The American Kennel Club just opened its doors to three new dog breeds. A mini shepherd from California, an Italian truffle-hunter and a shaggy French movie star sheepdog all made the club's roster.

The miniature American shepherd, the lagotto Romagnolo and the berger Picard are eligible to compete in the AKC's shows beginning July 1.

Lagotto Romagnolo

Lagotto Romagnolo puppyThis wooly looking dog with a dense curly coat is an Italian sporting dog. It was originally bred to hunt waterfowl but since the 19th century, its new job has been to hunt truffles. According to the AKC, it's the only purebred dog in the world recognized as a specialized truffle searcher.

The AKC says the breed is keen, affectionate and undemanding but needs lots of mental and physical stimulation to be happy. The breed has a double coat of curly hair and doesn't shed.

Lagotto Romagnolo — pronounced lah-GAHT-toh roh-mahn-YOH-loh — means lake dog from Romagna, a region in Italy.

Says the AKC: "They are easily trained, enjoy their owners, love to take long walks, and basically are very agreeable."

three Berger picard dogs

Photo: Berger Picard Club of America

Berger Picard

Because of Winn-Dixie movie posterThis shaggy, medium-sized herding dog hails from France where it is thought to be the oldest of the French sheepdogs. The breed was nearly killed off during the world wars and still is relatively rare. Berger is French for shepherd and Picard is the region of France where the dogs are originally from.

If the energetic dog looks familiar, it's because it was the four-legged star of the 2005 film "Because of Winn-Dixie."

According to the AKC, the berger Picard — pronounced bare-ZHAY pee-CARR — is good-natured, loyal and observant with lots of energy and drive. Fans of the breed insist it can smile.

The Berger Picard Club of America has this amusing observation:

At times, Picards may have an opinion and will freely share it with you. Either you have been gone from the house too long, the neighbor is making a lot of dreadful noise or they don’t like the looks of the new dog that just came into the dog park, a Picard will let you know what he is thinking. This trait can be wonderfully refreshing or quite tedious.
miniature American shepherd

Photo: Mike K/flickr

Miniature American shepherd

This small herding dog was developed in California during the late 1960s, bred from small, unregistered dogs that were likely Australian shepherds. At one point they were known as miniature Australian shepherds and North American shepherds.

The goal was to keep the dog's small size, active nature and intelligence, as they were used for herding small livestock, such as sheep and goats. They became popular with equestrians who took them to horse shows but they also were lauded as great household pets.

The AKC says the breed is good-natured, devoted and intelligent. Like all herding dogs and shepherds, they need daily exercise. Though they like outdoorsy activities, they'll become couch potatoes at the end of the day.

Says the Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA of this breed:

This highly versatile, energetic dog makes an excellent athlete with superior intelligence and a willingness to please those to whom he is devoted. He is both a loyal companion and a biddable worker, which is evident in his watchful expression.
The AKC currently registers 187 breeds, but there are about 400 breeds listed with registry organizations in other countries. The AKC doesn't register breeds if there are too few of the dogs in the U.S. or if there is not enough interest among owners to gain registered status.

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Photos:

Lagotto Romagnolo: Teemu Mäntynen/flickr

Movie poster: Wikipedia

Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo writes about everything from health to parenting — and anything that helps explain why her dog does what he does.