The Berger Picard is an extremely intelligent breed. They were bred to be courageous, think for themselves and if need be take charge. At the same time however, they had to be perceptive to the often defenseless and easily frightened nature of those in their care. In training, this translates as a breed that can be stubborn and belligerent, yet at the same time, of being deeply sensitive. They must be trained by a good leader who understands the fine balance between being firm and fair, while at the same time being both kind and understanding. The French call this: ‘An iron fist in a velvet glove’.
Training should begin as early as possible, using only positive reinforcement. Praise your puppy for anything it does correctly, whether it is waiting patiently to go outside or pottying in the same place each time.
It should be noted that the sensitive, perceptive part of a Picard lends them to submissive or excited urination.
Be very careful with corrections. If too harsh and/or inconsistent in training, the Picard will shut down. Their feelings get hurt and you will know it! On the other hand, letting the Picard get away with naughty behavior will create a brat. It is recommended that if the owner is not experienced with dogs and training using positive reinforcement, that they find, prior to getting a Picard, an experienced trainer for help and guidance who is. If you have trained dogs before, remember Picards are not like any other breed.
Picards are natural problem solvers so they do not enjoy tireless repetition like some breeds do. Keep the training sessions short. Once the Picard learns the behavior, reinforce a couple of times and then move on. Always quit training while your Picard is still having fun, so it wants more the next time. Picards are happiest if they have a job to do. If you don’t provide him with one, he will find one like digging holes in your yard or chasing cars.
It is important to understand what motivates your Picard in order to avoid frustration for both the Picard and the trainer. The Picard is not always food motivated. If this is the case, the natural prey drive to build toy drive can be used as a training tool; examples of this are tug of war and fetch. This also builds confidence in a puppy.
It should be noted if consistently high scores in obedience are desired the Picard is not the best breed choice.
Here is a translated quote from a book in German that best expresses the essence of the Picard’s training temperament:
“The Picard’s ‘rough’ outer appearance hides a sensitive soul. With supportive and positive training methods, and patience and encouragement, the Picard is a great partner for all kinds of dog sports, but one can not expect the automated obedience of other working breeds. If one treats him too harshly, he reacts with stubbornness. Very often it seems that he wants to know WHY he has to do something instead of just following orders.
The Picard is very close to his humans, who are the center of his universe. To please them is the Picard’s goal, and often he appreciates praise more than treats. If you can accept the Picard the way he is, steady, but not always perfect in performance, somewhat stubborn, often a big dreamer, but always a faithful heart, you will find him to be the perfect companion and trustworthy friend, and it is a great pleasure to hike or bike through nature with a Picard by your side.”
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