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Croatian Sheepdog Breed Guide: Pictures, Info, Care & More

Written by: Oliver Jones

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

Croatian Sheepdog standing on grass

Croatian Sheepdog Breed Guide: Pictures, Info, Care & More

Known for their talent in driving sheep and cattle, the Croatian Sheepdog possesses high intelligence and energy to match. This is a hardworking breed that loves to have a job to do.

A native breed to Croatia, it is believed their looks have gone unchanged over the centuries. They also go by the name Hrvatski Ovcar and Croatian Shepherd.

Standing only 16 to 21 inches in height and weighing anywhere from 29 to 44 pounds, the Croatian Sheepdog is a medium-sized breed with a fox-like appearance. They have erect ears, a unique wavy, black outer coat, and a dense undercoat. This coat helps then stand out from other breeds.

Breed Overview


16 – 21 inches


29 – 44 pounds


13 – 14 years



Suitable for:

Active individuals or families, farmers


Intelligent, energetic, courageous, and alert

This durable, healthy breed has no known inheritable health conditions. They have an average lifespan of 13 to 14 years.

Due to their keen intelligence, boundless energy, and desire to work, Croatian Sheepdogs have excelled in major competitive canine sports and activities.

If you have your sights set on a quick-learning, playful, energetic companion that loves to have a job to do, the Croatian Sheepdog may be the breed for you.

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

divider-dog paw

Croatian Sheepdog Puppies

Croatian Shepherd puppy
Image Credit: Damir Kutlesa, Shutterstock

Croatian Sheepdogs are intelligent working dogs. They will require mental stimulation and lots of exercise. If they go without their needed stimulation and activity, they can turn destructive. You need to ensure your lifestyle will allow for these needs to be met.

This breed makes a good watchdog, as it tends to be wary of strangers rather than welcoming. Early socialization and proper training are important. You will want to consider a tall fence before committing to a Croatian Sheepdog. They are excellent jumpers and will have no problem scaling your fence in search of adventure.

Digging can be fun for dogs and can serve as a relief from stress or boredom. Croatian Sheepdogs are intelligent and can become bored easily. They are no strangers to digging and will need to be supervised to prevent any yard damage or escape attempts. Overall, Croatian Sheepdogs are a loyal and trainable breed that will be best suited to an owner that can keep up with their activity level. If you do not enjoy a physically active lifestyle, may want to consider another breed.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Croatian Sheepdog

Croatian Sheepdogs are intelligent, courageous, and alert. They tend to have a very balanced disposition. This herding breed comes with the high energy level and endurance needed for the job.

As lively and playful bundles of energy, they love participating in outdoor activities. Unlike the Border Collie, Croatian Sheepdogs are generally more docile inside the home if their needs for physical activity are met.

Their working-dog tendencies extend into their lives as pets, making Croatian Sheepdogs excellent watchdogs. They are not known for being fond of strangers but are generally not an aggressive breed. Proper training will help avoid any fear-based or aggressive behaviors.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The Croatian Sheepdog is known for being devoted to its owners and generally develops a strong attachment to one individual. This does not mean they cannot make a great family dog. This is a very loving, loyal, and affectionate breed.

Their kind and playful nature can make them a great companion for children. They are high-energy and can be a bit overzealous. The Croatian Sheepdog and children could make great playmates and assist one another in expending their intense energies.  As with any dog breed, proper socialization and training from a young age are especially important.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽 

When it comes to other family pets, Croatian Sheepdogs are fairly neutral with other dogs. They do have typical herding instincts that may entice them to chase cats and other small pets.

As long as appropriate training is implemented and the Croatian Sheepdog receives a proper introduction to other pets in the household, you should have no issues.


Things to Know When Owning a Croatian Sheepdog

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The Croatian Sheepdog should be fed high-quality dog food based on age and activity levels. This is a highly active breed that expends a lot of energy.  Any concerns about the quantity or frequency of feedings should be addressed directly with a veterinarian.

Exercise 🐕

There is no way around it, this breed needs to exercise. For centuries they have been bred for vigorous work and that is exactly what they want to do. Their mental health is dependent on a great deal of physical activity.

The Croatian Sheepdog will require a substantial amount of exercise through walks, outdoor activities, canine sports, or farm work. They may become destructive if their exercise needs go unmet. Croatian Sheepdogs should not be considered for individuals or families that are not regularly active.

Training 🎾

The Croatian Sheepdog is easy to train if done properly.  They will need a firm and consistent leader. Overall, they are a very loyal breed that is eager to please their owner and obey commands.

Due to their high intelligence, you will want to avoid repetition in your training regimen. The Croatian Sheepdog can become easily bored with the same repetitive training tactics.

It is ideal to keep your training fast-paced and based on positive reinforcement. This kind of training will keep the Croatian Sheepdogs interest and yield excellent results.

Grooming ✂️

The Croatian Sheepdog is fairly low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Their thick, wavy black outer coat is designed to repel dirt and rain. They have a soft, dense undercoat and shed a moderate amount.

A weekly brushing to remove any loose hairs to keep shedding under control will usually suffice. Of course, regular nail maintenance and occasional bathing will be necessary.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Croatian Sheepdogs are a healthy working breed. To this date, there are no known breed-specific genetic issues. They have developed resistance to many diseases. You can expect your Croatian Sheepdog to live between twelve and fourteen years.

As with all dogs, you should keep up with your Croatian Sheepdog’s routine veterinary examinations. Your vet can help you develop a care plan that will keep your dog healthy and thriving.

Minor Conditions
Serious Conditions


Male vs Female

Male Croatian Sheepdogs are typically larger than their female counterparts. They tend to measure from 17.5 to 21 inches in height.

The female Croatian Sheepdog is often longer in the body than the males. They may also have a slightly thinner coat. They are a bit shorter than the males and are typically 16 to 19 inches in height.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Croatian Sheepdog

1. The Croatian Sheepdog is an Ancient Breed

Developed over several centuries in the Republic of Croatia, the earliest written documentation of the breed dates from the year 1374. It is believed the breed was brought by the ancient Croats when they first settled on the land. These dogs are the country’s oldest native dog breed and have dwelled primarily in the plains of Slavonia herding cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses.

2. Puppies Can Be Born Without Tails

Croatian Sheepdogs have a naturally bushy tail that by standard, is generally docked to one inch in length. However, puppies have been known to be born completely tailless.

3. The Croatian Sheepdog Has Yet to Receive Full AKC Recognition

The Croatian Sheepdog is not yet fully recognized by The American Kennel Club or AKC. They do include the breed in their Foundation Stock Service. This is often the final step before full recognition of a breed.

The Croatian Sheepdog was recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale in 1969. The FCI is an international federation of several national kennel clubs and is based in Thuin, Belgium.


Final Thoughts

The Croatian Sheepdog is a high-energy breed with a very intense work drive and a strong need for human companionship. They are unwaveringly loyal and will obey the orders of their chosen person with complete disregard for themselves.

A well-socialized Croatian Sheepdog can make a great family pet and will get along well with family members of all ages, including other pets. They can be a bit reserved with strangers. Their suspicion of outsiders and their tendency to bark makes them excellent watchdogs.

If you looking for an incredibly active, level-headed companion with a distinct, curly black weatherproof coat and remarkable intelligence, the Croatian Sheepdog may be the breed for you. Keep up with their energy and activity needs and you’ll have a docile, loving household pet.

See also: 

Featured Image Credit: Damir Kutlesa, Shutterstock

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