Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Pyrenean Sheepdog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Pyrenean Sheepdog
The Pyrenean Sheepdog is a small to medium size dog and one that boast being a loyal and devoted character. They are known to be wonderful companions and family pets although they are high energy, intelligent dogs that need to be given the right amount of mental stimulation and daily exercise for them to be truly happy. Although highly prized in France and other European countries, the Pyrenean Sheepdog is relatively unknown in the UK although breed numbers are slowly increasing with more people realising just what great companions these dogs can be and more especially for people who lead active, outdoor lives.
The Pyrenean Sheepdog as their name suggests originates from the Pyrenean region of France where they were bred to be herding dogs. They were developed to be robust and to have a tremendous amount of stamina because they often had to work over challenging, mountainous terrains and in extreme weather. They often worked and still do, alongside their larger cousins, the Great Pyrenees, a dog that stood guard while the smaller Pyrenean Sheepdog moved large flocks from place to place.
It was not until the 19th century that some Pyrenean Sheepdogs were taken to America by local shepherds to work large flocks over there and were quickly recognised as being excellent working dogs. They worked as messengers during World War I and were often used to find injured soldiers on the front and as guard dogs. Pyr Sheps are also thought to be one of the founding breeds in the Australian Shepherd. By the late 20th century, these dogs found their way into the hearts and homes of many people thanks to their good looks and kind, loyal natures with many International Breed Organisations recognising the Pyrenean Sheepdog as a breed in its own right.
They were recognised by The Kennel Club in 1988, and although these charming dogs are gaining a fan base in the UK, their numbers remain low. As such anyone wishing to share their homes with a Pyrenean Sheepdog would need to register their interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list, but the wait is well worth it.
Height at the withers: Males 40 - 50 cm, Females 38 - 48 cm
Average weight: Males 20 - 25 kg, Females 14 - 20 kg
The Pyrenean Sheepdog boasts having a dense harsher top coat and a softer, denser undercoat with some dogs having short outer coats and others having longer and often corded coats. They are energetic looking, medium sized dogs that always seem to have a bit of a windswept look about them and always seem to have a mischievous look about them which is very endearing. They are slightly longer in the body than they are tall at the withers, but overall the Pyr Shep is a well-proportioned, athletic looking dog.
They have quite triangular shaped heads when seen from above with their skulls being slightly domed and their muzzles tapering nicely to a dog's nose. They only have a slightly noticeable stop and noses are black in colour with wide open nostrils. Their eyes are an almond to oval shape, being nicely opened and dark brown in colour although some dogs can have blue or blue flecked eyes if they have a merle coat. However, eye rims are always black. They have quite short, triangular shaped ears that are fine to the touch being slightly wider at the base and placed neither too far apart or too close on a dog's head. Dogs hold their ears erect with the top half folded forwards when they are excited, but laid back when they are resting.
The Pyrenean Sheepdog has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. They have quite long, muscular necks that are set well into their shoulders. Their front legs are lean and straight being quite sinewy and boasting single dewclaws. Shoulders are long and nicely angled with dogs having quite prominent withers.
They have lean, muscular and strong bodies with nicely rounded ribs that extend well back. Their briskets reach down to a dog's elbows. Loins are short, slightly arched and strong. Their croups are short and slope gently to a dog's tail which is set quite low. Back legs are strong and well-muscled with well-developed second thighs. Dogs can have either single or double dewclaws. They have quite flat, lean, oval shaped feet with dark nails and pads which boast having a profuse amount of hair between them. Some Pyrenean Sheepdogs are born with a stumped tail, but others have low set, long tails that are well covered in hair. Dogs hold their tails higher when alert, but lower when resting.
When it comes to their coat, the Pyrenean Sheepdog boasts having a long or semi-long coat that's harsh, dense, flat or slightly wavy with the hair being denser and woollier on a dog's rump and on their thighs. Some longer coated dogs have natural cords. The hair on their muzzle is short, but longer on their faces and cheeks, but the hair grows away from a dog's eyes and nose giving these dogs their quite unique look. Shorter coated dogs have less fringing on their front legs and below their hocks.
The Pyrenean Sheepdog is a very intelligent dog and one that needs to be kept occupied for them to be truly happy, well-rounded and obedient characters. They are not the best choice for first time owners or people who lead quieter, more sedentary lives. They are, however, a really good choice for people who lead active, outdoor lives and who would like a smart and active canine companion at their side.
It's really important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age so they grow up to be confident, outgoing mature dogs. Their socialisation has to include introducing them to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. It's also crucial for their training to start early too and it has to be consistent and always fair throughout a dog's life so they understand what their owners expect of them. A Pyrenean Sheepdog is never happier than when they know their place in the pack and who they can look to for direction and guidance. If they don't know who is the alpha dog in a household, they may quickly take on the role of a dominant dog which can make them harder to live with and handle.
Although they form strong ties with all the members in a household, the Pyrenean Sheepdog tends to form a strong and unbreakable bond with the person who takes the most care of them. They are naturally suspicious of people they have never met before, but rarely would one of these dogs show any sort of aggression towards a stranger, preferring to keep their distance until they get to know someone. They are always very quick to let an owner know when something they don't like is happening in their environment which in short, means the Pyrenean Sheepdog is a very good watchdog.
The Pyrenean Sheepdog is a very smart dog and a fast learner. The downside to this is they are just as quick to pick up bad habits as they are the good. They need to be well socialised from a young age and their training has to begin early too. It also has to be very consistent and always fair throughout a dog’s life so they understand what their owner expects of them. Pyrenean Sheepdogs are never happier than when they are given something to do which is why they are so amenable to learning new things.
They excel at many canine sports which includes activities like flyball, agility and obedience because they thrive on the attention they are given during their training and the one-to-one contact when they are competing with their handlers. The key to successfully training a Pyrenean Sheepdog is to make their training as interesting as possible and to avoid too much repetition. It's also a good idea to keep training sessions that much shorter which helps keep a dog more focussed on what they are being asked to do bearing in mind that the more intelligent a dog is, the faster they get bored.
They do not answer well to harsh correction or any sort of heavy handed training methods, but they do respond extremely well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these intelligent and quick witted dogs, especially when there are high value rewards involved.
Pyrenean Sheepdogs are known to be very good around children thanks to their gentle, placid natures. However, because of the can be a little boisterous at times, any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with someone being knocked over and hurt, albeit by accident.
When dogs have been well socialised from a young enough age, they generally get on well with other dogs they meet and if they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together. However, a Pyrenean Sheepdog would think nothing of chasing off any other cats they encounter because they would see them as fair game. Care has to be taken when they are around any smaller animals and pets because of their high prey drive as such any contact is best avoided.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Pyrenean Sheepdog is between 15 and 17 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Pyrenean Sheepdog is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these high energy, intelligent dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Pyrenean Sheepdogs need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Pyrenean Sheepdog can either have a rough face or a smooth face. Dogs with rough faces can either have a long or moderately long coat and it can be wavy or it can be straight. Smooth faced dogs have a moderately long coat which is harsh to the touch and there is very little undercoat. Dogs that boast long hair can have naturally corded coats. As such the amount of grooming a Pyrenean Sheepdog needs really does depend on the type of coat they have, but as a rule of thumb, dogs with shorter, closer coats are lower maintenance on the grooming front than dogs with longer and corded coats.
A twice weekly brush is needed to prevent any knots and tangles from forming and to keep coats looking tidy although a Pyrenean Sheepdog's coat is naturally "shaggy looking" when the hair is long. They shed little throughout the year only it can be more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to remove dead and shed hair from a dog's coat. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure with ear infections.
The Pyrenean Sheepdog is an energetic, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need a minimum of 1 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Pyrenean Sheepdog would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these active, high-energy dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Pyrenean Sheepdog puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Pyrenean Sheepdog, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £500 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Pyrenean Sheepdog in northern England would be £19.44 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.75 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Pyrenean Sheepdog and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Pyrenean Sheepdog would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred puppy.
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