A small, sinewy, light-boned dog, the Pyrenean Shepherd is a superb athlete, incredibly agile and ready for action. The Rough-Faced Pyrenean Shepherd is clearly longer than tall; the Smooth-Face Pyrenean Shepherd appears more square. The Rough-Faced dog’s coat can be of almost flat demi-long or long hair. Demi-long dogs have culottes on their rump. Longhaired dogs have wooly hair that may cord, especially on the elbows and thighs. The hair on their muzzle lengthens toward the cheeks, giving a windblown look. The Smooth-Faced dog’s muzzle has short hair on the muzzle and legs, with the body hair 2 to 3 inches long on the body, and some feathering on the legs. The Pyrenean Shepherd’s flowing gait is said to “shave the earth.”
Sheep and goat herding were well established in the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France by 6000 b.c., and bones of small dogs were found in the region long before then. By Medieval times, shepherds and their dogs are mentioned in accounts of Pyrenean life. The quick and agile small dogs controlled the flocks while the larger ones, Great Pyrenees, guarded them.
In 1858, a Pyrenean Shepherd was with the shepherdess Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes when she claimed the Virgin Mary appeared to her, giving the breed the designation as “the dog who saw God.” During World War I, many hundreds of Pyrenean Shepherds served as couriers and as search and rescue dogs. The officer in charge of war dogs proclaimed them “the most intelligent, the most cunning, the most able, and the fastest” of the breeds. In 1905, an association was formed to preserve the Pyrenean Shepherd and Great Pyrenees. Some Pyrenean Shepherd came to America in the 1800s with their flocks and shepherds, and in the 1930s some came with the founder of the Great Pyrenees in America. The AKC recognized them in 2009. The breed has always come in two coat types, Rough-Faced and Smooth-Faced, which have different body types as well.
Pyrenean Shepherds are often strongly oriented toward working and herding. They tend to be extremely active, attentive, and obedient, and are among the very top breeds for agility, obedience, and herding. They can be distrustful of strangers, but are strongly devoted to and affectionate with their family. Some can be very shy. Some get along well with other dogs and pets, but some may have jealousy issues. They can bark exuberantly, and are good watchdogs inside of the home, detecting strangers or visitors and barking in response.
The Pyrenean Shepherd are among the most active, driven, and responsive of all breeds. They must have an outlet for their busy mind and body every day. They should have a vigorous run or long jog several times a week and some sort of mental challenges daily. Without this, they can be frustrated and destructive; with it, they can be some of the most impressively smart and well-behaved dogs around. Both coat types require less care than they would seem. Weekly brushing should suffice.