Pyrenean Shepherd (Pyr Shep): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Gray Pyrenean Shepherd outside smiling.

Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

Pyrenean Shepherds are cute dogs with shaggy faces and a longstanding history that might surprise you. While they’re far from being the most popular of today’s purebreds (according to the American Kennel Club, Pyrenean Shepherd breed popularity ranks at just 181 out of 193 breeds), these intelligent, curious dogs have a whole lot to bring to the table.

Also referred to as Pyr Sheps, Pyrenean Shepherds are herding dogs at heart, having been bred from the ancient line of dogs known widely as Pyrenees. They’re not quite as big and fluffy as Great Pyrenees, another breed from the same line, but Pyr Sheps do share some common traits, including an affinity for family and affection. Unlike Great Pyrenees, however, Pyrenean Shepherds love to go fast, and tend to excel in agility sports. 

Breed Overview

Group: Herding

Height: 15 to 20.5 inches at the shoulder (females); 15.5 to 21 inches at the shoulder (males)

Weight: 15 to 30 pounds

Coat and Color: Coat may be rough-faced (wiry and windswept) or smooth-faced (short and fine textured), and comes in many different colors, including black, white, gray merle, brindle, and fawn.

Life Expectancy: 15 to 17 years

Characteristics of the Pyrenean Shepherd

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium-High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium-High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Pyrenean Shepherd

Today’s Pyrenean Shepherds evolved from the ancient herding line of the Pyrenees, so named for their native home of the Pyrenees Mountain Range that marks the divide between Southern France and Spain. It’s unknown just how far back the Pyr Shep breed goes, but evidence shows that they’ve been actively bred since at least medieval times. Shepherds in the Pyrenees have relied on Pyr Sheps to herd and guard their livestock, in particular sheep—a relationship that is still going strong today.

The first Pyrenean Shepherds to make their way to the United States likely came over as contract herders with the Western Range Association in the 1940s. Over the next few decades, the Western Range Association brought over many more Pyr Sheps to engage in herding work, but it wasn’t until 2009 that Pyrenean Shepherds were first recognized by the AKC. In 2015, a male Pyrenean Shepherd named Sun Bear became the first (and so far, only) dog of the breed to win the AKC’s coveted all-breed Best in Show designation. 

Pyrenean Shepherd Care

Whether rough- or smooth-faced, you will need to engage in weekly brushings with your Pyrenean Shepherd to keep their coat looking its best. All that scruff can tangle easily, especially the breed’s undercoat, which is soft and prone to mats. In addition to weekly grooming sessions, brush your Pyr Shep’s teeth often, as you would for any dog—seven days a week is ideal. Take care to keep nails trimmed and ears clean as well.

Pyrenean Shepherds are high energy dogs who require a lot of attention from their caregivers. Remember: Pyr Sheps have herding in their blood. If they’re not getting an opportunity to participate in the job they love, they’ll need to exert that energy somewhere else. Agility and other sports are a great outlet for Pyr Sheps, but long walks and plenty of active games in the backyard will also suffice.

One of the best things about Pyrenean Shepherds is their intelligence and willingness to learn. They’re not the most trainable of all dog breeds, but they do love to play games and can pick up on the rules pretty quickly. Always use positive reinforcement training with a Pyr Shep, and consider trying out clicker training as well. Pyr Sheps want to please their caregivers, and the more affirmation they can get that they’re doing the right thing the quicker you’ll be able to train them to do tricks. 

Merle Pyrenean Shepherd running in the grass.
s5iztok/Getty Images
Pyrenean Shepherd puppy, brown with black muzzle, outside.
MarysiaP/Getty Images
Black Pyrenean Shepherd outside on grass.
 Iztoc Nov/Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Pyrenean Shepherds are known to live long lives (into their late teens!), but there are still some genetic diseases you will want to keep an eye out for. If you purchase your Pyr Shep from a responsible breeder, you should receive comprehensive information on any health history present in the dog’s known bloodline. If you rescue your Pyr Shep, have your vet do some initial testing to ensure your pup is healthy and fit. This will include:

  • Eye evaluation
  • Joint evaluation (including knees and hips)

Specific health conditions to be aware of include hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and epilepsy

Diet and Nutrition

Like all dogs, Pyrenean Shepherds do best on a diet of high-quality dog food that is optimized to their individual needs, including age and activity level. Pyr Sheps do not have any unique food allergies, but as always, be careful when introducing your dog to new foods, and visit your vet at any sign of stomach distress.

Pros

  • Smart, adaptable, and affectionate

  • Incredibly kid-friendly

  • Long lifespan

Cons

  • Not ideal for first time dog parents

  • Not particularly friendly with other dogs

  • Does not tolerate being alone very well

Where to Adopt or Buy a Pyrenean Shepherd

If you are interested in adding a Pyrenean Shepherd to your family, the best place to start is always with a rescue organization. The Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America offers its own rescue services, as well as information on reputable breeders. You can also contact Pet Guardian Angels of America for assistance with find a Pyr Shep for adoption. Another option is to go to Petfinder and search for Pyrenean Shepherds within a defined location limit.

If you do choose to buy your Pyr Shep, be sure to only work with a responsible breeder.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Always do your research before adopting a new dog into your home. And while you’re learning more about Pyrenean Shepherds, be sure to check out these other similar dog breeds as well:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!