AGILITY & PYR SHEPS: ARE THEY FOR
Pyr Shep has one speed - Fast! There's no denying that. But with great speed
comes great responsibility. This breed goes joyriding off-course and misses
contacts at the speed of sound.
Size Pyr Sheps are small, but
they have a large range of acceptable size. They run 15"-20" and 15-35 lbs.
Size is very hard to predict. Large dogs may come from small parents and
Biddability Pyr Sheps are highly affectionate, but are
hard-headed compared to many herding breeds, and can be overly sensitive to
correction. Success requires a handler with lots of experience & mature
Socialization Pyr Sheps require more
socialization than any other breed. In their hearts, they are one-person dogs.
They see no need for the rest of the human race to exist. Your job is to
convince them that other people can be fun too. Successful socialization starts
at birth and continues throughout the life of the dog. Even the most outgoing
puppy can easily become shy & snappish if not given a lot of socialization.
Aggression The Pyr Shep is a small dog bred for thousands of
years to boss hundreds of hundred-pound animals around on a daily basis. In
some circumstances, their dominant-aggressive streak can be very amusing. But
an under-socialized, out-of-control Pyr Shep can be
Pre-History Be skeptical of
stories that the Pyr Shep is represented in the Lascaux cave paintings of
25,000 years ago, or that the Smooth-Faced variety was the original dog of the
Cro-Magnon people. But Archeologists do say that from 6000-3000 years ago, the
ecology of the Pyrenees underwent a radical transformation from forest to
meadow and open woodland primarily due to overgrazing by goats and sheep. These
Neolithic people had dogs, and these dogs may indeed be the foundation stock
for the Pyrenean Shepherd.
History Pyr Sheps have inhabited the
Pyrenees Mountains for hundreds or thousands of years. Until WWI, the Pyr Shep
was subject to fairly stable geographic and cultural conditions. They are a
product of a medieval feudal system, used in transhumance agriculture by
peasants. The Pyr Shep was the constant companion of the human shepherd (often
a younger son of a poor family). People who had this breed in their families
for generations developed the Pyr Shep standard in the 19th C. The standard
took its modern form in 1923 when the breed was FCI recognized and began
competing in conformation shows and herding trials. There is no split between
working and show lines.
Sheps are very high drive & love action. They love games, they love to show
off their speed and power. You must provide them opportunities to indulge these
propensities and to keep physically fit.
Performance Pyr Sheps
love agility, flyball, herding, obedience, freestyle, rally, canicross, ring
sport, frisbee, clicker , etc.
|Genetics I Pyr Sheps are highly inbred. The breed comes from a
mountainous area about the size of Ohio, and divided into valleys. For
thousands of years, many Pyr Sheps lived their entire lives in the same valley
and bred with their brothers and sisters. This produced a lot of genetic drift
in which rare recessives -both good and bad- showed up often enough to be
selected against or selected for. Many diseases were eliminated by natural
selection, while good traits were generalized to the whole valley's population
and spread to other valleys via gene flow as a result of the periodic
migrations involved in transhumance.
Genetics II Pyr Sheps are
very healthy because of this genetic heritage, but certain diseases do show up
including hip dysplasia, epilepsy, PDA, PRA, Cushing's Syndrome, ataxia, and
sub-lux patellas. The percentages are low, but no bloodline is immune to these.
A breeder who tells you his line is clear might be lying or might be blissfully
ignorant, but he is most assuredly wrong.
Genetics III The breed
remains virtually unchanged. Modern breeders have worked hard to maintain the
traditional standard. There is great superficial variation in color and coat
length, but the underlying dog is surprisingly uniform in structure,
temperament, and working ability. Pyr Sheps are divided into 2 varieties:
Rough-Faced and Smooth-Faced. These are shown separately but bred together and
occur in the same litters. Ears & tails may be cropped & docked, or
left natural. The breed is so inbred that it's not really useful to think in
terms of different bloodlines. In Pyr Sheps, there is no such thing as a true
AKC The quality of the breed rests in the hands of the
breeders themselves and what they make of their national breed club, the
Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America. The best protection for maintaining the
quality and integrity of the Pyrenean Shepherd in North America will come from
a good working relationship with AKC, eventually including full recognition.
AKC is not perfect, but it is the organization to work with. The breed has full
recognition in FCI and Canada (in French it is called the Berger des Pyrenees),
and has AKC FSS status in the US. In Jan 1, 2004, they were eligible to compete
in AKC obedience, tracking and agility, and Jan. 1, 200y they will be elegible
to compete in the Misc. class as well as all herding trials.
Look before you
PSCA is thrilled that Pyr Sheps will be able
to compete in AKC events, but we urge interested fanciers to take a hard look
at the breed before jumping in. Meet as many as you can before buying. Lots of
great agility folks will decide they really do not need a Pyr Shep in their
Patricia Princehouse -
9573 Mentor Rd,
Chardon, OH 44024 440-286-7431 www.pyrs.net