An ancient breed, the Bergamasco Sheepdog was developed by shepherds as herding and guarding dogs. Today, the intelligent breed, most famous for their unique matted, mop-like coats, is known as a friendly and social companion and show dog.
The Bergamasco Sheepdog goes by several other names, including Bergamese Shepherd, Cane da Pastore Bergamasco, and the Bergamo Shepherd Dog. Although these are purebred dogs, you may still find them in shelters and rescues. Remember to adopt! Don’t shop if this is the breed for you.
This outgoing breed loves to bond with lots of humans, which makes them a great choice for families or households with multiple people. As long as the Bergamasco Sheepdog has an active and attentive companion, this breed can thrive in nearly any setting. And despite the looks of it, the Bergamasco’s signature coat is fairly low maintenance.
FunkyPaw recommends a good dog bed to give a good night’s sleep to your medium-sized Bergamasco. You should also pick up this dog water bottle for any outdoor adventures you have with your pup!
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash like this one in public!
Health And Grooming Needs
If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool here!
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Herding DogsHeight:20 to 24 inchesWeight:55 to 85 poundsLife Span:13 to 15 years
More About This Breed
- The Bergamasco Sheepdog’s fur can be black, silver, fawn, merle, cream, white, and gray, and is often a mix of colors. It’s known for its signature matting.
- The Bergamasco’s coat is super low maintenance. The breed is also considered a great choice for allergy sufferers, except those who have reactions to lanolin or wool.
- Bergamaschi do not need tons of exercise. They should get at least one good half-hour- to hour-long walk per day with a few good, active play sessions and shorter walks mixed in.
- The Bergamasco Sheepdog is generally amazing with children. Always supervise playtime.
- Bergamasco Sheepdogs tend to get along with other dogs, given that they are smaller or submissive. They can also tolerate cats.
- Bergamasco Sheepdogs have a bit of a rebellious streak and go about things their own way. Consistent and firm training will help curb any unwanted behaviors.
- These dogs are naturally somewhat skeptical of new people. Socialize your dog early if you want to curb this tendency.
Enthusiasts have traced back the origins of Bergamasco Sheepdogs, or Bergamaschi, to the Middle East up to 7,000 years ago. Some believed the dog descended from the Gallic herder breed, the Briard.
Italian fans of the breed, however, point out that if the breed traveled west from the Middle East, they would have to hit Italy first. The breed earned its name from the Italian City of Bergamo, up in the Alps, where its flocked coat helped keep these dogs safe from the mountains’ harsh conditions.
The breed started to diminish in Italy after World War II, but breed enthusiasts worked to keep the ancient breed stable. In 1956, the breed was accepted into the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI).
In 2015, the AKC officially started recognizing the Bergamasco Sheepdog in its Herding group. Fans of the Bergamascho Sheepdog around the world continue to advocate for the breed’s acceptance into other kennel clubs.
Male Bergamasco Sheepdogs stand 22 to 24 inches from the shoulder, while female Bergamaschi stand a little shorter, around 20 to 22 inches from the shoulder.
Male Bergamaschi weigh in between 70 and 85 pounds, whereas the females are typically between 57 and 70 pounds. That being said, some dogs can be smaller or larger than average for their breed.
The Bergamasco Sheepdog is adored by so many people, not just for their signature matted coats, but also for their calm, patient, often intuitive personalities. As herders in the Alps, Bergamaschi obeyed their humans but also knew when to act independently, making them valuable companions.
Bergamascho Sheepdogs today tend to live more domesticated lifestyles, and their intelligence, combined with their herding instincts, make them incredible companions to children. The Bergamasco Sheepdog’s personality also makes them an excellent therapy dog to both children and adults alike.
As a herding dog, the Bergamasco Sheepdog thrives in an environment where they have space to run around, like a home with a yard. However, they don’t have massive amounts of energy, like other herding dogs, and will do just fine in an apartment setting with the proper amount of exercise and stimulation.
As eager as the Bergamasco Sheepdog is to please their owner, they still have a bit of a rebellious streak and go about things their own way. Consistent and firm training will help curb any unwanted behaviors.
Even though they are outgoing dogs, Bergamaschi can be somewhat skeptical about new people or strangers. They aren’t prone to aggression, but be sure to socialize your Bergamascho Sheepdog early in order to prevent unwanted guarding or territorial habits.
Bergamasco Sheepdogs are generally healthy, and not much data has been collected on the rare dog. Many believe that the Bergamasco Sheepdog is still a strong breed because it hasn’t been overbred.
Still, there are some health conditions Bergamaschi might be prone to, including:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Bloat, though rare.
As with all dogs, you should keep up with your Bergmasco Sheepdog regular veterinary checkups to detect any health concerns early. Your vet can help you develop a care routine that will keep your dog healthy.
Despite being herding dogs, Bergamaschi do not need tons of exercise. Bergmasco Sheepdogs should get at least one good half-hour- to hour-long walk per day with a few good, active play sessions and shorter walks mixed in.
Check their ears for debris and pests daily and clean them as recommended by your vet. Trim your dog’s nails before they get too long–usually once or twice per month. They should not be clicking against the floor. Your groomer can help with this.
Keep up on their oral health. You should brush their teeth regularly, which your our veterinarian can instruct you on.
An ideal Bergamasco Sheepdog diet should be formulated for a medium- to large-sized breed with medium energy.
As with all dogs, the Bergamasco Sheepdog’s dietary needs will change from puppyhood to adulthood and will continue to change into their senior years. You should ask your veterinarian for recommendations about your Bergamasco’s diet, as there is far too much variation among individual dogs–including weight, energy, and health–to make a specific recommendation.
Coat Color And Grooming
The Bergamasco Sheepdog is famous for its matted, flocked coat, which may seem like a hassle to care for. Unless you’re planning to put your Bergamasco Sheepdog in shows, you really don’t even need to brush your dog’s coat.
Bergamasco Sheepdog puppies have a softer coat for a year, and then the course “goat” and fuzzy “sheep” hair start to grow in. The fur can be black, silver, fawn, merle, cream, white, and gray, and is often a mix of colors. The fur then starts its signature matting.
Other than bathing your dog a couple times a year, the Bergamasco’s coat is super low maintenance. The breed is also considered a great choice for allergy sufferers, except those who have reactions to lanolin or wool.
The Bergamasco Sheepdog’s coat insulates them from extreme cold, and it also helps regulate the body temperature in extreme heat. Fans of the breed advise not to cut or shave the coat. Even though their coat helps keep them safe, do not leave your Bergamasco Sheepdog in any extreme weather conditions, hot or cold.
Children And Other Pets
The Bergamasco Sheepdog is generally amazing with children. Thanks to their herding instincts, Bergmaschi are practically drawn to children, ready to circle around and keep them safe. Even though the breed is incredibly kid-friendly, it is important to teach both children and your Bergamasco Sheepdog how to properly play with each other. Always supervise playtime.
As for other pets, Bergamasco Sheepdogs tend to get along with other dogs, given that they are smaller or submissive. They can also tolerate cats, although it helps if you introduce the cat to your Bergamasco Sheepdog when they are young and can get used to them.
Still, at the end of the day, how your Bergamasco gets along with kids and other pets comes down to consistent training, proper socialization, and luck of the draw.
Rescues specifically for Bergamasco Sheepdogs might be hard to come by. However, you can always check with your local shelter, and you may want to try a rescue that caters to all kinds of dogs. You can take a look at the following:
- Wright-Way Rescue
- Angels Among Us Pet Rescue