Dutch Shepherd (Dutch Herder) Dog Breed information and care

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Dutch Shepherd Dog Working
Dutch Shepherd Dog Working

The rare Dutch Shepherd who, as the name suggests, originates from the Netherlands, is often confused with German Shepherds. While they do share very similar ancestry, this less common breed, surprisingly, is regarded as easier to train and can make great family pets in an active home.

Breed Overview




22.5 to 24.5 inches (males); 21.5 to 23.5 inches (females)


45 to 75 pounds

Coat and Color:

Short, long and rough-coated varieties and brindle coloring

Life Expectancy:

11 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Dutch Shepherd

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of SheddingHigh
Dutch Shepherd Dog Working

History of the Breed

As with most Shepherd dogs, the Dutch Shepherd was originally developed for their herding skills. They are also sometimes known as Dutch Herders. They were in demand because of the high volumes of arable and livestock farming in the Netherlands in the 19th century. Their all-round capabilities meant they were also often put to use as farm guard dogs. Their strength meant they could even pull carts.

The first breed standard was recognized in 1898, and, then, in 1914, it was updated so that only the brindle coloring was accepted. This helped to distinguish them clearly from their German and Belgian Shepherd relatives.

By the early 20th century, farming was becoming more industrialized and land reclamation was common. These modern farming techniques meant that the skills of the Dutch Shepherd were no longer in demand. During the Second World War breeding pretty much came to a halt, and many dogs perished as a result of the fighting. These wonderful dogs almost became extinct.

Although enthusiasts reestablished breeding programs after the war, the Dutch Shepherd is still a rare breed to this day. They also still have great intelligence, temperaments, and working skills. They are often used by the police and military, for search and rescue, and as assistance dogs too.

A Dutch Shepherd Dog and his military handlers
A Dutch Shepherd Dog And His Military Handlers

Dutch Shepherd Care

A Dutch Shepherd will usually thrive in a home that is active and stimulating. They are not suited to being left alone for long periods. Problem behaviors are likely to surface if they do not get enough enrichment.

They need decent daily walks and will, ideally, live with a family that will offer them a chance to 'work'. They excel in competitive dog sports like agility, nose work, and obedience.

When they receive appropriate amounts of mental and physical enrichment, they are usually then reserved and calm around the home, and not regarded as high maintenance.

They are an affectionate, steadfast and loyal dog that forms strong attachments with their family and, with the right introductions, they live well with other dogs and children too.

Their natural guarding instincts can mean that they will be protective and territorial, and training will be required to ensure this is channelled appropriately. You should also be mindful of their herding instincts too. Be ready to ask for alternative behaviors if they start to focus too much on herding and chasing.

They can be strong-willed and independent. This, combined with their fierce intelligence, means they will develop their own way of doing things if they do not receive clear training. Early, appropriate, and ongoing positive training and socialization will be required. When you do work on their training, you will likely be amazed at how quickly they pick up your cues and enjoy learning.

The Dutch Shepherd's brindle coat comes in three varieties; a short, smooth type, long-haired, and wire/rough-coated. The wire-haired variety is scarce. For the smooth and long-haired types, weekly grooming will be required to remove loose hair and keep their coat and skin in good condition. During their annual moults, you may need to use a good de-shedding tool like a Furminator and have the vacuum cleaner on hand!

A long-haired Dutch Shepherd
A Long-haired Dutch Shepherd
Dutch Shepherd Puppies
Dutch Shepherd Puppies
Dutch Shepherd Protection Work
Dutch Shepherd Protection Work

Common Health Problems

Unlike their exceptionally popular relative, the German Shepherd, the Dutch Shepherd has very few inheritable conditions and is regarded as a very healthy breed in general.

The few conditions that can be a problem occur in relatively low numbers. A good breeder will have performed relevant health checks on prospective parents.

Hip Dysplasia: This is a common problem in many large breed dogs, particularly Shepherds, and the Dutch Shepherd is no exception. A good breeder will perform health checks, though.

Goniodysplasia: This relates to a restricted flow of fluid from the eye. In severe cases, it can lead to blindness. While rare, this condition has been shown to affect the rough-haired variety of the breed. Again, good breeders will screen parents for this condition.

Inflammatory Myopathy: Recent studies have identified another inheritable disease, specific to Dutch Shepherds, that has been named Inflammatory Myopathy. It is progressive and involves the rapid degeneration of muscles. There is no cure, but it is possible to health screen parents to avoid puppies developing the condition.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, it is important to feed your Dutch Shepherd a high quality and appropriately portion-controlled diet. If they are leading a particularly active lifestyle, then you may need to consider feeding a food higher in protein or specially formulated for active dogs.

  • Family-friendly companions

  • Intelligent, highly trainable and eager to please

  • A healthy breed with few inheritable conditions

  • Need a lot of exercise and enrichment to prevent destructive problem behaviors

  • Their herding and guarding instincts can be an issue without proper guidance

  • Their moulting can be excessive

Where to Adopt or Buy a Dutch Shepherd

While the Dutch Shepherd is a rare breed, there are several passionate, dedicated and responsible breeders out there.

Always do your research and make sure that they have done the appropriate health screen tests on the parents. You should see mum and her pups together in a nurturing home environment. Also, the pups should not go to their new home until they are at least eight weeks old.

A good place to start your research would be the Dutch Shepherd Dog Club of America.

If you want to open your home up to a dog looking for a loving forever home, then why not consider adoption? Get in touch with North American Dutch Shepherd Rescue to find out if any dogs are looking for homes in your area.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Not sure if the Dutch Shepherd is the right dog breed for you? It is always important to do your research and consider whether you can offer the right type of home for a breeds personality traits and exercise requirements. If you want to look at some other similar breeds, why not read about: