Other names: Berger des Pyrenees, Pastor de los Pirineos, Petit Berger, Pyrenean Shepherd
The Pyrenean Shepherd is an endearing, faithful, very intelligent and active herding dog. He is not intended for owners leading a sedentary life, and requires heaps of exercise and activities to remain content. Not the most docile at times, especially if he does not perceive much intentionality in the orders he gets, this dog needs a firm, fair, and coherent training to fulfil his full potential.
Key facts about the Pyrenean Sheepdog
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Origins and history
These are very old dogs, the oldest, in fact, among all the french Shepherds, but their origins are not known in detail. General theory proposes that their origins and history are the same as all the other European Shepherd- that is, that they are descendants of Asian breeds. It is only in the twenties that the first official standard of the breed was established. This was no easy feat since types vary widely from one valley to the next: the constitution or coat could differ significantly, only the personality remained a stable vector. Ever since, many modifications have been introduced to narrow down and stabilise the standard.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 1 - Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Cattledogs)
Section 1 : Sheepdogs
Physical characteristics of the Pyrenean Sheepdog
Female : Between 16 and 20 in
Male : Between 16 and 21 in
Female : Between 18 and 22 lb
Male : Between 18 and 22 lb
The coat can be a solid colour: every shade of grey and fawn, or black.
For the black Pyrenean dogs, considerable patching is authorised, whereas in the case of other colours, the patching must be limited.
There also exists some cases of harlequin (variegated blue-black) as well as brindle colouring.
Despite a certain consumer interest in the white Pyrenean Shepherd, white coats are not admitted by official standards, and considered a shortcoming.
Type of coat
The coat is long or medium-long.
Quite luscious, the hair is smooth or slightly wavy in the long-haired variety. Official standards stipulate that the coat texture waver between goat hair and sheep wool.
This mix between coarse and wooly hair may entail some strands or cords, they look like little braids. They are usually to be found on the croup, chest, around the elbows and thighs.
In the rough-faced variety, the head is covered in short and thin hair, hence where its name comes from.
The eyes are dark brown.
Pyrenean Shepherds may be small dogs, but they are definitely full of energy. His alert appearance, clever and cautious expression, and his vivid way of carrying himself, make this dog very distinct. The head, in its overall shape, resembles that of a brown bear’s. The skull is averagely developed, almost flat, harmoniously round at the sides. The stop is very modest. The most known and widespread variety by far is the smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherd: his standard begs to remind us that he is ‘unlike any other’. The muzzle is straight, rather short, slightly conical. The ears are large at the base and their extremities are usually amputated. The rough-faced Pyrenean Shepherd has a slightly longer muzzle than the smooth-faced variety. The torso is robust. The limbs are straight. The tail remains quite short.
Good to know
During the first world war, Pyrenean Shepherds were used by the army as liaison dogs because of their resourcefulness, adaptability and big intelligence.
The Pyr Shep, as is also commonly referred to, is a dog full of energy that is difficult to channel at times. Still, when it remains at rest, he is a good companion dog who brings joy to both the little and big ones alike, not least because of his more-than-endearing pretty face.
Enthusiastic and very lively, this sheepdog is a great playmate, especially to children.
Tranquility is not part of the Pyr Shep’s vocabulary. He is a very lively and active dog who requires plenty of exercise in order not to become a burden in day-to-day life.
Particularly clever, this little dog is not the last one in line to come up with tricks and strategies in order to get out of a predicament he’s not comfortable with. He is actually excellent in his specialisation as sheepdog and has just as much work potential as his bigger fellows in the same category.
Chasing clearly isn’t this sheepdog’s activity of choice. He nevertheless does possess a certain predatory instinct, which can actually also be sharpened, through games such as throwing ball.
Fearful / wary of strangers
As is the case of many dogs in this breed category, the Pyrenean Shepherd is often wary of strangers. He does not trust quickly, and can even show signs of aggressivity if he hasn’t been properly socialised from a young age.
Of course, the very wary or aggressive individuals are excluded from the official standards as they constitute a highly deficient sample. But unfortunately, many owners do not approach socialisation diligently enough and render their dogs socially unstable.
At its core, the Pyrenean Shepherd is a sheepdog capable of initiative. He did, in fact, back in the days, work far away from his master, in the high pastures for instance. His functioning does include some propensity to initiative but he nevertheless remains, nowadays, a dog completely devoted to his master.
Behaviour of the Pyrenean Sheepdog
If he has had plenty of exercise ahead of time, and has been gradually and positively conditioned to staying alone, the Pyrenean Shepherd, is quite tolerant towards his owners’ absences. But be careful, these should nevertheless never be extended.
Boredom is this work dog’s biggest enemy, as he needs to be constantly stimulated in order to be fully content. Therefore, when he is alone, he needs to have access to toys that will keep him busy and distract him from the time going by.
Easy to train / obedience
Both stubborn and sensitive at the same time, the Pyr Shep is not the most docile of sheepdogs. His size and scoundrel-like appearance often (unfortunately) get him a free pass in certain situations in which it absolutely shouldn’t be the case.
Owners that are too permissive or lenient will procure themselves a little demon dog who will always get his way. His owners must in fact demonstrate strictness coupled with gentleness for best results.
Luckily, this is still an incredible sheepdog who- with a precocious, firm, coherent and steady education- will love to obey and please his master.
As soon as the Pyrenean Shepherd pup integrates the home, certain rules of conduct must be implemented to avoid bad habits from developing.
Last but not least, the training process will be greatly enriched by meeting the dog’s various expenditure needs. If his energy is not channeled, it is futile to hope for a functioning cooperation with this little sheepdog.
The Pyrenean Shepherd has a tendency to bark quite often and this can actually become tiresome, unless his energy has been properly channeled ahead of time. With a firm, respectful training process and a fulfilment of this dog’s expenditure needs, the barking will not become as excessive and can be reined in.
Tendency to run away
As is the case of many highly active dogs, the lack of outdoor walks- beyond the confines of the garden- can push this dog towards solo escapades. In short, boredom and lack of sufficient external stimulation are the main reasons for which the dog might take off.
Exceptionally lively and always in need of an activity, this dog can prove to be destructive if his needs are not met, as he will quite simply need to utilise his excess energy in some way.
Greedy / Gluttony
Quite the eater, one must be particularly vigilant in regards to the Pyrenean Shepherd’s nutrition, in order to mitigate excessive weight gain, which would only serve to burden this otherwise healthy, active dog.
Courage and vigilance make this Pyrenees-native dog quite a good watchdog, but he still might not be dissuasive enough given his size.
Novice owners can adopt a Pyrenean Shepherd, but only if they have first taken the time to understand how time-consuming this little ball of energy will be in order to be molded into a pleasant companion dog.
Owners that are too lenient and permissive will not be able to channel and discipline this highly active dog. Cohabitation will then become very complicated.
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Pyrenean Sheepdog in a flat
More of a country boy than a cosmopolitan, the Pyrenean Shepherd remains nevertheless adaptable. Having said that, he does not enjoy being enclosed and alone, be it inside or outside.
Actually, whether residing in a flat or house with a garden, what is instrumental is to be available enough to provide him with long outdoor walks.
Even if he lives in a house with an illimited access to exteriors, this should never be an excuse to restrict or abandon his daily walks.
In a flat, he could be prone- due to frustration or boredom- to barking and mischief, which will neither be to the liking of the owners, nor the neighbours...
Need for exercise / Sporty
This work dog needs for physical exercise and mental stimulation is considerable. Practicing canine sports is highly recommended.
For this highly intelligent dog, there is a multitude of activities to choose from: herdsmanship, treibball, tracking, agility, dog dance, obedience, flyball, etc.
Travelling / easy to transport
The dog’s small size facilitates transport, but be careful: his weight exceeds that of dogs authorised to travel in travel bags (on the train, bus, etc.) or onboard (in the plane).
In fact, it will have to be bound and muzzled in public transportation, like all dogs of the same size. With regards to air travel, he will have to travel in the hold (in a transport crate adapted to IATA norms).
In the car, a corresponding transport crate will have to be provided, having had habituated the dog in a positive manner to it beforehand. If he is conditioned to travel by car from his youngest age, and if he tolerates travel well and calmly during trips, the Pyr Shep will also be able to travel in the boot unbound (with a mesh divider) or in the back seat, attached to the seat belt.
Pyrenean Sheepdog and cats
This dog will have to undergo a precocious and comprehensive socialisation in order to get along with other animals.
Moreover, a good relationship will be favoured by an early-onset cohabitation with the Pyr Shep pup.
Pyrenean Sheepdog and dogs
Preferably taking place before he turns three, and in a constant manner, the socialisation of this sheepdog will have to be comprehensive, with regular, supervised encounters (choosing adult, docile dog-mates is recommended).
This work consists in developing, reinforcing and maintaining the dog’s ‘canine code of conduct’, which will in turn allow him to communicate seamlessly with his fellow pooches.
Pyrenean Sheepdog and children
People make the mistake of deeming hyperactive dogs as unsuitable for children and family life. And yet, for this little sheepdog, the presence of children poses no problem whatsoever, as long as the interactions are respectful and guided by adults.
Despite this dog’s remarkable tenderness towards children, certain rules of conduct will have to be established, most importantly in order to teach the children to leave the dog when he’s in his basket, not to feed him at the table, and not to play with him without their parents’ permission etc.
Pyrenean Sheepdog and the elderly
As this is an extremely dynamic dog, he needs plenty of exercise. It is thus not a suitable breed for elderly or sedentary-minded people.
The price of a Pyrenean Shepherd varies depending on its origins, age, gender, and also the variety (rough or smooth-faced). You have to count an average of £785.
With regards to the monthly budget required, the cost to meet this little sheepdog’s needs is estimated between £20 to £30.
His coat being the long or medium-long variety- sometimes even shorter (but never short)- the maintenance of the Pyrenean Shepherd is not as complicated as it may initially seem.
Nevertheless, despite its simplicity, it needs to be regular. One brush per week minimum will allow you to maintain the aesthetic and protective qualities of his coat.
No additional grooming is needed as this dog has self-cleaning hair.
His ears will have to be checked and cleaned on a regular basis to avoid parasites from settling in.
Hair loss is moderate throughout the year but quite significant during moulting seasons, autumn and spring. During the latter, brushes will need to be daily.
Nutrition of the Pyrenean Sheepdog
Being a huge glutton, this dog’s nutrition needs to be monitored closely. Daily rations will have to be adapted to his physical shape, his daily activities, his age and his health. Veterinary supervision is advised during the pup’s entire period of growth.
A meal a day, preferably in the evenings, is enough for this dog. You have to avoid giving him snacks in between meals, save for a few award-snacks to reinforce his good behaviours.
Self-service is to be barred completely, in order to avoid any risk of gastric torsion in this active dog, and excessive weight gain- as he will surely not be able to restrict himself.
Kibbles may be the food of choice but they will have to be premium quality. If his owners have good knowledge of canine nutrition (and with the help of a veterinary), homemade meals may also be an option.
Health of the Pyrenean Sheepdog
His life expectancy is estimated at 14 years.
Strong / robust
This is a robust dog: if he is raised correctly and nourished well, he almost never falls ill. This dog is actually part of the breeds that have the longest life expectancy.
You will have to hamper any intense physical stimulation for this dog in times of heavy heat. His resolve may make him tireless even in the most unsuitable weather conditions.
Very rustic indeed, this dog can live both inside and outside without a problem. He is very robust and can be resistant to challenging weather (cold and humidity), within reason of course.
Tendency to put on weight
You must be careful not to overfeed this little, dynamic dog, and to make sure he gets plenty of physical exercise in order to avoid excessive weight gain.
This particularly robust breed has little propensity towards medical conditions, save for a few skin issues such as demodicosis or hotspots.