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Dutch Shepherd Breed Description

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Breed Organization

American Dutch Shepherd Association

Native Country

Other Names
Hollandse Herder, Dutch Shepherdshond, Hollandse Herdershond

Life Expectancy
Approximately 12-14 Years

Litter Size
Average 8-10 Puppies

Breed Group
FCI-Herding / AKC-FSS

General Description

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 color may be less pronounced because of the tousled coat. 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.

    Breed Standard

    Head: Clean, long, not massive. The rough-haired variety has a slightly more blocky head. Straight forehead. Stop barely perceptible. The muzzle is slightly longer than the skull.
    Ears: Small, erect, held forward. Rounded ears are not permitted.
    Eyes: Almond-shaped, of medium size. Dark color.
    Body: Solid and well-balanced. No dewlap. Deep chest. Ribs are slightly sprung. Solid loin. Straight, short, powerful back.
    Tail: Attached low, hanging in a slight curve. Reaches the hocks when relaxed; carried high when in motion.
    Hair: The most common variety has short hair over all of the body, with a wooly undercoat. Collarette, culottes, and flag tail. Long-haired variety has long hair over all of the body lying close to the body. Straight, harsh, not wavy or curly, with a wooly undercoat. Tail is covered with long, thick hair. The rough-haired variety has thick, wiry hair over all of the body, held away from the body by a thick, wooly undercoat. Dense, long hair on tail and long culottes.
    Coat: Short and long-haired varieties: shades of brindle on a brown or gray background. Black mask preferred. Rough-haired variety: blue-gray, salt and pepper, gold or silver brindle
    Size: Dog: 57 to 62 cm. (22.5-24.5 in).Bitch: 55 to 60 cm (21.6-23.6 in).
    Weight: Approx. 30 kg. (66 lb).


    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.


    Dutch Shepherds are loyal, reliable, alert, watchful, active, independent, intelligent, and intuitive. Obedience and discipline can be achieved with remarkable results. Gifted with a true shepherding temperament, they can work willingly together with their owners and can deal independently with any task they are assigned, being neither aggressive nor shy. They have a strong character and independence passed down from their herding ancestry.

    This dog needs heavy physical activity on a daily basis. The three hair-types require weekly brushing. The short-haired variety needs 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.


    Originally, the main function of the Dutch Shepherd 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, and stay the flock away from the crops, which they did by patrolling the borders of the roads and 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, 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 Shepherds made them suitable for dog training, which was then starting to become popular. They were then trained and used as police dogs, search and tracking dogs, and guide dogs for the blind. They are, however, still capable of herding sheep.

    Dutch Shepherds are an active and versatile breed. They compete in dog agility, obedience, rally obedience, flyball, dock jumping, disc dog, tracking, search and rescue, nosework, and weight pulling, along with protection sports such as Schutzhund, French Ring, Belgian Ring, mondioring, PSA, and others. In the Netherlands, they are still employed as herders and this 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. The KNPV began a dog registration program in 2014 for KNPV member dogs, making registration mandatory for all dogs born after 1 April 2013.


    The Dutch Breed Club initiated a hotline in 2008 for reporting health and behavioral problems. Most genetic health problems occur at a low rate in this breed. Confirmed genetic diseases diagnosed in Dutch Shepherds include allergies (atopy), masticatory myositis, pannus, cryptorchidism and inflammatory bowel disease.

    Within the rough-haired variety 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.

    The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals reports hip dysplasia is present at an overall rate of 8.1 percent on 432 dogs evaluated from Jan. 1974 through Dec. 2018 and elbow dysplasia is present at a rate of 4.3 percent on 329 dogs evaluated from Jan. 1974 through Dec. 2018.

    A previously unknown inflammatory and necrotizing myopathy affecting Dutch Shepherds was genetically mapped in 2018 by the University of Minnesota Canine Genetics Laboratory who identifies this disease as IM: Inflammatory Myopathy (Myositis). The disease causes progressive, painful inflammation of skeletal muscle tissue. The first symptoms of the disease, which usually present between three and eight months of age, include a “bunny hopping” gait and rear leg stiffness, then, it escalates to include muscle tremors, progressive weakness and severe muscle atrophy. The Dutch Shepherd Dog Club of America financed genetic research to analyze and interpret molecular information to identify this disease, which was spearheaded by Dutch Shepherd Dog Club of America veterinary counsel Karen Wroblewski DVM.

    Dr. Wroblewski orchestrated a nationwide collaboration of veterinary professionals, breeders and Dutch Shepherd fanciers resulting in the description of this new condition, discovery of the causative mutated gene, definition of the mode of inheritance (autosomal recessive), and now, availability of a new DNA screening test available through University of Minnesota. The UMN College of Veterinary Medicine has updated their Canine Genetic Testing webpage to include submission forms and instructions for submitting samples for Dutch Shepherd Inflammatory Myopathy testing to identify carriers of the disease. Both parents must be carriers to produce affected offspring, but as long as one of the two parents is IM clear, affected offspring will NOT be produced. The University of Minnesota Canine Genetics Laboratory has also coordinated with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to have the IM test results listed on the OFA website.

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