Croatian Shepherd Dog
Other names: Croatian Sheepdog, Hrvatski Ovcar, Kroatischer Schäferhund
The Croatian Sheepdog is a loyal, hard-working, and adaptable breed. It’s exclusively bred in its native Croatia, where it’s been working as a farm dog for hundreds of years. The Croatian Sheepdog has a natural instinct for herding livestock, but can also double up as a watchdog when needed. This dog is intelligent, level-headed, and very easy to train. Physically impressive, the Croatian Sheepdog is a natural athlete that combines strength, stamina, and agility.
Key facts about the Croatian Shepherd Dog
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Origins and history
The Croatian Sheepdog’s origins can be traced back to the 14th century, although some experts suggest they were first developed in the 7th century. According to ancient written documents, the breed has changed very little over the centuries. This is largely due to a lack of crossbreeding, which is a testament to this dog’s natural abilities. A first-rate working dog, the Croatian Sheepdog was used to herd cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens. Due to the nature of its work, the breed tends to form a lifelong bond with a single owner. Dogs who are re-homed or adopted often pine for their former master and it takes them a long time to form new relationships. Due to a shift in agricultural techniques, fewer and fewer sheepdogs are earning their keep in the traditional way. However, many now compete in agility and herding trials. The breed was first registered by the FCI in 1969.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 1 - Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Cattledogs)
Section 1 : Sheepdogs
Physical characteristics of the Croatian Shepherd Dog
Female : Between 16 and 20 in
Male : Between 16 and 20 in
Female : Between 33 and 44 lb
Male : Between 33 and 44 lb
Type of coat
Dense double coat with a long, curly outer layer.
Medium sized. Compact build. Rustic, rugged appearance. Deep chest and a high-head carriage. Small, triangle shaped head with a fox-like expression. Curly coat and long, fluffy tail.
Good to know
This dog needs lots of physical and mental stimulation. If you’re not keeping them as a working dog, then you must find novel ways to keep them satisfied.
If their needs are not being met, there’s a very high chance they’ll develop serious behavioural issues.
They require a strong, confident owner. These dogs thrive off structure and routine.
These dogs have a real need for human companionship; they also like lots of affection. This is a warm-hearted dog that loves to feel close to its human family.
This is an alert and active breed with a seemingly endless reserve of energy. They love to run, chase, and play.
Definitely not a calm breed. The Croatian Sheepdog is full of energy, very vocal, and extremely excitable.
A highly intelligent dog. In the right hands, they are easy to train.
More of a herding dog than a hunting dog. Still, they have a natural instinct to chase and herd other animals.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Croatian Sheepdogs are extremely loyal to one owner; they’re not very keen on new people. They tend to view strangers with suspicion.
Like most intelligent herding breeds, the Croatian Sheepdog is a strong-minded, independent animal. This is what makes them such excellent working dogs, but it’s a trait that must be harnessed in the right way.
Behaviour of the Croatian Shepherd Dog
This dog has a deep-seated need for human company. They work and live very closely with their masters and will struggle if left alone for long periods of time. This can cause prolonged periods of barking and destructive behaviour.
Easy to train / obedience
This dog has a strong work ethic and a natural desire to please. Very trainable in the right hands.
A very vocal breed, especially during the first few years. Will bark if they are bored, frustrated, or over-excited. A poorly socialised Croatian Sheepdog will also bark at strangers.
Tendency to run away
Very unlikely to run away.
Some destructive tendencies. These will be amplified by a lack of early socialisation, or a lack of physical and mental stimulation.
Greedy / Gluttony
Neither greedy or gluttonous.
A perfect watchdog. In fact, they are still used as watchdogs in many parts of Croatia. This dog is alert, brave, and capable of making lots of noise.
First-time dog owners should look elsewhere. This dog is smart, but it can also be very stubborn. It needs an expert handler.
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Croatian Shepherd Dog in a flat
This dog was bred to live and work on the farm. Keeping them locked up inside a flat will lead to boredom, frustration, and long-term mental health issues.
Need for exercise / Sporty
60 mins of high-energy walks and runs every day. They need regular access to outdoor spaces and shouldn’t be kept inside the house all day.
Travelling / easy to transport
These dog are quite difficult to transport. They’re too big to travel on commercial airplanes. They’re also bursting with energy, which means they’ll struggle to remain calm during long road trips.
Croatian Shepherd Dog and cats
Herding dogs don’t mix well with cats. However, as long as you have lots of space, they can live together in relative peace. Just never keep them together in an apartment or a small house.
Croatian Shepherd Dog and dogs
This dog is naturally competitive. Because they form such close bonds with their owners, they can get jealous of other dogs. They’re much happier being the only dog in the house.
Croatian Shepherd Dog and children
Gets on well with older children and young teenagers. Too boisterous and overbearing for families with toddlers.
Croatian Shepherd Dog and the elderly
Elderly people who are used to dealing with working dogs will really enjoy this breed. They can make excellent companions; owning one is a great way to stay active.
The initial cost of a Croatian Sheepdog puppy is between £1,000 to £1,200. The average cost to keep one of these dogs (including vet bills, insurance, and food) is between £50 to £100 a month.
Despite its thick coat, this breed is fairly easy to groom. An occasional brush is needed to remove dead or tangled hair and they’ll probably need a bath once every four weeks.
A moderate amount of shedding.
Nutrition of the Croatian Shepherd Dog
4 cups of high-quality dog food, preferably in one big meal per day.
Health of the Croatian Shepherd Dog
A very healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years.
Strong / robust
Naturally strong and very robust. A hardy working dog that is both physically and mentally tough.
Has no problems withstanding heat. They shed during spring, which keeps them cool during the warmer months.
They have a thick, double-layered coat that provides protection against the cold, the rain, and the wind.
Tendency to put on weight
No issues with obesity.