Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Catalan Sheepdog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Catalan Sheepdog
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Catalan Sheepdog is a lively, active, handsome dog that originates from Andorra in the Pyrenees where they were bred to work alongside shepherds guarding and herding large flocks of livestock. However, over more recent times, they have become a popular choice both as companion dogs and family pets elsewhere in the world albeit slowly in the UK. As such, finding a well-bred Kennel Club registered puppy can prove challenging.
They are intelligent and like to please which means that in the right hands they are easy to train although being “independent thinkers”, they can often take a bit longer to obey a command. Catalan Sheepdogs also boast a ton of energy and therefore need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation to be a truly happy, well-rounded and obedient dog. In short, Catalan Sheepdogs are better suited to people who lead active, outdoor lives and who like to have an intelligent, loyal and active canine companion at their side rather than people who lead more sedentary lives.
The Catalan Sheepdog is known to be a friendly, high-spirited dog that originates from Spain where they are often called Perro de Pastor Catalan. They were around at the time of the Romans which makes the breed among one of the most ancient in the world. The Romans introduced two types of dogs to the Iberian Peninsula in about 200 to 100 BC when they marched across these lands, one was to protect the flocks of livestock they brought with them and the other was to herd cattle. It is thought the second dog could well be the Italian Bergamasco's ancestor.
The dogs the Romans bought with them in their travels were crossed to native Catalan dogs and this produced the Catalan Sheepdog as well as the Ca de Serra d’aires, a breed that’s native to Portugal, the Petit Berger a breed that is native to the Pyrenees, the Polish Nizzins, the French Briard, the Italian Bergamasco and the English Bearded Collie. The offspring of these crosses are thought to be the foundation stock of many other dog breeds seen in Europe today which includes the handsome Catalan Sheepdog.
These dogs soon became popular throughout Spain thanks to their kind, loyal and courageous natures. They were highly prized, working and living alongside their owners on farms herding livestock and guarding properties. During the Spanish Civil War, they were often used to carry messages and to stand guard as sentries which earned the breed the reputation of being highly intelligent and dependable. These charming dogs are still seen working in Pyrenean valleys both along the Costa Brava and Catalunya.
Their numbers declined after the World War II, but luckily during the seventies, breed enthusiasts made sure these handsome dogs did not vanish altogether. Mature Catalans as well as puppies were found and a careful, selective breeding programme was established to save the breed which proved a great success.
Today, the Catalan Sheepdog is still one of the rarest breeds on the planet with very few puppies being registered with the Kennel Club every year. However, thanks to the efforts and dedication of a several breeders, breed numbers are growing with many of these loyal and courageous dogs working as herding dogs in their native Spain. In 1992, the Catalan Sheepdog was chosen as the mascot for the Olympic Games.
Height at the withers: Males 47 - 55 cm, Females 45 - 53 cm
Average weight: Males 20 - 25 kg, Females 17 - 21 kg
The Catalan Sheepdog is a very handsome dog and at one time there were two varieties namely a long-haired dog and a short-haired one. However, the shorthaired Catalan Sheepdog is among one of the rarest dogs on the planet because they are virtually extinct leaving just the long-haired dog that’s more commonly seen today.
These charming dogs have strong, well-proportioned heads in relation to the rest of their bodies with their skulls being slightly longer than they are wide. There is a distinct furrow in the centre of their skulls which gets flatter as it reaches the back of a dog's head. There is a slight stop and muzzles are short and rather blunt with dogs boasting a black nose. Eyes are dark amber to a chestnut colour with black rims and a nice round shape. Dogs always have an intelligent, alert look about their eyes.
Their ears are set high on the head and triangular shaped, hanging down close to a dog's head being slightly longer than they are wide and covered in long hair with fringes around the edges. The Catalan Sheepdog has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. They boast strong, good sized teeth and their tongues often have dark pigments on their whereas a dog’s lips and the roof of their mouths are black.
The Catalan Sheepdog has a moderately short, solid and muscular neck that's set nicely into their shoulders. They have quite prominent withers and their shoulders are well laid back and nicely muscled with dogs boasting strong, muscular front legs. Their bodies are muscular and strong being longer than their they are high with a nice level topline. They have well sprung ribs with their chests almost reaching the level of their elbows. Dogs have strong loins and a slightly tucked up belly which adds to their athletic appearance.
They have strong hindquarters with a slightly sloping croup and well developed back legs with both first and second thighs being strong and muscular. The Catalan Sheepdog has double dewclaws set low on their legs. Their feet are oval shaped with firm, black pads. Toes are tight and well covered with hair which includes between a dog's pads. Their nails are very strong and black. Tails are bushy and long which dogs carry low and slightly curved.
When it comes to their coat, the Catalan Sheepdog boasts having a rough coat that's moderately long which can either be slightly wavy or straight. They also have a fine, dense undercoat with the hair above their eyes that forms charming eyebrows being that much longer. The hair is longer on a dog's muzzle which forms their characteristic moustache and beard. However, the hair above their eyes does not obscure a dog's vision. Hair is also thicker on a dog's hindquarters and their legs and their toes and tails are extremely well covered in hair. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
Dogs can have a few white hairs or small white patches on their chests which is allowed under the breed standard and white is permissible on the upper part of a dog's toes, but their nails are always black.
It is worth noting that acceptable breed colours for Kennel Club registration are not always the same as those set out in a dog’s breed standard.
When a Catalan Sheepdog moves, they do so with an even, smooth gait. When at the walk a dog takes short strides and at the trot, they move freely with lots of vigour never raising their feet very high off the ground. Catalan Sheepdogs carry their heads high at the walk, but lower as they pick up the pace.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
The Catalan Sheepdog is known to be a very lively, energetic and fun-loving character. They are intelligent and quick to learn new things which includes the good and the bad. With this said, they excel at many canine sports and other activities including agility. Much like other sheepdogs, they do tend to become protective of their families and can be a little over protective of their food as well which is something that needs to be nipped in the bud from an early age.
They tend to be a little wary and aloof around people they do not know, but rarely would a Catalan show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards strangers preferring to keep their distance until they get to know them. With this said, the Catalan is known to be a good watchdog being quick to let owners know when any strangers are about or if something suspicious is going on.
They are a good choice for first time owners because they are intelligent, they are always eager and willing to learn which added to the fact these dogs pick things up very quickly makes them easy to train. With this said, Catalans excel at many canine sports which includes activities like agility.
Catalans are never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who to look to for guidance and direction, but early socialisation is essential for these dogs and their training must start early too. They have a strong instinct to herd, protect and guard. They are courageous and charming characters to have around thanks to their loyalty and devotion to their families and people who take care of them. They are a good choice as family pets due to their kind natures and the fact they get on well with other animals paired to their devotion to children. In short, the Catalan is a highly adaptable dog but one that needs to know who is boss.
They are generally calm by nature, but they do need to be given lots of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded character. They are not a good choice for people who live in apartments but thrive in a country environment or with people who boast large, secure back gardens who have enough time to dedicated to these lively, active and intelligent dogs.
The Catalan is not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be socialised, handled and trained by people who are familiar with the needs of such an intelligent, high-energy dog. With this said, some Catalans are calmer and quieter than others which means that it really does depend on the temperament of the dog.
Catalans were originally bred to herd and guard flocks which means these are traits that are deeply embedded in a dog’s psyche. As such, their urge to herd and chase anything that moves is high. As such, care should always be taken as to where and when a Catalan can run off the lead more especially if there is livestock and/or wildlife close by. The good news is that a dog can be trained to “leave it” which is a command they will obey.
Catalans have a very playful and fun-loving side to their natures and like nothing more than to entertain and be entertained. They are known to be a little mischievous when the mood takes them and being so clever, a Catalan quickly learns how to get their own way. They also excel at many canine sports because they thoroughly enjoy the one-to-one contact they get when training and competing at shows.
Catalans are better suited to people who have large, secure back gardens a dog can safely roam in whenever possible so they can really let off steam. As such, they are not a good choice for anyone who lives in an apartment.
Although Catalans form strong ties with their families and are devoted family pets, they do not generally suffer from separation anxiety although like any other breed, if left to their own devices for long periods of time, a Catalan would quickly get bored and develop some unwanted and destructive behaviours around the home. This includes barking incessantly to get some attention and to show how unhappy they are at the situation.
Some Catalans like the sound of their own voices a little too much which is something that needs to be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young being careful not to frighten them which could end up making a dog withdrawn, timid and shy. Others will only bark when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their surroundings.
Most Catalans enjoy swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Catalan off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Catalans are natural watchdogs which is a trait that is deeply embedded in a dog’s psyche having been bred to herd and guard flocks and farms for centuries. However, although always on the alert to what goes on in their surroundings, rarely would a Catalan Sheepdog show any sort of aggressive behaviour when someone they don’t know is about preferring to keep their distance, stand their ground and bark unless they feel threatened in any way that is.
The Catalan is an intelligent dog and one that's very quick to learn new things with the added bonus being these lovely dogs are always eager to please their owners. As such they are easy to train and like nothing more than the one-to-one attention they are given during a training session. They are known to excel at many canine sports with agility being high on the list of the activities these dogs enjoy. They are also very good at other doggy activities which includes dancing to music. With this said, they are also quick to pick up bad habits too which is why they are better suited to people who are familiar with the needs of such a highly intelligent and active dog.
Like all puppies, a Catalan Sheepdog puppy is incredibly cute and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in their new homes. However, once a puppy is nicely settled in, owners must start out as they mean to go on which means laying down ground rules, limits and boundaries so that an intelligent little puppy understands what is expected of them and what is acceptable behaviour. It also helps establish a “pecking order” and who is the alpha dog in a household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
The Catalan Sheepdog has always been a popular choice with families in their native land and as time goes by their reputation for being great around children has seen them becoming more popular here in the UK although their numbers still remain low. These dogs seem to have a real affinity with children and like being around them, although they can become a little over protective at times. As such, any interaction between a dog and the kids should always be supervised by an adult to ensure playtime stays nice and calm.
Catalans are also known to get on well with other animals and dogs, especially if well socialised early in their lives. However, care should always be taken when they meet cats and other smaller family pets, although if a Catalan has grown up with a feline friend in the house, they generally get on well together.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Catalan Sheepdog is between 12 and 14 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Catalan is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these energetic, handsome dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Catalan puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old which is the case for Catalan Sheepdog and breeders strongly recommend that bitches are never spayed any earlier.
As with other breeds, some Catalans gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Catalans are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Catalan Sheepdog breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions for all Kennel Club recognised breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Catalan Sheepdog.
It is mandatory for all Kennel Club Assured Breeders to use the following test on their dogs and all other breeders are strongly advised to follow suit:
The Kennel Club also strongly recommends that all breeders have their dogs eye tested using the following scheme:
Other tests available include the following:
As with any other breed, Catalans need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Catalan puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Catalan Sheepdog puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out and which could end up making them withdrawn, timid and shy.
As previously mentioned, Catalan puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Catalans need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Catalan Sheepdog in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Catalans need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Catalans don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
The Catalan's coat is long, although there is a short-coated dog, but they are extremely rare with some people believing these lovely short-haired Catalans are close to extinction. Their hair may be long, but these attractive dogs are not that high maintenance thanks to the fact their coats are non-shedding, but they do need to be regularly brushed once or twice a week to prevent any matts or tangles from forming and to keep things looking tidy. Organising regular grooming sessions is also a great way of reinforcing a bond with a dog and they thoroughly enjoy the one-to-one attention they are given when they are being brushed. Regular grooming also helps keep a dog's skin in good condition and it allows owners to check for any injuries, lumps or bumps.
It's important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Catalans tend to shed their coats in the spring and autumn, but they do so in 2 halves, dropping their front-ends first and their back-ends last. It’s a time when a Catalan looks like they are in fact 2 dogs joined in the middle. Another interesting fact is that when they do moult their coats, they typically change colour each and every time.
Catalans are known to be high energy, athletic dogs that like to be kept busy both mentally and physically. Being highly intelligent and more than capable of thinking for themselves, Catalans need at minimum of an hour's very vigorous exercise on a daily basis with as much off the lead time as possible. They also need to be given a ton of mental stimulation and the best way to achieve this is to play interactive games with a dog and to enrol them into obedience and agility classes.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these active dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Catalan Sheepdog puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs for this reason.
If you get a Catalan puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Catalan puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 13 months old they can be fed an adult food and given 2 meals a day.
Once fully mature, an adult Catalan should be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Catalan Sheepdog can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Catalan Sheepdog you may have to go on a waiting list because not many puppies are registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Catalan in northern England would be £19.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of March 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed amongst other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Catalan Sheepdog and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Catalan Sheepdog would be between £70 to £100 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree Catalan Sheepdog puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Catalan Sheepdogs are among one of the rarest breeds around and as such well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money so there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a Catalan Sheepdog puppy which are as follows:
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