Originally from the Pyrenean valleys of Catalonia, the Catalan Sheepdog or gos d’atura català is one of the most widespread Spanish breeds in the world. Thanks to its great intelligence and also its extraordinary behaviour, its popularity has been growing unstoppably for decades. At Petlifey, we explain the characteristics and character of the Catalan Sheepdog.
Character of the breed Catalan Sheepdog
The Catalan sheepdog is a very sober, lively and intelligent animal, with a noble look, with a rustic and pleasant temperament.
Due to its good temperament, it is very devoted to the sheepdog and the flock that is entrusted to them, but it does not approach strangers, so it sometimes seems sullen. It is an excellent watchman.
Due to its size, the gos d’atura català is not a defensive dog, but, despite this, it is always attentive to everything that happens around it, it always warns when it detects something strange, and if it senses danger it shows itself as a fierce defender.
That does not mean that it is an aggressive or asocial dog, but it does mean that it is very territorial and aware of the role it has within its group.
It accompanies the sheepdog, stays by its side and limits themselves to obeying its orders, which are usually to run to retrieve a lost sheep, group the flock or move it to a certain area.
But the strength of its temperament, the tension and the natural assimilation of its functions is so great that, even with the pastor present, it is capable of making its own decisions if it sees that its master has not noticed any specific circumstance.
For that reason, the sheepdog adore these dogs and grant them the privilege of sharing the house with them.
- Energy: high level. If it is not dedicated to its role as pastor, give them systematic and intense exercise.
- Temperament: a very sober, lively and intelligent dog, with a noble look, with a rustic character and very devoted to the sheepdog and the flock that is entrusted to them.
- Adaptability: high. Although it prefers open spaces and the outdoors, it can adapt well to life in urban settings, provided adequate exercise is guaranteed.
- Sociability: high. It is very attached to its master and the members of the family it lives with, but is sullen with strangers.
- Health: good. Although some cases of hip dysplasia have been described, it is little prone to inherited diseases.
- Longevity: high. You can live up to 15 years if you are well cared for and in good health.
- Utility: very versatile. Innately it is an excellent herding and guard dog, but also a good companion dog. It excels in sports disciplines, especially in agility .
- Use: grazing and storage.
Can you live in the city?
Despite having been selected to live and work in the countryside, its rapport with man is so great that it can adapt to the city without problems, provided that adequate exercise is guaranteed.
It is a cheerful and lively dog that requires long walks and space where it can run freely.
Is it a family dog?
This breed adapts to living in any place and circumstance, and it is perfect to live with the elderly and with children, since its relationship with them is excellent, especially if it is used from a puppy, so that it does not try to herd them.
For all these reasons, the Catalan sheepdog stands as an all-terrain dog, an ideal breed for any family, but especially for those who enjoy outdoor activities together with their pet.
Characteristics of the Catalan sheepdog
Within the general appearance of the gos d’atura , its medioline structure stands out. It is a well-built dog, medium to large in size and has a beautiful coat that makes it very resistant to heat, cold and all atmospheric agents.
How is the Catalan sheepdog breed physically?
Its body is slightly longer than it is high, that is, it has a rectangular structure. With good musculature, it is a strong animal with a robust but agile appearance. It is rustic in appearance, due to its rough hair, with a mustache, beard and bushy eyebrows.
The ears are thin, triangular and pointed. They are inserted high and fall close to the head. Covered with abundant hair, they are quite mobile.
Its head is broad at the base, strong and slightly convex. It has a straight and short snout, in the shape of a truncated pyramid, without a point, and the stop is not very pronounced.
It has wide and expressive eyes, they reflect an intelligent and lively look. They are round and dark amber in color, with black eyelids. They are framed by very bushy eyebrows.
The hair is long, straight or very slightly wavy, and rough in texture. It has abundant hair all over the body, especially in the hind third, extremities and tail.
On its head it has a beard, mustache, toupee and large eyebrows, which, however, reveal the eyes. The animal sheds its hair in two phases, first the front half and then the back. Sometimes it shows off white spots.
Seen from afar, these dogs appear monochrome, with possible lighter shades on the limbs, but up close it can be seen that their coloration is given by the mixture of hairs of different shades.
The basic colors of the Catalan sheepdog are: wafer, sand and grey, all with light, medium and dark patterns . Sometimes they show some small spots of white hair in the shape of a pectoral star.
Rather low set, it can be long (slightly exceeding the hock) or short (not exceeding 10 cm) and is covered with abundant somewhat wavy hair.
The bearing of the tail when the dog is at rest is hanging and bent at the bottom or in the shape of a saber.
In action it is cheerfully elevated, but without actually screwing it over the back. Some specimens are anurans by nature or have had their tails docked.
They are oval, with hard black pads. The interdigital membranes are well visible and are covered with abundant peel. The nails are black and strong. On the hind feet they have a double low-set spur.
The two dewclaws are attached to each other and to the first toe by an interdigital membrane.
Catalan sheepdog breed standard
- General appearance: it is a well-built, medium-sized dog with beautiful hair.
- Origin: Spain.
- Other names: Catalan Sheepdog / Berger catalan / Katalanischer Schaferhund.
- Size: medium / large.
- Height at the withers: 47-55 cm (Males) and 45-53 cm (Females).
- Weight: 18-20 kg (Males) and 16-18 kg (Females).
- Hair: long, straight or very slightly wavy, the hair is rough in texture, with abundant undercoat.
- Head: strong, slightly convex and broad at the base, but without being heavy, it is well proportioned with the rest of the body.
- Skull: it is a little longer than it is wide and with a pronounced occipital bone. The upper profile of the skull is slightly domed although it may have a short, less accentuated space in the center. The arches formed by the eyebrows are well marked.
- Nose-frontal depression (stop): well visible but not very pronounced. Muzzle: It is straight, quite short, in the shape of a truncated pyramid and with rounded edges.
- Nose: always black, straight and proportionate with respect to the head.
- Jaws: strong jaws with large, white and firm teeth, sometimes with pointed fangs. The bite is scissor.
- Eyes: round, very open and expressive, they have a lively and intelligent look. They are dark amber in color and have black rimmed eyelids.
- Ears: set high, triangular in shape, thin and pointed at the end. They hang close to the head and are covered with long hairs that end in a fringe. They are mobile and some specimens have them cut off.
- Neck: it is vigorous, solid, muscular and short, but with good mobility. It is well inserted in the back.
- Body: slightly elongated, strong and muscular, giving a feeling of strength and agility.
- Back: the dorsal line is straight, with a slight rise in the rump, which is robust, muscular and slightly sloping.
- Chest: broad, well developed and reaches the level of the elbows. The ribs are arched, not flat, giving the animal good work capacity.
- Forelimbs: strong, straight and with good poise. The distance from the elbow to the withers is approximately the same as that from the elbow to the ground.
- Shoulders: muscular and strong, slightly oblique.
- Forearms and arms: they are strong and muscular, with the elbows parallel, neither closed nor open, and close to the body.
- Hind limbs: strong, straight, tightly muscled and well poised, giving the sensation of power and agility.
- Legs: long, broad and muscular, they are endowed with strong bones. Knees: The angle is approximately 120 °.
- Hocks: they are lowered and they are parallel and well plumb.
- Movement: the Catalan sheepdog has a smooth movement, typical of sheepdog dogs, and only runs at a gallop in very large spaces.
- Skin: it is rather thick, taut and well pigmented.
- FCI Classification: FCI No. 87. GROUP 1 – Sheepdogs and Cattle Dogs (except Swiss Cattle Dogs). Section 1 – Sheepdogs.
Education and training of the Catalan sheepdog
Its herding instinct makes them a very easy dog to train and it does not need to have a very expert owner , but it does have to be very constant in its education.
Due to its ability to make decisions for themselves, it may question the owner’s orders if it is inconsistent or hesitant.
The catalan sheepdog uses its voice as a working tool, since with it it warns and corrects lost sheep, or warns the sheepdog, and this tendency to bark can turn them into a noisy dog.
To avoid this, especially for living with neighbors, it is necessary to start training and basic socialization as soon as possible .
Health and nutrition of the Catalan sheepdog
Extraordinarily healthy breed, its longevity is famous, as there are many specimens that easily exceed 15 years.
It is necessary to provide them with an adequate diet so that it does not gain weight and guarantee them a good dose of daily exercise, as obesity can lead to health problems.
For the rest, its care and maintenance is very simple: regular visits to the veterinarian to vaccinate it, deworm it and make health checks and regularly brush its coat to avoid knots.
Healthy, long-lived, intelligent, affectionate and loyal, the Catalan sheepdog is one of the most valued dogs both in its regions of origin and among fans of dog breeds around the world.
An exceptional sheepdog
Unlike what happens, for example, with the border collie , these dogs tend to act on their own initiative, since the difficulty of the terrain through which they usually move makes them sometimes isolated and left alone with the livestock.
In these circumstances they should continue to care for the sheep to keep them together and lead them to more open spaces or to the stables.
As a general rule, they work in pairs or in a group, thanks to which the younger specimens have the opportunity to learn from the work of the older ones, following their evolution and repeating what they do.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of this breed is its prodigious memory. The traditional way of moving the herds in the Pyrenean area is always using the same routes to prevent the sheep from entering foreign lands and crossing boundaries that only sheepdog know.
Well, once the dog accompanies its master, it never forgets the route followed, thus avoiding conflicts with other owners.
This extraordinary memory also helps them not to lose a single sheep. While driving the cattle, it runs up and down, and is aware of all: those that go in a group, those that go ahead, those that stay behind …
In general, their presence is enough to make the rebellious sheep join the group, although the most stubborn may need a push or a small warning bite to one of their legs to finish persuading them.