French-born Pyr Shep, Joyce de l'Oustaou de Padel, works with the Swiss club Cypat'agil

The Pyrenean Shepherd excels at agility work. If you've never seen them herding, you might think that agility was what they were originally bred to do. They love anything involving coordination & high speed.

Pyr Sheps dominate agility in Europe. The world champion team in 1999 boasted 2 Pyr Sheps.

The breed's tremendous jumping ability & balance enable them to leap high jumps with almost no effort. Although individual Pyr Sheps are often under 16", they have no trouble clearing 2 or 3 times their height. It seems almost unfair to the competition to run them in mini-agilty.

Pyr Sheps are eligible for NADAC, USDAA & CKC agility, and will be eligible AKC as of January 2004.

See also: Agility & Pyr Sheps - Are They For You?
Most breeds need to first gain confidence at being so far above the ground. Not so the Pyr Shep. Speed, coordination, and balance are built-in.

Instead, what you need to work on is discipline. Your Pyr Shep will love the opportunity to work on the equipment. Your job is to make sure s/he follows your rules for play. I cannot stress firmly enough the value of doing it right the first time!

Never allow your Pyr Shep to play on the equipment unless you are actively engaged also. Otherwise, the Pyr Shep will devise his own rules (such as launching herself skyward from the top of the A-frame). S/he needs to learn that you are in charge & s/he will play by your rules or not at all.

Briska du Col de Gratteloup, competing in France


The following suggestions will give you an idea of what working with a Pyr Shep in agility is like. I recommend you read books on various training methods, watch videos, surf the agility web ring & above all talk to agility trainers & successful exhibitors to learn what will work best for you and your dog. Resist any training methods you don't feel comfortable with. Make sure that both you & your Pyr Shep are having a good time.

"Cotton" at age 10
Use Food
Using treats is a perfectly valid way to keep your Pyr Shep interested in your program (when s/he does it your way, there's food involved. When s/he does something unauthorized, there is no food involved). I find Pounce brand cat treats to be very useful as bait.

Be Precise
From the very first time you expose your Pyr Shep to the agility equipment (even as a tiny pup), be extremely precise about what the dog should do.
An Example:
The Dog Walk I like to start pups on the dog walk.Take a small piece of bait and show it to the pup. Carry the bait over to the obstacle saying "dog walk" or whatever command you choose to use. Hold the bait in your hand on the place where the ramp meets the ground. When you have the Pyr Shep's nose there, repeat the command & ever so slowly trail the bait along the surface of the ramp, praising the dog & repeating the command frequently. Ignore any pawing at your hand.

When you get to the top of the dog walk, give the dog a small piece of bait. Be sure you have additional pieces in your hand & immediately get the dog focused on the new piece of bait in your hand.

Draw your hand along the dog walk and stop when you get to the beginning of the ramp going down. Give the 2nd piece of bait to the dog & immediately engage the dog with another piece of bait.

Trail your hand down the ramp with the dog following & let him/her see you place the bait at the point where the ramp touches the ground. Let him/her pick up the bait & give him/her lots of praise.

If the Pyr Shep jumps off the dog walk at any time, ignore him for a minute, then start over again from the beginning. Do not allow the dog to jump back up onto the dog walk & continue. They must do it YOUR WAY.
The reason I give the dog the bait at these moments & in these ways is so that s/he internalizes the idea that these are points at which one stops to think. Most of the challenge to training a Pyr Shep in agility is getting him or her to slow down & do the exercise properly. They prefer to simply fly around the equipment as the spirit moves them. You have to channel that energy, motivate them to hit the contact zones, take the jumps in order, etc.

Have fun!

FMI on Agility see:
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