Pyrenean Shepherd

Table of Contents

pyrenean shepherd portrait
Introducing the Pyrenean Shepherd, a small but mighty dynamo that has been herding sheep through the challenging terrain of the Pyrenees Mountains for centuries! With their playful grins and impressive agility, it's no wonder people are falling in love with this hidden gem of a breed.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Pyrenean Shepherd is an ideal companion for individuals who lead an active lifestyle and are seeking a loyal, energetic, and intelligent furry friend. Best suited for experienced dog owners, this breed thrives in a home where they can engage in mental and physical stimulation regularly.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEPyrenean Shepherd
OTHER NAMESPyr Shep, Berger des Pyrénées
ORIGINFrance
BREED GROUPHerding Group
BREED SIZESmall
HEIGHT15-18.5 inches
WEIGHT15-30 lbs
LIFESPAN17-19 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSHigh
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK190th
pyrenean shepherd sitting on a rock
Photo: Klaus Feurich/Getty Images

Appearance

The Pyrenean Shepherd is a small to medium-sized dog breed that exudes an air of agility and athleticism. Though compact in size, these dogs possess a sturdy frame and muscular build. Males typically stand between 15.5 to 18.5 inches at the shoulder, while females range from 15 to 18 inches. Their weight varies from 15 to 30 pounds, with males being slightly heavier than females.

One distinct feature of the Pyrenean Shepherd is their expressive, almost human-like face. Their heads are triangular-shaped, tapering towards the muzzle, with a slightly rounded skull and well-defined stop.

The eyes are almond-shaped, dark brown, and convey a keen and intelligent expression. Adding to their unique appearance are the ears, which can either be semi-pricked or naturally erect, often with one ear flopping forward.

The body of the Pyrenean Shepherd is slightly longer than it is tall, giving them a rectangular outline. Their chests are deep and moderately broad, extending to the elbow level. The topline is level, with a well-sprung ribcage and a slight tuck-up in the belly.

The tails of these dogs can be either long, reaching the hock, or naturally bobbed, known as a “fairy tail.” Some Pyrenean Shepherds also have their tails docked.

Their nimble gait is smooth and fluid, showcasing their natural athleticism. The Pyrenean Shepherd moves with a lively, tireless trot, reflecting their boundless energy and eagerness to work.

The coat of the Pyrenean Shepherd comes in two varieties: Rough-Faced and Smooth-Faced. The Rough-Faced coat is moderately long, flat or slightly wavy, with a harsh texture and a distinctive mane on the neck and chest. The hair on the face is characteristically shorter, giving the impression of a windblown look.

The Smooth-Faced coat is short and fine on the head, becoming slightly thicker and more extended on the body, without any excess feathering.

Pyrenean Shepherds exhibit various coat colors, including shades of fawn, brindle, merle, and black. They may also have white markings, typically on the chest, legs, or tail tip, but these markings should never cover more than one-third of the dog’s body.

Overall, the Pyrenean Shepherd’s physical characteristics epitomize their hardworking nature and adaptability to the challenging mountainous terrain they were bred to navigate. This enchanting breed combines agility, strength, and intelligence in a compact, yet robust package that is undeniably captivating.

pyrenean shepherd lying on a pier
Photo: Vojta Stehlik / 500px/Getty Images

Temperament

The Pyrenean Shepherd is a breed that’s brimming with personality. When you bring a Pyrenean into your life, you’re signing up for a journey filled with energy, intelligence, and a whole lot of mischief.

Owning a Pyrenean is like having a companion who matches your passion for life, stride for stride. Their zest for life is infectious, their enthusiasm boundless. They approach each day with a spirit of adventure, turning even the simplest moments into memorable experiences.

This breed is not just energetic but also remarkably intelligent. The wheels in their mind are always turning, working out puzzles, remembering routes, and making connections. Their intelligence is not the cold, calculating kind. It’s warm, curious, and often leads them into all sorts of playful trouble.

And speaking of playfulness, the Pyrenean Shepherd is a master of fun. They bring a sense of joy and laughter to every moment, their cheerful disposition proving infectious. Whether it’s a game of fetch in the backyard or a playful romp around the house, the Pyrenean knows how to make every moment count.

But don’t mistake their playful nature for lack of seriousness. The Pyrenean Shepherd can be very focused when the situation calls for it. Their strong herding instincts kick in at the right times, proving that they’re not just about fun and games. They have a job to do, and they do it well.

One of the most endearing traits of the Pyrenean Shepherd is their uncanny ability to manipulate their environment. They are quick-witted and sharp-minded, always finding ways to turn situations to their advantage. This makes them a fascinating companion, always keeping you on your toes.

The Pyrenean Shepherd has a protective side as well. They are naturally cautious around strangers, their alert eyes always watching, always assessing. Their protective instinct makes them excellent watchdogs, ready to stand guard for their family at a moment’s notice.

Despite their energetic and playful nature, the Pyrenean Shepherd is also incredibly adaptable. They can endure harsh weather and rough terrain, taking everything in stride. Their adaptability is testament to their resilience and toughness, revealing a side of them that’s as impressive as it is inspiring.

In essence, the Pyrenean Shepherd is a bundle of contradictions. They are energetic yet focused, playful yet serious, and intelligent yet mischievous. But these contradictions don’t clash; instead, they blend together to create a unique and captivating personality.

Owning a Pyrenean Shepherd is like going on an exciting adventure. Every day brings something new, something unexpected. Their energy, intelligence, and playful nature ensure that life with a Pyrenean is never boring. So, if you’re looking for a dog that will keep you on your toes, make you laugh, and fill your life with joy, the Pyrenean Shepherd is the perfect choice.

pyrenean shepherd standing on grass
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

The Pyrenean Shepherd thrives in an environment that caters to their energetic and intelligent nature. Ideally, they would excel in a rural setting with ample space for them to run, play, and engage in herding activities. However, these adaptable dogs can also adjust well to urban living, provided they receive sufficient exercise and mental stimulation.

Climate Adaptability

The breed is remarkably adaptable to various climates, thanks to their hardy origins in the Pyrenees Mountains. Their dense coat offers protection against cold temperatures, allowing them to enjoy outdoor activities even during winter months. However, it’s essential to provide shelter and avoid prolonged exposure to extreme cold, as with any dog breed.

In hot climates, the Pyrenean Shepherd can adapt, but you should take precautions to prevent overheating. Provide plenty of shade, fresh water, and limit exercise during the hottest parts of the day. Regular grooming, including brushing and occasional trimming, can help maintain a healthy coat and prevent overheating issues.

Ideal Owner

The ideal pet parent for a Pyrenean Shepherd is someone who leads an active lifestyle and is willing to invest time in training, socialization, and providing consistent mental and physical challenges. Experience with dog ownership, particularly herding breeds, is beneficial, as these dogs require a confident and knowledgeable handler to guide them.

The Pyrenean Shepherd craves companionship and desires to be included in family activities, so pet parents who frequently travel or are away from home for extended periods may not be the best match for this breed.

Other Pets

As for other pets, the Pyrenean Shepherd can coexist harmoniously with other dogs, especially when raised together. However, supervision and proper introductions are necessary to ensure a peaceful relationship, particularly with smaller animals, due to their herding instincts.

Early socialization is crucial to help them become more accepting of different types of animals and form positive relationships with other pets in the household.

pyrenean shepherd's face up close
Photo: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

Grooming

The Pyrenean Shepherd’s grooming needs are relatively moderate, but it’s essential to maintain a consistent routine to keep their coat healthy and tangle-free. The grooming requirements may vary slightly depending on the coat variety – Rough-Faced or Smooth-Faced – but the overall approach remains similar for both types.

Coat Care

Starting with the coat, the Pyrenean Shepherd should be brushed at least once or twice a week. For the Rough-Faced variety, a slicker brush or a pin brush works well to remove dead hair and prevent matting. Pay particular attention to areas prone to tangling, such as behind the ears, around the neck, and under the legs.

The Smooth-Faced variety requires less frequent brushing, but a bristle brush or a soft slicker brush can be used to keep the coat looking neat and tidy.

While the Pyrenean Shepherd does not require regular trimming, occasional tidying up of the hair around the ears, paws, and sanitary areas helps maintain a clean appearance. A pair of thinning shears or grooming scissors can be used for this purpose. It’s also important to check the hair between the paw pads and trim it if necessary to prevent matting and ensure comfort while walking.

Bathing the Pyrenean Shepherd should be done every 4 to 6 weeks or as needed, depending on their activity level and exposure to dirt. Use a gentle dog shampoo to avoid stripping the natural oils from their coat. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the shampoo and carefully dry them afterward, paying special attention to the dense areas of the coat to prevent dampness and odor.

Dental Care

Dental care is another crucial aspect of grooming for the Pyrenean Shepherd. Regular teeth brushing, ideally daily or at least three times a week, can help prevent plaque buildup and maintain good oral hygiene. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs, as human toothpaste can be harmful to them. Dental chews and toys can also be beneficial in promoting dental health.

Nail Care

Nail care is essential for the Pyrenean Shepherd, as long nails can cause discomfort and affect their gait. Trim their nails every 3 to 4 weeks or as needed, using a dog nail clipper or grinder. Be cautious not to cut the quick, which is the blood vessel inside the nail, as this can be painful and cause bleeding. If unsure about trimming nails at home, a professional groomer or veterinarian can assist with this task.

Ear Care

Ear care is vital for the Pyrenean Shepherd, particularly due to their floppy ears, which can trap moisture and debris. Check their ears weekly for signs of redness, swelling, or foul odor, which may indicate infection. Use a gentle dog ear cleaner and cotton balls to clean the outer ear, avoiding inserting anything into the ear canal.

pyrenean shepherd running in a park
Photo: s5iztok/Getty Images Signature

Exercise

The Pyrenean Shepherd is an energetic and athletic breed with a strong drive to work and stay active. Their exercise needs are relatively high, requiring daily physical activity to keep them healthy, happy, and well-behaved.

Exercise Amount & Types

You should expect to engage your Pyrenean Shepherd in at least 60 to 90 minutes of exercise per day, split into multiple sessions as needed.

A variety of exercises can help fulfill the Pyrenean Shepherd’s physical activity requirements. Daily walks or jogs are essential for maintaining their fitness and providing mental stimulation through exposure to new sights and smells. It’s important to keep them on a leash during walks, as their herding instincts may lead them to chase after small animals or moving objects.

In addition to walks, the Pyrenean Shepherd excels at more vigorous activities such as fetch, frisbee, and off-leash play in a securely fenced area. These dogs love to run and play, so incorporating high-energy games into their exercise routine can keep them engaged and satisfied.

Hiking and outdoor adventures are also excellent options for the Pyrenean Shepherd, as they were bred to navigate challenging mountainous terrain. Ensure they are well-trained and responsive to commands before embarking on off-leash hikes to prevent any potential issues.

It’s crucial to remember that mental exercise is just as important as physical activity for the Pyrenean Shepherd. Provide puzzle toys, training sessions, and interactive games to keep their minds sharp and prevent boredom.

Dog Sports

The Pyrenean Shepherd’s intelligence and agility make them ideal candidates for various dog sports and competitions. They excel in activities such as obedience, agility, flyball, and herding trials. Participating in these events not only provides physical exercise but also offers valuable mental stimulation and strengthens the bond between you and your dog.

pyrenean shepherd at an agility trial
Photo: herreid/Getty Images

Training

The Pyrenean Shepherd is an intelligent and eager-to-please breed, which makes them highly trainable. Their keen problem-solving skills and desire to work alongside their human companions contribute to their ability to learn quickly and excel in various training disciplines.

However, the Pyrenean Shepherd’s intelligence also means they require consistent and engaging training methods to keep them focused and motivated.

Positive Reinforcement

When it comes to training a Pyrenean Shepherd, you should expect to start early, ideally during puppyhood, to establish a strong foundation of obedience and socialization.

These dogs respond best to positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and play, as opposed to harsh or punitive methods. Building a trusting and respectful relationship with your Pyrenean Shepherd is crucial for successful training.

Foundational Training

Due to their herding instincts, the Pyrenean Shepherd may have a tendency to nip at heels or display dominance over other animals. Addressing these behaviors early on through proper training can help manage and redirect their natural instincts into more appropriate outlets. Teach them basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it” to ensure they understand and respect boundaries.

Socialization

Socialization is another critical aspect of training for the Pyrenean Shepherd. Expose them to various people, animals, and environments from a young age to help them develop into well-rounded and confident adults. Regular trips to dog parks, puppy classes, and neighborhood walks can provide valuable socialization opportunities that will shape their behavior and temperament.

Advanced Training

The Pyrenean Shepherd’s aptitude for learning and performing tasks makes them excellent candidates for advanced training in activities such as obedience, agility, and herding trials. Engaging them in these disciplines not only helps channel their energy and intelligence but also strengthens the bond between dog and owner.

Consistency

It’s important to remember that training should be an ongoing process throughout the Pyrenean Shepherd’s life. Consistent reinforcement of commands, regular practice sessions, and introducing new challenges will keep them mentally stimulated and well-behaved.

pyrenean shepherd sitting in a park
Photo: Klaus Feurich/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

What to Feed & How Much

To ensure they receive the necessary nutrients, it’s essential to feed them high-quality dog food that meets the guidelines set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines help guarantee that the food contains the appropriate balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals necessary for their well-being.

When deciding on the type of dog food, you can choose from dry kibble, wet food, or raw food diets, depending on their preferences and the Pyrenean Shepherd’s specific needs. Consulting with a veterinarian can provide valuable guidance on selecting the most suitable food for your dog’s age, activity level, and any underlying health concerns.

The amount of food to feed a Pyrenean Shepherd depends on several factors, including their weight, age, and activity level. As a general guideline, adult Pyrenean Shepherds may require approximately 1 to 2 cups of high-quality dry food per day, divided into two meals.

However, this is a rough estimate, and individual needs may vary. It is essential to monitor your dog’s weight and adjust their food intake accordingly to prevent overfeeding and maintain an optimal body condition.

Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adult dogs and typically need more frequent meals to support their growth and development. Consult your veterinarian for specific feeding recommendations based on your puppy’s age, weight, and expected adult size.

Treats

Treats can be a valuable tool for training and rewarding good behavior, but they should be given in moderation to avoid excessive calorie intake. Treats should not exceed 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake, and it’s important to choose healthy options, such as dog-safe fruits, vegetables, or specially formulated dog treats.

Water

Fresh water should be available to your Pyrenean Shepherd at all times. Ensure they have access to clean water throughout the day, especially during exercise or hot weather, to prevent dehydration.

pyrenean shepherd sitting on grass
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Health

The Pyrenean Shepherd is generally a healthy and robust breed with a life expectancy of 17 to 19 years. However, like any dog breed, they can be predisposed to certain health issues. Responsible breeding practices and regular veterinary care can help minimize the risk and ensure your Pyrenean Shepherd maintains optimal health throughout their life.

A healthy diet, routine veterinary check-ups, and keeping up-to-date with vaccinations are essential components of maintaining your Pyrenean Shepherd’s well-being. Regular exercise, dental care, and grooming also contribute to their overall health and happiness.

Here are common health issues associated with the Pyrenean Shepherd:

Hip Dysplasia: This inherited condition occurs when the hip joint does not develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain. Responsible breeding practices and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of hip dysplasia in Pyrenean Shepherds.

Patellar Luxation: This condition involves the dislocation of the kneecap, which can cause pain and mobility issues. Treatment options include weight management, anti-inflammatory medication, and, in severe cases, surgery.

Eye Issues: Pyrenean Shepherds can be prone to various eye problems, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cataracts. Regular eye exams and responsible breeding can help identify and manage these issues.

Epilepsy: This neurological disorder can cause seizures in affected dogs. While epilepsy cannot be cured, it can usually be managed with medication and veterinary supervision.

Allergies: Pyrenean Shepherds can be susceptible to environmental and food allergies, which may lead to skin irritation, itching, and ear infections. Identifying and avoiding allergens, along with appropriate veterinary care, can help manage this condition.

pyrenean shepherd sitting on snow
Photo: s5iztok/Getty Images

History

The Pyrenean Shepherd has a long and storied history that dates back thousands of years. Originating in the Pyrenees Mountains this breed was developed to work alongside the Great Pyrenees to protect and herd livestock in the rugged mountain terrain.

The exact origins of the Pyrenean Shepherd are unclear, but it is believed that they descended from ancient herding dogs brought to the region by migrating shepherds and farmers. Over time, these dogs were selectively bred for their agility, intelligence, and endurance, which enabled them to excel in their herding duties.

The breed’s small size and nimble physique allowed them to navigate the steep mountain slopes with ease, while their keen instincts and strong bond with their human handlers made them invaluable assets to the shepherds who relied on them.

Throughout history, the Pyrenean Shepherd’s primary role was to manage flocks of sheep and other livestock in the challenging Pyrenees landscape. They were responsible for gathering and driving the animals, as well as keeping them safe from predators.

The Pyrenean Shepherd worked in tandem with the larger Great Pyrenees, which served as livestock guardian dogs, protecting the flock from potential threats such as wolves and bears.

Despite their long-standing role as working dogs, the Pyrenean Shepherd remained relatively unknown outside their native region until the early 20th century.

During World War I, the breed gained recognition for their service as couriers, search and rescue dogs, and as mascots for French troops. Their bravery and loyalty during the war helped raise awareness of the breed and contributed to its growing popularity in France and beyond.

The Pyrenean Shepherd was first registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2009, and they are now a recognized member of the AKC’s Herding Group. While still relatively rare in the United States, the breed has gradually gained a dedicated following among pet parents who value their energetic disposition, strong work ethic, and affectionate nature.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Pyrenean Shepherd in the United States is the Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America (PSCA). Founded in 1987, the PSCA is dedicated to promoting the breed’s unique qualities, preserving its heritage, and providing resources and support for Pyrenean Shepherd owners, breeders, and enthusiasts. Visit their webpage to learn more about the club.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Pyrenean Shepherd’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

pyrenean shepherd sitting in a park
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Pyrenean Shepherd, it’s important to research and prepare for the responsibilities of dog ownership. Start by assessing your lifestyle, home environment, and commitment to meeting the breed’s exercise and training needs.

Instead of buying from a breeder, consider rescuing a Pyrenean Shepherd in need of a loving home. Many rescue organizations specialize in rehoming specific breeds, and both the American Kennel Club and the Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America (PSCA) can help connect you with rescue groups or available dogs.

Before bringing your new companion home, prepare a safe and comfortable space for them, including a crate, bed, toys, food, and water dishes. Schedule a veterinary appointment for a wellness check and discuss vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and microchipping.

Lastly, invest time in researching proper training techniques and socialization opportunities to ensure a smooth transition for your new Pyrenean Shepherd.

FAQs

Are Pyrenean Shepherds good family dogs?

Yes, Pyrenean Shepherds make excellent family dogs. They are loyal, affectionate, and protective of their human companions. However, they have high energy levels and require regular exercise and mental stimulation. Early socialization and training are crucial for them to become well-behaved and adaptable members of the family.

Are Pyrenean Shepherds rare?

While not as widely known as other herding breeds, Pyrenean Shepherds have a dedicated following among dog enthusiasts. They are still relatively rare outside their native region of the Pyrenees Mountains, particularly in the United States.

How big are Pyrenean Shepherds?

Pyrenean Shepherds are a small to medium-sized breed, with males standing between 15-21 inches tall at the shoulder and females between 15-20 inches. Their weight ranges from 15-30 pounds, depending on the size and build of the individual dog.

What group do Pyrenean Shepherds belong to?

The Pyrenean Shepherd is classified under the Herding Group by the American Kennel Club (AKC), reflecting their historical role as skilled herding dogs in the Pyrenees Mountains.

Are Pyrenean Shepherds hypoallergenic?

No, Pyrenean Shepherds are not considered hypoallergenic. While no dog breed is truly allergen-free, some breeds produce fewer allergens than others. Pyrenean Shepherds shed moderately and may not be suitable for individuals with severe allergies.

Do Pyrenean Shepherds require a lot of grooming?

Pyrenean Shepherds come in two coat types: rough-faced and smooth-faced. Rough-faced Pyrenean Shepherds have a longer coat that requires more frequent brushing to prevent matting and tangles. Smooth-faced Pyrenean Shepherds have a shorter coat that is easier to maintain. Both coat types require regular grooming, including brushing, bathing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning.

How much exercise do Pyrenean Shepherds need?

Pyrenean Shepherds are energetic and active dogs that require 60-90 minutes of daily physical activity and mental stimulation. They thrive on activities such as hiking, jogging, playing fetch, and participating in dog sports like agility, obedience, and herding trials.

Table of Contents