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Karst Shepherd Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on July 5, 2024 by Dogster Team

Karst Shepherd Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More

The Karst Shepherd is an unusual breed that is rarely spotted in the United States. This breed originated in Slovenia and has been around for hundreds of years. Until the 1960s, they were grouped with the Sarplaninac as one breed. These dogs are excellent working dogs that require firm boundaries and steady training if kept as a pet.

Breed Overview


21.25 – 25 inches


58 – 88 pounds


11 – 12 years


Iron grey body with light grey or sandy color on the belly and legs, dark streaks on the front of the legs, and a black mask from muzzle to skull

Suitable for:

Large yards, livestock work, active families and singles, experienced dog owners


Loyal, reliable, independent, dominant, courageous, distrusting of strangers

One reason that this breed is not routinely seen in the US is because it is not an AKC accepted breed. However, these dogs are an accepted breed in the UKC and the International Canine Federation. They are an old, well-established breed that is still kept to this day as a working livestock and guard dog in Slovenia and other areas. They are still considered the national dog of Slovenia.

Karst Shepherd Characteristics

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.


Karst Shepherd Puppies

Karst Shepherd puppy
Image Credit: Vesna Kriznar, Shutterstock

Currently, there aren’t registered Karst Shepherds breeders in the US. This means you will likely have to pay import fees and taxes, as well as health screening and quarantine fees to bring a puppy home. Due to their rarity and the protections surrounding the breed and its breeding program, you may have difficulty finding a puppy.

If you are able to find one, know that Karst Shepherds are very loyal dogs that will be by your side. They’re also independent and might not be so trustworthy around strangers. Early socialization and training your puppy will be essential so they grow into happy and confident dogs.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Karst Shepherd

Are These Dogs Good for Families?

The Karst Shepherd is a loyal dog that is not known as a biter, making them a good option for homes with older children. However, when keeping this breed as a pet, it’s imperative that all members of the household understand the dog’s training regimen and how to stick to it. Homes with young children may have trouble keeping the whole family in compliance with the dog’s training.

Since this breed is known to be dominant, it’s important to maintain strict boundaries to keep the dog in its place in the pecking order of the family. To help a Karst Shepherd understand that it isn’t the dominant one in the household, they should not be allowed to be overly protective of toys or food and should not be allowed on furniture. Young children may have difficulty understanding the importance of these rules and allow the dog to get away with things they shouldn’t.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Since they are livestock-herding dogs at their core, Karst Shepherds may attempt to herd other pets in the household, which can lead to problems, especially with other dogs and cats. They are independent dogs, so they tend to do well without animal companionship. When it comes to small animals, like rodents and cats, precautions should be taken to avoid the dog injuring the animal, whether intentional or accidental. As always, slow and safe introductions are necessary to maintain safety and comfort for all animals in the home.

Due to their overall distrust of strangers, Karst Shepherds aren’t the type of dog that will do particularly well at dog parks and in social situations. While this distrust is usually aimed toward people, it may come out toward other animals as well if they feel their owner is at risk. With proper introductions, though, they may do well with other pets within the home.


Things to Know When Owning a Karst Shepherd:

Food & Diet Requirements

A high-quality food is necessary to maintain health and longevity for this breed. Since they can be prone to joint problems, a joint supplement or large breed dog food may be necessary. The amount of food they require will vary based on the size of the dog and the level of activity it has in a day. A working dog will have a much higher caloric need than a pet that goes for a walk once a day. Your veterinarian will help you determine what type and amount of food your dog needs.


Since they are bred to be working dogs, they have high exercise needs. This breed is not suitable for apartment living or low-activity households. They should be given outdoor time in a fenced yard every day, and they should be taken on a long walk or hike every day. Working dogs will usually burn their energy while working, so they will not typically require additional exercise. Pet dogs will become destructive, bored, and anxious without adequate exercise. When exercise isn’t possible, provide your dog with puzzles and games to help tire it out.


When it comes to an independent breed like this one, proper training is key. This breed is not appropriate for a first-time dog owner or anyone who is not familiar with training techniques. Karst Shepherds will basically train themselves based on instinct when it comes to livestock guarding, herding, or protection work. However, they will need strict boundaries with daily training exercises when it comes to obedience and social skills. While balanced training is an effective tool, these dogs require a firm hand and should not be allowed to set their own rules.

Grooming ✂️

Although they have a long coat, they have not been bred to have high grooming needs. Brushing multiple times per week is necessary to maintain coat health, especially for working dogs and dogs that spend time outdoors and may get burrs and other things caught in their coat. Routine baths will help maintain coat and skin health, and attention should be paid to the coat on a daily basis to ensure it is healthy and no matting or tangling has occurred.

Health and Conditions

Minor Conditions
  • Arthritis
Serious Conditions

Male vs Female

Overall, there are few differences between male and female Karst Shepherds. Like most breeds, females tend to be less trusting of strangers and more fiercely protective of their owners. Males are usually more laid-back and friendly, although with this breed, they will still be wary of strangers and are bold enough to jump in a protect when they feel the need.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Karst Shepherd

1. They’re exceptionally healthy.

Since Karst Shepherds were purpose bred and not bred for a specific appearance, they tend to be extremely healthy dogs. They are not particularly prone to heart, lung, eye, kidney, or dental problems. In fact, the only notable health issues for the breed are the potential for joint problems.

2. There aren’t very many of them.

Current estimates put the number of Karst Shepherds in the world at around 600–800 dogs. In the 1980s, there were only 400 dogs registered with the UKC and FCI, and in the 1920s, there were fewer than 20. The breed is on a slow but notable incline, thanks to the development of breeding programs intended to preserve the breed and save it from extinction. Currently, there are no registered Karst Shepherd breeders in the US.

3. Inbreeding is a real risk.

Due to the low number of these dogs, there are concerns about inbreeding in the breeding program. One way this has been combatted is through the introduction of a single Great Pyrenees male into the breeding program. There are also strict rules surrounding how any litters a single male can sire and how distantly the parents must be related in order to breed within the program. Dogs with genetic conditions are rarely accepted into the breeding program due to the risk of passing on health problems.


Final Thoughts

Karst Shepherds are fantastic dogs that are loyal and perfect for performing jobs, especially livestock guarding and herding jobs. They are strong-willed dogs, though, and they will walk all over anyone who lets them, so firm training with a set regimen is of the utmost importance. They don’t live as long as many other breeds, usually only living to around 11–12 years and finding one can be quite the task due to their rarity.

A well-trained Karst Shepherd can be a fantastic pet or working dog, though. They require an experienced handler who understands the training needs and temperament of the breed. With proper training, though, a Karst Shepherd is a bold but loyal companion that is independent enough to stay home alone while you work, but active enough to join you for a long walk or hike after work.

Related Read: 

Featured Image Credit: Vesna Kriznar, Shutterstock

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