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|The Pyrenean Shepherd at A Glance|
|Other names||Berger des Pyr, Berger des Pyrenees, Petit Berger, Labrit|
|Average size||Small to medium|
|Average weight||20 to 30 pounds|
|Average height||15 to 21 inches|
|Life span||15 to 17 years|
|Coat type||Long, medium, rough, harsh|
|Color||White, grey, black, blue, brindle|
|Popularity||Not that popular – ranked 176th by the AKC|
|Intelligence||Above average – understands things in a reasonably quick manner|
|Tolerance to heat||Good – can live in warm to very warm climates but nothing too hot|
|Tolerance to cold||Very good – can handle cold climates just not extreme ones|
|Shedding||Moderate – will be some hair around the home|
|Drooling||Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool|
|Obesity||Moderate – can gain weight if over fed and under exercised but not especially prone to it|
|Grooming/brushing||Moderate – regular brushing needed, will also help with shedding|
|Barking||Rare to occasional|
|Exercise needs||Very active – needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation|
|Trainability||Moderately hard – experience needed|
|Friendliness||Very good with socialization|
|Good first dog||Moderate – best with experienced owners|
|Good family pet||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with children||Very good with socialization and with its own family mostly|
|Good with other dogs||Moderate – needs good socialization, training and supervision|
|Good with other pets||Moderate to good – high prey drive, socialization and supervision needed|
|Good with strangers||Moderate – wary and can be suspicious so make sure it is well socialized and supervised|
|Good apartment dog||Very good due to suitable size|
|Handles alone time well||Low – does not like being left alone for long periods|
|Health issues||Somewhat healthy, several issues which include heart problems, epilepsy and hip dysplasia|
|Medical expenses||$460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$535 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license, basic training and grooming|
|Average annual expenses||$1140 a year as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$750|
|Rescue organizations||Several including the PSCA|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Pyrenean Shepherd’s Beginnings
The Pyrenean Shepherd comes from the Pyrenees mountains in northern Spain and southern France. It is thought to have been around in some form for hundreds of years there, bred to herd sheep specifically but any livestock, and it worked in tandem with the Great Pyrenees, it herded and the Great Pyrenees guarded. There are several theories on where and when its origins are and nothing is really proven. While they are a herding breed they were also developed with a high prey drive, a personality like a terrier and the ability to make its own decisions.
This breed had to be tough to thrive in the rough terrain of the mountains. For a long time it was only known in its native mountains until the late 1800s when showing dogs became popular. But it was not until its hard work during the first world war that its true dedication and capabilities were realized by many. At this time the Pyrenean Shepherd was taken from herding duty to work in the war as a messanger, to find wounded soldiers, act as a guard dog and watchdog and to help raise moral. However as with many dog breeds, especially in countries hit especially hard by both world wars, its numbers dropped a great deal during this time.
New Lease on Life
The Pyr Shep came to the US in the 1800s with shepherds who came to America looking for work out west. It is thought it had a role in the development of the Australian Shepherd but more interest in the breed did not come until 1970s. Dogs were imported from France by dog lovers interested in the Pyr and they started their own breeding program. In 1987 the Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America was started and the AKC recognized it in 2009. It ranks 176th in popularity by the AKC. This is not a well known breed away from its original place of origin still where it is still used to herd flocks today.
The Dog You See Today
The Pyr Shep is a small to medium sized dog weighing 20 to 30 pounds and standing 15 to 21 inches tall. It is a fine boned, light, athletic dog, lean but strong, long and graceful. It has a rectangular shape with legs that in proportion and a tail that is full and long with a bend at the end when left natural. However in some places the traditional tail docking still takes place. There are two coat types, the smooth faced Pyre and the rough faced. In the rough faced types there are another two types, the demi long and the long haired. Smooth faced Pyrs have a double coat, can be a little larger in size and around the face have smooth and short hair. The rough faced Pyr have a windswept look with long hair on the body and on the face and are sometimes a little smaller. The difference between the demi long and long is all in the name, the length of the coat. Common colors are fawn, grey, brindles, merles, black and come have black masks.
In places where it still happens the ears are cropped but when left natural they are rose or semi pricked. It has a triangular shaped head that is small compared to the rest of the body. The skull is flat and its muzzle is also triangular shaped and on the short side. It has dark eyes and an expressive face apart from when its coat is grey or merle colored.
The Inner Pyrenean Shepherd
The Pyrenean Shepherd is a very good watchdog as it is alert and will bark to let you know of any intruders. It has a tendency to bark anywhere between occasionally to frequently so train it to stop on command. It is a very sensitive dog and is best suited in homes that are not full of conflict and raised voices. It is not a breed best suited to new owners as it needs an experienced and active owner. It is an intelligent dog with a lot of energy to burn and need owners willing to commit to spending time taking care of these needs.
The Pyr Shep is very good at getting what it wants and solving problems so be prepared to resist its charms, and to have to outsmart it on occasion. You will need a good sense of humor as it will get up to mischief and some antics that might frustrate at the same time. With the right family it is very devoted and wants a lot of attention. This breed does not mature until it is 3 years old so also be prepared for it to remain puppy like for longer than many breeds. Because of how attached it becomes to its family this breed can be hard to re-home so make sure this is a dog you are keeping for life. In the case of this dog that means a good fifteen years.
Pyrs are suspicious of strangers or change. It will need good socialization to help it but this will never be a loves everyone type of dog. It will bond more closely to one person in the family and will follow them around the home. It can learn to greet people and be polite at least until it gets to know them better. If you change things in the home it will indicates its displeasure! It is good at reading its owner’s moods.
Living with a Pyrenean Shepherd
What will training look like?
The Pyrenean Shepherd is moderately easy to train for those with some experience, its progress will be gradual and you will need to be patient, firm and consistent. When you see obedient Pyrs obeying their owners this is the result of a lot of work and dedication. If you are not experienced and do not want to put in a lot of commitment and homework then consider another breed. Be fair and positive even as you set clear rules and stick by them. Offer it praise, encourage it and use treats as motivation and reward. If you are not clearly in control it will rule you. As important as its early training is, its early socialization is also as vital. This dog can be very cautious and it does not like strangers or change. It can become snappy, aggressive, meek and timid if its shyness or bossiness are allowed to rule. As soon as it is home make sure you get it used to different places, animals, people, sounds and situations. It will always be standoffish with strangers but it will learn appropriate responses.
How active is the Pyrenean Shepherd
The Pyrenean Shepherd is a very active dog so will need committed owners who enjoy being active themselves. It can adapt to apartment living as long as it gets enough activity outside each day, though it would enjoy having access to some kind of yard or space outside. Key to having a steady and well behaved Pyr is making sure it gets enough mental and physical stimulation. Otherwise it is likely to get into trouble and be difficult to live with. It has a lot of stamina so can happily join you for long hikes, jogging or cylging, going for a good swim and so on. If taking it for a walk it needs at least two long ones a day (aim for at least an hour a day), at a good pace, and should be kept on a leash. Whether you take it to a dog park for off leash time is up to you, it depends on how good your Pyr is with other dogs and strangers. But some safe off leash time somewhere is needed where it can run and play doggy games with you. This breed loves to work and loves to be kept busy.
Caring for the Pyrenean Shepherd
The Pyrenean Shepherd has moderate needs in terms of grooming and maintenance. It will need regular brushing to keep up with its average shedding, and it will leave some hair around the home that will need vacuuming. The rough faced variety will need more care and time than the smooth faced ones but shed less as the loose hair tends to get caught and held in its coat, so will get pulled out when you groom rather than falling around the home. If not brushed regularly the rough coats can get a lot of tangles behind the ears, on the belly and elbows and will even cord up at the rear. Make sure you keep the hair between the toes short. Make sure you only bathe when it really needs it to avoid damaging its natural oils.
Other needs include nail care, teeth care and ear care. Its ears should be checked weekly for infection signs like redness, irritation and wax build up and then give them a wipe clean with either a damp cloth or a cotton ball with a dog ear cleanser. Do not insert anything into the ear though as that can hurt your dog and do damage. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week using a vet approved dog toothpaste and brush. Then its nails need to be clipped if it is not wearing them down naturally with its activity. Take care if you do this yourself, there are nerves and blood vessels in them so you cannot cut too far down or it will hurt and cause bleeding. If you are unsure you can have a vet show you how, or have them or a groomer do it for you.
How much exactly any dog eats really depends on its size, metabolism, health, level of activity and age amongst other things. On average a dog of this size if eating a good quality dry dog food will need about ¾ to 11/2 cups a day, split into at least two meals. Make sure that water is always available and that it is freshened often.
How is the Pyrenean Shepherd with children and other animals?
The Pyr can be good with children, affectionate, playful, lively and so on. But it is more so like that with children it has been raised with, and good socialization is important. Around children it is not familiar with it is more nervous especially when they move fast around it, and it is often not that interested in interacting much with children that come over or ones that live next door for example. That nipping herding thing it does is something it will try on children too, so make sure you stop that and it is better around older children who do not tug and pull at it. Make sure children are taught how to touch and play nicely and safely. Around other dogs and pets it not always super friendly and that socialization is important. With ones it has been raised with things are better but with strange dogs, especially ones that are the same sex there are issues. If there are other pets it will expect to be the one in charge.
What Might Go Wrong?
The life span of the Pyrenean Shepherd is 15 to 17 years so it has quite a long life. It is also a somewhat healthy breed. A few possible things that might come up include hip dysplasia, eye problems, epilepsy, patellar luxation and a possible heart problem called patent ductus arteriosus.
When looking at reports of dogs attacking people that cause bodily harm in Canada and the US over the past 35 years, there is no mention of the Pyrenean Shepherd. While it is true that there are some breeds that are more aggressive than others, there are no 100% completely safe breeds. Any dog can have an incident, an off day, be drawn into an attack, regardless of type or size. There are things an owner can do to lessen the chances though, socialization, training, giving it the exercise and attention it needs.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
A Pyrenean Shepherd puppy will cost about $750 for a decent pet quality dog from a reputable breeder. If you are looking at getting something from a top breeder of show quality dogs this is likely to cost you a lot more. While looking for a good breeder you can trust may take some time, and then you may need to be put on a waiting list, this process is for your benefit and the dog’s. Do not be tempted to use puppy mills, backyard breeders or pet stores as a quicker option, most are not knowledgeable at best, and are cruel to the animals at worst. Another option is to look at rescues and shelters for your new pet especially if you are just looking for a companion. There are plenty of dogs there that need new homes and have a lot of love to give you. Adoption fees are likely to be around $50 to $400.
Once you have found a good breeder or a dog you love and are ready to bring it home there are initial health needs to take care of, and initial items it needs. At home it will need a crate, carrier, collar and leash, bowls and such for a cost of around $200. When you bring your dog home arrange for it to see a vet as soon as possible for things like shots, deworming, blood tests, micro chipping, neutering or spaying for a cost of around $270.
There are also yearly costs to factor in. Basic health care like flea and tick prevention, check ups, shots along with pet insurance comes to about $460 a year. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost around $145 a year. Miscellaneous costs like grooming, basic training, toys, miscellaneous items and toys come to about $535 a year. This gives an estimated annual cost of about $1140.
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The Pyrenean Shepherd is an active, devoted, affectionate, but also suspicious and wary dog. It needs lots of socialization and training and it needs strong and in control owners. It has a very strong personality that could bring a lot of joy and life to your home if you are ready for the commitment raising and caring for one can mean.
Featured Image Credit: cynoclub, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Pyrenean Shepherd’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Pyrenean Shepherd
- Living with a Pyrenean Shepherd
- Caring for the Pyrenean Shepherd
- How is the Pyrenean Shepherd with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag