The Pyrenean Shepherd, or le Chien de Berger des Pyrénées, as it is known in its native France, is a medium to small herding dog. It has been used since medieval times, primarily for herding sheep in the mountain pastures. Pyrenean shepherds are either smooth- or rough-faced. Highly active and intelligent dogs, Pyrenean Shepherds enjoy herding and can also be trained to take part in agility trials.
Smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherd dogs stand from 39 to 53 cm high at the shoulder, while bitches may be slightly smaller. Their build is muscular and lithe; they weigh from between 7 and 15 kg, and should not be allowed to become overweight. The flat-skulled head is small in proportion to the body and has a short, triangular muzzle. Pyrenean Shepherds usually have dark eyes with an alert, intelligent expression. Traditionally, the ears are cropped: if left natural, they are described as semi-pricked. The body is well-muscled, long and lean, reflecting the dog's natural athleticism. Legs are long and well-proportioned with well-let-down hocks, that allow sure-footed running and climbing over mountainous terrain. Tails are sometimes cropped. If left in their natural state, they may be a short bob or a longer tail with a curve in it.
Smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherds have fine, short hair on the muzzle and a ruff of longer hair around the face and neck. Legs, belly and tail are feathered. A wide range of colours is seen in this breed; shades of fawn and beige are the most common, but brindled and grey are also prevalent. Merle or mottled shades such as blue merle and fawn merle are less common. All colours may have black face masks and coat overlay. Some white may show at face, chest or feet although solid colours are preferred. The grooming needs of Smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherds are few: just a weekly brush to remove burrs and tangles is enough to keep their coat neat and healthy.
Temperament and Training
Pyrenean Shepherds are very much one-man dogs, following their owners around and often seeming to be able to read their minds. They have been bred to assist with herding sheep and other animals, and are alert, energetic and intelligent. These characteristics make them easy to train, but also mean that they may be shy of strangers. Their strong herding instincts and innate wariness may lead to aggressive behaviour, so puppies should be socialized from an early age if they are to be kept as pets. These dogs behave well around children and are protective of them, as long as they are raised together from an early age.
Smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherds often appear to be docile, obedient dogs, but this is because their owners have put in a lot of effort to give them enough physical and mental exercise. Their boundless energy means that they need long, daily walks, and they do not enjoy being away from their owners. They also need mental stimulation: if left on their own in the house for hours at a time, they are likely to become destructive through boredom. Many Smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherds seem to enjoy being trained for agility and herding trials.
Smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherds have few health problems, although puppies should be checked for hip dysplasia, elbow problems and hearing loss. They live on average for 12 - 15 years.