“I don’t want to get a Border Collie because everyone has them” – that’s the most common answer I get when I ask people who are thinking of getting a Croatian shepherd why they want one. I don’t think this is a good reason to buy any dog, so as you can imagine I get quite annoyed by that answer. Especially after I hear that they actually expect that dog to behave like a Border Collie. But still I probably wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t gotten to know Kiša. A dog that had sooo much trouble finding the right owner, when in fact she is a dog I can only describe with superlatives. I really couldn’t understand this at first, but then I realized it is all about expectations.
People nowadays expect lots of things from their dogs even as they are totally unwilling to understand that dogs have some expectations as well, and that those expectations can be completely different, based on the breed the dog belongs to.
For me it is quite logical – if any dog would feel just fine in any situation and would perform the same tasks equally well, then there would be no reason to create 400 different breeds, don’t you think?
So what can you expect from your Croatian shepherd/Mudi? And even more importantly – what is he going to expect from you?
Your Croatian shepherd/Mudi was bred to work. Not only for one specific task. He was bred to be his master’s right hand.
His job was to guide and protect his stock (no matter what kind of stock – cattle, sheep, even pigs). He had to guard his property so no intruders come unannounced. He had to keep the barn free from mice and rats, and if there was a need, he was supposed to help his master hunt. I hope now you can imagine why your Croatian shepherd/Mudi will expect you to have a job for him to do. And if you don’t have one, he will find one himself. But I am quite sure you won’t like it. They can be quite innovative, so you just might have a new house decorator, he might collect all your visitors in the same room and prevent the “stock” from leaving, and he can also become your personal bodyguard – defending you from everything that moves.
Your Croatian shepherd/Mudi was bred to be his master’s right arm, so he will expect you to behave like his master. He needs to know you are the one in charge; you are the one who is there to tell him there is a job to be done and you two are there to do it. You are the one who will solve problems and save him from trouble. You are the one who he can depend on, and you are the one who never forgets to tell him what a great friend he is, and that your life is much easier since you have such a great team. If you fail to be the kind of master he expects you to be, he will decide to work on his own, and I hope I don’t need to say that it doesn’t end well…
They are LOUD and they will BARK a lot.
In my experience there is practically no other breed that barks that much. You cannot expect from them to be quiet all day long. I am not saying that you must let him bark all day long (I don’t, I live in a rented apartment with 3 barkers and so far I haven’t been kicked out yet;), BUT if you are allergic to barking, if you hate it if your dog barks while working, if you don’t want him to let you know when someone is coming, and if you enjoy quiet, peaceful walks, a Croatian shepherd/Mudi is NOT A DOG FOR YOU, no matter how trivial that sounds.
They are not a unique version of a Border Collie.
In fact, they are much more similar to a terrier than a Border Collie. There is a great chance you will need much more time and patience to teach your Croatian shepherd/Mudi something. They get SOOOO excited so easily that it becomes quite difficult for them to think. Or if I borrow words from a friend and Kiša’s breeder Tanja Janeš: “they bark so much that they can’t hear their own thoughts.” While most BCs are great in distance work, most Croatian shepherds/Mudis will hate being more than a meter away from you. So before you consider getting one, try to imagine yourself on a course, trying to get your dog to jump over an obstacle, while he jumps around you, possibly grabs your clothes or hands, and barks with the full force of both lungs. If you get agitated just by imagining this – well, most likely that is what your first training sessions are going to look like.
Unlike most BCs, they are not automatically friendly towards other dogs and people. It is not uncommon for them to dislike strangers, and for sure they are not always friendly with other dogs. While some of them can be quite soft and shy, there are also dogs that are quite dominant and strong. And they NEED to be taught what kind of behavior will not be tolerated. BUT if you need a family dog that will jump gladly into anyone’s lap or if you need a dog only to be a playmate to your other dogs– a Croatian shepherd/Mudi is not a dog for you.
So – they need to work, they bark, they are not too satisfied with the company of other people and dogs, and they have enough energy to work all day. They expect you to have time and energy for them. Please think carefully whether you have both.
And please keep in mind – a Croatian shepherd/Mudi is not a dog you get because you don’t want to get some other breed. It is a dog you get because you can’t imagine getting any dog BUT this one.
I confess. I am an addict. I just love their endless energy, their enthusiasm and huge will to cooperate. I can’t even remember anymore how quiet life can be, but I don’t miss it for a second. They are everything I expect from a dog, and I hope I am everything Šja, Šaj and Kiša expect from me. Yes, they make me nervous sometimes, and they make me tired every day, but I can’t imagine my life without them anymore. Can you imagine living with them?