By Dr. Becker
You’ve heard the word “stubborn” when describing dogs before, but sometimes it’s an inherited trait that at one time was sought after as an asset and considered a positive rather than a negative quality. The breed has been compared to a German Shepherd in its abilities as an “extremely versatile and superior working dog.”
That’s certainly true about the Beauceron, whose heritage is based on a natural herding instinct, an inborn sense that came in handy for sheepherding, as well as rounding up cattle, in the French countryside for centuries, and only in recent decades has this dog become appreciated again, simply because they were almost like a well-hidden secret.
Beaucerons as a breed were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2007, but the earliest reference is from a manuscript written in 1578, which mentions the dog’s description mainly as a “general-purpose” dog. Completely unknown outside France, the breed, although as yet unrecognized, was pure and never crossed with other canines, especially from other countries.
It took a couple of hundred years before these dogs were given the designation in France in 1893, just 11 years after the Societe Central Canine was founded. The breed standard was defined at that time, and it’s only been updated five times in the last 100 years. The breed designation was undoubtedly influenced by a particular dog, Bergere de la Chapelle, who was born in 1891 and won the title “Champion of Beauty.” About Beaucerons explains:
“Originating in the plains region surrounding Paris known as La Beauce, the Beauceron is also known as Berger de Beauce (Shepherd of the Beauce) or Bas Rouge (Red Stockings). The Beauceron is closely related to its long-haired cousin, the Briard or Berger de Brie.”1
Sheepherding is nearly a thing of the past, even in France, but the Beauceron has found a place in similar vocations, often in police work and the military. In fact, the breed was given important assignments as a trail finder, mine detector and messenger dog on the front lines during both World War I and II, and often fills similar roles today. In addition, they do well in assisting handicapped individuals, not to mention fitting well within a loving family.
Beauceron’s Sheepherding History Still Evident
This handsome canine is known as the largest of any French sheepdog and for his natural penchant for protectiveness, confidence and independence. For this reason, most dog experts advise first-time dog owners against adopting this particular breed, as those qualities can quickly be interpreted as pushy, domineering and even destructive without proper training.
As is often the case, early training, even from the age of 8 weeks, is not too soon to get started on teaching your young Beauceron puppy your expectations. They’re smart and eager to soak up everything you have for them, so training is generally quick and uncomplicated. They respond well to positive reinforcement, so joining them in play and giving them lots of praise and healthy food rewards only make the process quicker and more fun.
In addition, dog experts suggest that because these dogs are naturally assertive, they may try to push back in order to check whether your will is as strong as theirs, so it’s important to be firm but fair, and as consistent as possible. Beaucerons are equally adept at athletic endeavors for dogs, such as flyball, obedience, search and rescue, agility and tracking.
That means the Beauceron is more than eager to join you in many of your own sports and recreational endeavors, such as bicycling, playing catch with balls and flying disks, jogging and hiking. Because their herding instinct is strong, they often try it with children. In fact, it’s best to introduce these dogs to children when they’re still puppies so they can grow up together. Vetstreet cautions:
“Though self-assured, the Beauceron should not be aggressive. He is gentle, but fearless … Don’t forget that he is a herding breed and might chase or nip at children. This should never be permitted. He is best suited to a family with older children who can understand how to treat him with respect.”2
It’s very similar with cats, as Beaucerons may get along well with them if they’re raised together, but keep the dog’s drive for the hunt in mind if they should ever encounter small animals they’re not familiar with, including other dogs. While Beaucerons are natural sentries of their perceived territory, as well as protective and gentle with their families, the breed is usually reserved when encountering strangers.
Beaucerons: Grooming and Health
Being short-haired canines, Beaucerons aren’t hard to care for. They don’t shed profusely, but several good petting sessions a week (or as needed) with a mitt to remove excess hair is a good idea, especially during bouts of seasonal shedding in the spring and fall when it becomes more apparent. A natural bristle brush also works well, and most dogs look forward to this ritual.
Like other purebred dogs, there may be the potential for health problems that run in the breed. For a Beauceron, such problems aren’t frequent or overwhelming, but it’s good to be aware that certain allergies and an inflammatory disorder known as dermatomyositis, which can become a skin issue that may also affect their muscles and blood vessels, are sometimes reported in this breed.
Gastric torsion, also known as gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), twisted stomach or bloat, is another possible problem and one that’s generally seen in larger dogs. The condition often takes place when the dog’s stomach fills with air and twists on itself, which pinches off the blood supply in their spleen and can be deadly. Regular checkups with your integrative holistic veterinarian can help you to spot any health issues early on.
Remembering that these dogs can become territorial with an inborn sense of keeping perceived “underlings” subdued by herding them, the importance of early socialization and lifelong consistent training balanced with loving boundaries goes a long way toward creating the perfect relationship with your Beauceron.
When they receive plenty of exercise, play and social interaction, it helps develop stronger bonds. The website Beauce.org notes the words of French writer Colette, who admired the breed and called the Beauceron “the country gentleman.” His description of the French purebred working dog follows:
“Affectionate, playful, superb with children, absolutely and deeply attached to their masters. But at the same time, there is something mysterious about a Beauceron. They are like some people who don’t talk much but have a strong presence. They have a dimension, a depth, I have not found in other dogs.”3
If you think a Beauceron is right for your family, be sure to check out Beauceron rescue organizations, where many such dogs are in need of loving homes.