When hiking in the mountains, you are bound to come across them: shepherd dogs. They are there to protect the flocks of sheep or goats from all kinds of threats from other animals, such as wolves and stray wild dogs.
In France, sheepdogs are called "chiens de protection". But even better known is the term "patou", which comes from the Pyrenees and is used for all kinds of shepherd dogs. They live with the flock from an early age and learn to watch out for intruders in their territory. However, with their stature and barking, they also frighten many a walker. However, their job is to scare and not so much to attack. So actually you don't have to feel threatened.
As a hiker, you can follow these 8 tips to avoid trouble with patous:
If possible, try to stay at a certain distance from the herd.
If you cannot avoid the herd, the patou may come to sniff you out and possibly bark. He will accompany you for a while until he considers the distance between you and the herd big enough to return to his animals.
Do not stroke sheep, goats or lambs, no matter how cute the animals are or how close they may get.
Do not make any sudden movements that the dog could interpret as a danger to himself or the herd, such as waving your arms or a (walking) stick. Do not run away in fright or throw something as a defence either.
Do not look a patou straight in the eye. That is how you challenge them.
Continue walking calmly.
If you have a dog with you, keep it on a leash. If the patou reacts aggressively to your dog, all you can do is wait. Do not intervene.
Sleeping patous can be woken up by passing hikers and then instinctively start barking. Keep walking calmly.