(aka: Berger des Pyrenees, Petit Berger, Pyrenees Sheepdog)
[Nickname: Pyr Shep]
Pyrenean Shepherd Description
The Pyrenean Shepherd is the smallest of the French herding dogs. The breed comes in two varieties: Rough-faced and smooth-Faced. Rough-faced males are 15 ½ (39 cm) to 18 ½ (47 cm) inches at the withers, and rough-faced females are 15 (38 cm) to 18 (46 cm) inches. Smooth-faced males are 15 ½ (39 cm) to 21 (53 cm) inches at the withers, and smooth-faced females are 15 ½ (39 cm) to 20 ½ (52 cm) inches at the withers. The weight is between 15-32 lbs (7-15 kg), aiming for lithe and muscular, never fat.
The head is of small proportions in comparison to the dog, with a rather flat skull, and a somewhat short, triangular muzzle. The face is expressive and intelligent, with dark eyes, except in the case of merles or slate grey coat color. Traditionally the dog's ears are cropped. If natural, the Pyrenean Shepherd should have semi-prick or rose ears. Naturally prick ears are not correct for the breed, and may indicate an outcross.
The body is long and lean, and should reflect the natural energetic athleticism of the dog. The legs are well proportioned, with lean, well-angulated, well-let-down hocks typical of a sure-footed mountain breed. The tail can be docked short, a natural bob-tail, or naturally long with a crook in the end, so long as its carried below the topline at rest and in motion.
The Pyrenean Shepherd was designed to be a sheepdog, and as such is full of the same sort of energy that other herding dogs have, but in a surprisingly small package. This adaptive dog wants to, and can, do all the jobs on the field, and is a natural herder. A dog that needs a job, its cleverness makes it ideal for other work and dog sports such as flyball, competitive obedience and agility. This dog is good with children that they were brought up with. They have a sense of protector over the children.
Pyr Sheps are "one-man" dogs, attached and dedicated to their owners, with a desire to follow them around the house to help with daily chores. They sense every mood and often seem to be able to read their masters' minds, as they are constantly watchful. Because of this, they are extremely trainable.
Their natural wariness, while valuable in a herding dog that may need to alert their shepherd of strange animals or people, combined with their herding bossiness, can lead to shyness or aggression in even the most friendly puppy if not properly managed. Frequent socialization from a very young age can help counter this trait.
The smooth faced variety requires little grooming and has an average shedding coat. The rough faced variety should be combed or brushed 1-2 times a week. It doesn’t shed hair onto furniture but hair will come out when it is being groomed. Sometimes, if a rough coat is not brushed, it will start to cord in the rear but will mat very badly behind the ears, elbows, and belly. Also, snowballs tend to get stuck on the long hair on the belly and legs, and also in between the toes which can cause pain. Booties can be worn to prevent this, and hair between the pads should be kept short.
After the first World War, the Pyrenean gained national recognition in France for their valiant work as couriers, search and rescue dogs, watch dogs, and company mascots.
The smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherd in its harlequin or blue merle coloration may have been one of the foundation breeds for the Australian Shepherd when sheep herders brought their sheepdogs to the American West when they flew to the United States as contract herders for the Western Range Association in the 1940s until the early 1970s.
It is not yet a well-known breed outside of its native France, but its size, intelligence, and attractive coat make it appealing. After one of its breed won the World Agility Championship for mid-sized dogs in 2003, it gained more attention as an intelligent performance dog for dog sports.
The Pyrenean Shepherd is sensitive and independent, yet eager to please. Early and ongoing socialization and obedience is a must. They do not respond to harsh or heavy-handed methods. Training should be done with firmness, fairness, patience, and consistency.
Mental stimulation for the Pyrenean Shepherd is just as important as physical stimulation. Pyres need to learn new things. They tend to learn new tricks very quickly, especially as puppies. Basic obedience training is useful and a solid recall needs to be drilled from puppy hood. Pyres enjoy sports such as agility, rally, and herding, and they are very good at them as well.
Overall, Pyrenean Shepherd's are quite healthy, and though they are not very common, the primary things to watch out for are hip dysplasia, patella luxation, PRA, and epilepsy.