IN THE MIDDLE, RUNS A RIVER by Olivier Matz

Translated by Marie-Jose Thuot

Edited by T. Walker

© 2009


I am sitting down to write about some matters that seem essential to me.


I am trying to put myself in the place of someone who has not been member of RACP for very long. He (or she) can feel confused by what he reads and/or hears, words that sometime are in total contradiction with the breed standard. I will write what I feel about some obvious things and about other concerns.


The cadenettes (corded coat) are either hated or loved. I admit I do not understand this position. If they happen, it is because of the good texture of the coat. It is in fact a woolly coat, closely knit at its base, with hair that is extremely dry, flat and heavy. If such is the case, I challenge anyone to brush his dog on a regular basis to avoid cadenettes from forming. They will form naturally anyway and the results of brushing them out will be a dog with a thin coat as brushing will have pulled out the top coat and the under coat.


Next, you have textures that are softer, lighter, which can form some sort of cadenettes (when you pull on it, the hair comes out without effort). This will give a cottony aspect with, instead of cadenettes or matelotes (ref. new breed standard), strands of hair with little or no under coat.


Even if the dog were not kept in cadenettes, the coat would not be dense and thick and would not repel water. A true coat with cadenettes is automatically thick and dense. I will not talk, of course, of Labrits sold in pet shop and to tourists, dogs that have a coat that closely looks like that of a Bobtail (cottony, curly, very light) that mats easily. In those cases, the problem is bad texture of the coat

.

It is equally wrong, in my opinion, to have a coat that is only made of goat hair without wool-like hair (there must be a balance between goat hair and wool, see the breed standard). A woollier coat should be present from the middle line of the back to the tail. This kind of coat – goat hair and wool – exists, but does not necessarily form cadenettes (the texture is woolly and mixed with goat hair).


One should be able to appreciate a dog with cadenettes as well as a dog without any, but which has both textures (goat hair and wool). It is all a result of genetics, which can be flabbergasting in our little shepherd…


Do not tell me a dog with cadenettes cannot work, only those who never worked with a dog can say such things. A Pyr Shep will tear some of its hair in the bushes, what ever his coat quality is, and that will not prevent him from running and working.


In earlier times, the dogs were covered with patches of matted hair because the owners did not spend time to separate them in strands at the base, like we are doing nowadays, but those dogs were working… Like many others, I saw them at work and this was not preventing them from working well. They also say that when judging a dog at a conformation show, cadenettes can hide many things. It is the judge’s task to observe and check, as he would do when an exhibitor positions his dog a certain way to hide a fault.


My other concern is with the face rase (smooth face). His name tells what he is: a dog without hair on his head. A bit of hair can be tolerated on the shell of the ears (ref. Mansencal : smooth face and others), but he must have hair on the chest, the shoulders, feathering on the front legs and pants, but those should not be heavy with hair. Actually, these days we do not often see very good specimens in this variety, except for the late Oh Ié le blues bleu de Loubajac, an exceptional face rase.


We are seeing more and more dogs with short coat all over their body. This is not a face rase. It seems to me that there is no place for such leeway. Historically, the smooth face was born “like that” {The author means that they were not breeding for a face rase, it was just “happening” in the litter.}, and there was long hair on most part of his body. That is part of the variability of the Pyr Shep (heterogeneity) and trying to control it all, at all cost, can be the worse thing that can happen to the breed. Nature is sending us a message when we see a rough hair with a short back or smooth face that is a bit long in the back.


I will not talk again of the movement (daisy cutter) when one know that, beyond that discussion that I find useless, the dogs that win are always winner, who ever the judge is. {Note: He is saying that a dog with great movement will win in conformation…the “daisy cutter” is a movement ascribed to horses and is akin to the translation from the standard which reads “shave the earth.”}


Finally, one last point--the size of the berger. I agree that we should not miniaturize the breed but, one must be careful not to ostracize the dogs that are considered “small” (I am not talking of course of those that can barely reach 38 cm, but of those that fit the standard and have correct bone size (structure) adapted for work. A dog must “fill the eye” and bone size (structure) has a lot to do with harmony, if this harmony is true to a working dog and the type presented.


Let us not forget the variability of the breed, he was different from one valley to the next.


Olivier MATZ, 2003



Cadenettes

Forming  the Cords on Your Berger des Pyrenees

"What do I do with her coat?"   I often get asked this question.  Some owners like to keep their Berger brushed out and spic and span clean but if you prefer less work and would like to experience owning a traditional and rustic Berger des Pyrénées then you can let his coat naturally cord forming cadenettes or matelotes.  These cadenettes or matelotes will naturally form  on the rump, hind legs, front legs and in-between the front legs.  It is not necessary to intervene at all if you want the style of matelotes that are wide and dense tiles of matted coat, but if you prefer the look of smaller cords as we are often used to seeing in the Puli dog then some preparation is needed in the beginning to establish these smaller, more free hanging cords. 

FCI Standard:  In some dogs the mixture of coarse and woolly hair can produce sorts of strands or cords called “cadenettes" and sometimes matted or felted hair called “matelotes” which overlap like tiles on the croup.  “Cadenettes” can be found on the chest and the forelegs at elbow level.

There are pluses and minuses to allowing the coat to cord.  On the plus side, once the cords are established (after a couple of years) there is no work to maintaining the coat.  On the minus side this type of coat can collect dirt especially if the dog is living on a farm, or if it is a male dog urine may also soil the coat.  But, both these problems can be washed away, on occasion, with no damage to the coat.   Bathing is no problem and it is done the same as any other bath.  Just wet, soap, wash and rinse.  It will usually take half of a warm day to dry naturally.  The cords of hair act like a candle wick and draw the moisture to the ends so the dog's body does dry quickly.  I would recommend against using blow dryers and keeping bathes to a very minimal.  Occasionally you will also end up picking out bits of lawn debris as well but this happens with all coats.

Below I have examples of three of our dogs that are corded and I hope to explain the process we went through to help those of you who also want this cadenette style on your pyr shep.

Pictured below is our female, Hoopla.  The first picture is when she is only a couple of months old but it is apparent in that picture that she is going to have a very abundant coat and, like her mother, we will be allowing the coat to cord.  Such a coat is a lot of work to keep from not matting so it is easier to "go with the flow" and manage the mats for a few months until they are established on their own.  The small cords form with no help down her thighs, but thicker mats form around the midsection and hips and this is where you will have to intervene and just pull them apart with your hands into smaller mats.  This does not need to be done on a daily basis.  The dog usually doesn't like you yanking on his coat but it is just a quick tug to make one mat two mats then two mats four mats.  You can do this over a few weeks.  So as not to irritate the dog too much. 

         


This second picture is at 6 months old.  You can see
the outline of her rump appearing higher than her shoulders.
This is expected as the loin and rump have a thicker under-
coat. 
A closeup shows the finer cords developing on her
thighs while thicker mats are developing around her
midsection.
These thick mats need to be pulled apart by hand,
but not combed out.



This female was kept combed out until she was a year old
and finished showing.


Now at two years old you can see the slight thickening
of her coat on her rear producing more of a rise
over her loins.



Now she is two years old and the thicker under-
coat is starting to mat on her rump.  Above shows
a solid mass, or mat, which needs to be split into
approximately 3 cords. I have found that these mats
of undercoat that develop around the midsection
form what I can only describe as a "flat slab" of
matted hair.  Out of  these "slabs" protrude clumps
of the longer outer coat and these give you an idea
of where the mat needs to be divided.  Just grab the
desired clump or section that you want to form into
a cord and pull it apart from the rest of the mat


The cording is not predominant right now but they are starting
for form on their own down her hind legs. 

These small cords will continue to grow longer as they
collect the hair that is shed out every year.  Splitting
the mat at the base about every six months or after every
normal shed will keep the cords free of one another.


Here is the same dog 4 two years later.  The cords are well
established and after a period of hair growth you can see
that there is 2" of growth forming a solid mat, or what the
FCI standard calls matelotes (overlaping tiles of matted hair).
You can either leave this or, at your leisure, pull the cords
apart once more to form longer cords.   If you imagine
your hand as the dog's coat you can imagine that your
fingers are the "cords/cadenettes" and your palm is
the "matelote".  If you pull your fingers apart then
you splite the matelote into long strands. 
After many, manyyears the cords will be a foot long, or you
can trim them so they are not dragging on the ground.





Another puppy showing the proper outline with the
thick coat developing behind the shoulders on his rear.

At two years of age the cords or more distinguishable.
This is certainly an awkward stage as he looks
to be supporting mats, but as the cords
lengthen they become more noticeable and appealing.

Below, at three years of age the cords are obvious and no
 longer need any maintenance as they are established.  Before
or after a bath it is a good idea to quickly go through the cords
and pull them apart from one another.  The coat dries very
quickly after a bath, about half a day.



When trotting away the cords
swing like he is
wearing a hoola skirt!


The cadenettes also form on the front legs and chest.