalan Sheepdog Training and Education
These dogs are intelligent, loyal, and happy to please their owners – which is a good mix when it comes to training. Start training your pup young so that they get used to it and always try to make it varied. It’s particularly important to stop negative behavior such as herding or being overly protective.
The best way to train these dogs is by using positive reinforcement techniques. Praise them when they do something good (with a toy, affection, or treat) and try to always encourage better behavior rather than scolding them. Dog classes can be a great way for these pups to learn extra skills whilst also socializing with other dogs and humans.
Ideal Activities and Jobs
These versatile dogs can take part in a number of different activities. Of course, herding is an area they excel in but they can also do agility trials, flyball, tracking, and obedience and they perform surprisingly well in shows too. When it comes to working, these pups will be happiest on a farm with plenty of sheep to herd and an owner to love them!
Psychological Aspects and Emotional Support Capabilities
Because these dogs are very rare, there’s not a huge amount of evidence as to whether they make good emotional support dogs or not. These pups are very affectionate and they certainly form stronger bonds with their owners than some other working pups.
But, a lot of their day needs to be taken up with jobs and exercise. They’re looking for an owner that’s active and if they get enough daily stimulation, they’ll be happy to curl up for cuddles too.
What is the Price of a Catalan Sheepdog?
Catalan Sheepdogs are rare dogs but even so, they’re not too expensive compared to some other breeds. These dogs usually cost around $1,200. If there’s a large demand in your area for these dogs, the price could be pushed up.
It’s also worth knowing that you’ll probably have to wait for your Catalan Shepherd puppy (if you’re lucky enough to find one) and you may even have to travel. It’s very unlikely you’ll find one of these pooches in a shelter, but you could find a similar breed or a mix that looks the same!
Catalan Sheepdog Feeding
These active dogs need between 3 and 4 cups of high-quality dog food per day. They should be fed food that’s appropriate for their age and activity levels. Working dogs will need more calories than other pups. If you’re unsure about how much you should be feeding your dog, speak to your vet and they’ll be able to help.
Whilst treats are a really good motivator during training sessions, these pups can be prone to weight gain. So try to reduce the amount of treats you give your dog to keep them healthy.
Catalan Sheepdog Health
These dogs are usually a very healthy breed, especially if they’re been bred well. It’s really important to look for a good and ethical breeder so you can be sure your puppy is as healthy as possible. Even though these dogs don’t usually suffer from many conditions, there are still a few you should be aware of.
- Hip dysplasia
- Patella luxation
- Progressive retinal atrophy
As well as getting your dog from a reputable breeder, regular trips to the vet can help to keep them healthy and catch any potential problems early on.
What Is The Life Expectancy of the Catalan Sheepdog?
These wonderful dogs have a good life expectancy of 12 to 14 years.
What Is The Best Climate for a Catalan Sheepdog?
The Catalan Sheepdog has a hardy and weatherproof coat and can withstand almost any weather condition or temperature. Their oily coats repel rain and their warm undercoats help to keep them warm in colder conditions and cool in summer. Having been bred in this diverse region of Spain, they’re used to rain, snow, and hot sun – so need to be prepared for it all!
Even though these dogs are happy to be working outdoors in different conditions, they shouldn’t be left outside in harsh weather. They need lots of fresh water and shade indoors in hot weather and somewhere warm to snuggle up when it’s cold outside.
Catalan Sheepdog and Travel
How Do Catalan Sheepdogs Generally Handle Travel, Such As Car or Plane Rides?
When it comes to travel, every dog is different. Some pups find the thought of going on an adventure exciting, whilst others get confused and anxious. If you’re planning on driving a lot with your dog, try to get them used to cars from puppyhood. This breed is medium-sized so should have space in most cars to feel relaxed.
Whether you decide to have them suitably restrained on the backseat or in the trunk, try to make the area fun and comforting. Bring their favorite toys or blankets and talk to them to reassure them. Start by going for a short trip and gradually increase the distance so they get used to it.
Air travel can be a bit more complicated as different airlines put in different restrictions when it comes to traveling with your pooch. The first thing to do is always check with your airline. Plane travel can be difficult for dogs, especially if they’re bigger and need to go in the hold – which could be the case with your Catalan Shepherd dog. Understandably, this can be pretty stressful for them and, because of this stress, most airlines require a health certificate for flying. Many don’t allow brachycephalic breeds, such as Pugs because of the issues they may have breathing.
These dogs are calm by nature, but planes can be a stressful place, even for them. Try to minimize the amount of flights you take to reduce the stress on your pooch.
Are There Any Travel Considerations Specific to this Breed?
There are no travel considerations specific to Catalan Sheepdogs, but there are a couple of things you still need to think about. If you have a bigger dog that won’t fit in the cabin, you’ll need to get them a crate that has been approved by the International Air Transport Association. This will ensure they’re comfortable and have fresh air.
You’ll also need to check with the airline for restrictions and the country you’re traveling to for the vaccinations they require. It’s almost certain your pooch will need a certificate to say they’ve recently been vaccinated against rabies.
Adopting a Catalan Sheepdog
Finding a Catalan Sheepdog for adoption might take a while. These pups are rare and you’ll probably have to travel. Always find a trusted breeder who can give you the required health certificates and who breeds from happy and healthy dogs.
Catalan Sheepdog Puppies
You’ve Just Adopted a Catalan Sheepdog Puppy
Then you’re in luck and you found one! These little hairy dogs will bring you so much joy once they get home. But before you do bring them back, you need to make sure you have all the equipment you need. Consider a suitable collar for long-haired dogs, a leash, bed, crate, puppy food, and some fun toys. Slowly introduce your pooch to the house and create a comforting space (perhaps in their crate) that they can retreat to when they need it.
You’ll also need to take them to the vet for their first health checks. Your vet will advise on the vaccinations they need and when. You should also start training and grooming from a young age so your pooch gets used to both these activities.
You Want to Adopt a Catalan Sheepdog Puppy
Because these dogs are rare, especially outside of Spain, you’ll probably have to search around and wait for a while to find your pooch. Contact rescue groups as well as Kennel Clubs to find trustworthy breeders in America.
You also need to be fully sure that this is the right breed for you. They require lots of regular exercise and keeping up with their brushing needs can be demanding.
Breeds Similar to Catalan Sheepdogs
Because these dogs are rare, it can be hard to find one near you. There are, however, plenty of other long-haired sheepdogs that have similar personalities to the Catalan version.
- Bearded Collie. These are wonderful English dogs that are excellent herders. They also have gentle personalities and are great pets.
- Briard. These French dogs are bigger than Catalan Sheepdogs but they have similar coats and were bred to herd and guard livestock.
- Great Pyrenees. Great Pyrenees are such beautiful dogs and so impressive. They’re excellent herders and guard dogs. They’re slightly more aloof than Catalan Sheepdogs but can be affectionate when they want to be.
If you’re lucky enough to get your paws on a Catalan Shepherd you’ll be adopting a loyal, dedicated, and excitable dog. They’re friendly with those they know and form really strong bonds with the ones they love. They can be demanding in terms of grooming and exercise but it’s so worth it! We hope that breeding efforts continue and awareness is raised for this wonderful breed and that they become more popular in the future.
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