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The Short-Hair Dutch Shepherd: From The Conformation Ring…to The Field

Short-hair Dutch Shepherd

The Short-Hair Dutch Shepherd | From the Conformation Ring … To the Field

The Dutch Shepherd (DS) is a powerful, well-muscled dog of medium build. They are alert, intelligent, and ready to work. Although similar in body style to the Belgian Shepherds, DS are a unique and distinct breed. The weight of the DS ranges from 42-75 lbs., with a height of 21.5–24.5 inches and a build that is (10:9) proportionally longer than tall. Their lifespan is, on average, 11-14 years.

Dutch Shepherds are shown currently in Conformation in the Miscellaneous Class; once this breed moves to full recognition, they will be in the Herding Group. With their muscular build and striking brindle coat, they show beautifully in the Conformation ring. They have a smooth, effortless trot with a proud, attentive expression.

Coat color can be gold brindle or silver brindle. Fawn or blonde coat color is considered a fault, and dogs of this color, who lack the striking brindle coat, are not recommended for breeding.

The DS is one breed with three varieties based on coat type: short-hair (SH), long-hair (LH) and rough-hair (RH). Approximate global populations for each variety are 10,000 (SH), 1,500 (LH), and 500 (RH). The SH DS has a double coat with a wooly undercoat. There are some differences in disposition based on coat type, with the SH having, in general, more drive and requiring more exercise than the other two coat varieties.

In addition to Conformation, Dutch Shepherds participate in competition Obedience, Scent Work, Barn Hunt, Agility, Dock Diving, Tracking, and protection work sports such as IGP (previously Schutzhund), which combines tracking, obedience, and protection as well as other protection sports. Their strength, speed, and physical ability allows them to excel at the highest levels in competitive sports. For those interested in training and competing in any of these sports, the DS is an excellent choice for a dog.

Photo courtesy of Nederlandse Herdershonden Club 1926

Their high energy level, along with their drive, biddability, and intelligence, makes them a favorite for not only dog sports but also for use as working dogs in areas such as search and rescue (SAR), police, and military work.

In the military, they are used for detection, law enforcement and patrol, and also to support civilian law enforcement. Reliable and obedient, these dogs have an intense desire to please their handler with whom they develop a strong bond. When coupled with bravery and fearlessness, this results in a dog that is an extremely valuable military asset.

A DS is slightly smaller in size than a German Shepherd Dog, and this is, at times, preferred as they can maneuver more easily in tight spaces and be more easily carried for transport. To honor the four-legged heroes of the nation’s military, the DS is one of the breeds that is featured by the USPS military working dogs forever stamps, which became available in 2019.

Despite being a rare breed, DS are relatively frequently used for SAR. These dogs can be trained for wilderness or urban searches and can also be used as avalanche dogs. Their size, perseverance, willingness to continue working in the face of adversity, and unparalleled handler responsiveness makes the DS a great choice for this job. A confident and independent dog is required in SAR as dogs need to be able to search away from, and often out of sight of, their handler and return to alert the handler when a target odor is located.

Having a lower incidence of genetic issues than many of the more common breeds, along with sound conformation, leads to lower wash out and injury rates. This is important, as it can take 1.5-2 years for many working dogs to reach operational status.

Dutch Shepherds are wonderful family dogs and are in general naturally protective toward their home. They require a firm but fair leader who can provide a good amount of daily exercise, both physical and mental.

Mental puzzles, including scent work games and food puzzles such as slow food dispensers, can be used to keep their mind occupied. Although activity requirements can vary, on average, a SH DS will require an hour or more of physical exercise daily to keep them happy in the home. Training a DS is rewarding, as these dogs are intelligent and learn easily when communication is clear. They are very handler-focused and will look to their boss for direction.

The Dutch Shepherd originated in the Netherlands, where farmers, needing a versatile dog, used them as a sheepherding dog. The initial breed club was formed in 1898 and ultimately became the parent club, The Nederlandse Herdershonden Club. This club wrote the Breed Standard, describing a sturdy dog that can travel long distances in rough terrain, with the ability to work closely with a handler, other dogs, and livestock. During WWII, the DS population shrank dramatically, but it has rebounded since then.

The appearance of the DS has not changed much in the last 100 years. Historical photographs from the early 1900s show the DS of that time to look remarkably similar to the DS of today.

Although the DS has been an FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) recognized breed since the early 1900s, they are not yet fully recognized by the AKC in the United States. In the US, they are currently recognized as a Foundation Stock Services (FSS) breed by the AKC. The American Dutch Shepherd Association (ADSA), the AKC recognized breed club, is working toward full recognition for the DS.

DS have few health issues and are, overall, a healthy breed. The ADSA encourages breeders to participate in the CHIC program and they partner with the OFA to establish the minimum protocol for health screenings, which includes X-rays of hips and elbows, and an ACVO eye exam.

As our membership continues to grow and the population of the versatile DS increases, we invite you to join us. For more information, visit the club’s website at:

Look for DS at Open Shows, in the Miscellaneous Class at All-Breed Shows, and at dog sporting events and competitions.