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    The Dutch Shepherd


    Origins of the Northern European Shepherds

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    The Dutch Shepherd was discovered as a naturally occurring shepherd’s dog type living in the rural areas of the larger region that today includes The Netherlands.  When the first breed standard was written in 1898, the coat could be any color. But in 1914 it was decided to allow only brindle to distinguish the breed from the then similar German Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd. The breeds eventually diverged into the three distinct breeds as known today. However, the Dutch Shepherd remains nearly the same dog it was more than 100 years ago. Today the Dutch Shepherd is distinguished from the Belgian and German Shepherds by the details specified in the breed standard, primarily of the head.


    Originally the main function of the Dutch Shepherd Dog was that of a shepherd’s dog in the countryside. From early times, the Dutch had an arable culture that was maintained by flocks of sheep. The dogs had to keep the flock away from the crops, which they did by patrolling the borders of the road and the fields. They also accompanied the flocks on their way to the common meadows, markets and ports.

    At the farm, they kept the hens away from the kitchen garden, they herded the cows together for milking and pulled the milk carts. They also alerted the farmers when strangers entered the farmyard. Around 1900, sheep flocks had for the greater part disappeared in the Netherlands. The versatile skills of the Dutch Shepherd Dog made him suitable for dog training, which was then starting to become popular. They were then trained and used as police dogs, as search and tracking dogs, and as guide dogs for the blind. They are, however, still capable of herding sheep.

    Near Extinction

    The population of the Dutch Shepherd was greatly reduced due to modern farming techniques nearly eliminating the need for the breed as a sheep tender, but in the 1940s and 1950s the breed was almost exterminated. The Second World War put a stop to breeding of most dog breeds in The Netherlands. Dogs died from lack of food, or were taken to Germany by the German military. Many bloodlines became extinct.

    After the war, breeding began anew and new blood was needed to diversify the gene pool. Sometimes dogs of unknown origin were used. The Malinois was used for a time, but the practice was stopped because the buyers of those puppies did not have the same goals as the Dutch Breed Club.  In 1959, with permission from the breed club, a Belgian Laekenois was used to expand the rough-hair population.  With time, the popularity of the breed grew and expanded into other countries.

    Today the Dutch Shepherd is still a rare breed. The Dutch Breed Club encourages all owners of dogs meeting the minimum conformation standards to breed them, and guidelines are laid out so as to increase their number and diversify the gene pool while preserving the health of the breed.



    A gold brindle long-hair Dutch Shepherd.

    A silver brindle rough-hair Dutch Shepherd.

    The Dutch Shepherd is a medium-sized, medium weight, well-proportioned, well-muscled dog of powerful, well-balanced structure, with intelligent expression and lively temperament. Depending on the coat the breed is distinguished as short-hair, long-hair, or rough-hair.

    Coat varieties

    Short-hair: All over the body, quite hard, close-fitting, not too short coat with woolly undercoat. Ruff, breeches and tail plume are clearly visible. Long-hair: All over the body, long, straight, well fitting, harsh to the touch, without curls or waves and with a woolly undercoat. Distinct ruff and breeches. Tail abundantly coated. Head, ears and feet and also the hind legs below the hocks are short and densely coated. The backsides of the forelegs show a strongly developed coat, shortening in length towards the feet, the so-called feathering. No fringes at the ears. Rough-hair: Dense, harsh tousled coat and a woolly, dense undercoat all over the body except for the head. The coat should be close. Upper- and lower lip should be well-covered with hair, the whiskers and beard, and two well defined, coarse rough eyebrows that are distinct but not exaggerated. Furnishings are not soft. The hair on the skull and on the cheeks is less strongly developed. In profile it seems as if the head has a more square appearance. Strongly developed breeches are desirable. Tail is covered all round with hair. The brindle colour may be less pronounced because of the tousled coat.

    Color Brindle. The basic color is golden or silver. Golden can vary from light sand- colored to chestnut red. The brindle is clearly present all over the body, in the ruff, breeches and tail. Too much black is undesirable. A black mask is preferable. Heavy white markings on chest or feet is not desirable.


    Dutch Shepherds are loyal, reliable, alert, watchful, active, independent, intelligent, and intuitive. Obedience through modest specialized training and discipline can achieve remarkable results. Gifted with a true shepherding temperament, they work willingly together with their owners and can deal independently with any task they are assigned. They are neither aggressive nor shy.

    Dutch Shepherds have a strong character and independence passed down from their herding ancestry. Their owners need to be dominant yet fair leaders. Although their character and traits suggests a strong potential for doing police or military work, care should be taken that this breed’s seemingly sole purpose is not overlooked for its otherwise well-rounded character.

    While there is no perfect dog for everybody, the Dutch Shepherd needs an active working lifestyle and an owner willing to make a commitment of proper socialization and training. Once the bond of trust is developed between the Dutch Shepherd and owner/trainer, their enthusiastic and intuitive nature needs little incentive or command to get them to follow through.


    The Dutch Breed Club initiated a hotline in 2008 for reporting health and behavioral problems.  Their current statement on health is that the breed has no serious physical or mental hereditary illnesses.   However, they still recommend, but do not require, screening for hip dysplasia.

    Within the rough-hair population care should be taken to screen for goniodysplasia before breeding. This is a condition where the outflow of fluid from the eye is restricted and under certain circumstances can cause blindness. The link between genetics and goniodysplasia is uncertain. Two dogs who have a risk of goniodysplasia can still have puppies who are not at risk. The Dutch Breed Club regulations requires the testing for GD for rough-hairs.

    As with any breed, thoroughly research your prospective breeder before making your final decision.


    The short-haired variety needs just the occasional combing, with the exception during the shedding period in the spring and fall when a daily thorough brushing is needed. The long-haired variety needs to be groomed about once a week, or more frequently depending on work and environment. The rough-hair variety needs to be thoroughly brushed once a week, and twice a year the dead hair will need to be hand stripped. Over-bathing should be avoided to prevent dry itchy skin.


    The Dutch Shepherd is an active and versatile breed. They compete in dog agilityobedienceRally obedienceflyballdock jumpingdisc dogtrackingsearch and rescue, protection sports such as SchutzhundFrench Ring SportMondio Ring and Service Dogs of America. In The Netherlands it is still employed as a herder and the instinct is still strong in the breed.

    Internationally, the Dutch Shepherd is best known for use in law enforcement under the KNPV program. The Koninklijke Nederlandse Politiehond Vereniging (KNPV), or Royal Dutch Policedog Association, was founded 27 October 1907, as an organization to oversee and test dogs for their suitability for police work. Dutch Shepherds with KNPV titles are sought after candidates throughout the world for police and military use, as well as sport competitors and personal protection dogs.


    FCI Registered Purebred

    The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) is the overseeing entity for many of the international purebred dog breed registries, including the Dutch Kennel Club, Raad van Beheer Association. However, when choosing a Dutch Shepherd from another country, care must be taken to inspect the pedigrees of dogs from some countries that have an open studbook, and who still register a dog based on appearances. For example, Dutch Shepherds registered from The Netherlands are inspected by the Dutch Breed Club and are purebred.

    The Dutch Shepherd in the USA

    The kennel club of registry for the Dutch Shepherd in the United States since 1995 has been the United Kennel Club. UKC registered Dutch Shepherds successfully compete in conformation, obedience, agility, rally, dock jumping, lure coursing and previously in protection/police dog events through the now defunct Dog Sport program. The UKC has records of more than 850 permanently registered Dutch Shepherds, and this figure increases to more than 1,000 when puppies from registered litters are added.

    As of 2012, the Dutch Shepherd is being recorded in the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service (FSS) requiring FCI pedigrees for eligibility. FSS breeds are not eligible for AKC registration, however once individually registered under the FSS program, a Dutch Shepherd is able to compete in the AKC companion events of obedience, tracking, agility and rally. The American Dutch Shepherd Association states they maintain a listing of the dogs registered in the American Kennel Club’s FSS database, and reflects at present a total of 58 Dutch Shepherds registered in the USA and Canada.



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