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-
A closeup shows the finer cords developing on her
thighs while thicker mats are developing around her
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.