Is the Bergamasco the right breed?

Do you & your family have enough time to share with your Bergamasco family member?  Do you have the time to commit to training a puppy? 

Bergamascos need daily exercise and to be challenged mentally.  A Bergamasco is part of the family and will want to be with you.  They may always be underfoot.  This is not the dog to place in the backyard to occasionally play with.  They are house dogs and must be part of the family.  The family of a Bergamasco must have the time and energy to commit to companionship, grooming, training, socialization, and exercise both physical and mental. 

They are a herding dog and they need to have a job.  Bergamascos lived closely with their shepherds and flock.   They consider themselves equals with their family.  Bergamascos are independent thinkers.  They are very intelligent and have been making their own decisions in their natural environment.  The Bergamasco is obedient if and when they choose.  You must give them a good reason or motivation to perform a task.  They can be successful in many sports including obedience.  You must have patience and learn to work with your dog when training or they can shut down and nothing will be accomplished.  You cannot be a total push over or they will take full advantage.  Firm but gentle and consistent training works best.  Do not try to force or intimidate them into doing a task.  Mutual respect is required.  Discover what motivates them to work on your time.  Use positive reinforcement.  I have one that will sell his soul for even a stale biscuit.

Bergamascos do bark!  They bark to communicate and/or to warn you something is not right such as a stranger nearby, a falling leaf, UPS truck, school bus, etc.  They have protective instinct especially for their home. 

Are you physically capable of handling a Bergamasco?  Bergamascos are strong, medium-large, exuberant dogs. They can weigh 50-80 lbs. Training, handling, and grooming takes physical strength.  Good training helps make them easier to handle.  Grooming requires that you physically separate coat formation by hand and toenails need trimmed. 
Do you have the time and ability for grooming: bathing & drying, coat care, nail trims, debris removal?  The coat may be somewhat less time consuming than another long haired breed but still requires work grooming and regular maintenance after the flocks form.  Bergamascos can also form undesirable mats that need to be removed especially on the head region.    Bathing is not that difficult.  You would bathe the same as any other dog making sure the coat is completely rinsed.  The hard part is ringing out the flocks on a mature coat and drying.  The coat must be dried properly so it does not get a sour musty smell.  Just like leaving clothes in the wash machine overnight.  The coat does not naturally have an odor.  It is not considered fur but hair.  The hair in the ears can become matted and if not taken care of can become infected as well as between the pads and sanitary areas.  We train our dogs early on to get used to a grooming table.  We use several fans for drying and have a blast dryer to help make grooming easier.  

Can you live with hair and dirt?  The Bergamasco does not blow its coat like other breeds; however, they have a lot of hair and it breaks easily. You will find clumps of hair in the corners.  I call them tumbleweeds. When they drink, the beard drips. We have a slopper stopper bowl that helps. When they go outside, they bring the outside in.  They are like velcro or a reverse mop for the outdoors.   Don't forget the nose prints on the windows. Cleaning up will take a little more time.  
If you think none of these characteristics would be challenging for you and your family then this may be the breed for you.  Bergamascos are full of personality.  They are loyal and adore their families.  They bring such joy into your life. 


The most important thing you can do with your Bergamasco puppy is socialize!  Socialization means exposing your dog to many different situations so they are willing and able to cope with new things easily.  A breeder should start socializing puppies very early.  Ask what socialization activities the litter has been exposed to when you are considering a puppy.

Failure to socialize a puppy can allow their natural reserve to become fear.  A fearful puppy can become phobic or aggressive.   Exposure to as much as possible during the first year including training classes is extremely important.   They must be comfortable visiting friends, going out to parks and stores, riding in a vehicle, attending classes, walking down the sidewalk, playing at the beach, etc.  Any situation you want to have your Bergamasco in as an adult must be done as a puppy.  If you plan to groom your dog such as brushing, bathing, drying you must start this right away.   Do NOT put off socialization, believing you can do it later.  Later will be too late!

Socialization has to be completed both inside and outside of your home. Dogs have different reactions in new places then they would at their home. Everyone loves puppies!  Have people visit and take your puppy for visits and adventures.   Have friends and family play and take your puppy for walks without you.   Great places to visit with your puppy are ball games, farmer’s markets, farm stores, etc.   Have people interact with your puppy at these places. 

Socialization must be ongoing until at least 2 years of age and really throughout life.  Socialization can also help in controlling dominant behavior.  The Bergamasco will learn to look to his family for instruction in new places and respect their judgment.  


Your Bergamasco should attend early puppy classes, but don't stop there! Continue to take classes!  There are several sensitive growth phases for a dog, and your puppy should be out getting exposure during all of them.

Classes combine important socializing opportunities with training. While you can train your dog at home to sit, down, stay, and come, will they do it in new places with an audience? Will they know that in public, they have to trust your judgment? Will they accept other dogs in close quarters, without aggression or fear? Classes teach and expose you and your dog to all these conditions. Training in the home, even with a trainer, won't provide valuable experience and situations that a class can provide.

Look for classes that are reward based. Bergamascos work well with a combination of praise, rewards, and gentle corrections if needed. Your puppy may be clingy with you at first. This is normal and they will adapt with a little time. Bergamascos can be reserved with strangers.