The Bergamasco (aka The Bergamese Sheepdog) is thought to have originated in Asia a couple of thousand years ago, eventually introduced into Europe by nomadic shepherds. Its herding abilities are superb, and once trained it doesn't require human commands or interaction to fulfil its herding duties. The shepherd simply releases the dog and it herds the sheep unaided. They are also able to herd cattle and are still sometimes used as working herd dogs in Switzerland and Italy.
The Bergamasco (often shortened to Berg) is intelligent, loyal and attentive. They form close bonds with their human family and do not like being separated from them. This makes them unsuitable for people who are away from home for much of the day. They are good with children, even young ones, and quickly learn how to play gently, patiently, and appropriately. They are actually drawn to young children, viewing them as things that need watching over and protecting. Most Bergs are fine with other dogs, provided they don't feel threatened. They are able to tolerate cats too, but it is best if they are bought up with them. They tend to be wary of strangers at first, but are seldom aggressive. They will sit and watch until they feel reassured that there is no threat to their family. Bergamascos make excellent watchdogs, keeping one eye on everything going on around them, even when they appear chilled out, or even asleep!
When training a Berg you need to be fair and consistent. They are highly intelligent dogs and were bred to think and work independently. They are quick to learn and have good memories. They can be a bit stubborn at times, but are generally quite easy to train. They thrive on affection and praise, and are attentive and patient during the training process. They have been used as therapy dogs, on account of their calm nature. They do well in agility, herding, and obedience events in competitions.
Bergs need plenty of exercise and a long daily walk or run is essential to keep them physically stimulated. Their recall is excellent when trained, so you can walk tem off-lead. They are usually no threat to other dogs when out and about, as long as they have been properly socialised.
With long, heavy coats, Bergs can overheat, and they dislike hot weather, seeking the coolest place to sleep. Their coats are actually very different to most other dogs' coats, beginning with a soft fluffy puppy coat and then developing a coarser hair at around 1 year old. Between 2 and 3 years the hair flocks together to form cords, which grow throughout the dog's life. The result is a heavily corded coat, which provides warmth and protection from the elements. It needs surprisingly little attention, being 'self cleaning' and rarely moulting. Some owners opt for a shorter cut, but this arguably takes away some of the unique charm of the breed. Another alternative is a 'sporting' cut, where the cords are trimmed to 5 - 6" instead of being left to grow to the ground.
Bergamascos are strong and brave. They are watchful and vigilant in guarding their territory, and although not aggressive they will alert you to anything unfamiliar, including knocks on the door. Bergs are great with children and develop strong attachments to them. Early socialisation helps them remain well behaved with other dogs. They are unlikely to start a fight but will seldom back down in the face of a challenge. Owners need to display authority when training to ensure the Bergamasco doesn't see itself as the family's top dog.
Bergamascos are pron to canine hip dysplasia (CHD), bloat and eye problems.
- Status: Common
- Life Expectancy: 13 - 15 years
- Weight: 70 - 84 lb
- Height: 21 - 25"
- Rare: No
- Coat: Long - Hypoallergenic
- Grooming Requirements: Everyday
- Town or Country: Country
- Minimum Home Size: Large House
- Minimum Garden Size: Small to Medium Garden
- Breed Type: Herding
- Size: Large
- Energy Level: Medium
- Exercise Required: Up to 1 hour