1. Key Characteristics
- AKC Group: Herding
- Height: 15–19 inches
- Weight: 15–30 pounds
- Life Expectancy: Around 15 years
The Pyrenean Shepherd is a small herding dog who can run pretty dang fast. The breed is named after the Pyrenees Mountains from which they come. Their heads are triangular, and their eyes are almond-shaped and a dark shade of brown with black rims. Merle-coated dogs may have eyes in shades of blue.
Their feet are oval-shaped with dark pads. Tails are commonly docked for dogs who fulfill a working role (for non-working dogs, tail docking is illegal in some European countries). There are 2 coat types for the Pyrenean Shepherd: short and long. The short coat, called the smooth coat, features short hair on the face and a double coat on the body.
There are 2 coat types within the longer coat variety. The demi coat features medium-length hair on the face and a flat body coat. The rough coat has long hair all over. Coat colors include black, black and white, blue merle, brindle, brindle merle, fawn, fawn merle, gray and slate gray.
2. Where They Came From
These dogs are still used to herd sheep through the terrain of the Pyrenees Mountains. The Pyrenean Shepherd takes charge of the flock while another dog breed, the Great Pyrenees, provides protection for the dog and the flock. The small herding dog can average 25 miles per day while navigating the flock or performing other farm duties. Just 2 Pyrenean Shepherds can control a flock of 1,000 sheep.
Specific evidence of the breed appeared during the early modern period (beginning around 1400) consisting of the breed’s likeness in engravings, paintings and other items. The dogs were used in World War I for search and rescue and to carry items and messages. They were imported into the United States in the 19th century, along with Pyrenean flocks of sheep.
The Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America was formed in 1987, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2009.
3. How Friendly Are They?
Since Pyrenean Shepherds can cover 25 miles per day while navigating sheep on their own, their temperament traits of intelligence, courage and independence make them ideal for the job. They can be prone to mischief but are versatile and adapt to new situations fairly easily.
They are bred to alert guard dogs of the flock (usually the Great Pyrenees) of threats to the herd, so they use barking to communicate.
They can be apprehensive of people and need to be thoroughly socialized when young; they often bond closely to one or more family members. Patience and training are musts to shape the breed’s complete temperament, and they are able to learn tricks quickly.
Pyrenean Shepherds do not do well when left alone or confined for long periods of time. They need to be with people or have a job to do.
4. Is This the Right Dog for You?
HIGH: Enclosed or secure areas are ideal for exercising Pyrenean Shepherds because they are very fast and can have high prey drives. They have exceptional stamina and are very energetic, so rigorous daily exercise coupled with mental stimulation (games, obedience, tasks) is necessary. Apartment living can work for this breed with an active family.
MEDIUM: Pyrenean Shepherds should be brushed weekly, and those with longer coats should be brushed more often or the coat can mat or cord. The hair between the paw pads should be trimmed, and the fast-growing nails need trimming more often.
Shedding is average for this breed, and bathing can be done occasionally or only as needed. The ears and teeth should be cleaned regularly.
LOW: Pyrenean Shepherds are healthy dogs. They typically suffer only from conditions that affect most dog breeds, such as hip dysplasia, knee problems or eye problems. Regular veterinary checkups and a quality diet will keep them healthy.
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5. Where to Adopt One
This breed may be difficult to find. Check with rescues and local shelters to see if one is available near you.
If you contact a breeder, always view the facilities and other dogs to ensure they are being well cared for and show no signs of distress or illness. If possible, ask to meet the parents of the dog you wish to buy or adopt.
- American Kennel Club’s Pyrenean Shepherd page
- Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America
- Pyrenean Sheepdog Club of Great Britain
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