This section of the site is about maintaining the breed type and soundness of the Pyrenean Shepherd (Berger des Pyrénées). We must give much consideration to the health of our dogs, but we must also maintain breed type and soundness, otherwise we no longer have a breed.
A mixed breed may have outstanding health clearances. A mixed breed may even be structurally sound and have good movement. A mixed breed has no breed type though. To preserve and protect the breed we must have all three: breed type, soundness and good health. Like a stool with three legs, if one is longer than the other it is not functional.
Learning about breed type and soundness in the Pyrenean Shepherd (Berger des Pyrénées) is a lifelong journey.
In this area, we would like to give you some suggestions of things you can do to better understand the breed and who they are.
Most of us that own dogs today, as companions, performance partners, or show dogs, don’t actually use the dogs for what they were originally intended, such as herding. (That is even true if we compete in herding trials.) Because of this, over time it is easy for small shifts to occur, until the essence of the breed is slowly lost. Those things that can be lost or changed can be related to character, intelligence, and the physical structure to do the job they were created to do.
This is where the breed standard comes in, because it describes all of these things. It is important to know that nothing is inconsequential in a breed standard. Every detail matters. No matter how long you have been in the breed… Never. Stop. Reading. The. Standard.
Any person that has ridden a poorly put together horse, knows first hand that how a horse is put together is important. The discomfort the rider feels will drive the lesson home. (Literally!) With dogs we do not have those kind of first hand reminders, and since the dogs are out of their place of origin and no longer doing their intended job, it can be a slippery slope to nowhere.
While each of the points that follow involves a true investment of time and energy, they are well worth it.
To become a student of the breed:
- Learn about general dog structure and terminology
- Study general dog movement in books, in videos, and in person. (This is a herding breed and movement is important!)
- Learn about general dog behavior. Learn about Pyr Shep temperament.
- Now begin to understand how all this relates to the Pyrenean Shepherd breed standard. Try to understand what the purpose of each part of the standard may be.
- Learn about the part of France that the Pyrenean Shepherd came from. Learn about the lifestyle of the transhumance. Even learn a little about sheep.
- Take all of these pieces and dig into the breed standard again. How did those things influence it?
- Now take what you have learned ringside. Watch and listen. Tune out the ringside criticism and gossip, and often even the opinions that people may be sharing with each other. They may be wrong!
- Learn about your own dogs. What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- Spend time studying some of the great breeders and dogs of the past, in particular those from France.
- Find a really good mentor that cares more about the breed than their ego.
Then REPEAT. Again, and again, and again.
And now you are ready to begin.