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What is a Beauceron?
The Beauceron – pronounced (BOW-CER-ON) – is a herding dog originating in the plains of Central France. This dog has been around since the Middle Ages, and for centuries was exclusive to France, before it became possible to transport dogs across countries by train and plane. For the same reason, it is one of the few dog breeds in the world that were never involved in foreign cross-breeding. When you own a purebred Beauceron, it is a purebred in the literal sense of the word.
In French, the dog is called “Berger de Beauce” (sheepdog from Beauce) and “Bas Rouge” (red stockings). In the 1960s a man named Pierre Megnin split the breed into two distinct types of sheepdogs. One was long-coated and called the Berger de Brie “Briard”. The second was short-coated and called the Berger de Beauce – the “Beauceron” dog we are telling you about.
In the 1890s, this dog was used to create the more well-known Doberman breed. But in general, it has always been isolated from the rest of the dog breeding world, and the Beauceron was only recognized as an official breed by the America Kennel Club in 2001.
In France, the Beauceron was used exclusively to herd sheep and cattle on farms and was the favorite herding breed among French farmers. Later, this dog was trained as a working dog for the French army and police forces. Sniffing out bombs and landmines is easy to teach this intelligent dog, as is searching for missing people.
Beaucerons a sturdy, lean dog, with many distinctive physical characteristics. Most pronounced and rare is their set of double dewclaws on the hind legs. Very few breeds have double dewclaws, and almost all of them are herding or mountain dogs hailing from Europe. Dewclaws are used to help a dog balance when running and climbing rough terrain. They are located very low on a Beauceron’s hind legs, near the feet, and often work the way a big toe or thumb does for humans.
A Beauceron has oval, horizontally positioned, dark brown eyes. Its ears are high on the head and are floppy near the cheeks when the dog is at ease. The Beauceron has a well-formed “chiseled” head, with a flat or slightly rounded skull at the sides.
This dog has a black nose that is in line with the upper lip when viewed in profile. Its lips are firm – nothing like the flapping jowls hunting dogs have. The Beauceron’s teeth are always strong, evenly set, and white – no over or underbite. The attractive head and face make the Beauceron look quite intelligent, which in fact, he is.
A Beauceron’s body is well proportioned, with the body a little longer than it is tall. It carries its tail hanging down, but the strong base keeps it in line with the body. This is no tail dragging dog. Beaucerons have strong, muscular front legs, and their feet are large and round. The hind legs are wider than the forelegs, giving the Beauceron power, flexibility, and strength.
Beauceron Weight and Size
Beaucerons are large dogs and need a lot of living space. This is the kind of dog who will push you off the edge of your bed as he tries to make room for himself. Letting him in your bed is not a good idea anyway, as you need to teach him that you are the pack leader and sleep by yourself!
This breed usually weighs between 66 and 100 pounds (30 to 45 kilograms), but some weigh up to 110 pounds when fully grown. They stand at a height of 24 to 27.5 inches (61 to 70 centimeters) and are known unintentionally knock small children over when running or playing. They are like excited children in giant bodies.
In general, a healthy purebred Beauceron will be a solid looking dog with lean muscles. His body should not be thick, pudgy, or swaybacked.
The two accepted colors for purebred Beaucerons are black and tan, and harlequin. The black and tan color is called in French “rouge ecureuil,” which means “squirrel red”. The harlequin dogs are grey, black, and tan, with more black than gray, and absolutely no white.
The most prevalent color for Beaucerons is the black and tan combination. Dogs with this coloring have tan dots above each eye and tan streaks on the sides of the muzzle and cheeks. But the tan color is nowhere near the ears. Tan spots can also appear on the legs and chest, on the throat, and under the tail.
While historically there were farmers who raised black/gray, all gray, and tawny Beaucerons, those colors are now banned by the breed standard.
Beaucerons are always short-haired dogs. Like many shepherd breeds who spend hours outside, they have two coats. A dense and coarse outer coat grows to a maximum of 1.5 inches long. The undercoat is soft and downy, but also dense and almost wooly to protect him from the cold. Near the Beauceron’s neck, his coat may be slightly longer, and on his tail and on the backs of his hind legs he may sport fluffy fringes.
A Beauceron never needs to have his coat trimmed or shaved. If anyone tries to sell you a Beauceron dog or puppy that has a shaggy coat, know it is definitely a mix with some other breed.
Personality and Temperament
Think of any good trait you would want your dog to have, and the Beauceron fits the bill. Bred to be gentle, fearless, patient, calm, and eager to please, it will be hard for you to find an aspect of your Beauceron’s personality that makes you regret getting him in the first place.
The Beauceron was initially raised to be both a guard dog and a herder on farms. Only the most intelligent of the breed were used to produce new litters, so the Beaucerons are known as smart dogs that can be trained to perform a large variety of tasks and tricks.
Taking their cue from their trainers or owners – their “pack leaders” – a Beauceron will immediately sense whether a visitor deserves a friendly greeting or a warning growl. Being neither overly anxious and shy, nor aggressive and territorial, a Beauceron will behave as you expect him to rather than be overcome by his own lack of confidence in a new situation.
Beaucerons are extremely loyal dogs and are eager to please. As instinct tells them to herd and protect their “livestock”, your children may find it annoying how much the family dog tries to control their movements or actually herd them back towards the house or their parents.
While all Beaucerons are enthusiastic about working and playing, following your lead, and obeying your commands, not all the members of this breed like water. It seems to be a very individual preference – either your Beauceron will jump into the stream or river and swim right after you, or he will hold back on the shore, miserable that he can’t guard or herd you while you are in the water. Never force a Beauceron to get into the water, as it isn’t something he will “get used to”, and he only gets frustrated by his desire to please you opposite his total fear of doing what you ask.
Behavior around other dogs
Family pets will be tolerated by Beaucerons, especially if the Beauceron dog is the last animal to join the household. However, they don’t easily make friends with strange dogs. If they meet another dog on a walk, Beaucerons will prefer to warn it to keep its distance rather than come closer for the typical smelling encounter that many other breeds actually enjoy.
Beaucerons are also known to be particularly aggressive or dominant around strange dogs of the same sex. They may chase cats or pet rabbits if the mood takes them, as their herding instinct tells them to pursue anything that runs.
Visits to dog parks can be positive experiences for your Beauceron, with proper supervision. You need to make him know that the dogs at the park are friends, that the park is not his personal territory, and that socializing is something that will earn him praise.
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Is a Beauceron a good Family Dog
Beaucerons love being part of a family, but they are not lapdogs or couch potatoes. The best balance for a Beauceron is to spend plenty of time inside with you and your family during the day but to sleep outside at night and do this work as a guard dog.
It is important for a Beauceron to understand who is in charge of the family, and therefore who is ultimately in charge of him. They are intelligent dogs who will quickly take advantage of a situation where rules are lax and inconsistent. Before you know it, a Beauceron will take over your house, your children, and even your bed if you don’t set clear and strict limits for him.
A Beauceron will enjoy living with a family that has a large yard or expansive fields or forests within walking distance of the home. The fence around your yard must be high and strong because a Beauceron’s desire to run and explore will be stronger than his sense of duty to protect you. If given the opportunity he will jump over a fence just to see what’s on the other side, and beyond.
Because Beaucerons are so loyal and intelligent, they won’t stand for mistreatment or physical punishment. They deserve love and respect, and in the same measure will love and respect you and your family.
When they aren’t “working”, Beaucerons can be very playful, gentle, and even cuddly with their family members.
How to Train a Beauceron
While Beaucerons are highly intelligent, they don’t also learn as fast as other similar breeds (such as collies, shepherds, and sheepdogs). Beaucerons are not fully physically and mentally mature until they are about three years old, so their training must be slow and steady. Rather than engaging your dog in long, intensive training sessions when he is a puppy, plan for several short play and training sessions over the course of every day.
By nature, a Beauceron will want to appoint himself as the pack leader. Therefore, you need to make it very clear to him that you are the one in charge. Even when left alone to herd sheep in France, the Beaucerons of a century ago didn’t make their own decisions about where and when to move the herds. If they were well trained they learned to do exactly what their owners wanted even when the owner was out of sight.
After you get your dog’s basic desired behavior under control, you can move on to training for games and tasks. A very popular activity for Beaucerons is a game originating in Germany called Treibball. This game involves pushing large balls across a field with their noses, in the direction of a “goal.” A Beauceron can be taught to bring a number balls to the goal in a certain order based on the color of the balls, much in the same way he can be taught to bring certain sizes or colors of sheep back home first.
Beaucerons have a tendency to test their owners and trainers, to display a measure of obstinancy when learning to follow new commands. But if the trainer is firm and consistent, and fair regarding the extent of his expectations, the dog will eventually come around and do his best to make you proud of his achievements.
When training your Beauceron, keep in mind that they are herding dogs and not hunting dogs. Therefore, games of catching and fetching balls and Frisbees will not be enjoyable or come naturally to this dog.
How To Care For a Beauceron
Historically, farm-raised Beaucerons were accustomed to walking up to 50 miles a day while moving herds of 200 to 300 sheep or cattle. Therefore, even modern-day Beaucerons need two to three hours of intensive exercise every day. Walks around the block on a leash will never be enough for your Beauceron dog.
If you aren’t an active person, then don’t get this dog. Otherwise, be prepared to pay someone to take the dog jogging, cycling, or hiking several times a week. And you can’t go the same route every day or the dog will get bored. Think sheep; they eat grass and therefore need to move to different grazing areas every day or two. If you want your Beauceron to be happy and healthy, try to reproduce that sheep herding lifestyle as much as possible.
When running with your Beauceron, plan to go a full five miles before he gets tired. If you take a hike, he can accompany for a whole day without falling over in exhaustion after a couple of hours of walking in rough terrain, the way other breeds might do.
If you are feeling really adventurous, you can train your Beauceron to participate in dog sport competitions that require increased obedience and agility. Just some of the possibilities are pulling carts and sleighs, and skijoring (pulling a person on skis).
For downtime at home, make sure you have plenty of toys for your Beauceron. Puzzle toys will keep him mentally stimulated when he can’t burn off his physical energy. Rotate toys, keeping some in storage while he plays with others. That way he will always have something “new” to occupy himself with.
Grooming and Shedding
Low maintenance grooming comes with every Beauceron. They don’t need to be bathed more than once every three or four months and don’t need any special kind of shampoo. If you want to brush your Beauceron to remove dead hair and give him a sleek, shiny appearance, use a plain natural bristle brush or rubber hound mitt a few times a week.
When the seasons change, in the spring and fall, your Beauceron may shed more than usual. During those times of the year, you can brush him more frequently to minimize the amount of fur you find around the house. But a Beauceron is not the type of dog that leaves a rug of shed fur on the floor every time he gets up from a nap!
Bred to live outside, Beaucerons know how to keep themselves clean. But if you want to give him VIP treatment you can brush his teeth to boost his health and give him pleasant smelling breath. And you can clean his ears and clip his nails as needed. Most Beaucerons won’t ever need to have their nails trimmed because frequent running on all sorts of surfaces naturally wears the nails down.
What to Feed a Beauceron
Beaucerons have hardy appetites and need to eat enough food every day to replenish the calories they burn off exercising. If your dog is active for many hours every day, he will need a lot more food than a dog who only runs or plays for two or three hours a day.
The amount of food your dog needs also depends on its size, age, and metabolism. But in general, a total of three to five cups of food split into two meals a day is sufficient.
Beaucerons should be fed high-quality dog food with age-appropriate nutrients – puppy, adult, or senior dog. If they are allowed to eat as much as they want, Beaucerons can become overweight. Treats should be limited to a maximum of 10% of your dog’s daily calories.
Known Health Problems
In general, Beaucerons are healthy dogs. But like all shepherd breeds, they may develop certain health problems as they age.
Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that causes dogs to limp and experience pain when walking. It develops into arthritis and there is no real cure for this debilitating condition.
Gastric Torsion occurs when too much gas builds up in a dog’s abdomen, and the stomach gets twisted. If not treated right away, this can become life-threatening. Symptoms of gastric torsion are drooling, anxious pacing and panting attempts to vomit, and a bloated abdomen.
There is no guarantee that your dog will never suffer from any health issues. But if you buy your dog from a breeder with a good reputation, you can at least know that the parents of your puppy have been screened for the more problematic conditions.
Famous Beauceron Dogs
After the terror attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001, a Beauceron was used to help the Search and Rescue teams. A special camera was attached to the dog’s neck, and he was sent into narrow spaces inaccessible and dangerous for people to enter.
O’Cara Bleue de St Sacrement, called Cara by those who personally know her, earned the Heroic Service Award at the American Kennel Club AKC Classic in Orlando, Florida in December 2001. She and her owner and Mike Forsythe, who is a Navy Seal Military dog Handler, broke a world record. They jumped together to parachute to earth from a height of 30,100 feet.
As early as 1970 Beaucerons began appearing in popular movies. Some of the films featuring this unique dog include Wild Child, Moonraker, Nikita, and Gangs of New York.
How to Choose a Beauceron Puppy
Before buying a Beauceron puppy, find a breeder who is registered with an official dog breeding organization. And if possible, try to find good reviews about the breeder and his litters.
By looking at a litter’s parents, you can get a good idea about what kinds of physical traits the puppies will inherit. Size, the extent of shedding, and teeth alignment, for example, are the types of traits you can predict for the puppy as it grows. But behavior and temperament are molded by how to raise and train your puppy, as much as they are affected by its DNA.
Health problems are also hard to predict, but you can ask to see certification that the puppy’s parents have been screened for hip dysplasia.
How Much Do Beaucerons Cost?
Since Beaucerons are still relatively rare dogs, especially in the United States, their price tags are on the high end compared to other purebred breeds. A purebred Beauceron puppy costs on average about $1250. That is the going price for standard puppy breeders, but if you want a show quality dog, you will end up paying $2000 or more.
Beauceron breeders are not always easy to find, and you might be put on a waiting list if you want to purchase a two-month-old puppy. But it will be worth the wait to get a high-quality dog, as opposed to looking for an abandoned dog in a shelter or rescue organization. Chances are you won’t be able to find a puppy at a shelter, and adopting an older dog comes with the risk that it will be harder to train and even harder to break any bad habits the dog has developed. The one benefit of adopting a Beauceron from a shelter is that it won’t cost you more than about $400.
When buying a Beauceron, take into account that in addition to the purchase price you will also have to pay for all its initial medical expenses soon after you bring your puppy home. There are vaccinations, deworming treatments, inserting a chip, and the general first exam by the vet. Later you have to pay for spaying or neutering your dog unless you plan to breed it.
If you don’t know how to train such an intelligent dog, you will have to pay for a professional trainer or training class. And because it needs constant company and exercise, you can’t leave the dog home alone even if you go on an overnight trip. Figure kennel costs into the purchase of this dog.
Since the Beauceron is a large dog, it will also cost more on a yearly basis to buy it dog food and treats. A Beauceron is too expensive of a dog to feed table scraps and let it fend for itself against health and environmental hazards. This is a dog that needs a big investment from the start, and ongoing investment for the rest of its life to keep it healthy and happy.
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Is a Beauceron the right dog for me?
Before you get a Beauceron dog, you need to carefully consider all of its special personality traits and physical needs. It can be a wonderful dog if you can give it everything it requires to maintain mental and physical health. But it can become an annoying burden if you don’t have the time, energy, and motivation to train and exercise your Beauceron every single day for its ten- to twelve-year lifespan. The reasons to get a Beauceron can be the same reasons not to get one – depending on your perspective…
|Reasons to decide to get a Beauceron||Reasons to decide not to get a Beauceron|
If you want a dog that is large, athletic, faithful, and intelligent, a Beauceron is an excellent choice.
If you are prepared to spend a lot of time outside with your dog, and preserve or improve your own health while giving your pet all the exercise it needs, a Beauceron is a more than willing partner.
If you are able to socialize and train your Beauceron, your efforts will be paid back with an obedient, loyal, loving pet.
The Beauceron has a phenomenal memory, so you won’t be able to cut corners when training and disciplining your dog. He will bring out the best in you, expose the worst in you, and give a reason to get up in the morning even when all you want to do is sleep.
As an owner of a Beauceron, you will need to become a more assertive and decisive person. To avoid becoming merely another sheep for your Beauceron to guard and herd, you will have to work hard to teach him who is boss. But you will be rewarded for your efforts. No friend in the world will stand as loyally at your side the way your Beauceron will.