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Pyrenean Shepherd
PyreneanShepSmooth wb.jpg
Smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherd
Other names Berger des Pyrénées
Petit Berger
Pyrenees Sheepdog
Nicknames Pyr Shep
Country of origin France
Traits

The Pyrenean Shepherd is a medium-small breed of dog native to the Pyrenees mountains of southern France, bred since at least medieval times for herding livestock, especially sheep. It worked as an active herder together with the Great Pyrenees, who acted as the flock's guardian.

Contents

Description

Appearance

A Berger des Pyrenees in the snow

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 colour. 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.

Rough-faced face detail
Pyrenean Sheepdog

Coat

The coat has two basic varieties, smooth-faced and rough-faced (demi-long or long-haired). The smooth-faced variety has short, fine hairs on the muzzle, with a modest ruff around the face and neck, and some feathering along the legs, tail, and belly. In contrast, the rough-faced has longer hair on the muzzle and face, though never enough to cover or obscure the eyes or create a bearded effect, and demi-long or long, coarse hair over the rest of the body. The rough-faced dog can also form cords over his hindquarters and front legs.

Color

Shades of fawn are most typical for the breed, either with or without black mask and overlay. Also very common are brindles and various shades of grey. Less common are merles of various kinds (blue merle, brindle merle, fawn merle), and black. All colors allow for some white at the head, chest and feet, but solid colors are preferred.

Temperament

Rough-faced variety having fun
Pyrenean Sheepdog playing with a toy goose

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.

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.

Care

Pyr Sheps needs only a weekly brush, as well as regular checks for burrs or mats, to keep its coat in good condition.

History

A smooth-faced Berger des Pyrenees

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 colouration may have been one of the foundation breeds for the Australian Shepherd in the late 19th and early 20th century.

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 midsized dogs in 2003, it gained more attention as an intelligent performance dog for dog sports.

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