At least two of the four new breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club recently seem family-friendly. And the other two might work in a pinch.
The four breeds are the Spanish Water Dog, Cirneco dell’Etna, Bergamasco and Boerboel. They have been given full AKC recognition and were OK’d to begin participation in AKC events Jan. 1. (They won’t be in the Westminster Kennel Club Show in February; registration for that is already closed.)
The move increases the AKC roster to 184 dogs, nearly half the 400 breeds in the world.
AKC Vice President Gina DiNardo discussed all four of the breeds via email, looking at which are most family-friendly.
She pointed out that the Bergamasco is patient and loves children. “The breed is naturally protective of its family, having originated as a guardian of sheep, and likes to stick close to its people,” she said.
They also love the outdoors, so if you’re considering this breed, a big yard with room to run is a plus.
“The Cirneco dell’Etna is friendly and affectionate with its family. This breed is very intelligent and inquisitive, needing a family that will be able to provide lots of mental stimulation,” she said.
The Spanish Water Dog and the Boerboel may be a little more problematic.
The Spanish Water Dog is a high-energy breed that does well with an active family, but because they have strong herding instincts they may not be suited for a family with young kids, who will find themselves being herded. The breed also tends to attach itself to one family member.
The Boerboel is a large beast that needs daily exercise, DiNardo said. They bond with their families, but are not ideal. “They are not for the first-time dog owner, may not be suitable for families with small children and should only be owned by an experienced dog-owning family that can provide proper training and socialization.”
Although all four breeds are new to the American Kennel Club, they’ve been around.
“All these breeds originate in other countries, and they’ve probably been around for decades, if not centuries. So they’re well-established, historical breeds,” says AKC spokeswoman Lisa Peterson. “They’re just new to the United States.”
Getting a breed recognized is a deliberate process. Peterson says it depends on owners and breeders of a particular breed, and how passionate they are to join AKC events and the group’s registry.
“Each has a breed club, and on the road to recognition we request a large geographic distribution (of dogs), a large number of dogs, these sort of things. Once they establish that criteria they come into the miscellaneous group, and after a year they bump up to full recognition.”
The number of dogs is the key. If there are only three dogs of a given breed in the United States, it doesn’t make for a particularly interesting competition at shows. Peterson didn’t have exact figures, but she estimated there are a few hundred to a few thousand of each of the new breeds in the U.S.
So what do these new AKC members have to offer? Here’s a summary:
Spanish Water Dog
A member of the herding group, the Spanish Water Dog is a medium-size animal — 16- to 20 inches in height, 30 to 50 pounds — with a distinctive curly coat. According to the AKC, it originally was bred as a multi-purpose farm dog and used for herding, hunting and assisting fishermen. That herding instinct makes it very protective of its home and people. It is intelligent, hard-working and high-energy. For more information on the breed, visit swdclub.org.
Originally from Italy, the Cirneco is a member of the hound group. This dog is a hunter, working by scent, sight and hearing, and can handle difficult terrain. According to the Cirneco dell’Etna Club of America (cirneco.com), the breed is strong-willed and alert and is an excellent companion, independent, yet gentle and affectionate. With a slender build, it stands 17 to 20 inches in height with a weight that ranges from 18 to 26 pounds.
The shaggiest-looking member of the Class of ‘15, new to the herding group, is the Bergamasco, also coming out of Italy. Its coat is made up of long mats, but the breed needs little grooming. Originally bred to guard livestock, the Bergamasco is athletic and makes a good companion. Typically, it stands 21 to 24 inches and weighs 57 to 84 pounds. Find more details at bergamascousa.com.
Originally from South Africa, the Boerboel is a triple threat: farm dog, guardian, companion. A member of the working group, it’s a large Mastiff-type breed (23 to 27 inches in height, 110 to 120 pounds) with a short, dense coat. The breed’s AKC efforts were championed by the American Boerboel Club (americanboerboelclub.com).
The addition of the four breeds benefits not just them, but dog lovers as well, Peterson says.
“Every purebred can fit a specific lifestyle of someone looking for a dog,” she says. “And now people have four more to research to determine if it’s your cup of tea. That’s a good thing. Some (breeds) have a small population, so it’s good to have more interest, and maybe a few more people will embrace them, from owning to showing to breeding. So both the public and the breed benefit.”