Pyrenean Shepherds come in two coat types and in various colors. The rough-faced coat type consists of long or semi-long hair that is harsh and wavy or nearly flat. The smooth-faced coat type consists of fine, short hairs covering the muzzle with somewhat longer hair on the sides of the head. There is a minimal undercoat. Both varieties can range in color from copper to tan to fawn or in grays from charcoal to pearl. Merle, brindle, black, and other colorations are also possible. The breed's eyes are dark brown and almond shaped, and the ears are short. Pyrenean Shepherds measure 15 to 21 inches tall at the shoulder and usually weigh about 15 to 30 pounds.
They often become extremely attached to one of their human family members and are stunningly sensitive to that loved one's moods.
Lively and cheerful, the Pyrenean Shepherd thrives in the home of an attentive and active family. These dogs excel at dog sports and love to be on the go. The breed is generally friendly, but may be tentative around unfamiliar people. Grooming is minimal. These dogs quickly become attached to their family and are very difficult to rehome. This should be a consideration before adopting or purchasing a Pyrenean Shepherd.
Pyrenean Shepherds contributed a lot during World War I. The dogs performed guard duty, delivered important messages, and sought out wounded soldiers.
Pyrenean Shepherds are active dogs that want to be involved in everything going on. They often become extremely attached to one of their human family members and are stunningly sensitive to that loved one's moods. Although these dogs are typically friendly and affectionate with family, they are distrustful in general and tend to be very suspicious of strangers.
Playful and intelligent, Pyrenean Shepherds make great companion animals for active families with older children. The breed is not very cat-friendly, however, and these dogs usually don't get along well with other dogs or unfamiliar animals. They are naturally bossy and like to be the center of attention. They may tolerate other animals that they are raised with.
Pyrenean Shepherds benefit from a lot of structured activity. Exercise provides a much-needed outlet for excess energy, and the breed enjoys participating in dogs sports, including flyball, agility, rally, tracking, and obedience. Keeping the breed mentally and physically stimulated will cut down on nuisance behaviors, such as digging and barking. When given enough time outdoors, these dogs can adapt to any living situation, even small apartments.
A relatively healthy breed, Pyrenean Shepherds are not known to suffer from a large number of serious health problems or genetic diseases. Of course, this is no guarantee that any individual dog will be free of disease or illness. Adopting or purchasing a Pyrenean Shepherd from a reputable source is a good way to help ensure a healthy puppy.
Pyrenean Shepherds are prone to developing hip dysplasia and luxating patellas, both of which can interfere with movement and quality of life. Epilepsy is also known to affect the breed, but this seizure disorder is often manageable with medication. Two more serious diseases seen in the breed are patent ductus arteriosus, a heart condition, and progressive retinal atrophy, which causes blindness.
Proper nutrition, regular exercise, timely vaccinations, and routine veterinary care help ensure Pyrenean Shepherds live a long and active life of 12 to 16 years.
Training the Pyrenean Shepherd is important. The breed's intelligence, desire for attention, restlessness, and high energy quickly lead to behavioral problems if firm, consistence, and effective training does not begin early in life. These dogs need to be owned and trained by someone with experience and patience.
Training should involve positive reinforcement techniques and should focus on preventing or diminishing problem behaviors, such as nuisance barking, the herding of people and pets, and general destructiveness. These dogs learn quickly and respond well to training when it is done early and correctly.
Socialization is another important part of caring for Pyrenean Shepherds. Because the breed is naturally reserved, fearfulness and aggression can become a problem unless there's regular contact with other humans and animals. Socialization should start early in life with puppy kindergarten classes, and it should continue through the adult years with trips to the dog park and walks around the neighborhood. Even with regular socialization, these dogs aren't likely to become friendly with other animals. Close supervision when at the dog park or away from home is essential.
Pyrenean Shepherds don't mat or tangle easily and they don't shed much. Generally speaking, they require very little grooming. Both coat varieties require a good weekly brushing, and longhaired dogs should be checked regularly for tangles and early mats. Corded dogs may need professional grooming to keep the coat healthy.
Bathing is necessary only if these dogs get into something toxic, stinky, or sticky. A quality, pH-balanced canine shampoo will gently clean the coat without damaging the skin. A thorough rinsing to remove all traces of soap is necessary. Drying time depends on the temperature and coat type.
The nails need clipping a few times each month; they should not be allowed to grow so long as to click against the floor. Daily toothbrushing will keep the breath smelling fresh while protecting against tooth decay and gum disease, and weekly ear checks and cleanings are important to remove excess ear wax and diagnose ear infections before they become serious.
Pyrenean Shepherds were developed as working companions for the Great Pyrenees breed. These dogs would herd large flocks of sheep while Great Pyrenees dogs guarded against predators. Pyrenean Shepherds hail from the Pyrenees Mountains in France, but no one knows when the breed first originated.
During World War I, the breed distinguished itself through loyal service to French troops. These dogs worked as couriers, guard dogs, and search and rescue dogs. Thousands of Pyrenean Shepherds gave their lives during the war.
The breed traveled to America during the 19th century. They quickly found work herding flocks in the western United States. During the 1970s and 1980s, the breed became increasingly well-known and popular, and American breeders imported more of the dogs from France in order to begin new breeding programs in the United States.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Pyrenean Shepherd in 2009.