There are two schools of thought regarding the origins of the Ardennes Shepherd dog breed; the first and most widely held by scholars is that it is the result of a Belgian shepherd mating with a Picardy shepherd. The other is that the breed is indigenous to Belgium, a hypothesis supported mainly by the societies of its country of origin. However, the origin of the Ardennes Shepherd is in Belgium.
It owes its name to the practice of guarding and leading cattle, which is also good for herding them. Mostly dairy cows and sheep, but in the 19th century also pigs and horses. In addition to guarding herds, it was also used to hunt deer and wild boar and even became the dog of poachers during the two world wars.
The harsh climate, the particular and very heavy work, the rough terrain and the poverty of the region have made it a rustic, strong, robust and biting animal. Accustomed to being in the open air, in contact with animals and to hard work, it has unfortunately declined in number with the gradual disappearance of farms in the Ardennes. However, thanks to the efforts of a few breeders who have worked hard to restore these dogs to their original bloodlines, the Ardennes mountain dog has made it through to modern times. Today, the Ardennes Shepherd can still be trained as a powerful and excellent working and utility dog.
In its country of origin, the Ardennes, it is well known and widespread, elsewhere almost unknown.
Character of the Ardennes Shepherd dog breed
As it is primarily a working dog, rustic, accustomed to the outdoors, it is certainly not a living room dog, although it can adapt to life in the home and family. It is a very affectionate breed with the people in its family and is always faithful and devoted to its owner. On the other hand, it is very wary of strangers and is not very helpful towards people it does not know. For this reason it is an excellent guard dog.
But it is a dog that must never lack commitment and work, long daily outings and an active role in the family. It is, however, a curious, cheerful and playful dog that children can play with, even if this is not its greatest aspiration. Very intelligent, once he has understood who the pack leader is, he can be trained quite easily, but he needs consistency and a little discipline.
He is loyal and faithful, never aggressive out of turn and even if he is used to guarding, he is never violent. There may be problems with other pets, so early socialisation is essential.
Appearance of the Ardennes Shepherd dog breed
The Ardennes Shepherd is a medium-sized dog, its average height at withers is around 60 centimetres and its weight around 30 kilograms; the female usually weighs a little less.
It is a rustic and robust dog, not very elegant; it is short and stocky, very muscular. The hindquarters are much more developed, the legs are well planted on the ground, slightly apart as if to give greater stability. The tail is often absent, sometimes it is amputated at the height of the first vertebra.
The skull is wide and flat, the head is massive with the hair falling on the muzzle but leaving the eyes well uncovered. The truffle is always black and wide, it has strong teeth. The neck is short but very robust. The eyes are always dark, the ears are erect, sometimes bent forward.
The coat is rough, rustic and shaggy and is formed by hair about 5 centimetres long, shorter on the skull and limbs. The undercoat is very dense in winter, which makes the dog insensitive to the cold, in summer it thins out a lot. The coat is longer on the beard, whiskers and inside the ears. The coat is also very resistant because it is a dog that was born to drive livestock even in unfavourable weather and harsh conditions. The Ardennes Mountain Dog does not have a particular colour that distinguishes it. Its coat can take on any shade.
Health and care of the Ardennes Shepherd dog breed
The Ardennes Shepherd is a robust dog that does not often fall ill, is not at all afraid of the cold, but when the heat is excessive, it is best to move outdoor activities to cooler times of the day.
It has a life expectancy of about 12 years, and although its health is usually impeccable, it may be born with some small conformation defects, such as those related to the mouth and teeth, such as prognathism or enognathism.
With regard to the care of its coat, being a dog used to living outdoors, it should always have a fairly short coat, so that it can move and run freely without any problems. It does not lose much hair, except during the moulting period, so brushing once a week is sufficient.
As far as food is concerned, this must be healthy and balanced and must have all the nutritional foods necessary to keep the dog healthy. As far as dosage is concerned, the Ardennes Shepherd is perfectly capable of managing itself and if it gets enough exercise every day it has no weight problems.