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The Pyrenean Shepherd Lives Loyal and Works Hard

By Sarah Densmore

Until recently, the Pyrenean Shepherd has been France’s best kept secret. Although the breed has been employed for centuries by herders in the Pyrenees Mountains, the dog has remained relatively unknown in North America.

The American Kennel Club began to turn the tide on the Shepherd’s obscurity in 2001 when it entered the breed in its foundation stock service. The club accepted the Pyrenean Shepherd as a herd group breed in 2009.

The Pyr Shep, as it’s called by Americans, was introduced at the 2010 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as a new herding breed. During the show, the Pyrenean Shepherd received honors for Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex, and Award of Merit.

Herding history of the Pyrenean Shepherd

The Pyrenean Shepherd has a long and distinguished record of companionship and service in French culture. Medieval records give accounts of the dog as constantly at his master’s side, helping to herd sheep as instructed.

During WWI, the Pyr Shep came down from the Pyrenees and aided the French army with search and rescue. They also acted as couriers. Thousands of the dogs died serving France during the war.

The earliest known immigration of the breed to America came in the late 1800s. Some Pry Sheps landed in States when they accompanied sheep that were being imported from France. In 1987, breed loyalists founded The Pyrenean Shephard Club of North America.

Pry Shep physique

Pry Sheps are considered small dogs. Overall, they’re strong, lean, and agile.

The breed comes in two, distinct-looking varieties: rough faced and smooth faced. Each type can be born out of the same litter. The rough-faced Pry Shep has long hair on its face. The smooth-faced variety doesn’t, but its body hair is fairly long. The breed sports several coat colors, including black, gray, silver, tan, and white.

Rough-faced varieties run a bit smaller than their smooth-faced counterparts. Rough males measure 15.5 to 18.5 inches tall; females are 15 to 18 inches. Height for smooth males is 15.5 to 21 inches; females run 15.5 to 20.5. Males can weigh anywhere from 15 to 35 pounds; females weigh 15 to 32 pounds.

The Shepherd's purposeful disposition

Pyrenean Shepherds are intelligent, alert dogs who are bred to fulfill a purpose. They are loyal only to their family and they want to be involved in the activities and work that are the focus of their family.

Although they’re devoted to their humans, they're not innately good with children. The dogs who interact best with children are those who have been around children since they were puppies. This same rule applies to Pry Sheps’ ability to get along with other animals. The dogs need to be acclimated to other animals early in life.

Pyrenean Shepherds are one-family dogs. They don’t trust strangers. However, this also makes them good guard dogs because they will most likely start barking if a stranger comes around or if they hear strange sounds.

This breed responds well to obedience training and easily learns tricks. He can be an eager partner for ball toss and Frisbee.

A large backyard or nearby open field are necessary living arrangements for a Pry Shep. The dog needs lots of outdoor exercise every day.

Pyreneans are healthy stock

The breed has few health problems, but they can suffer from hip dysplasia, epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy, and partial knee dislocation. Pry Sheps can live a long life. It’s not unusual for a dog to live 15 years or longer.

Adopting a Pry Shep

Pyrenean Shepherds are a rare breed outside of France. Breeders difficult to locate, and there's usually a waiting list for puppies. The more specific an adopter is about sex, color, coat variety, and so on, the longer the wait. Contact the American Kennel Club for a list of breeders.

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