Pyrenean Shepherd

Pyrenean Shepherd
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Pyrenean Shepherd is a small dog that originally comes from the Pyrenees Mountains that are located in the northern portion of Spain and the southern portion of France. This dog breed has been used for centuries for their herding skills, namely livestock. If you are in France, you can call this dog the Berger des Pyrenees, or if in Spain, the Pastor de los Pirineos. Either way, this dog has some energy, and is always willing to get the work done.

Breed Characteristics

TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingBelow Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Herding Dogs
Height:1 foot, 3 inches to 1 foot, 9 inches tall
Weight:25 to 30 pounds
Life Span:15 to 17 years

Out of all of the Spanish and French herding breeds, this shepherd is the smallest. Centuries ago, they were used to herd livestock, mostly sheep, alongside a Great Pyrenees dog who would team up with the Pyrenean Shepherd, to guard the flock.

The breed gained popularity in France after World War I, because the dogs partook in the war doing jobs like search and rescue, or even just being a mascot. They are also thought to be a relative of the Australian Shepherd.

Outside of its homelands, the breed is not very known, but one dog out of this breed is known for winning the World Agility Championship for its division in 2003. In 2015, another Pyrenean Shepherd won Best In Show at an American Kennel Club show. This goes to show that not only are these dogs agile, beautiful, and smart, but they work hard at whatever the task at hand may be.

In appearance, they are a small to medium sized dog that comes in two forms; the rough-faced and smooth faced dogs. Depending on gender and the type of face, the length of their withers will vary. You will notice they have a flat, small head and a muzzle that is short.

Many people have the ears cropped and the tail docked to be short or bobbed. There are many colors in which this breed may come in, but the most common color is fawn. Others include brindle, gray, black and patterns of Merle.

This dog is great at herding, doing work and staying busy! Many owners enjoy training them in sports like agility, obedience, and flyball. Since they like to stay busy, you can expect them to follow you everywhere, as they grow an attachment to their family.

You will notice that they are smart dogs who are on alert for danger like strange people and animals, which can cause them to be aggressive. Some owners say they have a sixth sense, as if they can pick up on emotions. You can use this to your advantage to help train them.

Also called the Pyr Shep, they are known to be fast, muscular, and passionate about everything. They are living their best life when they have something to do, whether it be doing agility trials, herding sheep, or following you around the house, trying to “help”.

Be prepared to keep this dog busy and active, as they do need a lot of exercise. Mentally stimulating them is an absolute must, as they are smart, and need to stay sharp. Playing games and going above and beyond with training will keep their brain at top performance.

As always, there are pros and cons to owning any dog breed. Some pros are that this breed loves kids and other pets in the home. They rarely bark, almost never wander off, and they do not drool a lot! Some cons can include their high energy, occasional mouthiness, and they are not good for a first-time owner. Also, they have a high hunting drive, due to their nature of herding and the duties that come with it.

Expect to get an hour of exercise somehow with this dog each day. It can be running, walking, jogging, or playing and training in the backyard. They do need a lot of space indoors and outdoors to move around, despite their size. Since they love challenging activities, get them into flyball, tracking, agility or other types of trials, and eventually your dog could compete in dog shows and win! If they are left bored, you can expect them to destroy things in your home, begin digging your yard up, or just barking a lot.

Overall, the Pyrenean Shepherd is an affectionate, smart dog that is highly adaptable, friendly with children and other pets, and is easy to groom. While somewhat territorial, they make wonderful watchdogs that are easy to train!

Main Highlights
  • The breed comes from the Pyrenees Mountains that are located both in France and Spain, where it was originally used as a herding dog for sheep.
  • They are great at dog trials, excelling at herding, obedience, rally, tracking, agility and fly ball. Your dog could win Best in Show or another high honor!
  • Owners who pick this breed must be in it for the long haul. They can live upwards of 15 years, and quickly form attachments when young. Re-homing them can be difficult for them and cause anxiety.
  • Out of registered dogs of this breed, the most popular male names are Chance, Oliver and Dakota. For females, the most popular names are Maggie, Cupcake, and Daisy.
  • Owners in Medieval times kept these dogs as close friends and companions. The dogs never left their owner’s side. In the Early Modern art period, the dogs can be found in many paintings.
  • In Lourdes, France, in the Pyrenees Mountains, you can find Chateau Fort, which is now a museum that is dedicated to the Pyrenean Shepherd.
  • This shepherd worked alongside the Great Pyrenees, strictly herding, while the Great Pyrenees would guard the flocks against dangers like foxes, bears, wolves and other killer prey.
Breed History

Many believe that the Pyrenean Shepherd existed before the Romans had taken over the land that the breed occupied in the Pyrenees Mountains in France and Spain. Some believe that their existence began when the Vandals and Suebi were passing through the Pyrenees Mountains, heading south into Spain.

While it is still unknown, we do know the breed is centuries old and began gaining recognition off the mountain in France after World War I, due to their efforts in the war, such as search and rescue, guard dogs, couriers, and more. To aid in the war’s effort, people brought the dogs down from the mountain to do work.

Artists in the Early Modern era, began painting the breed, as well as making engravings and other depictions of them. Some famous depictions can be found in Buffon’s Histoire Naturelle, and Dartiguenace’s Costumes des Pyrenees. Legend has it the dog was with Bernadette Soubirous, a shepherdess, when the Virgin Mary appeared to her in 1858.

During the 19th century, the breed came to America, with their shepherd owners and to work in the west. It was not until the 1970s that the breed became beloved as companions to Americans. After that, the Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America was formed in 1987, as well as finally gaining recognition in the American Kennel Club in 2009.

The breed ranks 162nd out of all of the breeds that are recognized by the AKC. Currently, the dog is still used in its homeland for its original purpose, as well as companions for the home.


This breed is small to medium sized and can stand anywhere from 1 foot, 3 inches tall to 1 foot, 9 inches tall. The males usually stand taller than the females and weigh more as well.

They are healthy if they weigh anywhere from 25 to 30 pounds and are exercised daily, as they need to be. Also, their life expectancy is generally 15 to 17 years, so you have to be ready to have them for a long time.

Personality and Character

This energetic dog is highly adaptive and can work its tail off! They can do any job on a farm that is needed of them, especially herding. They do live a long time and need an owner who can give them the exercise and love that they need.

You will notice that they build an attachment to you early on and will follow you everywhere, trying to help. Some say they are sensitive to their owner’s emotions. Easy to train, these dogs can enter agility trials, and compete in flyball, obedience and other trials.

The Pyrenean Shepherd will be on guard for danger, strangers, and anything that is not normal to them. In these cases, they can be aggressive in nature, barking to make their owner aware of the situation.

Health and Potential Problems

While they are bred from the best of the best, you still may experience some health issues. Some can be more expensive than others, but luckily the breed is overall healthy if given proper exercise and nutrition.

  • Hip Dysplasia is very common in dogs, especially small ones. This will occur when the hip joint does not fit into the thigh bone in the correct position. When this happens, your dog will experience pain in that area. You will notice if they are limping or trying not to use the affected area. Usually this is caused by genetics, but it can also be due to injury. Surgery may be an option, but can be costly.
  • Patellar Luxation happens when your dog’s kneecap is dislocated from the thigh, or femur. This is common in small dogs and happens more often in females than males. The knee cap can be placed back to normal only after the quadriceps in the dog’s legs can relax and return to normal. Symptoms include lack of use of the leg and limping.
  • Patent Ductus Ateriosus is a type of heart defect that happens at birth. The ductus arteriosus is a blood vessel that is supposed to deliver flow to the lungs, but with this condition, it does not. Your pup will seem weak, unable to move a lot, have short breath and coughing. Open surgery is required to save its life, and your dog can live through this.
  • Epilepsy will occur when there are neurological processes that cause seizures in the body. You will notice this when your dog is shaking or convulsing. There isn’t a current cure for this and the cause is unknown, but it is thought to be due to genetics, stroke, brain tumors, and other medical conditions.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy occurs when your dog loses its vision due to the retina being unable to process light correctly. You will notice this if your dog has a rough time seeing at night. Eventually it can turn to having vision issues when the sun is out. There is not current treatment or cure and your dog can completely lose its vision.
  • Obesity happens when your dog is not exercised or given proper nutrition. If you are giving your dog human food or extra treats, this will cause weight gain. This can happen in smaller dogs easily and it causes stress on their heart and makes it hard to move around. Your vet will probably consider you getting your dog on a different food and start an exercise routine in order for your dog to get healthy again.
  • Allergies occur when your dog come in contact with something that the body rejects. This can cause itching, sneezing, rashes, and other reactions to the body. If it is food related, your vet can refer you to a better kibble. Your dog may have to take a type of allergy medication if it is allergic to other things that are not its food.
  • Parvo Virus is incredibly contagious and occurs when your dog contracts the virus and is not vaccinated for it. Your dog will then get the intestinal form or the less occurring cardiac form. With the intestinal form, your dog will vomit, lose weight, and experience diarrhea. The cardiac form can affect your dog’s heart muscles, and both kinds can cause death.
Care Features

They need lots of space, despite their size, to move around. They thrive with a large yard that has fencing all around. They also need a lot of space within the home, due to their energy. Living in an apartment is not ideal, but can work if you take them out to explore a lot.

They do require daily exercise for all the energy they have. Despite them running around the house or property, they need walks, runs, or play each day to keep them healthy. They are smart, too, so do not forget to exercise their minds!

Feeding Schedule

Your Pyrenean Shepherd will need to eat 1.5 to 2 cups of kibble each day. This can be split into two meals, once in the morning and once at night. Since they do have a lot of energy, speak to your vet about which food can be best for them.

Another thing is, since they can gain weight, to not leave their food out all day for them to eat as they feel. Instead, issue their meals at one time and let them have that until the next meal.

Coat, Color and Grooming

There are two coat varieties, the smooth-faced and the rough-faced. The smooth-faced has shorter hairs on the dog’s muzzle, along with feathering on parts of the body. The rough-faced dog will have cords on all four of its legs, as well as longer hair on the face overall.

The most common color you will see with this breed is fawn, though they also come in gray, brindle, kinds of Merle, and black. Some dogs have white on the head, chest, feet, and other areas.

The breed is pretty easy to care for as they only need a weekly brushing to keep a nice coat. You can brush their teeth two to seven times a week. Each week you should check over the body for any sores, rashes or injury, as well as check their ears, nose, mouth, and eyes for any signs of illness. You can clip their nails every 6 weeks or as needed.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

This breed gets along great with children that they are raised with. They are protective and caring of them. As far as other animals, they will get along with them if raised alongside them. They prefer cats more than dogs, and some dogs they will be unhappy around. Be sure to socialize your dog so that they do not feel any aggression towards other animals.

Overall, if you own a Pyrenean Shepherd, consider yourself lucky. Despite their high energy, they are lovable, caring, and adaptable. They are great guard dogs and live a long time, too. Their demeanor and personality are wonderful and you can bet they will be a great companion to you, following you around the house, helping with chores!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.