These large white dogs of Pyrenean origin have been helping shepherds protect their flocks for a very long time.
These dogs are an invaluable aid to shepherds and flock security.
They are born and bred within the herd, and this proximity to the flock from an early age enables them to forge strong bonds with the other animals. Their relationship develops to the point of total and mutual acceptance. The dog then lives permanently with the herd, summering in the Alps and wintering on the farm. This bond conditions him to react instinctively to any intrusion against the herd.
As a guard dog, he is completely autonomous and does not stay with the shepherd to gather. He accompanies the flock and watches over it day and night. To exercise his vigilance, he creates a protective zone around the herd, ready to ward off any intruder: wild animal, dog not on leash, walker, etc. To keep intruders away, he must dissuade them, but these dogs are not trained to attack. When they sense danger, these dogs interpose themselves between the intruder and the herd by barking. This sounds the alarm for both the herd and the shepherd, but above all it's a warning to the intruder of his presence.
Don't be afraid of the patous, they're not bad guys, they're just doing their job. But to avoid any inconvenience, it's best to adopt the right behavior:
- Keep well clear of the herd's grazing area or enclosed pens.
- Don't try to feed or pet the dog, as this may be taken as aggression by the dog.
- Stay calm and passive
- Keep your dog on a leash if you have one, but be careful not to hug it.
- Don't intervene if your dog and the patou start fighting - they'll settle their differences between themselves.
- Don't point your hiking stick anywhere but at the ground, as dogs may feel threatened.
- If you're on a bike, it's best to ride alongside it.
- To ensure that everything goes smoothly, don't hesitate to stop - the guard dog will then be able to identify you.