THE LA BRISE PHILOSOPHY
PYR SHEPS

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It’s origins lost in the mists of time, little Pyrenean Shepherds have herded sheep and other livestock in the Pyrenees Mountains of Southern France for thousands of years. But it was only about a hundred years ago that the breed began to have its pedigrees recorded by registries, and an official standard was drawn up. About this same time the breed began to compete in herding competitions and dog shows.

Throughout the centuries, engravings, lithographs, paintings, and eventually photographs bear testament that the breed has changed very little. At La Brise we are very proud that our best dogs are virtually interchangeable with the dogs in these documents, and we aim to continue the preservation of that level of excellence in type, soundness and temperament.

The Pyrenean Shepherd may look like an adorable toy, and it is easy to wax romantic about its loyalty, devotion, intelligence, affection and enthusiasm. But a down-to-earth approach is best when considering who should and should not own a Pyr Shep. The breed can be very demanding of its owners’ time and patience. It is not just their nature to excel at performance events, they require training and need some sort of job to perform in order to feel comfortable. This doesn’t mean they have to spend 8 hours a day herding hundreds of sheep over miles of mountainous terrain. They delight in little jobs like fetching the newspaper, and waking the kids for school. They love to perform tricks, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Owners who want to really please their dogs will take up hobbies such as tracking, search & rescue, fly-ball, herding and agility.

The temperament of the Pyr Shep is best understood in the context of its traditional job. Until this century, most Pyr Sheps were owned by hard-working mountain farmers. Traditionally the younger sons of a family would not inherit land, but would become itinerant shepherds involved in a semi-nomadic way of life called transhumance. Some shepherds had their own flocks, others moved from flock to flock as hired hands. Often the only constant in a human shepherd’s life was his sheepdog --and vice versa. And their mutual livelihood depended on the owner’s ability to communicate often complicated commands to the dog, and the dog’s ability to implement these commands.

This whole way of life favors dogs who can develop very strong bonds with humans, and it resulted in a breed in which the individual members tend to be the proverbial one-person or one-family dogs. Pyrenean Shepherds can easily become so attached to their owners and jealous of their attention, that they refuse to have anything to do with any other human. Such dogs, when undisciplined, may even nip the heels of strangers in an attempt to drive them away.

Displays of anti-social behavior cannot be permitted in this day and age. It is the owner’s responsibility to properly educate his Pyrenean Shepherd. The owner must take advantage of the breed’s great sociability and expose it to a wide range of friendly people while it is still a little puppy (2-4 months of age). This will in no way weaken the attachment of the dog to his owner, it will only strengthen the dog’s confidence in the owner’s leadership. A little puppy might act fearful or distrustful of strangers and strange situations, but remember that the pup takes its emotional cues from you. If you act confident and pleased when handing a pup off to a stranger, the pup will adopt your attitude. Pyr Sheps respond extremely well to praise and their transgressions are best corrected quickly and efficiently using the natural methods outlined in the many books by the monks of New Skete, and Carol Benjamin.

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