Bohemian Shepherd

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Bohemian Shepherd

Bearing remarkably close resemblance to the German Shepherd, the stunning black and tan Bohemian Shepherd actually originates from the neighbouring Czech Republic. Also known as the Chodský pes, and originally a sheepdog, this breed is not well known, or even recognised, outside of its native country.

This is a medium-sized, compact dog with relatively short ears and a glossy double coat. Typically, brave and affectionate, this dog can make a superb family pet, particularly when well-socialised from an early age. Traditionally used for herding, its athletic ability and strong sense of smell mean it also excels in the world of search and rescue, particularly after earthquakes or avalanches. It is this mix of working ability and suitability as a companion, that has ensured this breed’s respected status in the Czech Republic today.

About & History

While much less recognised than its cousins, the German Shepherd and Belgian Shepherd, the Bohemian Shepherd is thought have been around for many hundreds of years, originating in the 14th century in the Czech Republic. In fact, many believe it is one of the predecessors of the more popular German Shepherd breed.

Interestingly, the Bohemian Shepherd is thought to have accompanied the ancient ‘Chodove’ people to patrol the borders of Bohemia. While the general population were prohibited from owning guard dogs, the Chodove were granted a special dispensation in 1325 by the King. For many hundreds of years, the loyal Bohemian Shepherds continued their duties patrolling the borders. It is widely believed that they lived with the Chodove people and their families, sleeping in their homes at night, ensuring their development into a social and sensible family dog.

Like many other dogs at the time, the Bohemian Shepherds’ numbers dwindled dramatically during world war two. Luckily, they have experienced a revival within the Czech Republic, and are no longer in any danger of extinction.

Despite the Bohemian Shepherds’ promisingly early development, it was only as recently as 1984 that a breeding program was formally begun. Because of this delay, the Bohemian Shepherd is a particularly rare breed, and can be difficult to acquire today. While typically described as a herding dog, this is a versatile breed that also excels as a watchdog, a companion animal and, thanks to its superb sense of smell, as a search and rescuer.

Appearance

Bohemian Shepherd Large Photo

The Bohemian Shepherd bears an uncanny resemblance to the German Shepherd, though is somewhat smaller and usually has a longer coat. A long dog, it should measure more from its neck to its hindquarters than it does from its shoulders to the ground.

Its ears stand erect, are shaped like triangles, and should appear relatively small for the size of dog. Its eyes are almond-shaped with a docile expression and are always brown. Its muzzle is darkly pigmented, as are its lip and nose. Its body is classically described as oval-shaped and is well-proportioned. Its tail should easily reach its hocks and be thickly covered in fur.

Its long, double coat is notably thick, allowing it to withstand harsh winters outside, and can reach lengths of 5 inches. Vibrant markings are preferred and should be well demarcated. While the coat is both black and tan, it is the black colour that should form the base and be the most dominant pigment. Females stand at 49 to 52cms at the withers, while the males stand a little taller at 52 to 55cms. Their weight is proportional to their height, but typically reaches around 16-25kg. They possess a distinctive gait, and their movement should be noticeably fluid and elegant.

Character & Temperament

Known for being more laid-back and friendly than its cousin the German Shepherd, the Bohemian Shepherd tends to do well with children when introduced from an early age. They bond closely to their immediate family and are warm and open, showing a great deal of affection. However, this close reliance on people can mean that they have a tendency to develop separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time, so over-dependence should not be encouraged.

While innately less suspicious than the German Shepherd, they are instinctively a guard dog, and will be cautious around strangers, acting stand-offish in their presence. To avoid hostility or aggression, early socialisation is key. Due to the close relationship they share with people, they are protective, particularly of their family, and are not uncommonly used as guard dogs, for people, rather than property or livestock.

Keeping in mind its origins as a shepherding dog, small children and pets must be supervised when in the presence of a Bohemian Shepherd, as they may find that their natural instincts get the better of them at times. Unlike many similar breeds of dog, the Bohemian Shepherd has a relatively good reputation around other dogs, having been used in the past to work alongside fellow pack members.

Trainability

Photo of Bohemian Shepherd puppy

Known for being surprisingly easy to train, it is often said that the Bohemian Shepherd is a good dog for trainers to start with. Highly intelligent and always willing to please their owner, they will pick up new commands quickly, and enjoy being put to work.

Off-lead work should be performed under caution in public places as, due to their natural shepherding tendencies, they may get distracted by smaller animals. While respectable competitors in practically any sport, it is in their work with the community that they truly excel. Highly trainable, they are often employed in the military, police and in search and rescue missions. They are truly a valuable member of society within the Czech Republic.

Health

There has been a concerted effort by the breeding organisations to attempt to minimise the diseases within this small population of dogs, who possess a limited gene pool. Despite their best efforts, and the employment of genetic testing in breeding animals, there are still several diseases that are more prevalent in the Bohemian Shepherd than other breeds.

  • Hip Dysplasia – Possibly the most common orthopaedic condition suffered in dogs, this is a painful and chronic disease that results from hip joints that have never properly formed. Screening tests are essential for any breeding dog, and a dog that does not have an acceptable hip score should not be bred from.
  • Elbow dysplasia – This is a condition that encompasses several different, painful diseases of the elbow joint. As with Hip Dysplasia, the pain and mobility issues that ensue will result in a reduced quality of life, particularly as the affected canine ages. To reduce the prevalence of this condition, it is crucial that affected dogs are removed from the breeding pool.
  • Bloat – As with many larger-sized dogs, the Bohemian Shepherd can be prone to Gastric Dilatation (or bloat). Gas gets trapped within the stomach, and an affected animal will visibly ‘swell up’ and can die within hours if the bloated stomach twists on its axis and is not treated. A preventative surgery is available and can be performed at the same time as neutering.
  • Eye conditions – There are several eye conditions that are known to affect the Bohemian Shepherd, including PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) and Lens Luxation. DNA screening tests are available for several eye conditions, and it is vital that breeding stock are tested before reproducing, in order to minimise the level of disease within the population.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A working dog by nature, the Bohemian Shepherd has an excellent work ethic and an impressive exercise tolerance. For the non-working Bohemian Shepherd, this means that at least an hour of good quality exercise, such as a vigorous walk, is needed each day.

It would not be recommended to keep this breed in a confined space, and to do so, particularly if the dog is under-exercised, will almost certainly result in undesirable behaviours. Once a good outlet for their abundant energy is provided, they are generally a calm dog who will live well indoors.

Grooming

Understandably, with their thick and long coat, this is not a low-maintenance breed when it comes to grooming. Regular brushing, several times a week, must be employed to remove loose fur and prevent matts from forming. During their shed, the Bohemian Shepherd can lose a substantial amount of fur.

As with all dogs, regular ear checking, tooth brushing and claw clipping is advised, and should be introduced from an early age to avoid any aversion.

Famous Bohemian Shepherds

There are no famous examples of the Bohemian Shepherd dog, however, they are depicted in drawings by the famous Czech artist, Mikolas Ales. They are well-known in their native Czech Republic and regularly used as working dogs in the military, police, and search and rescue.

Cross-Breeds

There are no popular cross-breeds of the Bohemian Shepherd to date.

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