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Pyrenean Shepherd

Quick facts

Pyrenean Shepherd AKC Group: Herding
Height: Male: 15.5 - 21 inches, Female: 15 - 20 inches
Weight: Male: 15 - 32 pounds, Female: 14 - 30 pounds
Colors: Tan, copper, brindle, gray, merle, black, and black with white markings
AKC recognized in: 2009

The Pyrenean Shepherd is the smallest of the French herding breeds. This is a very old breed that originated in the rugged Pyrenees Mountains in France, where it has been herding sheep and other livestock for thousands of years. The breed has been documented as herding sheep in the area from at least medieval times and quite possibly before too.

Pyrenean Shepherds typically worked together with the Great Pyrenees breed. The larger sized Great Pyrenees dogs would protect the sheep and cattle from predators while the smaller sized Pyrenean Shepherds herded the flocks. During World War I, these dogs were taken from their mountains and meadows to aid in the war effort. The breed distinguished itself during the war, working as watch dogs, search and rescue dogs, military mascots and courier dogs. Thousands of the dogs may have died during service in the war.

In the 19th century, French shepherds who found work herding flocks in the American West brought along with them a few of their herding dogs to help them in their job. Around the 1970s and 1980s, American dog lovers became interested in the breed and began importing more dogs from France to begin their own breeding programs. The Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America was established in 1987, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2009.

The Pyr Shep, as the breed is known for short, is a medium-size dog with an outsized personality and energy level, which makes them excellent companions for highly active persons or families. They are very intelligent and adaptable and can excel at many dog sports.

This dog breed includes two types, the rough-faced and the smooth-faced. The two types differ slightly in size. The smooth-faced dogs are slightly larger of the two.


Pyrenean Shepherd Summary
Affection five paws
Cold Tolerance three paws
Ease of Training four paws
Energy level five paws
Exercise Requirements five paws
Friendliness : Children five paws
Friendliness: Other Animals two paws
Friendliness: Other Pets two paws
Grooming Requirements three paws
Heat Tolerance three paws
Playfulness five paws
Protection Ability two paws
Watchdog Ability five paws

Like most other sheepdogs, the Pyrenean Shepherd is an energetic and alert dog. Their watchful nature makes them very good watchdogs, giving an alert to anything unusual that occurs, but it can also make them nuisance barkers if they are not properly trained.

Pyr Sheps are very devoted to their owners and like to be as close as possible to them no matter what they are doing. They are very affectionate with all members of the family and highly sensitive to their owner's moods.

Pyrenean Shepherds tend to be one person or one family dogs. With proper and patient socialization, they can be taught to greet other people with a semblance of friendliness but don't expect your pet to be buddy-buddy with any casual guest who comes over. This is a herding breed. That means they are always on guard and naturally suspicious of strangers or anything out of the norm. If you are looking for a pet that will wag its tail and befriend everyone he meets, you'd just be setting yourself up for a lot of frustration.

These dogs like things to stay the same and do not take change in their stride. They will never fail to notice if there is anything new in their environment and will bark to tell you of their disapproval.

The Pyrenean Shepherd is a lively, highly intelligent breed. While these are usually desirable qualities for anyone looking for a pet, they also mean that these dogs are a lot of work to live with. They require loads of exercise to burn off all their energy as well as intelligent training and activities that will challenge their brain. They excel at obedience and agility training exercises and games such as tracking, flyball and rally.

Without the proper training and interest that this dog demands, its highly energetic, intelligent and attention-seeking behavior can be a recipe for behavioral disasters. Left to its own devices for too long, without any attention and no exercise to burn off its energy, this mischievous, lively dog will set about creating his own entertainment in the form of digging, nuisance barking, and general destruction. On the other hand, if you are committed to providing your pet with the attention and exercise he needs, he can potentially adapt to life in any home, including an apartment or condominium.

Naturally reserved, these dogs require a great deal of socialization to help them overcome their inherent shyness and teach them to react appropriately in the company of non-family members. Even then, they are unlikely to be overly friendly to anyone other than their family and will be downright suspicious of strangers.

When the Pyr Shep is raised with children within the family, he will make an excellent playmate for them, matching their activity level every stage. However, while they may dote on their family's children and be very tolerant towards them, they have little or no interest in interacting with the neighbor's children. Their herding instinct comes to the fore when in the company of a group of strange children. Their quick, fast movements can make these dogs nervous and they are likely to chase or nip at the children.


The average lifespan of the Pyrenean Shepherd is 15 to 17 years.

While the Pyrenean Shepherd is generally a healthy dog, it is susceptable to certain health problems. These problems include:

  • Hip Dysplasia - Where the thigh bone does not fit snugly into the hip joint. This can lead to severe lameness or arthritis. A dog diagnosed with hip dysplasia should never be bred, as this is an inherited condition.
  • Epilepsy - A brain disorder that causes your dog to have seizures If left untreated the seizures can come more frequently and become more severe. This is typically an inherited disorder.
  • Patellar Luxation - Sometimes called a trick knee, this condition causes the kneecap to pop out of place. This can be caused by obesity, but is typically a congenital defect that can be inherited.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - A group of diseases that progress over time and eventually cause blindness in your dog. The retina either stops developing early or the receptors start degenerating early in life. This is an inherited disorder.
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) - A birth defect where the ductus arteriosus (a blood vessel normally only used prior to birth to bypass the lungs) fails to close following birth. This results in some of the blood leaving the left side of the heart to return to the lungs instead of to the rest of the body. This causes the heart to work harder to provide necessary blood to the body, and can lead to congestive heart failure.


The long haired Pyrenean Shepherd requires brushing once a week to remove dead hair and keep its double coat clean. For the smooth haired variety, twice a month is sufficient. During the spring and fall shedding seasons, this will have to be increased to a daily brushing.

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