Let's talk Croatian Shepherd Dogs

The Croatian Shepherd Dog’s most distinctive feature is undoubtedly that glorious curly and glossy black coat but these lovely dogs have much more to offer besides their admittedly excellent hair. While the breed’s working origins are apparent in their agility, energy and eager-to-please nature, Croatian Shepherd Dogs have left behind herding duties on lonely hillsides and now make lovely affectionate family pets. Just as long as they also get enough exercise, they’re perfectly content with their human flock. 

Official name: Croatian Shepherd Dog

Other names: Hrvatski Ovčar

Origins: Croatia

Croatian Shepherd Dog in black and white
 Drooling tendencies

Medium

Warm weather? Low
 Shedding level High
Suited to apartment living?  Medium
 Energy level * High Family pet? *
High
 Compatibility with other pets Medium
Can stay alone? * Low

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 
Inline Image 15
Illustration of Croatian Shepherd Dog
Male
40 - 51 cm Height
13 - 19 kg Weight
Female
40 - 51 cm Height
13 - 19 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 12 months
 Adult age 1 to 7 years
 Mature age  7 to 10 years
 Senior age  From 10 years

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Get to know the Croatian Shepherd Dog

All you need to know about the breed

These elegant black Spitz-type dogs (which can sometimes have some white markings on their chest) were bred, as the name suggests, to help shepherds manage their flocks. That beautiful curly coat is not just for show – made up of a dense, soft undercoat and a thick and long topcoat – it helped to protect these hardy little dogs against the elements.

If life is a little less austere for most modern-day Croatian Shepherd Dogs, this energetic breed have lost none of the qualities that made them so well-suited to their early mission. Their pointy ears give them an alert, ready-for-anything expression borne out by their personalities.

These dogs are energetic and active, though usually calm at home. intelligent and eager-to-please. That should make training a pleasure, even though you’ll still need to be patient and consistent. They don’t do well if left alone for long periods – be warned: they will bark. They can also be wary around strangers. Early socialisation will help with this.

Croatian Shepherd Dogs form strong attachments to their human families and, although like any other breed they should not be left alone with children, once trained they are known to get on well with them.

Croatian Shepherd Dog jumping in the air

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2 facts about Croatian Shepherd Dogs

1. Croatian guard dog

This ancient breed evolved to guard its humans and has retained that instinct. Protectiveness of family can translate into a wariness of strangers, however. The Croatian Shepherd Dog is also, it must be said, a breed that is prone to barking. Training can help your dog distinguish between normal everyday activity and events that warrant a warning bark.

2. Woolly jumper

If you’re going to let your Croatian Shepherd Dog off the lead - and chances to run free really should be part of their regular exercise routine - make sure it is in a securely enclosed space with a high fence. These bouncy canines can, and will,  jump. From one extreme to another, they are also known for their tendency to dig, so having a spot set aside where they are allowed to indulge their interest in tunneling will stop them from resorting to the middle of the pristine lawn. 

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History of the breed

The Croatian Shepherd Dog breed was only recognised by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 1969, following a concerted effort to establish a breeding programme launched in 1935 in the Slavonia region by Croatian vet Stjepan Romic, who became known as “the father of the breed”.

However, the Croatian Shepherd Dog’s origins date back to many centuries before that date, possibly as early as the 7th century BC, in what is now Croatia. In 1374, the bishop of Djakavo (in Slavonia) wrote of a new shepherd dog – the Canis Pastoralis Croaticus brought by Croat settlers to the region.

The Croatian Shepherd Dog is also mentioned in a 1719 text about the area and its people and livestock. The 18th century author Peter Bakic stated then that the dog had not changed in appearance since the one described by the 14th century bishop.

Side view of Croatian Shepherd Dog in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Croatian Shepherd Dogs

1. Ears

Large triangular ears, carried pricked up.

2. Coat

Thick wavy black coat (sometimes with white markings).

3. Tail

Upright bearing and strong tapered tail.

Croatian Shepherd Dog lying in grass

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Croatian Shepherd Dog
Croatian Shepherd Dog lying in grass

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Caring for your Croatian Shepherd Dog

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Croatian Shepherd Dogs are fairly low maintenance when it comes to grooming. They do shed quite a bit but straightforward regular brushing sessions should keep that lustrous coat in good condition. Unsurprisingly given their vocation as herding dogs, Croatian Shepherd Dogs are active and need plenty of exercise – think several proper walks a day. They have a playful side and need plenty of mental stimulation as well as physical tiring out, so games such as Frisbee can be good fun too. As long as they get plenty of chances to burn off some of their energy, they are usually calm and quiet at home. Training should be straightforward for these intelligent and people-pleasing canines. It’s all about positive reinforcement. Just make sure any food treats come out of their daily rations. Early socialisation is important for this breed, which can be a little wary of strangers.

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All about Croatian Shepherd Dogs

As long as we’re talking about a fairly energetic family, then yes! These sweet dogs have plenty of energy so they’ll need regular chances to exercise and let off steam. But at home, they’re calm and affectionate and once trained, get on well with children.

The Croatian Shepherd Dog sheds a moderate amount – but the advantage of choosing a monochrome dog (they’re usually black but sometimes have some white markings) is that as long as you make sure all your clothes and home furnishings are black too, that shedding shouldn’t be a problem. 

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/