Pyrenean Shepherd - Showsight

Pyrenean Shepherd Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.


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Official Standard of the Pyrenean Shepherd General Appearance: A small, sinewy, lean, lively dog whose sparkling personality and quicksilver intelligence are reflected in the vibrant expression of his unique triangular head and windswept face. A superb athlete, his beautiful, flowing gait "shaves the earth." Uncoiffed, light- boned and built as a horizontal rectangle, his high energy and intelligent, cunning, mischievous attitude show that he is always on alert, suspicious, ready for action. An ardent herder of all kinds of livestock, his vigilant attitude and great vivacity of movement give this little dog a highly singular gait and appearance, characteristic of no other breed. The Pyr Shep is naturally distrustful of strangers, but when well-socialized from a young age, he or she has a very lively, cheerful disposition. The two varieties, Smooth-Faced and Rough-Faced (including both demi- long and long-haired coat types), are born in the same litters. Size, Proportion, Substance: Size - Rough-Faced: males 15½ to 18½ inches at the withers, females: 15 to 18 inches. Smooth-Faced: males 15½ to 21 inches at the withers, females 15½ to 20½ inches at the withers. Weight - An absolute minimum of weight is required - just enough flesh to cover the bones; the ribs should be readily felt. Disqualification - Individuals under the minimum height, or exceeding the maximum height by more than ½ inch. Proportion - In Rough-Faced dogs the body is clearly long (from the point of shoulder to the ischium) in proportion to the height of the dog, whereas Smooth-Faced dogs appear much more square. Substance - The dog in good working condition is lightly boned and sinewy, correctly proportioned and well-balanced, and must never appear overdone. Head: The head is generally triangular in shape, rather small in proportion to the size of the dog, well-filled-in under the eyes; the top skull is nearly flat. Expression - Intelligent, alert, and cunning, even a little mischievous. Eyes - The eyes are almond-shaped, open, and very expressive. They are neither prominent nor deeply set. They are dark brown in color. Partially or completely blue eyes are acceptable only in merles. Eye rims are black no matter what color the coat. Disqualification - Missing pigment on the eye rims. Disqualification - Blue eyes in a dog of coat color other than merle. Ears - Both cropped and uncropped ears are equally acceptable. The ears are rather short, moderately wide at the base, set on top of the head. Ears are traditionally cropped straight across and stand erect. Natural ears are semi-prick with one-third to one-half of the leather falling either straight forward, or to the side in the case of a rose ear. Skull - The skull is almost flat on top with only a slight central furrow, gently rounded on the sides, and with only a slight development of the occiput. The top of the skull slopes gently to the nearly-parallel muzzle with no marked stop, and the sides of the skull blend gently into the muzzle, giving the head a triangular wedge shape. Faults - too much hair on the head - particularly if it veils the eyes. Muzzle - Straight, slightly shorter than skull, it lets the skull dominate the face; narrow, but not exaggeratedly so, it affects a wedge shape, well filled-in under the eyes. This lends a triangular shape to the head. In Smooth-Faced dogs, the muzzle is slightly longer and more pointed than in the Rough-Faced dog. This is emphasized by the distinctive smooth face with its short, fine muzzle hair. In Rough-Faced dogs, the hair on the end of the muzzle and chin must be naturally short and it lengthens as the muzzle widens toward the skull. This gives the characteristic windswept appearance so necessary for correct expression. Nose - Black. Disqualification - Nose other than black. Lips - Tight-fitting, often giving the impression that the dog is smiling. The mucous membranes of lips and palate are black or strongly marked with black. Bite - The teeth are large and strong. Complete dentition is preferred. A scissors bite is

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strongly preferred, an even bite is admissible. Faults - More than 1 missing incisor or 2 missing premolars. Teeth broken or missing by accident shall not be penalized. Disqualification - Overshot or undershot bite. Neck, Topline, Body: Neck - Rather long, well-arched flowing smoothly into the shoulders, and well muscled, well set from the shoulders. Topline - The topline is firm and strong. The tops of the rather long shoulder blades clearly project above the line of the back. The back is level. The loin is slightly arched, and is slightly higher than the top of the shoulder blades. In Rough-Faced dogs, especially among the long-haired coat type, the rounded loin is accentuated by the coat. In Smooth-Faced dogs, the topline appears much more level. Body - Cleanly boned, the body is rather long and well supported, the loin is short, the croup is rather short and oblique, flank well tucked up, ribs slightly rounded and extending well to the rear. The chest is of medium development and descends only to the elbow. Tail - The tail may be docked, natural bob, or naturally long. All are equally acceptable. The naturally long tail must not rise above the level of the back but should continue along the slope of the croup. It should be set on rather low and forming a crook at the end; well fringed in Rough-Faced dogs, well plumed in Smooth-Faced dogs. Forequarters: Shoulders - Shoulder blades are rather long, of moderate angulation. Upper Arm - Oblique and moderately long. Forelegs - Light-boned, sinewy, rather finely made. Rough- Faced: Fringed with rather long hair in long-haired dogs, rather shorter hair in the demi-long haired dog. Smooth-Faced: The hair is short on the fronts of the legs, and may be furnished with feathering along the back of the leg from elbow to pastern. Pasterns - Strong, sloping. Dewclaws - The front legs should carry single dewclaws, not to be removed. Feet - Oval shaped. The foot of the Smooth-Faced dog is a little shorter and more cupped than in the Rough-Faced dog. The pads of the feet are dark. Nails - The nails are hard and dark. Hindquarters : Hind Legs - The stifle is well bent. The upper thigh is rather short. The lower thigh is long. The hocks are clean, well let down, well angulated and often close together. When viewed from the rear, the legs present parallel columns of support from hip to hock. Rough- Faced dogs with demi-long coat are generally not as heavily furnished in the rear as the long- haired dogs. Feet - The foot of the Smooth-Faced dog is a little shorter and more cupped than in the Rough-Faced dog. Dewclaws - Double dewclaws, single dewclaws, or lack of dewclaws in the rear are all acceptable, however as dewclaws are an ancient breed characteristic, all else being equal, the dog possessing dewclaws must be preferred. Feet - Oval shaped. The foot of the Smooth-Faced dog appears a little shorter and more cupped than in the Rough-Faced dog. The pads of the feet are dark. The hind feet characteristically toe out slightly and this must not be faulted. Coat: Coat quality is more important than abundance. Rough-Faced - The Rough-Faced dog's coat can be of long or demi-long hair, almost flat or slightly wavy. Demi-long dogs have culottes on the rump, while the long-haired dogs are often more heavily furnished with woollier hair that may cord, especially on the elbows, croup, and thighs, but never on the head. The texture is harsh, being halfway between the hair of a goat and the wool of a sheep. The undercoat is minimal. The hair on the end of the muzzle and the chin must be naturally short and it lengthens as the muzzle widens toward the skull. The longer hair on the sides of the muzzle and cheeks is swept back giving a windblown look. The eyes must be readily visible, not veiled by hair. Smooth-Faced - The muzzle is covered with short, fine hairs, hence the term Smooth-Faced. The

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hair becomes somewhat longer on the sides of the head, blending into a modest ruff. The hair on the body is fine and soft, attaining a maximum length of no more than 3 inches for the ruff and culottes, 2 inches along the back. The fronts of the legs are covered with short, fine hairs; there is often some furnishing on the elbows and thighs. Faults - Excessively long coat, excessive furnishings. Too much hair on the head, especially if the hair veils the eyes or displays a pronounced moustache or beard. No ribbon shall be awarded to a dog whose coat has been scissored, especially on the face, except for neatening of the feet . Color: Various shades of fawn from tan to copper, with or without a mixture of black hairs; grey, ranging from charcoal to silver to pearl grey; merles of diverse tones; brindle; black; black with white markings not exceeding 30 percent of the body surface. A little white is acceptable on the chest, head, and feet. Faults - Too many white patches or white patches that are too big; black with tan points. Disqualifications - White coat color covering 50 percent or more of the body. Gait: The trot - our little shepherd's favorite gait - must be solid and vigorous. At the jog trot, the head is carried rather high. As the stride lengthens the head lowers to become level with the backline. It is a very flowing gait. The feet barely leave the ground. He "shaves the earth." The correct gait is very pleasant to the eye. It is a result of the harmony of the front and rear angulations. As speed increases, the legs converge under the body toward the centerline. Temperament: The Pyrenean Shepherd is not merely a header or a drover. Such a division of labor is unknown to him. He is a versatile herder to his very soul and has the intelligent initiative to adapt to all manner of changing circumstances in order to fulfill the human shepherd's every need with unequalable prowess. The powerful herding instinct is so strong in him that from the very youngest age he knows how to manage the flock even without the example of an older dog. He is dominated by his love for his work. He has the tendency to become passionately attached to his owner to the complete exclusion of all others and is astonishingly sensitive to his owner's moods. As a companion, he is very active and enthusiastic and insists upon being involved in the day's activities whatever they may be. He is very affectionate with the members of his immediate family, but is distrustful of strangers. Disqualifications : Individuals under the minimum height - Rough-Faced: males - under 15½ inches at the withers, females - under 15 inches at the withers. Smooth-Faced: males - under 15½ inches at the withers, females - under 15½ inches at the withers. Individuals exceeding the maximum height by more than ½ inch. Rough-Faced: males - more than ½ inch above 18½ inches at the withers, females - more than ½ inch above 18 inches at the withers. Smooth-Faced: males - more than ½ inch above 21 inches at the withers, females - more than ½ inch above 20½ inches at the withers. Missing pigment on eye rims. Blue eyes in an individual of coat color other than merle. Nose other than black. Overshot or undershot bite. White coat color covering 50 percent or more of the body.

Approved April 11, 2006 Effective January 1, 2007

A Dozen Questions On Judging THE PYRENEAN SHEPHERD By Patricia Princehouse I ts origins lost in the mists of time, the Pyrenean Shepherd has abided for thousands of years in near isolation in the Pyrenees Mountains, what is today known as the border of

southwest France and northern Spain— a remote region that contains the highest mountain in France, and Europe’s south- ern-most glaciers. Th ey shared their lives with the Great Pyrenees—whose presence as a large predator control dog allowed the little Pyr Shep to specialize for herding alone, including the small size needed to scramble quickly over the rocky landscape. Th e Pyr Shep is a very lean, light-boned, highly athletic dog, whose nature makes them extremely (even excessively) devoted to their owners, often to the exclusion of all other people. To understand the form and function of this heterogeneous breed, one must realize that they had a heterogeneous job. While most herding breeds are farm dogs (and the Pyr Shep can do fine on farms) their primary use was in the true wilder- ness—far from farms, roads, enclosed pas- tures or crops. Th e terrain varies widely. It is rocky, very uneven and with small grassy valleys divided by sharp cli ff s and expanses of glacial rubble with a few strips of grass among the rocks. Th e dogs lived day to day as semi-nomads with the human shep- herd—who himself camped every night in the open or in casket-like wood boxes car- ried from place to place by sturdy donkeys or in small stone huts or caves that were occasionally available. In the valleys, the very large flocks spread out over the rocky landscape to take advantage of the mea- ger grass. Th e sure-footed mountain sheep were moved from valley to valley as graz- ing ran out. Th is form of herding is known as transhumance. Th is unusual job called for an extremely nimble dog that was nearly cat-like. And

with anatomy that allowed them to per- form di ff erent jobs at di ff erent points in the season and over widely varying terrain. Th e Pyrenees are a fairly small region and the breed is quite inbred. And yet the shepherds valued great phenotypic diversity—partly because no peasant can a ff ord to keep any more dogs than strictly needed and greater inbreeding in local areas tended to set slightly di ff erent styles, and partly because local conditions vary greatly so that dogs of rather di ff er- ent morphology were useful in di ff erent conditions. Th us, the unusual genetic complement that produces the discrete varieties in the same litter was preserved by the mountain shepherds. Th e squarer, more upstanding Smooth-Faced pups in the litter might often be chosen by folks working most in the lower valleys while their Rough-Faced littermates would sometimes be favored by those working in the higher mountains. Th e longest-haired Rough-Faced dogs were especially val- ued in the highest mountain areas since their longer backs and well-arched loins allowed quick bursts of speed and excel-

lent scrambling ability over talus slopes and their heavier coats helped them resist the cold nights. Th ese dogs’ coats tended to form thick quasi cords called “matelotes” or “cadenettes” that shed the cold rain. Yet, they were not too hot in warmer seasons because each spring they would tear o ff all their matelotes by vigorously rolling and rubbing against rocks and trees until the thick mats were scraped o ff . Th e demi-long Rough-Faced dogs didn’t need to go to such lengths! And the demi-longs frequently have the best coat texture—called “goat-haired” by the shepherds. One could say that the breed taken in its entirety is adapted to controlled heterogeneity. But in all cases what each individual needed above all was extreme athleticism, intense drive and profound heart. Th eir athleticism is so pronounced that, although only recently introduced to competitive agility, it has allowed the breed to dominate the midi competi- tion at the World Agility Champion- ships. With less than a dozen Pyr Sheps among hundreds of competitors in this

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international competition each year, Pyr Sheps have taken countless gold medals in the past dozen or so years, including over- all Champion four times by three di ff er- ent dogs—one of them bred and owned in America. In 2011, all four top spots overall went to Pyr Sheps. Here, their prowess has earned them countless gold medals in the 16" category at the Eukanuba Invitational, the AKC National Agility Championships and the counterpart agility organization’s USDAA World Cynosport Champion- ships. Running a Pyr Shep is, however, not an easy undertaking. Th eir blazing speed and quicksilver intelligence make them extremely challenging for even well- seasoned handlers! And the high need for socialization to people and places goes far beyond the usual herding breed. Th eir work as the daily herders of sheep, and to some extent cattle and oth- er livestock when called upon, required them to be a jack of all trades, rather than a highly stylized master of one like the Border Collie. Beginning in the 1920s, they have competed at the top levels in French herding competitions, with one little bitch earning the coveted national championship 3 years in a row! Th ey are also outstanding search and rescue dogs as their small size and keen drive allows them to search areas where larger dogs simply can’t go. All these shapes and activities make the breed very challenging for the non- specialist to judge. Here follows a dozen of the questions most commonly asked by judges. The Questions Q: What are the 3 most important cri- teria in judging the Pyr Shep? A: Head type, body proportions and side gait. Q: What constitutes correct head type? A: Th e head should be triangular with a pointed muzzle sweeping back to the zygomatic arches in a well-filled-in wedge. Th e eyes are almond-shaped but somewhat open—more the shape of an almond in the shell. Th eir dark-brown color accentuates the intense, alert, some- what suspicious expression so crucial to

breed type. Th e skull is nearly flat on top with the ears set high. Th e muzzle is shorter than in other herding breeds – slightly shorter than the backskull. Q: What is the correct movement? A: Th e dog has a flying trot and a dou- ble-suspension gallop. Th ey should have a big, ground-covering side gait—more pro- nounced in the Rough-Faced variety. Th ey are highly athletic and will often jump e ff ortlessly onto the table. Pyr Sheps quickly singletrack coming and going. Th eir dewclaws make them look even closer in the rear. Side gait is to be prized much more highly than perfec- tion on the down and back.

and loin but not on the head or over the withers. Q: Are they always examined on the table? A: Yes. In the US they are always examined on the table. This is optional in Canada. In Europe they are gener- ally examined on the ground. In the US, they should never be touched in the ground but put back on the table if the judge desires further hands-on—this is standard AKC policy. Q: What should the judge look for on the table versus on the ground? A: Th e temperament of the breed encour- ages them to be very alert and in constant motion. In this low-entry breed, class dogs are generally inexperienced, as are their own- ers (whom for the sake of the future of our sport should be encouraged!). So the judge should not prolong the table exam. Th e class dog will only get more fidgety. Th e judge should look for 3 main things in the table exam: A) Head shape: flat on top with small ears set on high. Muzzle shorter than back skull, but not exaggeratedly so. B) Scissors bite: level or reverse scissors is acceptable as long as the teeth are touching. But a gap over or under is a DQ. C) Long scapula and humerus. D) Rough-Faced dogs have a complex topline with a crested neck knitting well into the back with the long scapula tips making a bump over the withers. Th e back is level over the ribs but has a pronounced rise over the loin. Th is rise is accentuated strongly by the coat, especial- ly on heavily-coated dogs. Rear should be well angulated with good let-down of hock. Smooth-Faced dogs should be more square, more moderate in angulation, length of scapulae and rise over the loin and are higher on hock. Q: Should I wicket dogs that appear small or large? A: Th e breed has a very large size range and most dogs fall within it. And because they tend to be fidgety it can be di ffi cult to get a fair measurement. Judges might be especially tempted to wicket dogs who look very large. Remember that although being over standard is a fault, a judge should 4 )08 4 *()5 . "(";*/& . "3$) t

Q : How do I tell the varieties and coat types apart at a glance? A: 1) Th e Smooth-Faced has short hair on the face and the fronts of the legs, rather like a Sheltie except the body coat is not more than 3" long and with less undercoat than a Sheltie or Aussie. Rough-Faced dogs have long hair on the face, but not so long as to hide the eyes, and longer leg hair of equal length on both front and back of the legs. 2) Proportions of the Smooth-Faced variety are nearly square; the Rough-Faced variety is a horizontal rectangle. Both coat types within the RF have strikingly rect- angular proportions. Q: What are the two coat types within the Rough-Faced variety? A: Th e Rough-Faced variety has two coat types: long and demi-long. Th e body coat of the demi is not as long and has a crisp texture and little undercoat. Fur- nishings can be very pronounced on the longhaired dogs, more rudimentary on the demi-long. Longhaired dogs may be corded on the legs and even over the sides

Q: How do I perform a breed-specific exam? A: While the exhibitor is settling the dog on the table, you can observe the overall proportions and get a feel for the harmony of the dog. Move to the front and take the head in your hands to feel its structure, Ask the exhibitor to show the bite. Use your hand to feel the topline— especially to evaluate the rise over the loin as this can be a ff ected so much by the amount and waviness of the coat. Be quick and business-like as you move your hands over the dog. In the case of a nervous dog it helps to approach from the side, without mak- ing eye contact. Speak pleasantly to the exhibitor and let the dog get used to your presence and to the handler’s acceptance of you. Set a hand over the dogs loin and stroke firmly a few times to ease his trepidation. Then move to the front and examine the head and body structure. Then finish the exam by asking the exhibitor to show the bite. There is no reason to prolong the exam. Refrain from talking to the dog. An inexperienced dog with a traditional temperament will not make friends with you in just a few minutes. Allow su ffi cient room for the exhibitor to take the dog o ff the table. Many allow the dog to jump down on its own. On the down and back, you will have a better chance to evaluate the expres- sion than on the table. And be sure to observe the dog from the side as this is the moment in which the dog is most likely to walk into its best stance. As the dog goes around, you might want to move to the center of the ring to see the side gait as long as possible. At out- door shows, you may ask the handler to make two turns around the ring on the individual so you can adequately evaluate the dog as it relaxes into the flying trot. Similarly, it is not unusual in a larger class to pull two dogs out and have them go around together a couple times. Be sure to ask the exhibitors to have the dogs stand naturally at some point so you can look down the line and evaluate their true silhouette.

refrain from disqualifying unless the dog exceeds standard by more than half an inch—but that doesn’t mean this signifi- cant fault should be overlooked in making placements. Q: Are small dogs preferred? A: Not per se. Dogs within the entire size range should all be considered equally. However, the standard says the dog should be of minimal size and weight. Th us, faced with 2 dogs of equal quality in head type, proportion and movement, the judge would favor a small, sinewy, light-boned dog over a large robust dog. Q: Why is this breed so weird? A: As outlined above, this natural breed is adapted to a lifestyle like no other. Th us the standard reflects a range of accept- able variation, rather than a cookie-cutter approach of “normal” breeds that have been fashioned more extensively—dare we say artificially? However, dogs falling outside that range should be faulted sig- nificantly. Correct dogs are actually more consistent than first glance would suggest clothed in their diversity of size, coat and color. Th e mountain breeders embraced these odd variations for good reasons. Q: Why is the temperament so odd and why should judges tolerate behavior that would be faulted in other breeds. A: The breed’s wilderness lifestyle called for a super high energy, super alert dog capable of making split-second decisions and sticking to them despite dangerous terrain and obstinate sheep. Although highly trainable and extreme- ly attached to their humans, the work required a dog that worked at a distance and was able to override the directions of the human shepherds when they felt they knew better—and at such moments they usually did! As a breed, they learn a tremendous amount of their job from other dogs, rather than via specific train- ing by their human counterparts. The isolation of the mountains meant that strangers were likely up to no good and should be challenged. This produced a dog that tended to resent the eye and hand of the judge.

Exhibitors should have enough control of their dogs to prevent aggression, but fidgeting, leaning away from the judge and general suspicion of the judge are expressions of the normal temperament of the breed and thus not to be faulted per se. Class dogs that behave perfectly at training class may revert to these natural tendencies in the more serious and less familiar show situation—confounding less experienced handlers. Dogs that feel the judge is intimi- dating the handler may feel the need to take control of the situation and back the judge off. Give the exhibitor more space and authority will help these dogs feel more confortable. Do not attempt to “train” the dog or “help” the han- dler. Encourage the owner to take con- trol, calm their dog and indicate when they are ready to have the dog submit to the exam. These behaviors are less pro- nounced among specials, who have been habituated to shows. Do not attempt to make friends with the dog. This will make them more suspicious. Be matter- of-fact and business-like. Th e highly desirable alertness has lead to a style of presentation in their home country in which the dog is faced away from the handler, allowing them to focus on something of interest in the distance. So the dogs end up standing in a haphaz- ard manner, rather than in a line on the mat. Th is is easier to achieve at outdoor shows. Freebaiting and especially hand- stacking are not as desirable since the dog is not pulled together as naturally as in the traditional presentation. But smaller rings sometimes necessitate more generic presentation. Judges should not just tolerate but embrace the traditional attitude of the breed. After all, temperament is an ele- ment of type.

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