Dutch Shepherd (Dutch Herder): Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Dutch Shepherd Dog Working

Tamara Harding / Getty Images

 

The Dutch shepherd is a medium-sized dog with a wedge-shaped head, flat skull, erect triangular ears, and soulful dark almond-shaped eyes. The dogs originate in the Netherlands, but the breed is often confused with German shepherds. While they do share very similar ancestry, this less common breed is regarded as easier to train and can make great family pets in an active home.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Herding

HEIGHT: 22.5 to 24.5 inches (males); 21.5 to 23.5 inches (females)

WEIGHT: 45 to 75 pounds

COAT: Short, long, and rough-coated varieties

COAT COLOR: Brindled

LIFE SPAN: 11 to 14 years

TEMPERAMENT: Reliable, affectionate, loyal, alert, obedient, trainable

HYPOALLERGENIC: No

ORIGIN: Netherlands

Characteristics of the Dutch Shepherd

Dutch shepherds have great intelligence, temperaments, and working skills, but they can be quite independent. However, they are affectionate, steadfast and loyal dogs that form strong attachments with their family. With the right introductions, they live well with other dogs and children, too.

Affection Level  High
Friendliness  High
Kid-Friendly  High
Pet-Friendly  High
Exercise Needs  High
Playfulness  Medium
Energy Level  High
Trainability High
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  Medium
Amount of Shedding High

History of the Dutch Shepherd

As with most shepherd dogs, the Dutch shepherd was originally developed for their herding skills. They are also sometimes known as Dutch herders. They were in demand because of the high volumes of arable and livestock farming in the Netherlands in the 19th century. Their all-round capabilities meant they were also often put to use as farm guard dogs. Their strength meant they could even pull carts.

The first breed standard was recognized in 1898, and, then, in 1914, it was updated so that only the brindle coloring was accepted. This helped to distinguish them clearly from their German and Belgian shepherd relatives.

By the early 20th century, farming was becoming more industrialized and land reclamation was common. These modern farming techniques meant that the skills of the Dutch shepherd were no longer in demand. During World War II breeding pretty much came to a halt, and many dogs perished as a result of the fighting. These wonderful dogs almost became extinct. Although enthusiasts reestablished breeding programs after the war, the Dutch shepherd is still considered a rare breed to this day. When they aren't adopted as pets, they are often used by the police and military for search and rescue, and also as assistance dogs.

A Dutch Shepherd Dog and his military handlers
The Dutch Shepherd almost became extinct in the mid 20th century. While still rare today, they make excellent working dogs and are often used by the military and the police Lorado / Getty Images

Dutch Shepherd Care

A Dutch shepherd will usually thrive in a home that is active, stimulating, and responsibly grooms the dog. They are not suited to being left alone for long periods. Problem behaviors are likely to surface if they do not get enough enrichment. They can be strong-willed and independent. This, combined with their fierce intelligence, means they will develop their own way of doing things if they do not receive clear training.

Exercise

This breed needs decent daily walks and exercise that range between 30 to 60 minutes. Ideally, a Dutch shepherd will live with a family that offers it a chance to "work" since they excel in competitive dog sports like agility, nose work, and obedience. These shepherds love to run, so an exercise like Frisbee will be much appreciated. When they receive appropriate amounts of mental and physical enrichment, they are usually then reserved and calm around the home, and not regarded as high maintenance.

Grooming

The Dutch shepherd's brindle coat comes in three varieties; a short, smooth type, long-haired, and wire/rough-coated. The wire-haired variety is scarce. For the smooth and long-haired types, weekly grooming will be required to remove loose hair and keep their coat and skin in good condition. Their coats are water-resistant so frequent bathing is usually not necessary. During their annual moults, you may need to use a good de-shedding tool like a Furminator and have the vacuum cleaner on hand.

Training

Early, appropriate, and ongoing positive training and socialization will be required. When you do work on their training, you will likely be amazed at how quickly they pick up your cues and enjoy learning.

Their natural guarding instincts can mean that they will be protective and territorial, and training will be required to ensure this is channeled appropriately. You should also be mindful of their herding instincts too. Be ready to ask for alternative behaviors if they start to focus too much on herding and chasing.

A long-haired Dutch Shepherd
A beautiful long-haired Dutch Shepherd Cynoclub / Getty Images
Dutch Shepherd Puppies
3 Dutch Shepherd puppies in varying shades of brindle LeoniekvanderVliet / Getty Images
Dutch Shepherd Protection Work
Dutch Shepherds excel in many competitive dog sports including protection work Cynoclub / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Unlike their exceptionally popular relative, the German shepherd, the Dutch shepherd has very few inheritable conditions and is regarded as a very healthy breed in general.

The few conditions that can be a problem occur in relatively low numbers. A good breeder will have performed relevant health checks on prospective parents.

Hip Dysplasia: This is a common problem in many large breed dogs, particularly shepherds, and the Dutch shepherd is no exception. A good breeder will perform health checks, though.

Goniodysplasia: This relates to a restricted flow of fluid from the eye. In severe cases, it can lead to blindness. While rare, this condition has been shown to affect the rough-haired variety of the breed. Again, good breeders will screen parents for this condition.

Inflammatory Myopathy: Recent studies have identified another inheritable disease, specific to Dutch shepherds, that has been named inflammatory myopathy. It is progressive and involves the rapid degeneration of muscles. There is no cure, but it is possible to health screen parents to avoid puppies developing the condition.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, it is important to feed your Dutch shepherd a high-quality and appropriately portion-controlled diet. If they are leading a particularly active lifestyle, then you may need to consider feeding a food higher in protein or specially formulated for active dogs.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Dutch Shepherd

While the Dutch shepherd is a rare breed, there are several passionate, dedicated, and responsible breeders out there.

Always do your research and make sure that they have done the appropriate health screen tests on the parents. You should see mum and her pups together in a nurturing home environment. Also, the pups should not go to their new home until they are at least eight weeks old.

A good place to start your research would be the Dutch Shepherd Dog Club of America.

If you want to open your home up to a dog looking for a loving forever home, then why not consider adoption? Get in touch with North American Dutch Shepherd Rescue to find out if any dogs are looking for homes in your area.

If you're able to adopt a Dutch shepherd, you might pay around $300. But most likely, you will need to find a breeder for this dog. This dog is pricey to buy from a breeder, so expect to pay between $1,000 to $3,500 or more.

Dutch Shepherd Overview

Pros
  • Family-friendly companions

  • Intelligent, highly trainable and eager to please

  • A healthy breed with few inheritable conditions

Cons
  • Need a lot of exercise and enrichment to prevent destructive problem behaviors

  • Their herding and guarding instincts can be an issue without proper guidance

  • Their moulting can be excessive

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Not sure if the Dutch shepherd is the right dog for you? It is always important to do your research and consider whether you can offer the right type of home for a breeds personality traits and exercise requirements. If you want to look at some other similar breeds, why not read about:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • Why are the wire-haired Dutch shepherds rare?

    No one really knows why there are so few wire-haired Dutch shepherds bred or available worldwide. It's estimated that there are about 500 wire-haired Dutch shepherds in the world, and only a handful are in the United States.

  • Are Dutch shepherds cuddly?

    This breed is very affectionate, so a Dutch shepherd will always nudge you for belly rubs. This dog will also feel comfortable resting paws on your lap and rubbing its face into your arms or legs. But in general most dogs, including the Dutch shepherd, do not like to be squeezed tight during cuddling sessions, though a few breeds may allow a hug now and then.

  • Are Dutch shepherds good dogs for first-time owners?

    A Dutch shepherd may not be the best choice for a first-time dog owner. That's because this breed needs a lot of daily exercise, mostly in the form of running. If a first-time owner is not aware of how much physical and mental stimulation, as well as training, that this superior intelligent dog needs, the match may not last because the dog will begin to act out in destructive ways.

Article Sources
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  1. "Dutch Shepherd Dog Breed Information". American Kennel Club, https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/dutch-shepherd/.