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Bergamasco Sheepdog: Pictures, Care, Traits & More

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

Bergamasco Shepherd standing in the field

Bergamasco Sheepdog: Pictures, Care, Traits & More

If we had to pick one word to sum up the Bergamasco Sheepdog, it would be “unique”—and we mean that in the best possible way! The Bergamasco Sheepdog never fails to leave an impression with his large body, flocked coat, and gentle confidence that endears so many to this breed, but the breed’s history is just as intriguing.

An ancient Middle Eastern dog, the Bergamasco Sheepdog dates back as far as the pre-Roman era. Throughout history, they have been put to work as sheepherders and guardians in the Italian Alps, which explains some of the standout traits the breed is known for. In this guide, we’ll share all you need to know about the Bergamasco Sheepdog’s characteristics and care.

Height: 22 – 23.5 inches
Weight: 57 – 71 pounds
Lifespan: 13 – 15 years
Colors: Gray, black
Suitable for: Any committed and loving home
Temperament: Patient, intelligent, hardworking, protective, independent

Bergamasco Sheepdogs are famous for their distinctive flocked coats that develop due to the matting of three hair types of varying textures. Each flock is around 1.5 to 3 inches wide, and together they give the coat a clumpy look.

Don’t worry—they’re natural and not uncomfortable for the dog, but they do need a human to “rip” the coat into mats when the dog is around one year old to help the flocks form properly (more on this below).

Bergamasco Sheepdog Characteristics

Energy
Trainability
Health
Lifespan
Sociability

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Bergamasco Sheepdog Puppies

Bergamasco sheepdog lying in the grass
Image Credit: michelangeloop, Shutterstock

During puppyhood, a Bergamasco Sheepdog’s coat is soft and short. This lasts until the dog is around a year old, and only then does the coat develop new textures that form flocks. The puppy hair will molt at this point.

As puppies, Bergamasco Sheepdogs are inquisitive, lively, and have a real taste for adventure. They’ll want to explore the world around them and take in every new sight and smell. This may mean they try to chew or eat things they shouldn’t, so keep a close eye out.

If you get a Bergamasco Sheepdog as a puppy, be sure to start training and socializing them early on to help them develop good manners and habits. On that note, you have two options for getting a Bergamasco Sheepdog: a (reputable) breeder or a rescue organization.

We favor adoption whenever possible, but if you choose to go to a breeder, we strongly urge you to never go to backyard (unethical) breeders or pet stores to acquire a dog.

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Bergamasco Sheepdog

Bergamasco Sheepdogs are loving, devoted dogs that exude patience and sweetness, but they’re also quietly confident with an independent streak. After all, though these dogs have worked closely with humans throughout history, sheepdogs have a rather solitary job and are expected to think on their feet in a variety of situations.

Bergamasco Sheepdogs spent a lot of time out in the rocky Italian Alps both herding and guarding sheep from predators, a role that involved sharp instinct, high intelligence, courage, and a watchful eye. These traits often go hand-in-hand with independence. Today’s Bergamasco Sheepdogs have also inherited their ancestors’ alertness and are great watchdogs, though they aren’t known for being very vocal.

Are These Dogs Good for Families?👪

Yes, if the family is committed to proper socialization and training, Bergamasco Sheepdogs usually grow up to be dogs that get along nicely with children. They’re very devoted and protective dogs, often with an aura of peacefulness, traits that make them excellent companions for sensible children.

However, make sure kids always treat the Bergamasco with respect and teach them to read the dog’s body language to get a sense of the dog’s boundaries. If you have very small children, always supervise them around your dog.

Bergamasco Sheepdog or Bergamese Shepherd dog
Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?🐶 😽

Generally, Bergamasco Sheepdogs get along well with other dogs and cats in the home, but it’s essential to socialize them from a young age and make supervised and gradual introductions when you bring a new cat or dog home.

If you adopt an adult Bergamasco Sheepdog, the rescue organization staff can help you decide if a particular dog would be likely to get on with other pets in your household. It’s important to treat each dog as an individual—while some would do just fine in a home with other pets, others may be better suited to being an only dog.

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Things to Know When Owning a Bergamasco Sheepdog:

Food & Diet Requirements🦴

When it comes to a dog’s favorite pastime (eating, of course), each one has unique needs depending on age, health, weight, and flavor preferences, so think about all these factors to find a quality formula that fits the bill. If your Bergamasco Sheepdog has a health issue or needs support in a specific area (e.g. weight loss), your vet can help you decide on the best possible formula for their needs.

Portion control is another factor to take into account. According to Pet Obesity Prevention, in 2022, 59% of dogs in the United States were classified as overweight or obese—a pretty shocking statistic.1 To help prevent obesity, refer to the portion size recommendation on the formula’s packaging or by following your vet’s advice. Keep treats to a minimum, as too many can quickly cause a dog to pile on the pounds.

Bergamasco dog resting in a meadow
Image Credit: michelangeloop, Shutterstock

Exercise🐕

Bergamasco Sheepdogs are dogs with moderate energy levels that enjoy a couple of walks per day with their human companion. They’re pretty versatile in terms of the activities you can do with them; they often make great hiking partners and like games like fetch. If you can let them roam freely in a secure area under supervision from time to time, that’s also a bonus.

Training🎾

Bergamasco Sheepdogs were originally developed to be highly trainable so that they could perform their work roles effectively. Today’s Bergamasco Sheepdogs are just as intelligent and eager to please, and they enjoy working on training routines with a consistent and kind human leader.

That said, independence is one of the traits this breed is known for, so the Bergamasco Sheepdog expects its human companion to earn respect by being consistent with what they ask the dog to do. Physical punishment should never be used.

Bergamasco dog indoors
Image Credit: Fishermanittiologico, Shutterstock

Grooming✂️

It may surprise you to learn that the Bergamasco Sheepog’s flocks, which are made up of “dog”, “goat”, and “wool” hairs, are not hard to maintain. These dogs are also minimal shedders.

You’ll need to “rip” the coat—which involves gently separating the clumps that naturally form into individual mats—when the Bergamasco reaches about a year old and their goat and wool hairs come in, but once the flocks are in place, you don’t even need to brush them. You should not shave your Bergamasco because their coat helps regulate their body temperature.

Though brushing is unnecessary for this breed, you will need to brush their teeth daily to reduce the risk of dental problems and trim the nails when needed to make sure it’s comfortable for your dog to walk.

Health and Conditions🏥

Bergamasco Sheepdogs are said to be generally healthy, and their expected lifespan is relatively long, but no breed is entirely safe from the possibility of hereditary conditions.

For this reason, if you’ve opted to go the breeder route to acquire your dog, be sure to only go to a reputable breeder that conducts health screenings and can prove that they do so. Just bear in mind that this may reduce the risk, but it does not eliminate it entirely. Health issues that could potentially affect a Bergamasco include:

Minor Conditions
  • Minor skin conditions
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Bloat
  • Eye conditions

Male vs Female

Male and female Bergamasco Sheepdogs can both be devoted and loving companions, and there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that there are distinct differences in personality. However, if you check out dog forums, you’ll likely find anecdotes from current dog parents about personality differences between male and female dogs, but the truth is that every dog is an individual and should be treated as such.

The main differences between male and female dogs are biological in nature, and linked to these differences are certain behaviors. For example, male dogs that have not been neutered will try to find a mate—an unspayed female. When they sense a potential mate in the vicinity, they may become more prone to roaming, urine marking, and territorial behavior.

Female dogs in heat—those that have not been spayed—are more prone to irritability, clinginess, frequent urination, and bleeding from the vulva. Spaying and neutering may reduce hormonal behaviors associated with the reproductive system, and you can ask your vet for advice on this.

Bergamasco dog near the river
Image Credit: Lishansky-Photography, Shutterstock

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Bergamasco Sheepdog

1. Bergamasco Sheepdogs are Rare in the US

Our flocked friends are not the kind of dogs you see every day. As such, they are close to the bottom of the American Kennel Club’s breed popularity ranking, coming in at 179 out of 201.


2. Bergamasco Sheepdogs Have Long Eyelashes

Since the Bergamasco Sheepdog has a long fringe (adapted to prevent them from going snowblind in the Alps), they also have extra-long upper eyelashes to prevent the forehead flocks from flopping into the eyes.


3. The Bergamasco Is Thousands of Years Old

The Bergamasco Sheepdog is known for working in the Italian Alps, but this ancient breed originated in the area that is now Iran around 7,000 years ago. The breed’s ancestors only made it to Italy later on.

female Bergamasco Shepherd dog
Image Credit: MarinaGreen, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

This shaggy sheepdog is truly a sight to behold and anyone lucky enough to bring one home will have a faithful companion for life. We’ll sign off by once more encouraging you to think about whether adopting a Bergamasco Sheepdog or mix from a rescue organization would be something that could work for you.

There are also a number of other breeds with similar coat types, including the Puli and the Komondor.


Featured Image Credit: volofin, Shutterstock

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